Solstice. A day to delve deeply into our inner terrain; to examine the intricacies of who we are, and what has been but is no longer, and why and how and when we became the wild creatures that we are still becoming. A day to consider what the key moments were in our lifetimes that helped us learn, grow, crack out of our shells, and turn the corners onto new avenues of infantdom, childhood, puberty, young adulting, and Saturn returns. A day to consider the episodes when our worlds turned from right-side up to upside-down, plummeting us temporarily into darkness, and how we have now evolved into assuming our own versions of topsy-turvy wild & beautiful realities. For each of us, there are only a few people who have been there for nearly every pivotal moment in our childhoods; people to witness, to share, to protect, to hold, to punish, to teach, to love. My papa Paul has been one of those people for me.
Paul is incredibly friendly, and a delight to spend time with. He’s sociable, amicable, goofy. He’s a total charmer. At a party, you’d never know he was an introvert: he appears comfortable in conversation, at ease with old friends and new acquaintances alike. He effortlessly navigates discourse, and gracefully holds his own. He’s a lover of “good flavors and tastes:” delicious food, wine, whiskey. He’s an absolute joy on the dancefloor.
Paul is also alert and attuned to folks he engages with; quick to identify discrepancies in behavior, or sniff out situations or individuals who are in a state of distress or dis-ease. He’s amazing at honing in on people around him who are needing or wanting support, and he will do all in his power to provide the moral, emotional, or physical support that’s required or desired.
Let’s talk about that head o’ his for a moment: Paul knows a lot about a lot of things. He has a bodacious supply of knowledge, that can be unearthed and accessed at the most (in?)opportune times. His memory banks are expansive and reliable, and he has retained so much information from his studies (both in traditional school settings, and out in the wild real world) that he seems equally versed in topics ranging from history, to politics, to sociology, to car tires and insurance companies and new tech gadgets and the weather. He spent four years at an institution that starts with an H and rhythms with “arvard.” He has a PhD in Organizational Behavior, and might as well have a PhD in lifelong learning, too.
So, yeah, he’s got a lot of smarts. But he’s also got a lot of stories, which sometimes get hidden in that vast and luscious terrain inhabited by High-Level Intelligent Thought. I’ll be the first to admit that I often don’t give these stories as much value as I’d like, and I wonder if others fall into the same trap: we get starry-eyed and intrigued, and keep asking Paul the Know So Much guy questions because the knowledge he provides is exciting, challenging, compelling. But at his heart, I think Paul the Know So Much guy is more Paul the Heartfelt Storyteller than anything else. Paul’s background in Sociology tells me that he’s masterful at listening to the stories of cultures, of individuals in organizations, of people in a collective whole. He’s spent years reading and writing and teaching about the very things I think are so appropriate to be considering on this day of Solstice (why we are the way we are, et al), but he’s also been a lifelong keen observer of people and families in the “real world,” outside of the walls of a university. He listens to the stories of places and spaces–of their inhabitants, and their founders, and why they flourish or fail. These stories become threads that weave their way into the Paul knowledge web. And Paul’s ability to continue to spin these stories out – either by continuing to tell them, or by becoming part of the tale himself – are what truly sets this heart-centered brainiac apart. There are stories of family and stories of fable. Stories of growing up in the Lippert clan, stories of his German heritage, stories of his time at Harvard. Stories of Johnny Appleseed. Stories of the guys at the prison he’s volunteering time with. Stories of the people he met and the cultures he’s experienced in in Ethiopia, Mongolia, New Zealand, Alaska. Stories of his work with the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization, and his support of an inner city family in Seattle. Stories of the instruments he plays. Stories of how his journey with music has evolved over the years.
Speaking of music, and telling tales: I hear stories weave their way into Paul’s songs; his creativity surfacing through harmony, melody, instrumentation, and words. Have I mentioned Paul is an amazing musician? Yeah, he’s that, too. His music is creative, colorful, reflective, and sometimes packed with a rollicking punch. Paul has a gift for sharings songs for children, families, and adults; all of his CDs feature an astonishing range of styles, instruments, and melodic moods. From joyful to peaceful, from angry to comforting, from contemplative to unabashedly brash, to sultry to spirited — Paul’s songs span sentiments and moods. And lyrically, I find myself captivated: the poetry of his words is soulful, mystical, and potent; laced with a level of intrigue and magic that doesn’t often surface in persona or personality that Paul presents. Through his music, Paul offers a distinct and unique vantage point into his inner world: a vulnerability, sensitivity, and emotional rawness that is striking and deeply compelling.
Paul lives fully and loves strongly. Sometimes, his love is strong as a tornado; in moments like this, I either find myself cowering or standing bravely and defiantly in the path of that mighty whirling dervish — usually to be sucked up into its funnel. I imagine this type of love is sometimes overwhelming to even Paul himself. What does one do with a love of indescribable magnitude? A love that cannot be contained, a love that will not be appeased, a love that can rip houses straight off their foundations? I don’t have the answers, and I don’t think Paul does, either. But this boundless love can also be harnessed to work in his favor; I see him channel this energy into care, adoration, beatific praise and delight with those in his inner circle. I see this love being a beacon of, and catalyst for, profound change and growth and compassion and forgiveness and healing. I see this love instigating tremendous light and good in the world.
Along those lines, Paul is dedicated to making a positive impact in the world, and supporting businesses and organizations that are doing the same. In the last several years, he’s spent much focused time and energy figuring out where his resources and generosity are best served, and then offering his time, energy, and money accordingly. He inspires me to give back to the communities I’m in; to vote with my dollar and be intentional with the businesses I support. He inspires me to make good choices and then stand firmly behind them.
A lot of the time, Paul is cheerful and energetic. A lot of the time, Paul is silly and sweet. Some of the time, Paul is grumpy and intense. Some of the time, Paul’s love turns into ferociousness. Throughout all these fluctuations, I am so grateful for my pops. Dad, thank you for your frankness. Thank you for being such a powerful role model of generosity, sincerity, and authenticity. Thank you for YOU!