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My Strange Relationship with Daniel Pearl

My Strange Relationship with Daniel Pearl

Can an embodied spirit be connected in some way to a disembodied one?


I'm lying in bed thinking about the late Wall Street Journal reporter, Daniel Pearl. Ever since the news about his beheading broke, I've been obsessed. What must it have been like for him to find out that all the charm in the world, all the charisma in the world, (which I do believe he possessed) had its limits? How did he feel the moment he realized that brainpower and affability no longer counted for anything? How did Daniel Pearl feel at the moment he knew he was going to die?

To say he haunts me is an understatement. I wish that we could have been friends, that we could have made music together. Of course, that wasn't possible, never could have happened. He was working as a reporter, traveling the world, writing whatever the hell he wanted and I was stuck adding little bits of music to these TV shows like Bones and Judging Amy, feeling, if not exactly like a prisoner, than at least, like someone who'd betrayed his own dreams. Around noon, I get an email. The subject line says:

I think you'll be interested in this.

They had bonded mostly over McClleland's scotch and the music of this guy, Peter Himmelman.

It's an article about Pakistan by a journalist named William Pesek. In the second paragraph he mentions his relationship to Daniel Pearl. He writes that he and Danny had worked together at the Wall Street Journal and that though they were close, it wasn't the kind of friendship where they were attending each other's birthday parties. They had bonded mostly over McClleland's scotch and the music of this guy, Peter Himmelman.

A lawn mower buzzes outside. I can hear our dog barking at the Fed Ex guy. My assistants are eating their lunches, laughing about something or other in the next room and I'm sitting in front of the computer reading this article over and over trying very hard not to cry. I write to Mr. Pesek and he writes back in less than 20 minutes.

Hi Peter. It was an unexpected thrill to see your name in my e-mail box – I've been a fiercely loyal fan of yours for almost 20 years. Really – thanks for the note. I am based in Tokyo. As for Danny, everything you've read and heard about him is true – an extraordinary person and a huge loss to this world. As I mentioned in my article, my last time seeing him was in a Bombay bar and I'll always cherish the memory. Danny and I met you very briefly in late 1995 when you played at the 9:30 Club in Washington DC. You graciously chatted with us for a few moments and even gave me a guitar string that had just busted. While Danny and I loved all of your work, we always agreed that "From Strength to Strength'' is among THE best albums ever recorded ... Danny also had a particular interest in your song "A Million Sides,'' no doubt because he was a journalist.

Again, Peter, thanks for the note and thanks for your interest in Danny. He'd be tickled to know you were asking for him.

Regards, Willie

Now I know, (but for how long will I remember?). That assumption about one's influence, one's reach in the world, one's power to affect change and to do good – are supremely difficult to gauge correctly. We strive to be good and to be humble, but because our tendency is often to underestimate our own abilities, we routinely conduct our lives on the basis of our assumed shortcomings – rather than upon our strengths.

It is both odd and in truth, quite fair, for me to say that I love Danny Pearl. That I have a forged a relationship with a man, whom I've never known, never spent more than five or ten minutes with is admittedly very strange. But is it possible to say that an embodied spirit, such as the ones we each carry with us, can be connected in some fashion to a disembodied one? And if that's possible – in some way – should it not be far easier to engage with love and truth with the living.

Don't look for empirical proofs about the validity of connecting with spirits. I haven't, I don't. I certainly haven't with my 'relationship' to Danny Pearl, a man I still think about almost daily. And just as love among the living cannot be proven, or weighed – so too, our connections to those whom we experience only in our thoughts and memories – might be best kept apart from those same harsh measurements.

Our goal as leaders (and who among us is not in some way a leader) might simply be described as: being of service, using our skills, our resources and our human-powers to elevate everything within our purview, at all times, and in all conditions. This, simple, elegant truth, I've learned from my 'friendship' with Daniel Pearl.

This article originally appeared in the Huffington Post and is printed with permission from the author who is a fan of

May 10, 2014

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Visitor Comments: 15

(13) Paul, December 4, 2014 2:25 PM

Daniel Pearl

I met Daniel some years ago. He came to interview me at my home in Scotland. We had a few beers and an Indian curry. We got on very well and he stayed the night. I was stunned when I heard about how he died. He comes to my mind very often. I won't forget him.

(12) Alexander Harold Hersh, May 16, 2014 8:54 AM

Tribute to American journalist Daniel Pearl

I am a South African Jew who never met nor knew the American Jewish journalist, Daniel Pearl but I read about him before and after his brutal and tragic murder. To say that I was horrified, saddened and shocked to learn about his brutal and gruesome beheading at the murderous hands of Muslim Islamists and Jihadists in Pakistan is beyond description. What a great pity that Daniel Pearl was estranged from Judaism and had married out of the faith. Had he not been assigned to cover and report events in Pakistan or any other Muslim country, he would still be alive today. May GOD bless his soul and give him peace.

(11) Anonymous, May 16, 2014 2:54 AM

"I love Danny Pearl"

"Is it possible to say that an embodied spirit, such as the ones we carry with us, can be in some fashion to a disembodied one?" You have a soul connection with Danny Pearl. We are all connected, every human we have ever meet. And... why can't we be just as connected and engaged with the living and those we claim to love? Maybe, it is time for unity consciousness and it starts at home. The hardest place of all. I suppose that is the struggle and the journey. It is nice to know that energy never dies and we are all energy. I never met Danny Pearl, but like Ann Frank before him, I love him.

(10) Nathaniel, May 15, 2014 2:44 PM

Tragic loss to humanity; another act of anti-Semitism

Any innocent death is horrendous and a loss to all humanity and Hashem. Pearl offered so much through his writing, reporting, and as I understand from reading, his personality and caring.

Sadly, while he was killed because he was a Jew, he did not live as a Jew. His children are not Jewish and his wife is not, because it was not important to him. The irony for so many Jews (remember Hitler's one-eighth rule) is that it is important to those who despise and want to kill us.

Historically, we do better with non-Jews when we live as Jews rather than try to hide it, assimilating into other cultures.

Diane, June 19, 2014 8:29 PM

Jewish Identity, forgiveness, and Love

First- what a joy to find this, to realize I am not alone. I have also been 'haunted' by him since his death, and likewise feel some connection, that 'love' bond with someone I never met.
#2- Nathaniel, Please do not be so judgmental. David's last words on Earth were "I am a Jew...", and other 'assimilated' Jews like Ed Koch (buried in a Christian cemetery because it was the only place available in his beloved Manhattan) so identified with the meaning and lauded the courage of those words that they are on his tombstone as well. Isn't Torah itself filled with several stories of righteous male Jews who married or had children with non-Jewish women? Thanks.

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