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  • [GUITAR STRUMMING]

  • - Well good afternoon.

  • Um, welcome my name is Simon Neame,

  • I'm Dean of libraries here at UMass Amherst.

  • And I am very proud-um, pleased to welcome you today to our 19th annual fall

  • library fall reception here in the beautiful renovated Old Chapel building.

  • So for those of you who haven't been here in quite a long time,

  • It's absolutely gorgeous the renovation that's been done.

  • And as I learn a little bit about my--being fairly new here,

  • As I learn a little bit about UMass history,

  • I learned that there was in fact the very first library was in this building.

  • So long history and a wonderful place to be having our fall reception,

  • So I'd like to thank you all for joining us on this absolutely beautiful afternoon!

  • Welcome friends of the library, guests,

  • And also our special guests from the Network for Grateful Living.

  • And--welcome it's great to see you all here.

  • So we are pleased today to be honoring the gift of the collected papers,

  • and works of Brother David Steindl-Rast to our Special Collections and University Archives.

  • It is through gifts like these that we build our collections,

  • focused on social change..

  • And um, sorry...social--I lost my place,

  • Social change and support the community of activists and scholars,

  • here on campus and increasingly through our digitization efforts around the world.

  • Now you will hear more about our plans to digitize,

  • many of these important papers later on through the program.

  • But for now I'd like to get things started with turning it over to our head of Special Collections,

  • Rob Cox.

  • [AUDIENCE CLAPPING]

  • - Well I can't help but be personal here.

  • A few years ago I was uh thinking about some friends of mine from high school,

  • whom I'd hadn't seen for a long time, including my closest friend.

  • And I happened to run into his father, who's a very well-known molecular biologist,

  • and I said "Have you heard from Tom lately?"

  • and he says "I hear from him all the time."

  • I said "Well I'd like to talk to Tom. I haven't talked to him in 30 years."

  • So I-I said I'd like to talk to-to my friend Tom,

  • So his father gave me his phone number and I called him up.

  • And Tom said "What do you do now? What do you do with yourself?"

  • And I said "Well I'm an archivist. That's a pretty bad thing uh."

  • What's an archivist?

  • Well you know an archivist is someone who feeds off of someone else's papers,

  • their-their letters.We read diaries.

  • Basically we spend our lives reading other people's mail.

  • [LAUGHTER]

  • And I said "Well Tom what do you do?"

  • and he said "Well... for the last thirty years I've been a Buddhist monk."

  • And I thought "Okay. Not much different from when you were in high school."

  • And that was my background when about a year and a half ago,

  • Katie and Aaron Rubinstein came and said,

  • "Hey we might have an opportunity to talk to these people about the papers of a Benedictine monk."

  • And I thought "Well for me, what does monasticism mean?"

  • It means monastic solitude.

  • It means living a hermetic life.

  • It means detachment and withdrawal from society.

  • All those things sound to me like a typical family vacation for me,

  • But.. in this case I thought it might be interesting to look a little further

  • because they were insistent that this was an interesting opportunity for us as an archive.

  • Just want to say for just a couple of minutes why it is an opportunity.

  • It's because what we specialize in in Special Collections is

  • documentation of social change.

  • And for us it means that what we don't do is document any individual single movement.

  • We haven't set ourselves up to document the peace movement or environmentalism.

  • We haven't set ourselves up to think about social justice in some limited sense.

  • We haven't set ourselves up to look at the way people make change politically or extra politically.

  • What we've done is decided to focus on the connections between and among movements.

  • How things interconnect.

  • We found pretty securely, pretty certainly,

  • That there's no such thing in life as a single issue activist.

  • if you're active in one area, you're active in another.

  • And it's because everybody who looks at problems in the world sees connections differently.

  • Everybody who acts on those problems does so understanding that to solve

  • to-to address one problem requires you to think about and act on other problems.

  • When I heard about Brother David with his background,

  • the second world war, surviving through Vienna in a second world war,

  • emigrating here in the early 50s,

  • and finding the monastery that he wanted to live on,

  • for the previous 10 years, had been dreaming about living on.

  • And when he found that and he said "I want to live strictly by the rule of Benedict."

  • And that led him somehow mysteriously into Zen Buddhism.

  • And from there somehow mysteriously into interfaith dialogue,

  • into promoting peace,

  • into promoting social justice into civil rights,

  • and everything else that Brother David has been involved in.

  • It didn't surprise me one bit.

  • The one thing I remember more than anything at Brother David's birthday last year in San Francisco,

  • was him talking about what it was like to work within the Benedictine community.

  • To be a Benedictine for virtually all of your adult life.

  • And he said "It was like a well."

  • You may remember this.

  • It's like a well where you dig and you dig deeper and deeper,

  • and you find you can still dig deeper.

  • Until you finally get down to the waters at the bottom that connect us all.

  • And that for us is what we mean by social change.

  • And that's why Brother David is a great fit for us.

  • So with that, I think I pass off to Kristi.

  • Is that right? I hope.

  • Kristi Nelson, who is the CEO of The Network for Great--

  • A Network for Grateful Living, so thank you.

  • [AUDIENCE CLAPPING]

  • - What a beautiful gathering, um.

  • So on behalf of the board and staff of A Network for Grateful Living

  • I want to extend our most sincere thanks

  • to all of those involved in bringing this extraordinary moment to fruition

  • and to all of you gathered here.

  • It means so much to us to look out and to see so many old friends and new.

  • The generosity of the Friends of the Library in organizing this event has been nothing but amazing every step of the way.

  • Thank you Carol Connare and Kim Fill for being so thoughtful and accommodating,

  • and making this special day unfold with so much heart.

  • And to Dean Neame, I know you're new here but I see really great things ahead for you.

  • So to Rob Cox and Aaron Rubinstein and to all those from Special Collections,

  • who have been involved in lovingly and painstakingly excavating, organizing, and

  • celebrating the voluminous archives of Brother David.

  • I hear they're measured in yah- is it measured in yards?

  • Linear feet!

  • This guy has a lot of linear feet.

  • He's kind of small but he's got linear feet of archives.

  • I have to say that you have proven yourselves the most deeply trustworthy and dedicated partners to us.

  • Your caring and careful preservation of the teachings and legacy of a man we deeply love,

  • and a teacher whose life holds tremendous power to inspire,

  • A broad swath of the universe for decades to come, has been nothing but impressive.

  • Your professionalism and your deep personal interest in these archives have

  • consistently moved us and made us know that we have a true partner in

  • perpetuity at U--at SCUA. I'm going to call it SCUA.

  • Thank you.

  • You will hear much more about Brother David from my colleagues in a few minutes.

  • and they are the far better ones to talk about it.

  • But I want to seize my own little moment to say,

  • that even though I've been blessed to be

  • the Director of A Network for Grateful Living for three and a half years,

  • my personal history with brother David goes back 15 years when I first met him at

  • Lynn Twist's house in San Francisco and immediately developed my first and only true monk crush.

  • Honestly within moments of meeting this playful, present, profound,

  • robed man, I was smitten.

  • While Lynn was busy, we spent time walking and talking

  • and even went to Cirque du Soleil together.

  • When we parted ways that year,

  • I wrote him a long letter professing my adoration and hoping to keep in touch.

  • I now had a reference point for a depth of connection and attention that dwarfed most others.

  • I told my partner we needed to ratchet up our spiritual connection.

  • I was smote and I was sure it was mutual and it was. Along with a mutual affection

  • that Brother David shares with many many thousands of others who have been left monk crushed

  • in countries around the world.

  • When I applied for the position of

  • Executive Director of A Network for Grateful Living twelve years later

  • and having not been in touch with Brother David in all that time, I was eager for him

  • to remember me and I kind of think he did. But regardless what I knew was

  • that working to spread a message about living and loving gratefully that had

  • been seeded by this amazing man was an appointment I did not want to miss.

  • It takes a truly extraordinary person in their late 80s to co-found a global

  • online nonprofit organization. It is even more extraordinary when that person has

  • spent much of their life sequestered as a hermit and a monk.

  • Not exactly a techie. Brother David is a true visionary and his original vision

  • of A Network for Grateful Living offering--offering online support for

  • offline living is still ours and its relevance has only grown in the years

  • since we began. Our web-based sanctuary is a rich source of Brother David's

  • teachings, those that we--those that we can house on our website.

  • Now to have Brother David's real-life archives housed at SCUA here means that there

  • will be more study, more scholarship, more insight, more understanding,

  • and more spread of the important teachings that Brother David has offered the world.

  • Teachings that are more timely and seem more timeless and

  • needed more than ever now in our lives. As one indication of how cutting-edge

  • and visionary Brother David is at 91 years old, right now he's attending the

  • International Transpersonal Conference in Prague. This conference bills itself

  • as, and let me quote, "A global gathering aiming to radically review our reality."

  • The subjects include Transpersonal Psychology, Deep Ecology, Psychedelics

  • Science, Quantum Physics, Technology, Shamanism, religion, spirituality, and art."