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20th Anniversary Rendezvous - Jerry Brown

For many years I've had three things that describe what I was trying to do, and I think they're more true today than ever. They were: protect the Earth, explore the universe, and serve people. I think those three things are reasonable. They have not lost anything with the passage of time. We have to protect the Earth, but at the same time we should be exploring the universe, and, in our own lives, our basic aspect should be service. The three-prong approach.

So I've come to appreciate more deeply the values and traditions that I learned as a Jesuit seminarian. The universality and the traditional truth that those insights are a part of seem much more evident to me. My experiences of other cultures, and other traditions of both religion and philosophy, reinforced in my mind the validity of much of what I learned there. I sense a fundamental core about human nature and about life that is found throughout the world. They are found in many different guises and in many different images and symbols.

One fundamental principle they taught in the Jesuit seminary, is what they call in Latin, "agere contra" it means "go against yourself." Another related idea is, "ignatian" detachment from creature comforts or worldly desires. From my time of study in Japan, I find that very similar ideas, although in different imagery, are part of the religious tradition in the East. So, that reinforces the truth and the validity in my mind of what it was I was taught. I see a lot of profound truth about human nature within the orthodox tradition.

There are big things happening in this tradition. The Pope is having a dialogue between Buddhists and Christianity. Pretty incredible. Thirty years ago it was a mortal sin to go inside a Protestant church. Within the Catholic church, there's a major effort to understand, and to respect, traditions which just a few years ago were called "paganism." At the same time, if sexually transmitted diseases continue accelerating, the more traditional sexual morality will look very very plausible and reasonable.

Maybe I'm just getting older. The closer you get to the grave the more you question the more superficial aspects of your life. You look for something enduring and solid. Another one of the things they used to say in the Jesuit seminary, they used to caution against the significant defect of hankering after novelties. I'd say hankering after novelties is a major driver in the modern economy.

I see the power of the human mind to continuously create and invent and, as Bucky Fuller would say, make design changes. Whatever the limits of the human mind are, we certainly aren't even close to them, assuming there are any. We'll invent ways to live with more people and more technology and more information processing and all the rest. But a spiritual path is the number-one place to put your attention. You have to have bread in your stomach, but a tremendous number of people have got that one pretty well down. Then the next point is, What's the point? How do you live? What are the values? Or, better yet, what are the principles? And certainly that's what Bateson was pushing for. A sense of the sacred.

To make change, people have to start changing themselves. Start with yourself. That's where all the healing takes place. Things take a lot longer than I used to think they did. I used to think big changes happen overnight, but it only happens in a slow growth pattern. No quick fixes around the corner. Probably no big catastrophes, either. It's slow, slow co-evolution here.

The important point is to link personal transformation with the larger political context. It's not enough just to read the paper and say hey, we better be worried about the people in the Sudan. What I mean is that the same basic challenges of how you deal with your family, or how you deal with the people you work with, is the same as dealing with borders. It's the same game. There is no formula or prescription. It's ancient wisdom, but the consequences are radical. Protect the Earth, explore the universe, and serve people is what I'm trying to do.