HUMANS OF THE PFISTER | JULY 2016 | Life, Liberty, & Happiness
JULY 2016 EDITION
This month, I am beginning a series called Humans of The Pfister (or HOTP for short), inspired by the prolific Brandon Stanton and his blog series Humans of New York (HONY), which captures the lives and experiences of hundreds and hundreds of New Yorkers in stunning photographs and anecdotes. His HONY “photographic census” has expanded to tell stories from different countries–including Pakistan, Iran, Uganda, India, Vietnam, and Mexico–and collected stories of inmates and refugees and individuals with pediatric cancer. Since the success of HONY, especially via social media, two books have collected many of Stanton’s photographs and stories, Mario Sinclair’s Humans of Milwaukee website has amassed an impressive over the last year and, to be expected, numerous spinoffs and parodies have emerged.
Each month, I will explore a different theme. The month of July I will dedicate to–you guessed it–life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I will ask guests and associates questions like these:
- When have you felt most alive?
- What is your secret to living a fulfilling life?
- What is the number one thing that has gotten you to this point in your life?
- What is one thing that you are still working on in your life?
- When have you felt the freest?
- What have you felt the least free?
- What is the most liberating thing you have ever done?
- Does freedom come with a price?
- How do you pursue happiness?
- What was one of the happiest moments of your life?
- Who or what makes you the happiest?
- What is your definition of happiness?
Please enjoy the first set of HOTP, who I met on the afternoon of July 1st:
“I felt the most alive and extremely, extremely at peace after my nine-year-old daughter was ill and needed a kidney transplant. We went to two different doctors in southern California, both of whom said she also had cardiomyopathy and recommended both kidney and heart surgery. One of the doctors told us, “Your daughter’s life is finite.” Devastated, and wanting another opinion, we went to a doctor in Brazil (my ex-wife is Brazilian) and he told us to convince the American doctors to just do the kidney transplant. So now she has my kidney and is 17 years old. Her life wasn’t finite. After the surgery, I felt super, super peaceful. I felt such presence and non-resistance–so free, so alive, so at peace. I began meditating, which brought me clarity, a sense of letting go, without attachment. I also felt joy, felt connected. I was able to live with this life energy for some time (it’s like we need to go to a mental gym where we make ourselves aware of all our attachments, then let them go), but it’s a difficult thing to maintain, just like working out. I’m still working on it.”
“I feel the freest when I’m hiking out in the woods, especially in Northern Minnesota where I’m from. Out there, you can’t hear anything from the city. One of the most intense hikes is in Devil’s Kettle, where you have to go down 400 stairs at the beginning, then, of course, hike back up them at the end. And out there, I don’t have to worry about my make-up.”
“I’ll tell you, in my most humble opinion, that I feel the least free in today’s culture. There is so much constraint. We live in the greatest country and culture ever devised, but there are too many rules and regulations. I’m not just talking about government. I just think that people are not as flexible to do the things they want to do. Yes, there are lots of opportunities on the creative end, but there’s a pervasive ‘political correctness’ that makes people almost fear retribution if they say or do something that other people don’t like. I would say that I’m one of the most open individuals you can find–it doesn’t matter to me your religious orientation or sexual orientation, for instance. That’s why the three things I try to hammer into my sons are these: (1) Stay out of debt (you lose part of your liberty when you’re in debt), (2) Follow your passion, and (3) Do what you want to do. You don’t have to be rich to be happy. If you want to be a janitor, then be the best janitor that you can be.”
“Life is all about love, family (my son, of course), and friends. Outside of career and money, those are the secrets to living a fulfilling life, a ‘successful’ life. I have unconditional love for my seven-year-old son. He just loves me to death, too. My little sweetheart. Also, what’s sad about seeing these questions is that I can’t honestly remember the last time in, say, the past five years, that I felt truly “free.” Life seems to get in the way. But there was that time I went snowboarding down a mountain and felt totally free. And that time when my colleagues and I were in Beijing, riding bikes through the Forbidden City–and that was free, freeing. We had to book it through Tiananmen Square because it’s illegal to do that. But that was freeing, too.”