A Moment for Wisdom – Reflections on Vaclav Havel



a Moment for Wisdom…


A Moment for…



 “We cannot blame the previous rulersVaclav Havel  for everything, not only because it would be untrue, but also because it would blunt the duty that each of us faces today: namely, the obligation to act independently, freely, reasonably and quickly.

Vaclav Havel









a Moment with Sharif…




I am not going to spend time here extolling Havel’s tremendous written offerings or his lifelong pursuit of “living in truth”.  I refer to my friend Hazel Henderson who wrote an outstanding tribute to Havel, which I link to here: Hazel Henderson’s tribute. Hazel recently reminded me that it was Havel who brought us together, as participants in “Forum 2000” in Prague in 1998. 

Instead, I’d like to give you some of my personal recollections of a man who has been so tremendously influential in my life.


My first encounter with Havel was through his writing.  His book, “Living in Truth” was so powerful, it was shocking.  I think that one book is the single most powerful political writing since Thomas Jefferson (and yes, I’ve read Marx, FDR, Lenin, Mao, Gandhi, Kennedy, King…).  When I started reading it, I realized after 3-4 pages that I had underlined every word!  I said to myself, “I’m going to have to get a different strategy for reading this!”  (This turned into a nice moment years later, when I asked Havel to autograph my much-used copy of “Living in Truth”.  I had the book open to the title page and a pen ready for him to use.  Instead, he put the pen away and thumbed through the book – he wanted to see if I’d actually read it.  When he saw all of my underlines, margin notes and exclamation points, he looked at me, winked, gave me a “thumbs-up”, then signed it!)

Those on the Right and those on the Left mis-read (and ignore) Havel.  To the Right, Havel was the “dissident” who successfully stood up to the “Communists”.  In their view, anyone who opposes Communism is a Rightist.  They ignore the fact that Havel’s movement, “Charter 77”, had everyone, including Communists, in it.  The Left talks about the nonviolent and grassroots-organizing aspects of the “Velvet Revolution”, but ignores the spiritual aspects that form the foundation of Havel’s work.

A careful reading of Havel shows that he was neither Right nor Left – he was ABOVE that spectrum… the true realm of societal transformation.

My second encounter was a non-event.  In 1989, the world watched as the events of the “Velvet Revolution” unfolded, with one million people in Wenceslas Square, calling for the end of Soviet rule.

I remember reading a “Time Magazine” article about it, wondering what was really going on, wondering whether/how Time was slanting the events.  Then it dawned on me: “Why am I sitting here, when there’s a nonviolent revolution taking place in the world!?”  So, in early January, 1990, I hopped on an airplane, to become a witness to a revolution.

I wrote to Havel, and was assured that either he or someone else in the new government would spend a few minutes with me.  It didn’t happen – at the time I arrived, an emergency crisis threatened the very existence of the new government and its inexperienced President.  (There were many, many crises at that time, and the West had no answers and little tangible support for the fledgling government.  Still doesn’t…) 

I sat in his waiting area, as people on the other side of the door, with NO experience in governing, tried to avert a crisis that could have caused rioting in the streets.  I learned a great deal about the RESPONSIBILITY of governing.  Lots of people have “opinions” – the President should do this, Congress should do that.  They have opinions, but no responsibility – they do not have to live with the consequences of their silly, ignorant or misinformed decisions.  (Unfortunately, in these times, the ranks of the silly, ignorant and misinformed includes those in Congress and other seats of power.)

A true leader must have a clear sense of VALUES. If you have no values, doing the right thing is IMPOSSIBLE.  They must be able to make a decision, even if that decision means the loss of life for some. Even those of us who are pledged to nonviolence may be forced to make life and death decisions… our own, those of our supporters, those innocents who may be caught up in the violence of the hateful. Sitting outside Havel’s door, I learned about the responsibility that comes with power.  I learned the price that one must pay when you get what you want.  

One other thing I learned: NOT deciding is making a decision.  You must live with the results produced by indecision, also.

Sharif and Havel My third encounter with Havel was my first time meeting him. In 1998, he invited me to be one of the 40 international delegates to “Forum 2000”… along with people like Henry Kissinger, Hilary Clinton, Indian diplomat Karan Singh, economist Hazel Henderson, Nobel Laureates, academics and government leaders from around the world.  Quite a table!  (I’m sitting first seat, left hand side…)

 Havel was extremely ill at that time, so none of us got a lot of “face time” with him.  In myPrague Forum 2000 time with him, Havel agreed that I could use one of his essays for the Introduction to “Creating a World That Works for All” (he was too ill to produce an original).  I was thankful for this… having an Introduction from this master political writer inspired me as I finished writing “Creating”. 

The essay he and I selected was the perfect balance of the need for societal change and the need for spiritual awareness.  I quote this essay in almost every speech I give – and I strive to achieve this balance in my own life.

My fourth encounter (and last) came the following year, when he invited me back to Prague Castle – this time as a facilitator for “Student Forum 2000”.  100 students,Sharif and Prague Students from every continent, meeting for the first time to discuss the course of humanity on our planet.  Doing a workshop inside Prague Castle!  This was a true high-water mark for me.  And, I was able to hand-deliver a copy of “Creating a World That Works for All” to Havel, with my thanks.


There are many people who influence my work, from ascended masters to my 6 year old grandson.  Those who have been most influential are the people who not only clearly articulate a vision of the world I want to live in, but also live AUTHENTIC lives: their values are in alignment with their actions in the world.

Was Havel the “perfect man”?  Not hardly… and that’s from his own self-assessment.  In many ways, he did less than I thought he could do as President.  But… back to Havel’s waiting room, two decades ago.  Sitting comfortably on “my” side of that closed door, it is easy to say what I would have done.  It is a lot harder is to actually decide, to not complain, not blame, but decide – and live with the consequences of my decision. 


This is the mark of a true leader.










Havel will be one of the world leaders we will explore in my 16 week program, “The Awakening of All”.  Exploring successful nonviolent, visionary, inclusive revolutions is one of the many activities we will use to understand and build our character.


Remember this: when Havel became President of Czechoslovakia, THE PEOPLE WHO FORMED HAVEL’S GOVERNMENT HAD LESS EXPERIENCE GOVERNING THAN YOU DO!!  It was not KNOWLEDGE but WISDOM AND VALUES that helped them create a new, visionary government.


We are the leaders we’ve been waiting for… so let’s stop waiting!  Click here for more information on The Awakening Program. 


The Awakening of All 





All photos by Sharif Abdullah, unless otherwise noted.








This entry was posted in A Moment for Wisdom and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *