Below is an excerpt from the
Full-Life Integration Manifesto
The Origin of The Lens.
I’ve grown so accustomed to juggling career, art, and family insanity. Every once in a while some friends or coworkers compliment me on the job Gayle & I are doing raising our kids, and it makes me well up.
What bigger metric in life is there than the thriving of your family legacy?
My Grandparents set the bar so remarkably high on the family front. If I think about positive psychology, cultivating an unstoppable mindset, and creating an epic family adventure, it begins and ends with my Grandfather.
The Man. The Myth. The Legend.
Our Grandfather chose to be called Poppa, which was later shortened to Pops. Luis E. Bejarano possessed more than a few of my highest ideals: a family of 6 kids with a gorgeous wife of 64 years, a castle of a homestead in the epicenter of his community, a deep love of oratory and the fine arts, and mastery of the balance between the intangibles of grace and swagger, just to name a few.
The man could thoroughly rock a pair of white slacks and a lighthouse sweater, or a captain’s hat with a leather nautical jacket. Many people only ever knew him as Captain Bejarano.
Pops was in full command of his complex life, yet maintained the incessant fascination of a child. He was in awe of everything. He retired from a decorated career as a serviceman, and later an education administrator at Hofstra and King’s Point before taking up philanthropy.
In the mid-‘80s, he used his gift of rallying others to form the Fire Island Preservation Society. The museum at the base of the restored lighthouse pays tribute with a few of Poppa’s quotes about “honoring our maritime heritage.”
And yet, out of everything he accomplished in his outer life, nothing came close to the magic he and Nana created within the walls of their home. Their family was iconic; an idyllic American dream lived by first generation immigrants.
Pops was the Walt Disney of the neighborhood, hosting elaborate backyard carnivals featuring magicians, petting zoos, disappearing acts, strong men, and sing-alongs.
At 92, Nana still runs their household and kitchen with the precision of a Swiss watch.
Poppa inspired many through his example. He was already the Captain. He later became The Lighthouse. He gave everyone in his path access to a world that was wide-open with possibility.
But how did he do this?
Pops had a broken lens.
Through a life of tireless duty and tenacity, he developed unshakable optimism. His mantra was the anonymous quote: It always works out in the end, so if it’s not working out, it’s not the end. He filtered the entire world around him whether good, bad, or neutral through a lens of possibility and wonder.
If Adobe created Photoshop plugins for the filters Pops viewed the world through, they would be called Tremendous and Magnificent. Those were his two speeds. His lens could magnify, color correct, ratchet up vibrancy, and project images back to you in 1200 dpi or 1080p HD.
He brought everyone around him into the frame and on to the screen.
Through his lens, the ordinary became extraordinary. The mundane churn of life for many was revolutionary for Poppa. He would constantly scribble and share grand schemes for simple things, like constructing more than 50 birdhouses for the backyard.
The annual Bejarano Christmas card was received (and responded to) by countless Presidential administrations. In the ‘50s Pops turned the card into an origami tree ornament, featuring one of the kids and the family dog on each side. The whole tribe of kids would form an assembly line to build these by hand for hundreds (if not thousands) of lucky recipients. Countless archives from almost 70 years of Christmas cards line the shelves of the homestead, all meticulously organized.
The breakfast table was a forum for his oratory, and the stories exploded in vivid detail. In countless re-tellings of the family legends, I was always right there with him.
Even as a 4-yr old kid, I felt like I had always been there with him.
At his funeral in 2008, my uncle Lu summarized him beautifully by saying “My Dad was a grand man.” The badass patriarch of an epic family adventure, he wouldn’t let us call him Grandfather. It felt too formal. It’s obvious now how these two words capture his legend: Grand, Father.
Pops, I recognize you now as a divine guru. You set the standard. You gave me so many gifts, yet the best I’ve ever received in this life has been your epic lens.
At some point in the late ‘70’s, The Captain removed his multi-filtered lenses, and fastened them to the eyes of his young grandson.
The automatic response to life events from that point forward has always been:
I believe in everything, and everyone, all the time.
I’ve experienced countless visits from Pops since 2008, usually when holding a newborn infant or pushing a peak of physical endurance. The familiar, loving, power-ripples of vibes through my body let me know he’s borrowing my view, through our lens.
Our kids usually keep us from making the trip back to Long Island to commemorate the Captain’s birthday. Last year during the party, there was an exposed brick poking up through the back patio they built in the ‘90s. One of my uncles asked Nana how long it had been that way.
She responded: “That brick has always been that way. I think Poppa left a letter or a time capsule under there.”
Anyone within earshot yelled in unison: “What?!”
The brick was pulled, and sure enough, beneath some sand and grit was a plastic bag.
A couple minutes later, uncle Lu was reading Poppa’s message of loving welcome; of the strength of family; of the importance of coming together; to his four generations of assembled guests.
There were more smiles than tears, but it still kicks my ass to contemplate that power.
Through lifetimes and beyond, The Lens endures.
Who are your heroes and heroines?