Sometimes the solution may come with a smile - Popular author Robert Muller talks on life, happiness
|Dr. Robert Muller wears the golden cross given to him by Pope Benedict XVI after he helped arrange the pope's visit to the United Nations. |
|MICHAEL MORIATIS / NEWS-PRESS |
June 22, 2007 7:30 AM
Ask Robert Muller, the former assistant secretary general of the United Nations, for the key to dealing with life's biggest challenges, and he may offer an unusual suggestion: Smile.
"That is the proper way to finding how to get out of the situation," he told the News-Press on Thursday. "I have had an incredible life with the decision to always smile, to always see the good side and think that the world, this planet, is a jewel in the universe."
Dr. Muller, 84, was in Goleta giving a free talk at Friendship Manor, a seniors retirement facility, about his thoughts on peace, happiness and the lessons he has learned.
Born in Belgium in 1923 and raised in the Alsace-Lorraine region in France, Dr. Muller has put his methods into practice even in the most harrowing of situations. A member of the French Resistance during World War II, he described an occasion when he hid in the attic while the Gestapo entered the building downstairs looking for him. Unable to escape, he decided to summon a smile and his happiest mindset to cope.
"What is the thing that I should try to do, and which the Germans would never expect?" he recalled thinking. He smiled, walked straight downstairs, and told the Gestapo he had just seen the man they were looking for on the fourth floor. They raced upstairs while he rode away on his bicycle.
"The Germans never saw me again," he said.
After winning an essay contest in 1948 on how to govern the world, Dr. Muller began an internship at the newly created United Nations. He continued to work there for 40 years, rising through the ranks as he used his problem-solving ways in his approach to international projects.
"The secretary general, when he had a problem and the people said, 'You have to solve this,' he would say, 'Look, go and see Robert Muller, he will find away,' " Dr. Muller said. "And I always found a way to help them out of the situation."
Some of his achievements were personal, like getting two members who couldn't agree with each other to start working together. Others left long-lasting legacies, like the 11 of the U.N.'s 33 permanent missions that he worked to create and his world core curriculum, now taught in at about 30 Robert Muller schools around the world. Dr. Muller also serves as chancellor of the University for Peace created by the U.N. in demilitarized Costa Rica.
Dr. Muller began imparting his ideas for happiness to his children, who asked for his advice as they made decisions about what to do with their lives. Eventually, he decided to publish them to share with others.
In his book "Most of All They Taught Me Happiness," first published in 1978, Dr. Muller described lessons he learned from the United Nations as well as from nature, other people, and his adulthood, and described how to be happy even in prison or in times of war.
He has worked on his latest book, "Paradise Earth," with local resident Douglas Giles, gathering all his ideas and describing how they relate to his ultimate goal -- an Earth where everyone can live in harmony.
Dr. Muller acknowledged that he sometimes gets discouraged by the world's problems.
But even when it isn't easy, he said he reminds himself to turn to happiness for the hope of a solution.
"You have to do it in the total possession of your being," he said. "And you have to believe that it is possible while it looks impossible."