I seem to have arrived in the age group where colleagues can disappear, and it’s categorized very normally as “died of old age.”
It’s a poignant reckoning, with lots of sadness and loss involved. It’s also a very touching wake-up call to pause, honor well-lived lives that made a big difference in my own and just feel the love.
I want to take my space in this blog to pay tribute to three great men, who passed on recently, that I was fortunate to call friend.
We featured Heart Akerson in THRIVE II (see timecode 1:03:50). He was an American-born musician and nuclear physicist who woke up to realize that creating nuclear fission was the worst possible use of energy in general and him in particular. So, he left the industry, bought a boat, sailed to Costa Rica with his wife and raised an extraordinary family in the jungles there.
Heart came to realize that his true calling was teaching humanity how to effectively decentralize access to energy. He ended up inventing the ironically and appropriately named Heart Transverter, which allows communities to access multiple sources of energy and share them with each other as needed.
His wife brought organic vegetable growing to their region of Costa Rica. One of his sons won the off-road world triathlon championship. And one of Heart’s passions was to improvise on his synthesizer for parties on the beach or play classical by ear on the ancient grand piano in his musty old library.
His originality and dedication touched me deeply and I will miss him.
Our interlude with him in THRIVE II inspired hundreds of orders from all over the world, but never, alas, the $5 million that he needed to refurbish his manufacturing plant. A reminder that we live in a time of confusion about priorities and how to spend our resources to create the world that we want for our grandchildren.
Robert Podolsky was a brilliant scientist and the son of another renowned physicist who worked very closely with Albert Einstein, as recognized in the title of the famous Einstein, Podolsky, Rosen experiment. But Bob’s passion was human interaction and collaboration. He was a committed voluntaryist, and his research into how to optimize the effectiveness of solutions groups was the primary inspiration for Derek Broze’s Freedom Cell Network. He wrote a very practical and insightful book called FLOURISH!: An Alternative to Government and Other Hierarchies. (He joked with me that “THRIVE” was taken!)
Bob was a treasure to brainstorm with… youthful and passionate into his twilight years. Thank you, Bob, for having the clarity to follow your bliss in uncharted waters and for being a trustworthy friend on the path.
Neal Rogin was a primary script editor for both THRIVE and THRIVE II. When I asked him to review our draft script for the first movie, he acknowledged the content, with a mischievous twinkle in his eye, and nicknamed me “the good troublemaker.” Then he went on to say very candidly that we had “lots of work to do” to have the script commensurate with humanity’s challenge at this time.
He and his writing partner, Mary Chase, helped wrangle the storyline and shorten the narrative. He referred to this as “concisizing” and he would give a potato “pop chip” to any of us for every single word removed.
Neal called me an “Omnologist” — which he said was “that rare person who studies everything in particular.” Once he had reconciled himself to the challenging reality of the information we were conveying, he generously started sprinkling his magic, literary fairy dust.
Neal wrote the epic opening sentence of THRIVE, “Every living system on our beloved planet is an eloquent expression of the universe’s astonishing ability to come into perfect balance — and then to do what life is meant to do — to thrive.”
My favorite was “When an honest man discovers he is mistaken, he either ceases to be mistaken, or he ceases to be honest.”
I had first recognized Neal’s poetic clarity when he was writing for Werner Erhard with the EST organization. He went on to do the core writing and filmmaking for both The Hunger Project and the Pachamama Alliance. He also occasionally could be persuaded to do hilarious and profound stand-up comedy.
In his book, Delightenment: Escaping the Solitary Confinement of Your Prisonality, you will find such “Nealisms” as:
Love at first insight...
If it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would get done.
Arrogance is ignorance squared.
We are born as originals. Don’t die as a copy.
The light at the end of the tunnel is a mirror. You are eternal.
Thank you, Neal, for realizing the seriousness of some things and showing us how to not take them too seriously.