As Deepak would tell you, these are not quotes from a heavy self-help book or nuggets of advice printed next to famous names. These are life lessons of regular people. They contain shades of wisdom that would normally never be written anywhere or heard above the crowd. The knowledge behind these simple words exists only in each person's own awareness and in their small community, before, one day, dying its own quiet death.
We are more than 7 billion people in the world. About 150,000 die everyday. It's a colossal loss of undocumented knowledge and wisdom. Most of us didn't even notice. Deepak did. He has documented the life lessons of 153,000 people (as discovered during the Twitter chat) and now runs an organization that converts these into learning activities that have the potential to educate and inspire. It is the preservation and sharing of crowd-sourced human knowledge on a macroscopic scale.
Till now, this quest has taken him across the country and beyond. The most recent edition of his annual Masterpiece Tour was to Europe, where he visited the survivors of the refugee crisis. He lived with them for 90 days, traveling from country to country, trying to understand the hope and perspective of people permanently displaced by the horror of war. What wisdom has survived with them, and how do they view life after everything they have been through?
A couple of weeks back, Deepak spent an hour with Josh Talks on a Twitter chat, sharing his experiences with Syrian people and more. It was the kind of freewheeling conversation that a tweet chat thrives on, with a number of highlights scattered across the hour.
There were only a couple of thoughts from his experience of living with the refugees, but insightful ones, in response to good questions. This could be anyone's life lesson. "Life is not fair" has become universal, but that Deepak heard this phrase from someone who's had the darkest horror of our times unfold upon them, challenges we dare not comprehend. What do we know of this particular kind of unfair?
Will the future continue to be unfair for the refugees in an alien continent? Who knows. From their point of view, it's pointless to wonder about larger outcomes. It's imperative to focus on action. Keep learning and keep trying. It is simple, yet deeply painful.
What we do know is how the native people in Europe react to the asylum seekers will be a big part of their future. On this, Deepak observed:"@JoshTalksIndia a lot is being done to integrate refugees in Europe. Not so much in Hungary but definitely in other countries."
While it was our own handle that drove these questions, our community took the lead on Deepak's Project to Forward the Understanding of Every Life lesson (Project FUEL). There were a few bright exchanges, such as this:
Do the life lessons of people have a strong cultural component? Do they vary by region? Are certain beliefs about life universal? This is the kind of project that could throw light on this.
Talking of a global project, Deepak even revealed the destination for his 2017 Masterpiece Tour.
How about a life lesson from the man who collects them? "Own your story" is Deepak's message. These simple and powerful words had a profound impact on his own life.
"@mahikittykat 1 Life lesson that changed my life was-Own Your Story! I started 2 accept all I was & celebrating it wid others #joshtalks," he tweeted.
The idea of life lessons is a cord that connects us to our ancient past — our human heritage. When books were scarce or not available at all, people would sum up the wisdom gained from life experience in a line and pass it on. Lines are easy to absorb and share. They are keys to the vast tracts of knowledge. Or guideposts, where two paths diverge. They may even save your life, or take it, if the realization dawns too late. The boy who cried wolf had to literally die to become an example for generations of children. That's what happens to the best life lessons. They become stories or proverbs, and survive the test of time, and they are procured from various places such as from Africa.
There was a lot more, of course, in the hour long conversation. Among these were Deepak's thoughts on the hope for peace, his answer to depression, a big goal for the future, his favorite poetry, and his message to young people in India. Follow Deepak on twitter at @deepak1811.