Month: October 2016

Cultivating a (Wise) Sense of Humor

We are made by what would break us.  In every life, inexplicable things happen. It is difficult to respond to these challenges, but I’ve noted before that we learn to walk by falling down. The beginning of wisdom often results from “the dramatic and more ordinary moments where what has gone wrong becomes an opening to more of yourself and part of your gift to the world.” Those words were written by Krista Tippett, the Peabody Award-winning broadcaster of On Being and a 2014 recipient of the National Humanities Medal from President Obama.  She has published a new work based in part on her years of conversation with poets, scientists, philosophers, theologians, and activists.  Becoming Wise:  An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living, is a thoughtful book, full of insight. Tippett indicates she wrote about wisdom because “one of its qualities…is about joining inner life with our outer presence in the world. The litmus test of wisdom is the imprint it makes on the world around it…” In this new work, Tippett writes …

How We Spend Our Lives

In her 1989 collection of essays entitled The Writing Life, Annie Dillard has a wonderful meditation on the life well lived. “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living. Each day is the same, so you remember the series afterward as a blurred and powerful pattern.”  Dillard’s essay contrasts different daily schedules and the “existential tension between presence and productivity.”  She then adds these words to prod us to think of how we spend our days – and lives: “There is no …

Observations from the Road (Or the “Has It Been Six Weeks Since I Was in Milan?” Edition)

In mid-September I published a post from Milan that promised “Lake Como and more still to come.” Next thing I know, we are pushing toward Halloween and the things I’ve wanted to post have been piling up in my brain.  So with the first open weekend in about six weeks, I’m going to catch up by using my trusty “Observations from…” catch-all post. This edition will include photos from the second and third days of my quick trip to Milan in September for the Executive Committee meeting of the International National Trusts Organisation (INTO). Speaking of Lake Como:  Lake Como is beautiful. We were there to visit the Villa del Balbianello, a property of FAI, the Italian National Trust.  Commissioned in the 18th century by Cardinal Durini, the villa “has hosted literati and travellers up to the time of its final owner, the adventurous explorer Guido Monzino.”  Throughout the house are travel mementoes and art objects from his 20th century life.       This is a remarkable home in a stunning setting.  It is …

I Want to Live in a Real Sports Town

I’m sitting in the bar of Michael Jordan’s SteakHouse (in our Historic Hotel of America, the Intercontinental) watching Chicago vs. the LA Dodgers with dozens of passionate Cubs fans. Stores and offices throughout the cities are hanging the iconic “W” flag in their windows.  Hell, even the University Club has a decorated bear in Cubs attire. I am texting with my Dodger daughter Claire in Southern California. Life is good. Except…this isn’t my normal life. I want to live in a real sports town. After spending portions of my life in Atlanta and Washington (neither of which is a real sports town), I am tired of the wimpy sports culture that comes from people who think that policy debates tell you more about life than arguments over baseball. I’ve been in Chicago, Boston, New York, and Philly in the past two weeks.  All great sports towns. Cleveland – another passionate sports town – is in the World Series and has suddenly become the city of champions. D.C. needs some of that passion. But people leave …

Loss, Rebirth, Baseball, and Why Old Places Matter

You may have heard that my team – the Washington Nationals – lost last Friday, a loss which ended their season.  You may be surprised to know that while disappointed, I can live with that outcome. After 50+ years of watching sports, I find that low expectations are the key to happiness. In my mind, baseball – with its timeless, cyclical rhythms and its “symbolic and literal journey ‘home’” – contains values and appeal that overshadow mere winning and losing and match the values and appeal we espouse in discussing why old places matter.  What touches many in both fields is a sense of the familiar, the building upon the past while adding new meaning today, and a reality that recognizes difficult as well as celebratory history. A. Bartlett Giamatti – PhD professor in comparative literature, president of Yale University, commissioner of baseball, and a lifelong fan of the Boston Red Sox until his untimely death in 1989 – understood both accomplishment and loss. In A Great and Glorious Game, Giamatti said of baseball, “It …

Oh Well…

Sigh. I came into this season and this series with the same low expectations.  So 2016 wasn’t as gut-wrenching as 2012.  And since Dusty didn’t make any obvious mistakes (expect for keeping Danny in the lineup), it wasn’t as infuriating as 2014 (when Matt went brain dead). Still, the Nats should have won this series.  Even with season-ending injuries to Stras and Ramos.  Even playing a shortstop in center field.  Even with Bryce having the worst follow-up season of any MVP in history.  They still had this series won…until they didn’t. At critical times – and especially in the last three innings last evening – their big guns didn’t come through.  They didn’t score enough runs to give Max any cushion on a night he was pitching well. They didn’t… Oh, well.  Baseball is meant to break your heart. More to come… DJB

Allow Yourself the Uncomfortable Luxury of Changing Your Mind

Writer Maria Popova speaks of our need “to connect countless dots, to cross-pollinate ideas from a wealth of disciplines, and to combine and recombine these pieces and build new ideas” if we seek to be creative and truly want to contribute to the world. To reach this level of creativity and understanding of our beliefs, it is important that we be open to change.  After noting that we should allow ourselves the “uncomfortable luxury” of changing our minds, Popova writes: “We live in a culture where one of the greatest social disgraces is not having an opinion, so we often form our ‘opinions’ based on superficial impressions or the borrowed ideas of others, without investing the time and thought that cultivating true conviction necessitates. We then go around asserting these donned opinions and clinging to them as anchors to our own reality. It’s enormously disorienting to simply say, “I don’t know.” But it’s infinitely more rewarding to understand than to be right — even if that means changing your mind about a topic, an ideology, …