Let me take you back to May, 1984. I was less than a month from graduating from UC Berkeley with a Bachelor of Arts in the Political Economy of Industrial Societies. But before going back to that Orweillian year, I want to share the reason I mention “UC Berkeley” and that mouthful of a major. About 2 months ago, my youngest son, 12-year old Walter Yasuo Silberman (he would like me to write out his full name) heard me mention that I had graduated from Cal. “YOU graduated from Berkeley? Dad, are you smart?”
He’s not the first to wonder…But I’m not writing here to show off credentials, I’m here to share how I got “Re-inspired” & discovered 246 ways to engage an audience.
In order to get “re-inspired,” it’s a requirement to first “be” inspired. For that, I do need to go back to 1984.
I was up at Berkeley (famous university for smart people, remember), in my bedroom, studying for finals when the telephone rang. “Andy, it’s Dad. How’s it going?” “OK….” “Andy… Jim is dead…”. My brother Jim had been jogging, and he had collapsed midway between my mom’s and dad’s houses. The autopsy revealed “cardiac arrhythmia.” Doctors called it “Teen-age crib death.” Weird, I know. And get this: Two months later, Jim Fixx, the author of The Complete Book of Running, credited with popularizing the jogging as exercise, himself died of a heart attack at age 52.
Two or three days after Jim died, I was staying at my dad’s house, and in the middle of the night either dreamed the most vivid dream you can imagine, or I was “visited” by my brother Jim. I sat up (or dreamed I sat up) to find Jim at the foot of my bed.
“Jim!? I thought you died!”
“I did," he said.
"I’m a ghost.”
“What?! What are you doing?”
“I’m going around visiting everyone, telling them the future and stuff.”
“You know the future?!”
“No, of course not. But they don’t know that and they believe me because I’m a ghost.” After that brief chat, he walked toward the bedroom door. I followed him out the door and watched wide-eyed as he walked down the long, narrow hallway. With each step, he got smaller and smaller, younger and younger, till he turned the corner toward the kitchen, and then, like smoke rising up from Aladdin’s Lamp, Jim’s spirit rose up and passed through the ceiling and out of the house. Gone.
Spirit: The root of “inspire”
At Saratoga Federated Church, Larry Johsens, Jim’s high school senior English teacher, eulogized Jim. Mr. Johsens was also my senior year English teacher, and the man who first inspired me to write. Mr. Johsens’ eulogy was the greatest moment of the ordeal. He brought tears to an overflowing church, tears of laughter and of pain. It was “awfully beautiful.” My brother Jim. Gone. He was 17 ½.
About a “Jim Lifetime” later, in August of 2002, I began a year-long exchange of hand-written letters with Mr. Johsens….
(And this is where the re-inspiration story begins, and I will finish it with Part 2, along with introducing how I discovered 246 ways to engage an audience. Coming in a couple of days!)