Getting to Yes, And

Simran Jeet Singh: The Light We Give


Simran Jeet Singh

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Kelly connects with Simran Jeet Singh, the executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Program on Religion & Society. His new book is called "The Light We Give: How Sikh Wisdom Can Transform Your Life."

The first line of your new book you write, ‘I was 11 the first time, someone called me a terrorist.’

“I think during a big part of my childhood and upbringing in Texas, I had to learn what to do when your perception of yourself is at odds with how other people see you. You know, I had a turban and brown skin and facial hair and in Texas they often saw me as the enemy. And I saw myself as a good person or, at least, someone who is trying to be a good person. So, yeah, it's been a lifelong journey for me trying to make sense of that.”

You write about how hard it is for you to manage airports and air travel, but that you look to Sikh wisdom to guide you in those moments.

“One of the lessons that I draw from my tradition and try to live by is how do we get to a point where we can get beyond fear. We say if God, if the divine is without fear, then what would it take for us to be like that, too. And the one teaching that I love that I'll share with you, is the truly wise person is someone who doesn't feel fear and also doesn't cause other people to feel fear. And I try and live by that every day.”

For obvious reasons, of course, I was drawn to the importance of humor in your life.  

“For me, humor has been a vehicle for finding lightness in the dark. Like a lightness in both senses of the word: levity is really important to me and what we learned in our tradition and in our faith is, if you're not enjoying life while you're here then what's the point. And so, it very much is a philosophy that tries to give you the ability to affect change in a positive way - to serve other people to live a good life and to enjoy it while you're doing it. And that's not an easy balance to strike. but humor, at least for me, has been a tool that really helps in that regard.”

Follow Simran at @simran on twitter or @ sikhprof on IG and TikTok.

Photo Credit: Ryan Lash

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