Eight years ago, I climbed to the top of a mountain in Costa Rica. There, in a humble wooden home, I met Dr. Robert Muller.
For those that don't know the work of Dr. Muller, he was a pioneer for world peace and global education. Dr. Muller was the Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations for 40 years; Recipient of the UNESCO Peace Education Prize; Co-Founder and Chancellor Emeritus of the University for Peace in Costa Rica; and Nuclear Age Peace Foundation World Citizen honoree for 2002. In 2003 he was awarded the Goi Peace Award. (from AOND).
It was a sunny, golden and green Costa Rican afternoon. I had walked three hours up a mountain road to get there. The smiling old man, put in his hearing aid, apologized for talking loudly, then invited me to join him for coffee. I had heared rumours about Dr. Muller in my time living in Costa Rica and I was brimming with curiosity. I asked him many questions.
One of the most fascinating conversations of my life ensued. Dr. Mueller truly and deeply "thought" of the world in a way that transcended borders and nations.
Long before twitter, blogs and Facebook, he would sit-down and write out an idea for world peace every day. His assistants would send it out on email lists. A book was being compilled. I still remember several of the ideas he brought up:
- Corporate executives should by be compelled to meet and make decisions in places surrounded by nature. This way, in making their big decisions they would remember the beauty and interconnectedness of the ecosystems their decisions would inevitably draw upon and effect.
- Government foreign ministries should be abolished and renamed-- "foreign" ministries imply a nation's separation from the rest of world. Better: 'Ministry of Global Affairs'.
That's two of hundreds of peace sparkling gems.
It's amazing how much I remember from the brief encounter. It was as if he had crucial ideas that he had to pass on to me. He cut right to the chase. He even pulled out a tape recorder to record the conversation-- for me!
The most memorable moment however, was something else all together. After sharing his ideas on peace and international political reform he looked off wistfully off into the horizon. The sun glinted behind a cloud in the brilliant blue sky. It was almost as if he was talking to himself at this point.
He sighed. In his Alsace German accent, the sun glinting off his metal framed spectacles, the lush green tropical trees wavering lazily in the breeze, he spoke. I paraphrase:
"There are so few humans on the planet who truly think beyond the man-made, antiquated constructs of borders, nations and geopolitical lines. Yet 'think' is the wrong word. I mean, to truly know, operate, live and be in a way that acknowledges we're all on a planet. I am one of only a couple hundred who are thinking this way now. This must change".
For some time afterwards, his statement struck me as slightly arrogant. Surely, there were alot more people who thought of the world on a global level! Like me for example. Surely.
As the years have gone by I have reflected on this statement. And, I have seen the truth in it. To truly transcend the cumbersome ideas of a world divided into nations that we are born into in this civilizational moment is truly no easy task. If you have a chance to read about Robert's amazing birth, childhood and life during the second world war do so. Robert was brought up amazingly citizenless-- being born in the contested and at the time nationless area of Alsace-Lauren. This upbringing gave him a remarkable boost to being able to think beyond borders and propelled the small town boy into his amazing career with the United Nations.
And this led him to found the Universidad por la Paz in Costa Rica. And for him to settle on the top of the mountain beside it in his 'retirement'. Some one would argue this has been his most consequential time. Like me. The Canadian expatriate who was in the foreign country of Costa Rica and who walked up the mountain to meet him that fateful and infinitely inspiring day. That day, I began to climb a new mountain, to steadily become, truly and deeply, a citizen of Planet Earth.