Literature is literally littered with lively legends. Amongst them rides Don Quixote – the Man of La Mancha. An idealistic knight who fought for the rights of others and dared to dream the impossible dream.
Mr Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, while I dare not sing that song for fear it could be your nightmare, I like many of us here have dreamed impossible dreams. But to make one of my dreams even remotely reachable, I had to learn an extraordinary lesson, perhaps a lesson for us all.
At the age of 22 an accident changed my view of the world completely. Before the accident, I saw the world from an invincible 6 feet high, now I see it from the height of the consummate navel gazer.
In my new position, short and seated and recycled, I soon faced discrimination in work and life, so I became a modern day Don Quixote fighting for the rights of those with a disability. Many, many times , I would don the armour of righteousness, mount my trusty grey horse Eeeha! (work with me here), raise my lance, and charge into hell for my heavenly cause, dreaming of a world where discrimination no longer existed.
But at other times, I would retreat, exhausted and just want to be invisible
For many years as I championed this cause, I faced this problem: “Do I want to fit in, or do I want to stand up, stand out and stand fast for who and what I am; do I want to be same or different?
I became consumed by this dilemma and desperate for an answer. I turned to books, coaches, meditation, you name it – I did it, I even searched in the bottom of a few bottles of scotch – I eventually found my answer where many of our life’s most important questions are answered.
My Grandmother’s kitchen was filled with the aroma of freshly cooked bread, and the quiet rhythmic chopping of vegetables was the only sound to be heard. On the bench, gleaming upturned jars were begging to be filled with her world famous tomato relish – well I thought it was world famous – my grandfather, Poppy, always said it could be used as paint stripper. I too would laugh at his mischief. Nana, in all her wisdom and with all her love, would merely smile.
A splash was followed by her silent invitation to look in the water filled sink. A wildly bright red apple had accidentally tumbled in, and was bobbing amongst a dozen green tomatoes. Nana said, “Mark, look in the sink. What do you want to be?” I looked at my choice – to be the one apple or one of many tomatoes- and I remembered thinking…..
Who looks at fruit and veges and becomes philosophical?
So how did I answer grandmother?
As I watched her, I finally understood her wisdom. “Nana”, I said. She stopped, turned, and waited. “Nana, I want to be the water.
She turned back to her work, and I am sure I heard her smile.
She knew I had found my answer. That you can’t change the world by charging around like an idealistic knight. You change it from here, by being the water. You see water embraces everything completely. It does not differentiate young from old, black from white, tall from navel gazer. It simply encompasses all.
And what is this water if is not a unique definition of love. A definition reflected in Deepak Chopra’s work, where he writes ‘for love to be real it has to flow out and around that which is loved’. This water is liquid love. When I am the water, no, when we are the water, the need to fight the good fight no longer exists. The need to work out whether we are the same or different no longer exists. When we love with the intimacy of water, difference doesn’t exist.
It’s what this liquid love does. What happened in that kitchen allowed me to replace the passion of youth with the wisdom of my grandmother and so with my new understanding I began to change my world from in here
Ladies and Gentlemen: In an ordinary kitchen, I learnt an extra-ordinary lesson. One which enabled me to take off my armor and get off this horse – not literally. I learnt from my grandmother that it doesn’t matter how we are different. It’s how we love that matters. So this morning, I offer you her wisdom. In a sink full of green tomatoes and one wildly red apple, there is so much, so very much to be gained from being the water