We live in a world of clichés and ideologues. In this internet age, we are surrounded by glass-eyed people, robots who chase their ideas and have forgotten their humanity.
And yet, in this madness there remain those who are unabashedly committed to putting aside ideological vanity and instead let themselves be guided by the old religion, the ancient and mysterious truth found in love.
My friend and colleague Dr. Paul Bates was a such a man.
I will not tarry here over his many accomplishments. A simple search will lead to descriptions of his life of incredible achievement. Rather, I will share my feelings on him as a person.
I was blessed that he would invite me to lunch periodically and we would talk. He would confide in me, asking my opinion on moral and ethical positions he had taken. Things he had said.
What struck me most about our conversations was their simplicity. Paul was always concerned about how his actions or his words had affected people. He wanted to know that what he had done would elevate, inspire or uplift those around him.
He shed tears during these lunches. Carried away by the emotions inherent in a person’s situation with which he empathized. Distraught by the challenges someone he had mentored was facing.
Paul wanted a world in which people strove, competed and achieved — all within the bounds of their shared humanity.
A devoted Christian, Paul allowed the love and forgiveness at the very heart of his faith to guide his actions. Paul gave people second chances. Paul was forgiving. Paul helped people who were in need. That’s not to say he was a pushover. He fought for what he believed in, often fiercely.
He didn’t, however, perceive his opponents as his enemies. No. He perceived them as humans, children of God, as he told me several times. He thought his opponents were inherently valuable. He thought everyone was inherently valuable.
So, despite the significant wealth and power that Paul accumulated throughout his life as a salesman, banker, broadcaster, and academic, what he valued most was the impact he had on others. In the end, as he told me during one of our lunches, he most wanted to give and to receive the Gift of the Magi — the gift of love.
He was a great man. He protected and mentored many.
We are poorer for his passing.
May a new generation be inspired to follow him, rejecting the glamour of power and vanity.
Instead, may a new generation seek to understand the mystery of our humanity, the golden braid that could connect us all — the gentle, unstoppable power of love, compassion and forgiveness.