I'm on a plane right now flying back to the left coast from NYC after attending a fundraiser Thursday evening and getting the chance to meet and have a picture taken with President Obama. My dad was one of the hosts at a colorful downtown fundraiser that raised several million dollars for the president's re-election campaign. In exchange for my dad's patriotic pledge, the family -- kids and grandkids -- got to skip most of the lines and get a few minutes with Mr. Obama. The highlight for me was my son trash talking the president -- a noted Chicago Bulls fan -- by saying "Go Celtics!"
Not missing a beat, President Obama smiled and playfully chided: "I've heard the rumors there's brainwashing going on in the Chopra household, but wasn't aware that it was that bad... " Now that's a story I'll file away for keepsake.
But truth be told, that file is pretty full. Through the years, very often directly or indirectly on account of who my father is, I've had the privilege of meeting many illustrious folks -- from presidents (Clinton before Obama) to prophets (His Holiness probably the most noted) to athletes, celebrities, billionaires and many more. I have more amazing anecdotes than I can count involving legendary icons like Michael Jackson, Madonna, and many many more.
And yet, occasionally I wonder how much of a privilege it all really is. Don't worry: I'm wary of going down that cliched boohoo path and asking you to feel sorry for how great my life really is. I fully realize how amazing I've had it and how fortunate I am to be able to now pass it on to my own son. But where I get confused some times -- more times than not if I really thing about it -- is what it really is. What is this strange life I lead? Of spiritualists, sages, scientists, and celebrities that cluster around my father all searching for something -- namely purpose, meaning, and significance. Amidst this nebulous cloud of celebrity and success that constantly surrounds us is much bigger question of identity: who we are, why we're here, what it's all about.
At times in my life, I've felt closer to some of the answers of these questions. Like a lot of people, when I had my first child, I felt a wave of meaning and purpose wash over me. It was blissful and every so often when I'm just hanging out with my now 4 year old, I get that same feeling of total satisfaction again. But... it's fleeting, because just as often I lay awake at night wondering whether I am really doing what I was meant to do in this world, struggling with why it is I so often feel a nagging dissatisfaction with life in general. And then, when I read the news, watch documentaries about wars in foreign lands, horrible human rights violations, torture, and incredible social injustice, I become even more confused about this strange life I lead.
What is the real value of so much access to the planet's elite, so much insight into the deeper mechanics of the Universe if it all doesn't add up to something transformative and profound? Something that can make a real difference to the millions of people suffering around the world every single day? What if it just creates an even more confused contradiction, a larger sense of emptiness and insignificance?
The fascinating thing is that after spending a year or so on the road traveling around the world with my dad and documenting his life, I started to discover that he too struggles with a lot of these same questions. In moments of candor and vulnerability, he confessed confusion about who he is, what he thinks he's here for, and how much he's really doing. So, amidst this life of occasional presidential portraits and endless powerful moments, to know my father -- the great guru that the world comes to for answers to all their questions -- is himself often asking the same questions I am, that we all are, how should that make me feel? How should that make you feel?
My answer: I have no idea.