Good Intentions Laid to Waste

It’s been one of those weeks where I had every good intention to write, yet business and life crept up with a 2×4 and beat the living crap out of me. Metaphorically speaking. Although, wouldn’t it be a funny sight to see? Some hideous mythological intention-creature wielding a 2×4, hitting me? Hilarious! But I digress.

The highlight of my week happened this morning while I was sitting in Thatcher’s Coffee waiting for an appointment. I was an hour and a half early, taking some time to read Neil Postman’s Building a Bridge to the Eighteenth Century: How the Past Can Improve Our Future, as well as writing down some thoughts on the abundance of managers and the deficiencies of leaders specifically related to vision and mission.

A lady sat down next to me and after a few minutes said, “Excuse me, if you don’t mind me asking, are you a writer?” I have never been asked that before. I wasn’t quite sure how to respond, so I said the first thing that I could think of, “Well, I would say that I am an aspiring writer.” “Fascinating,” she replied, “I’ve haven’t seen someone your age writing with a pen and notebook for a long time. It’s a welcome sight to see.” We proceeded to talk briefly about progress and technology, then her friend showed up and I went back to my world, writing feverishly, looking up words in the dictionary, ironically, on my phone.

The little things in life are what makes everything worthwhile. Yes, I still write with a pen and notebook. I use all sorts of various types of notebooks ranging from Moleskins to sketch pads and legal pads. I am picky about the brand of pen I write with. It has to be a Pilot Precise V5 pen. No exceptions. Writing isn’t the same without a V5. I buy them in a 12-pack, using each pen one at a time until they run out of ink.

Aside from the encounter in the coffee shop, another rare moment of joy entered my notebook this morning courtesy of Bill Moyers’ book, Moyers on Democracy. In his speech entitled, “The Broad Margin,” Moyers talks about the impact that John F. Kennedy had upon his life and how that impact helped him to realize that the best leaders empower the individual person for the benefit of society. He writes:

We all edit history to give some form to the puzzle of our lives, and I cherish the late president’s [John F. Kennedy] memory for awakening me to a different story for myself. The best leaders sign us up for civic duty, knowing, as John Stuart Mill wrote, that “the worth of a state, in the long run, is the worth of the individuals composing it.” Rather than encouraging us to exalt in our self-interest they challenge us to act beyond our apparent capacities, offering us the chance to sharpen our skills as citizens.

Later on in the speech, Moyers quotes from the Talmud:

In every age there comes a time when leadership comes forth to meet the needs of the hour. And so, there is no man who does not find his time, and there is no hour that does not have its leader.

It’s easy to see why I have leadership on my mind. It’s emitting from the very books that I am feeding my mind and soul with. Speaking of books, it’s amazing the nuggets of truth found in each book. Take Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles (1974-2001) by Don Felder and Wendy Holden, a look at the inner turmoil, stress, and broken lives caused by rampant drug and alcohol use, along with perfectionism, fame and fortune. It made me appreciate the autonomy of my life as well as the fact that I am not addicted to drugs or alcohol. Like I said, it’s the little things in life.

Future nuggets of truth were picked up today from the library and Barnes and Noble: The Promise by Chaim Potok, Liberty and Tyranny by Mark R. Levin, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Contagion: The Financial Epidemic That Is Sweeping The Global Economy…And How To Protect Yourself From It by John R. Talbott, Truth Be Told by Larry King, The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers, Common Sense by Thomas Paine, and Vanished by Joseph Finder.

As I close this somewhat random post, I circle back to Neil Postman. In Building a Bridge to the Eighteenth Century: How the Past Can Improve Our Future, Postman writes some interesting thoughts on story, specifically understanding the narratives that bring purpose and meaning to our lives:

We do not need to invent a story for our times out of nothing. Humans never do. Since consciousness began, we have been weaving our experience of ourselves and of our material world into accounts of it; and every generation has passed its ways of accounting on. And as new generations have encountered more and more of the world and its complexities, each generation has had to reread the stories of the past–not rejecting them, but revising and expanding their meaning to accommodate the new. The great revolutions and revelations of the human past, and I include the Christian revelation, have all been great retellings, new ways of narrating ancient truths to encompass a larger world.

Watch out for the intention-creature wielding the 2×4. Instead, pick-up an arsenal of books. Arm yourself with ideas, words and stories. Be prepared to fight. It’s worth it, at least according to my life’s narrative. But I digress.