All of the wires, websites, and blogs that are talking about Paul Newman’s appearance on last night’s “Tonight Show” are missing what I thought was the most powerful part of the evening.
Paul Newman ate dog food, discussed his charitable work around the world, and engaged in the Second Annual Race With Jay in a concocted two-lap go-cart trip around an indoor track in the studio. The Newman stunts and Jay’s suck-up-easy questions were bordering on the kind of semi-pathetic things that other stars need to make an interview interesting while not looking so old. But when the little race started, the real Paul Newman emerged.
There were live cameras at all four turns on the course, which meant eight close-up views of the drivers, the cars and, most importantly, Mr. Newman’s eyes. Yes, those eyes—the window into the soul that used to jump through the screen and speak into our lives and the ones that presently notice injustice around the world and bring new life to the impoverished and under-resourced kids there. He looked 30 years younger during that race: competitive, sharp, focused, and intense. He managed to bring a poise and a pride to the fabricated event the way he brought distinction and even decorum to so many seemly characters through the years. This was the man who made a hustler redeemable, a bandit likeable, a con man credible, a mob family member sympathetic, and an ambulance-chaser correctable.
One of the true signs of spiritual depth is an honest look from—or into—the eyes of a human being. In the midst of the perception management and brand development that is our media culture, authenticity and candor are qualities that are rarely visible. That’s why I was surprised and inspired during last night’s “Tonight Show,” and remembered to reflect on what my own eyes reveal about the spiritual trajectory of my life, and my impact in the world around me.