When denial no longer worked and Steve Jobs finally had to admit he was really dying, his defenses began to soften and his crazy, story-telling Interpreter brain began to tunnel a gateway to his heart. He and his family then opened their home to let friends come and pay last respects. One of the people who came to visit was Steve’s old twin-star technology adversary, Bill Gates. They reportedly spent some “quality time” together, ultimately acknowledging the important role of each in the other’s life.
Another person who came to visit Steve was Subramanyum. They had been friends for more than 35 years. When he entered the bedroom of the house in Palo Alto, Subramanyum found Steve curled up in the fetal position asleep. He then did what any medical doctor and former director of one of the world’s largest charitable foundations (Google’s) would do: he took off his coat and crawled into bed beside Steve and cradled him in his arms.
Subramanyum, also known as Larry Brilliant, MD, was answering the Big Brain Question for Steve Jobs with an unequivocal “Yes.”
True Lovers Love
When Bob Gaudio met the lead singer of a group called the Four Lovers in the mid-1960s, the two young men hit it off immediately. With only their word and a handshake agreement they made a sacred pact with one another: no matter how, where, when or with whom either of the two men found financial success in the world, they would always remain 50-50 partners, each entitled to half the other man’s earnings. So if Bob decided to end his music career and become a finish carpenter or a bricklayer, every paycheck would go into the partnership and be divided equally. If we think of money as energy made manifest, this agreement was tantamount to holy energetic matrimony.
Well, Bob remained in music, and he and his partner became members of the only band to rival the Beatles for the coveted Billboard No. 1 spot in the late sixties. Bob’s partner in their Big Brain Question-answering deal was a Jersey Boy named … Frankie Valli. And the band, of course, was The Four Seasons.
One of my very few human heroes is Bruce Perry. The Yale Medical School-trained MD is a well-known developmental neuro-psychiatrist who runs the Child Trauma Academy in Houston, Texas. One day some young parents brought their son Peter in to Bruce’s office for a consultation. Peter was an abandoned and neglected Romanian orphan. With Bruce and the parents all working together, Peter made remarkable progress … until he started school. He would become very agitated and emotionally volatile around the other kids and very disruptive in the classroom. When Bruce heard about Peter’s difficulty, he flew up to Nebraska from his office in Texas, made an appointment with Peter’s teacher, and spent a day in the classroom teaching the kids “brain science for kindergartners.” He taught the kids how Peter’s brain became easily emotionally highjacked. That simply meant that Peter was scared. What they should do was talk softly to Peter, ask if they could hold his hand and rub his back. That would usually work to calm Peter down. And it did. And that remains one of my favorite Big Brain stories. It’s a response many adults would be well-served to model, especially in politics, law and international relations.
Forgiving as Heart Art
Finally, this story from “The Art of Forgiveness” chapter in Jack Kornfield’s book, Bringing Home the Dharma rounds out these offerings of exemplary efforts in answering “Yes” to the Big Brain Question.
One fourteen year old boy in the (juvenile offenders) program had shot and killed an innocent teenager to prove himself to his gang. At the trial, the victim’s mother sat impassively silent until the end, when the youth was convicted of the killing. After the verdict was announced, she stood up slowly and stared directly at him and said, “I’m going to kill you.” Then the youth was taken away to serve several years in the juvenile facility.
After the first half year the mother of the slain child went to visit his killer. He had been living on the streets before the killing, and she was the only visitor he’d had. For a time they talked, and when she left, she gave him some money for cigarettes. Then she started step-by-step to visit him more regularly, bringing food and small gifts. Near the end of his three year sentence she asked him what he would be doing when he got out. He was confused and very uncertain, so she offered to set him up with a job at a friend’s company. Then she inquired about where he would live, and since he had no family to return to, she offered him temporary use of the spare room in her home.
For eight months he lived there, ate her food, and worked at the job. Then one evening she called him into the living room to talk. She sat down opposite him and waited. Then she started, “Do you remember in the courtroom when I said I was going to kill you?” “I sure do, ma’am,” he replied. “Well, I did,” she went on. “I did not want the boy who could kill my son for no reason to remain alive on this earth. I wanted him to die. That’s why I started to visit you and bring you things. That’s why I got you the job and let you live here in my house. That’s how I set about changing you. And that old boy, he’s gone. So now I want to ask you, since my son is gone, and that killer is gone, if you’ll stay here. I’ve got room, and I’d like to adopt you if you let me.”
And she became the mother of her son’s killer, the mother he never had.
So, now the question becomes, who in your life, in each of our lives, might currently be inviting us to show up and make an irrational commitment to them by offering a major “Yes” to the Big Brain Question?
P.S. Finally, if you REALLY want to see the power of answering the Big Brain Question “Yes,” spend 8 minutes and watch this video: Emmanuel Kelly.