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This chapter is from the book

For Builders, Every Passion Counts

Wealthy people have been giving piles of money away to good causes for generations. Some of it makes a difference and some doesn't. But it is obvious when you sit down with Gates and Bono that having impact has always been as big a passion as philanthropy has become for them. But whether they are sitting on the mud floor in a hut in Africa or sipping champagne with the rich and famous in Washington D.C., Gates and Bono know how to work the system in government and business.

"It's an amazing thing to think that ours is the first generation that really can end extreme poverty...[but] we let our own pathetic excuses about how it's 'difficult' to [make social change really happen] to justify our own inaction," Bono told the World Association of Reporters, entreating the media and public to get with the program. "Be honest. We have the science, the technology, and the wealth. What we don't have is the will, and that's not a reason that history will accept."8

History will honor the many passions of physician and storyteller, Rachel Naomi Remen. "I was the only premed in preschool," she said. Remen is one of the few people we met who was blessed with knowing what her profession would be early in life, but her ideas about medicine and healing were unconventional.

"Because of my own experience with chronic illness, I knew that there was more to the healing of disease than the curing of the body. That there might be a relationship between the mind and the body, and this was seen as absurd." In 1972, as a young doctor at Stanford Medical School, Remen had studied at Esalen on the California coast—a center of the emerging Human Potential movement—where many of these ideas became woven into her thinking about illness.

Dr. Remen's course, The Healer's Art, is now taught by more than 200 faculty in 46 medical schools. Her books are widely read by health professionals and the public and have been translated into 13 languages. She is an internationally recognized teacher, physician, and counselor to physicians and the cancer patients they treat. Her work was featured in the ground-breaking Bill Moyer's PBS television series, Healing and the Mind. Her books, Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal and My Grandfather's Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging, are enduring bestsellers. Many thousands of people have been guided in their healing and their healing work by her writings and her example.

But, decades ago, she was ridiculed for her insights about medicine. "The first time I presented at Grand Rounds, I talked about a healthy way to have a disease and the possibility that you can lead a good life even though it wasn't an easy life. I presented the case histories of patients who through the experience of suffering had become deeper, larger, wiser human beings and suggested that this might become a part of our goal as physicians. There were 400 doctors in the room. By the time I had finished talking, three-quarters of them had left."

How did she feel about the rejection?

"In a funny way, it didn't matter," she mused. "What mattered is that a quarter of the doctors were still in the room. You know, vision is never established by a majority vote."

Remen is one of the cofounders of the Commonweal Cancer Help Program, one of the first residential support retreats for people with cancer. "I think one of the most important lessons that I have learned from working with people with cancer is that people are able to use some of the most difficult experiences in life in order to learn how to live better and help the people around them to live better."

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