Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

Talking to the Device

March 23, 2019

I usually enjoy talking too people but I don’t like talking to a phone. To tell you the truth, I really do not even like talking to people on the phone. I’d rather do it face-to-face.

I don’t like talking to a car, a computer or a “device” of any kind.

Call me old-fashioned if you like, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

Lately my phone has been urging me to talk to it, and even call it by its name.

Siriusly though, I’m not into it.

I really don’t mind doing the alphabet thing with my fingers. That’s the way I was taught to communicate with the world, back in the ’60’s when I was baby boomer high school kid. Maybe it’s because, back in the day, I went to see Stanley Kubrick’s space movie, 2001, and the astronaut guy in the movie got into an argument with the onboard computer because the computer, as I recall, wouldn’t let him do something that he needed to do to avoid dying, or something like that..

The computer’s name was Hal.

In the last ten years or so, I have written and published four novels, using my fingers on a keyboard. Speaking of the keyboard, I do like the newer version, you know, the computer keyboard, which is so easy to punch. These slick new ones are really the bees’ knees, and they beat the heck out those old Underwood’s and Smith-Coronas, etcetera etcetera.

So yeah, maybe I’m old fashioned. Imagine that—a guy who grew up in the ’50’s and ’60’s being old-fashioned. We were the generation raised with a TV in the living room, which had never happened before in the history of the world. And we thought our parents were old-fashioned because they listened to Glenn Miller LPs and drank bourbon, while we preferred Jefferson Airplane and maryjane, and they insisted on running Ho’s insurgents out of south Vietnam, which didn’t turn out the way we planned.

Now our kids and grandkids probably think we’re old-fashioned because we don’t know how to talk properly  to a phone or any other device, and we still don’t know to make the icons wiggle around so you can move them around or delete them or whatever.

Delete them all, I say! Delete them all!

Ha! Just kidding of course. Where would be nowadays without our “ mobile device?”

Maybe stuck in Hotel California with some woman of ill repute with mirrors on the ceiling and pink champagne on ice and she says we are just prisoners here, of our own device.

Don’t wanna go there.

Life has actually turned out better than that, thank God.

Yesterday, I was watching an online video with two very smart guys talking about the state of the world, how it has changed so much and is still changing very fast.

    https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/thomas-l-friedman-and-james-manyika-the-worlds-gone-from-flat-to-fast-to-deep?

FacetoFace

In their conversation, Thomas was telling James that he travels around the world and notices that there are a lot of folks who are falling behind the crowd in their use of technology in this here 21st-century. He sees people who suffer under the pressure of these technological accelerations, and who feel that the world is leaving them behind.

Great idea! Leave it behind. Or let it leave you behind, whichever comes first. Tell your phone to go to hell if you want to. Tell netflix to go jump in the lake, and command your digital flatscreen to take a hike!

I mean, Thomas has some good points in this exchange. He says that we old geezers, and generally everybody else too, would do well to be self-motivated instead of, I suppose, expecting that the world owes me a a living, and he says we should keep learning all through our lifetime instead of just, you know, developing one skill—cranking out widgets or whatever—and then spend old age, maybe even middle age, crying in yer beer over all these changes that conspire to overtake us and render our mid-20th-century skills obsolete.

  Ha! “Conspire.” I didn’t mean to use that word. One thing I have learned is that it does not profit a man to build his world view around some conspiracy theory of history or politics or whatever the forces that be, are.

Because in the end, what really matters is not what the world did or did not do to you, but what you manage to do in spite of the possibility that the deck may or may not be stacked against you.

Every man a king. That’s what Huey said back in my grandfather’s day. Be the king of your own life, or queen, as the case may be.

And you have to understand that, as Ringo said, “this is not your father’s Oldsmobile.”

It’s best to, as Thomas pointed out, “amplify anything that is good and decent.”

I’ll second that motion.

Trust, ownership, lifelong education, true leadership, good community—these are the best attributes of “the good life”, which is not necessarily the same good life that Sinatra sang about.

Now, to close by reiterating my opening parry. . . the good life does not necessarily consist of knowing how to talk to your phone, or any of your other damned devices for that matter. But it does help to learn how to talk to people, and to get along with them in your community. And to build good community wherever you find yourself stationed at this stage of life, before the jig is up.

And one more thing. Do not ever neglect to, as Jordan B.P. says, Clean your room! Even if its in a nursing home. Don’t wait for the attendants do everything. Pull your own weight for as long as you possibly can, and pull somebody else’s weight, too, if you’re able to do it, for as long as you can.

As for the phones, etc—they can go to hell for all I care.

I won’t be there, because the Lord wrote me a good fire insurance policy back in 1979.

Glass half-Full

Dr. King remembered

January 18, 2019

I was a white boy growing up in the deep south.

In my life, 1951 . . .  a vivid memory stands out: the remembrance of this brave man:

MLKing

. . . his life, his work, his service to mankind, his leadership in the perilous project of fulfilling our Creator’s call to

. . . bring good news to the afflicted, . . . to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to prisoners . . . (Isaiah 61:1)

In my lifetime, I can think of no other American who demonstrated greater courage than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He persisted tirelessly in the sacred call to blaze a trail of opportunity for oppressed people. He persevered in the face of certain death, as he fully understood the vengeful opposition of other men–white and black–who  ultimately took him down.

The name assigned to him at birth, King, was appropriate, as he went on to conduct the life of a true leader, a born leader, an orator, an organizer who truly fulfilled  the declaration of our nation’s founding principles:

 We find these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,  that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

In my lifetime, I can recall no other person who more deserves annual remembrance during a national holiday. Although he had his faults, his own sins as we all do,  he was a man of whom this world was not worthy.  In this world, he helped God and fellowman to “make a way where there is no way.” He blazed a trail toward that “equal” status mentioned by Mr. Jefferson and the Continental Congress when they composed our Declaration back in 1776.

I looking forward to meeting Dr. King in heaven, or whatever you call it. Many years ago, I wrote this song about him and an ancient leader named Moses:

Mountaintop

The Unkindest Cut of All

February 26, 2016

ExcOffBldg

Last night the three lead dogs of the Republican slog pack spent half their time insulting each other while jabbering over each other like kids on a playground.

On each end of the field, two dignified leaders found it difficult to enter into the A Tu Brutay fray that was was playing out, back and forth over the fifty-yard line, where mister haughty master of ceremonies held court.

The saddest fact of all is that the man best qualified to fulfill the office of the President of the United States is Gov. John Kasich.

But that will never happen because by this time next year that office will be occupied by the guy who thinks he knows how to fix everything.

Trump will be like a Roosevelt, but without the benevolence. FDR was, like the Donald, a take-charge kind of guy, which is certainly what we need now, but. . .

Whereas Roosevelt’s arrogance was to some extent tempered by his polio disability, there is apparently no veiled vulnerability to impose a humility cap upon Trump’s hubris. Trump as President will be like having an Il Duce  in the White House. He will make the trains run on time; he will  make the great Mexican wall get built; there will be something for every Tom Dick and Harry to take home when he gets to the end of the breadline, and Trumpcare will take the tricks that Obamacare had bid on.  But there will be no joy in Mudville when the cows come home.

Which is to say, more like a Caesar than a Roosevelt or a Reagan.

Whereas Trump displays some admirable plain-speaking qualities, his unceasing projection of what is referred to in Psalm 101 as the “haughty look” will ultimately be his downfall; and the cold hard truth is it will ultimately be our downfall too.

ForumVw

America, if you want to hookup with this guy there is nothing I can do to stop you, but be sure you got some Trojan-enz to slip over the projection before it enters into the sacred Oval orifice, because you are about to be violated.

Smoke

Hey you unemployed, you shovel-ready?

June 5, 2015

Pat and I have been watching, on Amazon, Ken Burns’ documentary series about the Roosevelts (Teddy and Franklin and Eleanor and all them others in between). This morning I find myself wanting to share some thoughts about President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

http://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=ken+burns+roosevelt

FDR was a man for his time. He was, as we readers of the Bible like to say, a person who had been born “for such a time as this.”

“This” time being that time– the time that he was born into, and destined to have a great impact on: the 1930s.

Through the long course of Ken Burns’ biographical film-depiction of FDR, any viewer can ascertain many attributes of true leadership that Mr. Roosevelt manifested in his personality.

Most notable among those attributes is a thoroughly positive attitude: We can do this, he exuded, and we can do it with great joy and a good attitude. Watching the old newsreel clips of FDR I am reminded, strangely enough, of another great President, Ronald Reagan, who possessed a similarly positive outlook on life. Mr. Roosevelt’s jovial optimism also reminds me of the first pastor I ever had after becoming a Christian at age 27. That was a fellow named Tom Gable, about 35 years ago.

But Mr. Roosevelt’s unique leadership was not an attribute that was easily acquired. His gift of joyful positivism was shaped by God, through the terrible crucible of suffering. It was thereby crafted into a finely-honed treasure. His crucible of suffering was a disease: polio.

We all have, as we Christians say, our “cross to bear.” Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “cross” was a dreaded, debilitating disease.

I daresay if Mr. Roosevelt had had no such impediment– with as much class privilege and intelligence as he had going for him– he would have been as arrogant as the day is long, and his great leadership skills would never have been manifested in any truly effective way.

Just sayin’. No way to prove such a statement.

Smiling and displaying great confidence has a lot to do with this. Confidence in himself, of course, but more importantly, confidence in us.

Now I know that among my circle of friends, most of whom are conservative southerners generally espousing Republican principles, to admire Mr. Roosevelt, especially in a public way, is anathema, because he was, you know, the guy who got us going down the terrible road of socialism that eventually led to LBJ and Obama and our current entitlement-driven welfare state and so forth and so on.

But here’s the thought I want to explore on this beautiful Friday morning in June, 2015: Sure, Mr. Roosevelt was perhaps, a “socialist” by some definitions, but look what stupendous works got done  in the 1930s under his leadership: dams, rural electrification projects, conservation projects, millions of trees planted, post offices all over the country with artistic murals, bridges, roads. And in my neck of the woods here in North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Parkway was built. Fifty years after that project, I worked on its final phase. I got hired in 1981 as a steel-tieing rodbuster. This was a job I took on– liberal arts college graduate that I am– for a few years, to feed my wife and young’uns back in the early days of our marriage, in order to complete the Parkway’s missing link, the Linn Cove Viaduct–the section that was never finished back in the ’30s–because it was in the shadow of rough, rocky Appalachian terrain, a mountain that we call, around here, Grandfather.

So there we were last night watching Ken Burns’ masterful documentary-style story-tellin’ about Roosevelt and the WPA, CCC, NRA, etc. And we see all those workin’ folks on them grainy old blackn’white newsreels. The workers were performing great feats of mastery over nature, staying busy and out of trouble, getting significant legacy edifices erected, while our great capital-breathing nation recovered from a blown-up 1920s Wall Street bubble. Sound familiar?

But here’s the thing. If you’ll look at all them old and young codgers on them newsreels back in the day, you can discern that they knew how to work.

“Shovel ready” is what I’m talking about. Literally, men– and many a woman too–knew how to use shovels back then. They knew how to do physical work, in order to construct all them great projects and assure future wilderness and national parks and so on and so forth, and in so doing, implant within our national heritage many great infrastructure and/or numerous national treasure wonders that are still with us today.

But here’s the rub. I don’t think folks these days are like those crusty Americans from back in the day. There’s no way we can do what they did.

That was then and this is now.

Back in the day, during the ’30s, fellas were just three steps off the farm anyway, and they knew how to really use a shovel. Workers these days are more likely to be texting or checking email on their mobile device while leaning on the shovel, and so I don’t see us really able to dig our way out of this hole we’re in.

So if there were a Roosevelt kind of person around today to lead us out of this mess, God only knows who it would be. I certainly see anyone like that on the horizon.

Mobile-device-ready doesn’t exactly carry the same weight as shovel-ready. Nevertheless. . .take a look around at America. While we are trying to find make-work for folks, what needs doin’?

 

Glass Chimera

Mandela

December 6, 2013

Every now and then in history, a man comes along who finds a way where there was, until he found it, no way. Such a man was Nelson Mandela.

Like David of old, who declined to put on Saul’s heavy armor, Mandela refused to take on the stultifying bondage of conventional 20th-century political role-playing. His joyfully legitimate leadership defied ideological stereotypes; in the end, he was as close to being beyond reproach as any great man can be. There will never be another like Nelson Mandela.

He traveled, successfully, on a difficult, rutted road of unprecedented grassroots authority. That self-imposed path was a trail of great suffering, but he also wrangled it into a way of boundless joy, which was often reflected in his smiling face.  Blazing a precarious trail  between the exploitive institutions of established human power, and the revolutionary demands of people rendered powerless by racism and colonialism, he managed to emerge in history as a man of peace, not a man of war.  This is no small accomplishment for any man whose role will be perpetually recorded in history as “liberator.”

Today, the day after his death, the worldwide web is filled with praise and accolades for this unusual man, so I will mention but a few of his accomplishments that have favorably impressed this Christian (me.)

These four milestones of Mandela’s life  inspire me with hope. Hope that it’s possible, in the dismally tragic trail of human history, for a man born into casted injustice and ruthless apartheid, to divert history itself into paths of, not violence and bloody revolution, but Reconciliation and Forgiveness:

~ He patiently endured 27 years of political imprisonment, emerging with forgiveness instead of vengeance, wisdom instead of bitterness.

~ He guided  strife-torn South Africa to elections, with voting, in 1994, instead of violent revolution.

~ After his 27-year prison ordeal, Mandela worked constructively with his Presidential predecessor, Frederick W. De Klerk, in a peaceful transition toward a fully representative democratic government, rather than permitting violent groups to wreak vengeance against the purveyors of apartheid.

~ Like our American founder George Washington, Nelson Mandela refused a king-like role among his grateful people. Instead of aggrandizing his own unique position of merited strength, he stepped down from Presidency after one term, thus facilitating a transferral  of South African governmental authority  to a leadership base broader than himself. Also like George Washington, he forged a decently pragmatic path between military and political revolutionary impulses among his own people.

In a century of polarizing ideologies, this was a man neither a communist nor a capitalist, although one of those simplistic terms was  erroneously attached to his name for awhile. Rather, he was a President, elected by his people. In light of what he endured to achieve that role, he is worthy of the the world’s respect. There will never be another like Nelson Mandela.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress