Life is the most important religion

  • 2011-10-05
  • Interview by Dorian Ziedonis

The well-known and flamboyant Dutch television, film and theater actor Peter Faber visited Riga in late September as a guest speaker at Riga Business School’s High Impact Speakers Series to talk about what he knows best - innovation and change and finding the courage that is needed to make it all happen, in business, the workplace, and life. In his uniquely motivated performance, Mr. Faber shared his energy and storytelling with an audience of future business leaders. He continues to share his talents and experiences with others through teaching at different universities and schools, along with writing columns, plays and doing children’s shows. Mr. Faber is as well involved in social entrepreneurship through his Peter Faber Foundation, which helps young people “move from destructive into creative energy through theater projects, courses and workshops.” After the lively seminar The Baltic Times sat down for a chat with this self-empowerment guru.

Who is your favorite audience?
Every audience that’s open-hearted. At the start the audience is always closed, because they don’t know me, I don’t know them. So when I’m starting opening up, giving my heart, I always start [speaking in] those [foreign-sounding] languages, [so] that we all are the same, with a heart that is pumping: ‘I love you, I love you,’ my opening starting point, and I surprise people, and when they’re surprised they are open. Then I can reach them.

Where do you get your energy from?
From life. I’ve discovered that when I give energy, I get energy. If I come here, and only listen to my opinions, maybe [others] won’t be interested, [asking] what is this? It’s no use, all those kinds of thoughts you can have, control mechanisms, there comes no energy out. I just go Ok, just give it a try, in action.

To give means somebody has to receive. Can we all be givers?
Yes, because you have to start to give to yourself first. In a way, what I give to you, I benefit from it, because I give it to myself too. And I only give what is waiting to come out. I can’t give to you what you want to have. I can only give to you what wish lives in me to give. If you don’t get what you want, then you’re disappointed. You become corrupt if you want to have what you don’t have, and you don’t get it. It’s a natural process, it’s not out of the blue; it’s a very practical thing, if you don’t have what you want you try to get it whatever way it’s done. The worst is this is always connected with material things, in sucking energy away from other people to build fat on your own body.

Is that a sign of immaturity?
In a way you have to discover… I’m using the outside world to build more fat on my bones, instead of I’m using the world to plan my energy to give, such that the world benefits from it.

You talked about your childhood, growing up; did you have a mentor at any point then?
In a way it was my barber, who cut my hair, who said ‘you must not go away to sea,’ you must audition for this advertisement I give you. Open air theater for the Midsummer’s night play of Shakespeare. In a way, he was a mentor, he knew my situation and afterwards I understood he knew that I had a very strong willingness to come into action, only [I] was a loose cannon.

Considering that we’re in a business school setting, what do you think companies are today missing in terms of motivating their people?
Recognizing the condition everybody has to have. Their basic condition is attention, connection, and action, and creativity; with the abilities each individual has, many companies handle their employees as just tools to reach a goal. [Without understanding their] needs or extra capacity, the knowledge of employees, their wish  to support the company isn’t used completely. Steve Jobs says to stay hungry and foolish. It’s an attitude, the safety thing is… oh, we do it like this... and it works like that.

That’s not pushing the limits.
No. For instance, everybody’s shocked when there’s a financial crisis or a climate crisis; there’s always a crisis. There’s always a natural resistance to meet your goal. Natural resistance is a live law, you have to overcome it, but you can never overcome it alone. You need support of the people around you. And you get the support from people around you, the employees, if you give them space. If you give them attention.

How do you maintain your discipline, energy?
I try not to drink too much, not to eat too much (chuckles); to listen to the body. The body says no more wine, no food, now relax. And every morning to warm up the body and the mind [so as] to be available for the tasks you have to do during the day. It’s a very simple thing. I do it daily, because I discovered it works. Buddha said “try and see.” I don’t ask you to believe me; I give you this tool, try it and if it works for you keep on doing it. I then discovered another discipline: if you go silent with the breath, then you transform negative and positive. Because, are we used to inhale positive energy? No, inhale the negative, your dislikes, your problems, and transform it, wish what you can do, positive things. So when I discovered that it works, I do it. So I do practical discipline because it works. It’s not doing discipline because somebody else tells me to do it. I tried it, and it feels good, so then I do it. Even if I’m feeling tired, 6:30 in the hotel room I’m standing there and doing it. Just do it.

What holds people back from realizing their full capacities?
When people have an accident or a disaster or tragedy or sickness or they fall in love, or get a million dollars all at once, then it opens up everything that’s normal, shakes [everything up]. So without falling in love or getting a million dollars in the bank, you have to shake up your habits. Your habits are your comfort zone, your safety. And you feel bored. When you feel bored you have to think what’s more in life? If you have that wish, I want to discover what’s more in me to bring out, you have to discover that your life, body tries to fulfill your wish. If you follow your mind, that says this is safe, your body says ok, this is safe, we’ll do it that way. Your mind says that is boring, your body says yes, that is boring. Your mind is waiting that you have another wish, that you get a wish to have more out of life.

You keep coming back to this theme of love. You’ve been married four times.
Falling in love. Love is a different power. Falling in love is connected with the person you are attracted to; you say I’ll do everything for you… only when you discover you are strangers can you start to love the other one. But love is like the power you have to keep your child protected, to let it grow up, love connected with your anger, sadness, your sorrow, your differences, that’s the power of love. That’s a different kind of love than what’s ending in a marriage. And I was without education; I was married when I was 22 for one year, and then discovered oh, we only have fights, I’m not a killing machine, it’s dangerous to stay together. And the second time, it was after 8 years, I fell in love with somebody else. I thought ‘how is that possible?’ I thought you have to divorce them, when you fall in love with somebody else. The third marriage was, I had a beautiful relation, but after 5 years it was a strange feeling I had. So suddenly I asked: do you want to keep going, to build a future, or to go away. And I didn’t get an answer. Then I know, I have an answer; we are no longer together. Now the fourth time I’m married 12 years already, and the secret is we’re connected with our anger, sadness, weak spots, and we can fight, but I learned that fighting, or being bored didn’t mean that I didn’t love the other one. It’s a strong bond. I discovered that falling in love, I developed, discovered loving power. Falling in love you lose your ability to remain who you are.

You have an interesting background in drama, theater. Is that a good foundation for life; what would you recommend for young people?
Go for what interests you, for what your heart reaches out to. And the good thing about my profession is - I need all the kinds of emotions, powers, stories - I can be in one period of life a killer, then probably a savior, then a bum, then Captain Hook who hates children, but I’m not a victim of it, I could change. In daily life you come to business school, [you’re a] company manager, journalist, whatever, you many times become hooked in that profession. But even in that profession you have to stay fresh; and you only stay fresh if you stay open to your insight, what is waiting in you to come out.

What inspires you?
Life, talking with you, meeting people. Where I am inspires me. There is a law: what you need in your life is around you. You are open for it, or not open for it, and you go for it, reach for it, or not reach for it. It always takes courage to step into the unknown.

Are your ideas appropriate for any culture?
Yes, these are basic things.

You had a difficult time with the Catholic religion at one point in your life. What good things come from organized religion?
I don’t know. Nowadays the Catholics are not so feared, the inquisition is no longer there. But when I was a young child Catholics were not allowed to talk or play with the Protestants, or the Communists or whatever; it was only one generation ago that there was such fear in Holland. Organized religion is like organized countries, organized families, sects, political parties, if the other becomes the enemy because he doesn’t belong to your organization, then its poison. Religion is to let life blossom to its best, but if it’s connected such that you are allowed to kill somebody else, then it’s poison.

Television, sports, the world is tuned into these things; are they distracting people from making connections?
It’s making people unconscious. That’s why I don’t read books for too long, I don’t watch TV. You become addicted to it. You need to be addicted to what you can do. You can paint, write, make music. You need to be addicted with your creativity, your wish to do things. If you are addicted, hooked on what the outside is offering you, then you fall asleep, your creativity falls asleep and your bodily faculties fall asleep.

You mentioned that there are speakers and there are doers. Some people have ideas, and some do. Can both be heroes? Who are your heroes?
Yes. [Stephen] Hawking, he can’t do anything with his body. The mind is your wings. But the wings have to be free from poisoned organization or censoring, controlling. There are people with the nipping of their eyes that can dictate a book. They’re heroes. Not that you have to physically do it, it doesn’t matter. There are people that can speak, and give content to the words that inspire other people. But if speaking is to make people fall asleep [laughs], [is] boring or to make life, discipline, military, a killing destroying machine, then the speaker is poison.

Crying is another of your emotions. But crying is usually associated with weakness.
Crying is a power. Everything, every emotion in life is a power, it has the potential to cure the body. Otherwise you wouldn’t have it. Crying is just to wash everything you’re hooked on. Everything is out of your hands, your love is gone, your possessions are gone, your health, and then you have to allow that cleaning, crying, and then comes life, I’m still alive [hearty laugh].

You use the analogy of apples, pears and oranges. Can we all be oranges?
Yes, allow yourself to be different. Don’t mind too much about what other people do, or what they think about you or opinions; connect with your own visions and abilities, whether they’re stupid, or less stupid, or genius, or not genius. Connect with them, and in that way you are an orange, you differ from other fruits.

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