The Best of Times

These days are just that, even if feelings and reports deny.You’re here. Alive. Free. Take a breath of free possibility…

Search across space and time, you simply will not find better.

Great challenges lie between this moment and our personal never mores, some seen and daunting, others not and potentially more scary for their stealth.

It has always been so. Overcoming these is our purpose. Otherwise, how would our lives be marked?

Your choice?

Echo and amplify falsehoods conceived to invoke fear, and shouted for petty advantage, or look with clarity at what is, help others to do the same, and persevere with courage where others cower.

Descend into gloom, or lead on a continuing quest into tomorrows you shape for your children and theirs.

Your choice.

An Idea

Let’s decide all future presidential contests via the World Series. Every fourth year, the winning manager gets the keys to the White House. The entire campaign is condensed to two weeks or less. We get a proven leader of men as President. Less money. Better outcome.

Make America proud again. (It’s already great.)

1477839950_featured.jpeg

Stopping to Consider before the Battle

The stage is set, in a fever of angry red
Forces divided, to the left and right spread

Facing without seeing, shouting not hearing

The long prelude about to come to a head
See how they are corrupt and weak

See how they undo sacred in what and how they speak

See how unlike us they and their friends appear

See how they take without an honest week
If they prevail, all is lost
See how little they know, how stupid, how crude

See how greedy they are, grubby and rude

See how they stubbornly hold back tomorrow

See how their masses and priests collude
If they prevail, all is lost
Now look into my glass
Cannot you see how you overreach and arrogate perfection?

Cannot you see what you deny is clear and present?

Cannot you see deep wisdom in the traditional and proven?

Cannot you see the joy and promise of progress?
Cannot you all see into your neighbors’ hearts—their fears, hopes, and prayers?
The stakes are very great

You must find a way to lift your weight

A powerful choice, now, you must make

Though, sadly, it you may hate
For truly, without your calm wisdom, in the hour and beyond, all is lost

wormhole

Number Nine

Riffing on a New Yorker Shouts & Murmurs piece by Paul Simms…

‘Honey, where’re the crackers?’

‘The pantry.’

‘Don’t see them…’

Bothered, muttering as pushing past him, reaching into the spherical opening in space that only she sees, withdrawing the yellow box, ‘Here, right in front of your nose.’

Populists

I Don’t Do Politics

Some thirty five years ago I was encouraged by one who knew the game to consider a career in politics. Putting aside any temptation to indulge in such a heady notion, and all of the other reasons to reject this counsel, I focused on, and replied to my friend in terms of, one issue: constitutionally, I don’t have the ability to take and state positions aligned near the poles of either party, on most any issue.

I shade left on some calls, right on a few more, but hardly ever am moved to hold positions, or push arguments beyond a moderate view that encompasses an appreciation for the other side.

Even in those somewhat less polarized days, and without any nuanced understanding of primary and general election realities, my earlier self believed this to be a fatal flaw for one aspiring to elected office.

Perhaps I was proud of my moderate and reasonable tendencies. Or perhaps I was simply afraid to get into the fray, and put at risk the possibility of losing a referendum on me.

In the commercial realm, where I have accepted, and in fact sought, leadership responsibilities subject to assessments expressed in public and private, my instincts also run toward finding centers — areas of agreement, common ground, opportunities for mutual understanding leading to mutual success — rather than sharp differences and one-sided wins.

In the large, this tendency has worked out for me. While I’ve had some noted failures in my day, I’ve been a part of more progress, across a pretty wide front, than of setbacks. And that guy in the morning reflection feels OK while shaving.

I’m certain that I’ve left opportunities unaddressed, in all realms. With harder edges and a simplified focus on attainment of goals, some other version of me could have done more, gone further, and meant more. But then, they wouldn’t be my accomplishments — they’d be his.

Effectiveness in business depends on the gut appreciation that it’s conducted by, my phrasing, “those warm squishy things called humans,” and that they don’t all think and feel as you. In fact, none do. It goes on, at least in the theme of my thoughts here, to benefit greatly from reflection on the words of George Bernard Shaw, “All progress is made by unreasonable men.”

The ability to win the trust and respect of those that don’t see through your eyes, have had your experiences, or share your judgements, especially those at greatest odds with your center (in my case perhaps the principle-first standard-bearers), and to add their sharp voices, their perhaps messy but certainly necessary contributions to the mix, is what a leader must rise to accomplish if he wants to push forward toward any worthwhile accomplishment.

I have never crossed any finish line without their contributions. I value greatly those voices that could not be mine. In business, I smile on those occasions where they sing in a chorus I’ve helped assemble, and am deeply disappointed when I fall short toward this effort.

It is through this lens that I view our current politics. Polarized. Dysfunctional. Embarrassing, and at times seemingly incomprehensible. An avowed socialist? PT Barnum raised from the dead?

Well, I believe that those voices are of, and indeed required in, our time. They are needed to direct great buckets of cold water toward the faces of the sober, reasonable crowd who have allowed rot to take to our roots.

That sober, reasonable crowd has at least one recognizable face in it.

View to the southeast...

Morning Reflections

It was pleasant to be up well before today’s dawn, and to enjoy the very analog experience of watching clouds gather definition, as the sky turned slowly from black to a putty grey. A time of reflections, and of calm.

From the Mount of Olives

Fault Lines in the Old City

Jerusalem reads like a jigsaw puzzle frozen in mid-assembly, comprising pieces that don’t quite match up. Both because, and in spite of this, it’s a place of deep fascination.

It’s a city divided by fault lines across dimensions of scale, culture, and religion. Some are marked by roads or walls, old and new, others by attitudes, hardened and overt, or repressed just below the surface of everyday life and polite conversation. But they are everywhere, and they shape most everything about life here.

The Latest Wall...

The Latest Wall…

Continue reading

Our Journey

This is Different

It’s the first time I’ve experienced this.

I’ve racked up lifetime air miles equivalent to 20 round trips to the moon. I’ve spent time in several dozen countries, and even done a previous month-long vacation.

But this is different.

The experience of continuous surface travel, over a period long enough for time to slow, and across a distance spanning six time zones and 38 degrees of latitude is fundamentally different.

Air travel leaves you perceiving the world as isolated places. (If the purpose is business, often as little more than airports, hotels, and offices.) You’re here… and then you’re there. You might look out the plane’s window en route, but that’s equivalent to watching a bit of a movie.

You don’t really gain a human scale appreciation of distance, or of connections between places.

With travel of the sort I’ve been on for the past month, you do.

You experience how the oceans, seas, gulfs, and bays flow one into the next. You feel the weather working. You understand why people chose to settle here, and here… but not there. The distinctive characters of cultures become connected to features of the lands in which they grew and developed. History comes to make a new kind of sense.

You see the map as a living reality, and the earth as an organic whole… and all of the sights you’ve seen, and experiences registered take on an entirely new form of richness as a result.

Al Salam Bridge

Postcard from the Suez Canal

In passage from The Red Sea to The Mediterranean

Facts about the Suez Canal:

  • There are no locks; it is at sea level for its entire extent
  • It took 10 years to build, and opened for operation in 1869
  • Its current capacity 47 ships per day, who make the passage in one way convoys, north or south
  • The Egyptian government is building an extension that will double its capacity when complete in 2016
  • The waters in the norther half flow north in the winter, south in the summer; waters in the southern half flow with the Red Sea tides
  • It is 120 miles long, 670 feet wide, and 80 feet deep
  • Speed is limited to 8 knots, to prevent damage to the banks
  • The cost of passage for a ship the size of the Seabourn Sojourn is $250,000
  • A passage through it is an absolutely great way to spend your 60th birthday
Suez Canal Images

Suez Canal Images