I read these papers with fervent devotion as one would read the revelations of God in a holy book for the very first time.
Few nights have been more satisfying than the one I was fortunate to experience a week ago. It was purposeful, engaging, and life-affirming. These moments that put you in the zone of ‘flourishing’ have to be treasured, and probably understood better to recreate them more frequently. I was just sifting through some documents that preceded a probable nuclear catastrophe.
My final assignment for the Negotiation Course was due in a couple of days. We were to present our analysis on a real-life negotiation drawing parallels from the strategies and tactics learned in the course. We chose to work on the negotiations between the US Government and the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis – a negotiation that probably saved humanity. I was first introduced to the affair through the film ‘Thirteen Days.’ The film portrays the decision making in the high offices of the US government during the crisis, closely based on the book ‘Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis‘ by Robert Kennedy, who as the Attorney General during the period had a close view and say on what was happening. I’ve rewatched the film more times than any other film, each time drawing lessons in leadership, communication, and decision-making. I’ve also caught with the book. The Cuban Affair was among the reasons why I chose the course on negotiation. Now, it was coming a whole circle. I was going to end the course with an analysis of the crisis.
But it was not the first time I was working the subject. All through the term, I’d been trying to do a write-up on the subject from a negotiation strategy perspective. I read articles and the even the screenplay of the film. But I get did not get too far. Rather, I did not exert myself enough. But now, I had to do it.
I began my research with a benign ‘google search.’ It threw up a bunch of articles on the crisis. I had read many of these earlier, I was looking for something more potent. As I scrolled down, I noticed the National Security Archives link. It contained documents pertaining to the crisis. It was an epiphany. I could now read the exact words that Premier Khrushchev wrote to President Kennedy. I could also read the CIA evaluation of various responses to Soviet Missile build-up in Cuba. The same documents that the Executive Committee for National Security would’ve used to base their decisions on.
I read these papers with fervent devotion as one would read the revelations of God in a holy book for the very first time. For the first time, I experienced the thrill from a first-hand reading of such documents.
Despite my interest in the crisis, it had never occurred to me to look for the real papers. Now, it has opened up to me a huge area of curious engagement. I will go on frequent online hunts for more such discoveries and this may provide fertile material for books and novels.
. . .
A friend messaged me today with a reading he found interesting. We had shared a flat during my Summer internship. He was a student of economics and was interning with a data-driven journalistic firm for the summer. But he had his vision set on the economics of drugs and traveling to unusual places. He rattled off stories on drugs and his econometric modeling on the taxation of robots. We connected instantly due to our wide-ranging interests, especially world travel and cultures. I hardly expected him to be interested when he asked me about the book I was reading, a historic novel on Samarkand. But that set off a long conversation between us. He narrated his travel experience in Kazakhstan and treated me to his photos and videos from the trip. Later, our favorite thing was to figure out and catch up with the international film festivals in the city.
While we parted ways within a month, he kept a tradition of sharing the interesting culture stuff he stumbled upon. A few weeks ago he had sent me some Turkish songs, which I had forgotten about until today. As I listened to those songs today and texted him back, he said that these days he has developed an interest in philosophy and was currently reading The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant. I was happy for his interest in philosophy and told him about my own small introduction to philosophy through The School of Life.
We couldn’t prolong our conversation any longer, it was already 1 AM in the night and I had to attend to my assignment on the Cuban Missile Crisis. I knew that he had an interest in history, so I let him know that I was working on the Cuban Affair and casually asked him if he’d ever watched ‘Thirteen Days.’ He said he had. I wished him good night and shared the link to the National Security Archives on the Cuban Missile Crisis I had discovered, hoping that he’d share the excitement I had for these papers. Yup, he did.
I returned to the historic papers reflecting on what a night it is turning out to be. As we journey through life, we across some wonderful people even if only for a brief month. Such briefness should not let us belittle the potential of these relationships. It was a reminder for me to be open to people all the time and create possibilities for life-affirming relationships.