Friday, September 11, 2009

Father and son - a story

Balaton Group activities divide roughly into four categories. Formal presentations (held in the mornings), more informal spontaneously organized workshops (held in the afternoons) events - the ‘outing’ (this year, a hike followed by a wine tasting), the Hungarian Cultural Experience (dancing), the final banquet (completed this evening) - and, best of all, informal conversations. As i have mentioned earlier no more than about fifty members are invited to attend the Balaton meetings, each year. The reason is that over the course of five days meetings, when a group of fifty members are gathered, there is an opportunity for each member in attendance to have a mealtime or ‘free time’ conversation of 45 minutes or more with every other member.

Here is a conversation I had with one very eminent member about his son, who was also present at the meetings. When my son was in high school, he told me, his grades were bad. I suggested he drop out, mentioning that there many ways to live a good life that do not require education. After a year or so, he began to study on his own and express an interest in returning to school. He did not return to his formal studies, but did so well on his own that I suggested he write to elite prep schools in the United States. Explain that you have little funding because your father works for an NGO on sustainability issues and has little income. He did so and his letters were so effective that he received three scholarship offers and, subsequently, continued his studies in an elite undergraduate university and then in graduate school. Now we are colleagues, each learning from the other. Our work expresses a shared commitment to sustainability.

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