Monday, July 30, 2012

Goodbye My Dear Friend Dan

Last evening we said goodbye to my dear friend and mentor Dan Friedlander, a great technology and clean energy entrepreneur, activist, and artist.

Over 200 of his family, friends and Boulder, CO community were in attendance, and I was honored to present at the event, trying to provide a brief glimpse into the incredible contribution Dan had to my life. Here is that speech:

Let me tell you a story, of a young man and his mentor, and how 25 years of ridiculous patience from the Teacher, helped take the Student to new heights:
  • From geeky engineer to entrepreneur,
  • From Tom Clancy and Steven King to Kurt Vonnegut and Thomas Friedman,
  • And from George W to “Recovering Republican” … Better known as:  a Democrat.
The teaching occurred, not with lectures or criticisms, but by leading through example, such as when the Teacher worked out every day for almost 10 years without fail, put his foot down about not shipping a product that didn’t quite work, abandoned consumption of bottled water, or refused car rides when a bike or bus would do.

And the teaching occurred through caring, where a simple series of questions – not to find out just “What” was going on in the student’s life, but probing to get to the “Why” things were the way they were:
  •  How happy are you (on a scale from 1 to 10)?
  • Why do you think you feel that way?
  • How can you make it better?
My name is Tom Pisello, and this of course is the story of Dan, my mentor, best man, dear friend – and the influence he had on my life and on my family.

And I know many of you know this same story well. Likely you too evolved a better understanding of community, commerce, conservation, creativity, causes and compassion as a result of knowing Dan.

Some of you might also have had the pleasure of going on hikes with Dan. One-on-one for miles, this is really where some of the best lessons occurred, and as well, where I learned the most about what made Dan so unique.

For example, Dan could not tell time … “Let’s do this hike – Bear Peak. It’s close, short and easy, and it should only take us 2 hours” – 7 hours later Dan and I are still hiking, by now on our way down the mountain, but in the pitch dark, a moonless night, practically sliding down the entire way on ice covered trails. Diane was not amused with our 10pm return home.

Or on more than one high country hike, where Dan just couldn’t help himself - stripping naked and jumping in the icy cold waters of a glacial lake.  I can still picture Dan, carefully walking his bare feet over the rocks, the sun blinding as it reflected off his winter white skin, and diving in without a care, as if the water were a heated resort pool. 

As an entrepreneur, he molded companies and mentored future leaders to cross chasms while creating caring citizenship As an energy conservationist, he enticed many to challenge convention and embrace alternatives.
And as an artist; many of you came to love Dan best for his sculptures. A courageous creativity to turn simple clay into textured titillating timescapes.

I too think Dan should best be remembered for being a sculptor. Not just for molding clay, but  for shaping the people and communities around him to fit his Bohemian principals of Peace, Love, People and Purpose.

In his last days, in the defining moment for the man I loved, as he looked deeply into his wife Diane’s eyes, Dan confessed:
“I don’t believe in God, there is no heaven waiting for me.
I am not spiritual, so I don’t believe my soul will be reincarnated.
There is no next place. This step is unfortunately a final one for me.
But I am a humanist. It’s people, and relationships; these are the most important things. This is what defined me, defined my life, is all that matters to me now, and all that should matter to us all.”

Humanism – A philosophy and world view, putting human values and concerns above the divine.

Dan, thank you for being a humanist and a sculptor. We are grateful you put People - us, your family, your friends, your community - above all else, and invested so much creativity, shaping our lives and making our world a better place.

Two of the organizations Dan helped start could always use more support and donations: Earth Vision Trust, funding the climate change education and outreach efforts of James Balog and the Extreme Ice Survey, 4780 Sterling Dr., Boulder, CO  80301; and Clean Energy Action (CEA), accelerating the transition to a post-fossil-fuel world built on clean energy, Leslie Glustrom, P. O. Box 1399, Boulder, CO  80306.

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