Here’s the next posting of my Man of the Month series on the brilliant Janos Maté
These interviews highlight some really amazing men who are making a difference and using their creative edge to do what they do best. They have been chosen because I’m impressed by their contagious spirit, creative thinking, and the opportunities they bring to the world, plus how they reflect infinite possibilities back to the rest of us. If you haven’t already checked out previous men featured, like Derek Lee, click on the Man of the Month link in the side bar and scroll down through the pages to check them out..
There’s also the fabulous women featured on my Woman of the Month blog.
May’s Man of the Month is:
Here’s a little bit about him:
When Stalin died I was 7 years old. We lived in Budapest, Hungary. We awoke to funeral music on the radio and all day long I heard funeral music on the streets and at school. That night I began to cry. Why are you crying asked my parents. “Because uncle Stalin had died” I sobbed.
Hungary was ruled by the Communist Party. As children my brother and I were immersed in the teachings of Communism, of egalitarianism, peace, and fairness. We were not conscious of the many contradictions of the system. In our young hearts we embraced these fine values.
In October 1956, when I was ten, a revolution broke out and many Hungarians fled the country illegally. We crossed the Austrian border at night. We were refugees.
The Canadian government for a combination of humanitarian, geopolitical and economic reasons was welcoming of Hungarian refugees. They offered a skilled labour force that was especially needed in Western Canada. In February of 1957, after staying in refugee camps in Austria and Germany, and with relatives in Munich, and after an eight day cross Atlantic voyage and a five day cross Canada train ride, we arrived in Vancouver.
Vancouver has been my home ever since. I went to Kitsilano High, UBC for my undergraduate studies, and SFU for my MA. As a teenager I belonged to a socialist, kibbutz oriented youth movement. After high school I spent a year studying in Jerusalem and living on a kibbutz.
In my last year at UBC I was in charge of bringing guest speakers to the campus for the Alma Mater Society. I brought people who led the anti-Viet Nam war movement, the student movement, the civil rights movement. I learned about the power of organizing events.
In 1969 I married Noni, and got a job working at the Maples, a progressive treatment center for emotionally disturbed adolescents. There I was immersed in various schools of psychotherapy, which led me to working in the field of therapy and counseling for twenty years.
In the mid 80’s I became increasingly concerned about the state of world, mainly poverty and the nuclear arms race. I started to organize concerts and large scale events to raise funds to support organizations that worked on the issues I cared about.
Then in 1989 I accepted a job with Greenpeace as the Nuclear Free Seas campaigner for Western Canada. I have worked with Greenpeace since then, utilizing my skills, passion and creativity as required. I have organized numerous direct action protests and have been arrested several times. And over the past twenty years I have represented Greenpeace International around the world at meetings for protecting the ozone layer and the global climate.
And here’s how he answered my 6 questions about creativity:
What does it mean to you to be creative?
I know I am being creative when I feel my heart and soul, body and mind are pulsating with energy.
I feel creative when I am engaged in profound activities that brings some goodness and sanity into the world. This could be producing special events for worthy causes, which brings great artists together with appreciative audiences in support of a larger purpose. Examples are “Concert for Haida Gwai with Pete Seeger”; “SerenAid for Africa” a concert for African famine relief in the Orpheum; “Give Peace a Dance” telethons at the Plaza of Nations; “Stop the Deal I want to Get Off”, a concert at the Orpheum in opposition to the 1988 Free Trade Deal between the US and Canada; “Born to Be Wild”, a concert in the Vogue Theatre to end the cruelty of keeping whales and dolphins in captivity in the Vancouver Aquarium. Another event was “FastAid for Somalia” which raised $150,000 in a 6-hour telethon, broadcast out of Hotel Vancouver, and across Canada on Community Cable.
There is creativity in encapsulating the intent of the event with just the right name, in choreographing just the right program, in working with talented performers, in organizing the publicity and the nuts and bolts of the event.
There is also creativity in sustained campaigning for specific goals. For example in the 1990s I spearheaded Greenpeace’s successful campaign to end the entry of nuclear armed warships into Vancouver harbor. Such a campaign has to communicate with the public on many levels through direct action, moral outrage, rational information, creative visuals, humor.
Each facet of the campaign requires creativity. Each facet involves heart, mind and soul. Each facet requires motivating and cooperating with others.
Each facet requires creativity. We won the campaign in Vancouver and due to our activities and the subsequent trial, Vancouver has not been host to any nuclear armed warships since 1989.
And there is also creativity in developing practical answers to human needs. In 2000, while attending an international conference on ozone layer protection in Burkina Faso, a colleague and I noticed refrigerators displayed on the sidewalks of Ouagadougou, the capital city. The sidewalks are the stores. We thought, what if we could develop a solar powered, led battery free and environmentally friendly refrigerator for food and vaccine preservation. After all over 3 billion people live in regions without adequate electricity where refrigeration is either intermittent or does not exist. We began a project involving 7 international organizations, that I have coordinated since its inception, and 13 years later, such a product, which I named “SolarChill” is produced in several countries.
But I also feel creative when writing short stories, when the words cooperate and appear on the page just right. I feel creative when using my hands, doing pottery or carpentry. And I feel very creative when playing in the present moment with my grandchildren, and when I tell them stories that magically evolve out of somewhere.
What triggers your creativity?
A spark. An original idea. A worthwhile cause. Here is the need, here a possible response.
What hinders your creativity?
Management teams, policy makers, bureaucrats.
What’s the wildest journey your venturesome spirit has taken you on?
In 1995 the French government was blowing up a series of nuclear bombs at Moruroa atoll in the South Pacific. Greenpeace spearheaded the international outrage against this repeated rape of Earth mother. We occupied the French Consulate in Vancouver where we got arrested. A few weeks later I find myself being the campaigner on board the sailboat Carramba sailing from Papeette, Tahiti, to Moruroa. Our mission is to arrive to Moruroa in time for the 3rd explosion, which is to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations.
It is a 16-day round trip voyage. I am not a sailor and have never been on the high seas in a 47-foot vessel. There were six of us on board. The second day I started being sea sick. The fourth or fifth day I notice that chicken in the freezer is starting to turn color.
I am a vegetarian but can cook a mean chicken paprika. I offer to cook the evening meal. We hit voluminous waves. I haven’t eaten in three days. And there I am, below deck in the suffocating heat, cooking chicken paprika on a stove that swings back and forth, and I think I have arrived to Hell on Earth. But I am told the chicken was delicious.
A couple of days later, as we are at the 10 kilometers exclusion zone outside of Moruroa, being harassed by the French Navy, the bomb goes off. I send messages of peace to the United Nations, and I weep as a child.
It is long a way from Moruroa to the Vancouver Aquarium. But keeping intelligent, sentient beings like whales and dolphins in small concrete tanks for entertainment and profit is another manifestation of human alienation from nature and from our genuine selves.
In 1991, when the Vancouver Aquarium set out to kidnap three beluga whales from the wild, three of us locked ourselves in a small cage in front of the Aquarium. We did not identify ourselves. We were three humans acting in empathy with the belugas. We stayed for 36 hours and fasted during that time.
In 1999 I resumed the caged protest, to free Bjossa, the solitary orca whale who had been kidnapped from her family off the shores of Iceland 20 years earlier. This time the protest lasted six days and nights and stirred up much public discussion on the efficacy of cetacean captivity. We were asking for a city wide referendum on the issue, but till now successive civic parties have refused to give the public the opportunity to vote on this moral issue. But Bjossa was shipped out, and the Aquarium no longer has orca prisoners.
What does being bold and provocative mean to you?
Being in a cage for six days in front of the Vancouver Aquarium.
Understanding the banality of evil that is steadily driving humanity over the precipice and undermining nature’s balance.
Doing the right thing when witnessing the wrong and the pain in the world.
Maintaining hope and a sense of appreciation for the present while harboring catastrophic expectations for the future of life on the planet.
Meditating for more than twenty minutes.
What’s next for you?
Presently, my most relevant engagement is planting memory seeds in my grandchildren. I see them almost everyday, we engage in many activities, and I routinely marvel at their evolution, their creativity, their love of life. Each day is like watching a garden bloom in early spring.
On the global stage I lead the SolarChill Project and I am engaged in activities to protect the ozone layer and the global climate.
But the most recent project that presently engages my energy and creativity is “Instruments for Change” which aims to send musical instruments to Paraguay for the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura, otherwise known as the Landfill Harmonic. Please see “www.facebook.com/instrumentsforchange. I see another benefit event in the making.
And here’s something that inspires his creativity:
I just finished reading a wonderful book “Eyes of the Wild: Journeys of Transformation with the Animal Powers” by Eleanor O’Hanlon. Eleanor is a friend and former Greenpeace colleague who lives in France. She is a gifted writer and her book is a must read for people who love animals, understand animal intelligence and care about the state of the world and the spiritual emptiness of consumer civilization.
enter inspiring thing here.
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