Author: DJB

Judgement and Forgiveness

Why do we find it so easy to judge and so hard to forgive? Part of the answer might lie in the fact that holding grudges and passing judgement can seem so satisfying. As Tim Herrera wrote in a recent New York Times article, we may actually like them, as we “tend to them as little pets.” Anne Lamott, writing in her inimitable (some would say snarky) style in Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy, captures the same push-pull attraction when she says, “Kindness towards others and radical kindness to ourselves buy us a shot at a warm and generous heart, which is the greatest prize of all. Do you want this, or do you want to be right? Well, can I get back to you on that?” In our time of extreme political polarization, it may be difficult to identify the humanity amidst the ideology. The more we see religion, politics and life as a winner-take-all battle full of zero-sum calculations, forgiveness seems quaint — a lost art or forgotten concept. This was on my mind as …

Blowing the Doors Off the Joint

“You Can’t Make This Stuff Up” is the theme of this week’s AFI Docs Film Festival in Washington, where some 70 documentaries will be shown in theatres across the city over five days.  To get myself in shape, I spent Sunday and Monday watching two documentaries that are not part of the festival but are currently playing in the area. One tried — and only partially succeeded — in reaching the standards suggested by the theme. The other is a masterpiece simply because it captures a treasure at the height of her powers.  As one reviewer phrased it, “She blew the doors off the joint.” But let’s start with the less-satisfying of the two. Echo in the Canyon, currently playing at the E Street Cinema, is a documentary about the legendary Laurel Canyon music scene in Los Angeles from the mid-1960s. The film focuses on the music of The Byrds, The Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield, and The Mamas and the Papas, and the hook is a 2015 tribute concert from current-day fans Jakob Dylan (Bob’s …

Daydreaming Makes a Comeback

I became a fan of daydreaming while on sabbatical. Daydreaming has a long history, but in today’s culture of speed and action the idea of doing nothing generally has negative connotations. It goes by many names: boredom, weariness, ennui, lack of enthusiasm, lack of interest, apathy, sluggishness, malaise, tedium, tediousness, dullness, monotony, repetitiveness, routine, humdrum, dreariness . . . well, you get the point. I’m happy to report that the positive aspects of daydreaming are making a comeback. When I had the time on sabbatical to stop and reflect, I realized that I was often busy simply for the sake of being (or looking) busy.  If I was busy I was doing important work.  But I began to realize that being constantly busy wasn’t healthy, productive, or fun. A number of authors have written that there is a creative purpose to daydreaming, even to boredom.  So while in Rome, I took up the habit of a daily walk without any sense of purpose other than just to exist in that space. To daydream. I enjoyed how it …

History Was All Around Me: PreserveCast podcast of my career in preservation (so far)

“Connection to place is very important to me, and I learned that by walking the streets of Franklin and Murfreesboro, where I grew up.  History was all around me . . . and I’ve always wanted to do something about connecting the past to today.” When PreserveCast host Nick Redding began our recent conversation on the award-winning Preservation Maryland podcast with a question about my path to preservation, my thoughts went to my childhood home, grandmother, and a favorite downtown theatre. That podcast, looking at my work at the National Trust for Historic Preservation and more, can now be found on the PreserveCast website. In a thirty minute interview, Nick and I explore not only how I became a preservationist, but also the various jobs that led to my serving as the Chief Preservation Officer at the National Trust from 2010 until I stepped down from the position at the end of March 2019. “Somebody said that ‘Chief Preservation Officer’ is one of the great titles in the preservation field.  Its not as good as …

Don’t Create Followers, Create More Leaders

Management guru Tom Peters has said, “Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.” In the middle of a week full of simple yet sublime pleasures, I also had the opportunity to experience unexpected leadership lessons with long-time colleagues and friends. This story begins with The National Trust of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, which has been a model for preservation and conservation organizations since its founding in 1895. While many National Trusts exist around the world, all are modeled in one way or the other on this original National Trust. I’ve worked with U.K. Trust staff members over the years and have come to count several as dear friends. The Trust’s work to connect people with places and the willingness to give back out of its century of experience to the international preservation and conservation communities have long been an inspiration. I spent time last week interacting with the National Trust at several levels. The long-time connections were also how we found ourselves in Cambridge last Monday, visiting with Dame Fiona Reynolds, Master of …

Remembering D-Day

Seventy-five years ago today, almost 160,000 troops from the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States — including smaller contingents from Australia, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, France, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Poland — invaded Nazi-occupied Europe on the beaches of Normandy.  Over the next three months of fighting, 209,000 Allied troops would die before the Nazis were pushed back across the Seine. June 6, 1944 — D-Day — should never be forgotten. It was a time when the countries of the world came together to combat bigotry, racism, and hatred.  Many men and women made the ultimate sacrifice in that fight. To be in Britain for the 75th anniversary is a reminder of our better natures.  We began to see the remembrances of the anniversary as we stepped off the bus in the small Cotswald village of Chipping Campden last week.  There, in the center of this beautiful High Street, was a small World War I memorial covered with poppies, the now almost-universal symbol of remembrance for those killed in war. This week, …

Our Country is Like a Really Old House

With instant communication and connections, one can travel the globe and still face issues from home.  We may try to block them out, but they come up in conversations in other countries. In feeds on social media. During sermons.* Even in a toy display in a store window! I’ve been reminded again during my travels that in today’s global world, there are many national issues with international ramifications. Thomas Fingar — the Shorenstein APARC Fellow in the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, former chairman of the National Intelligence Council, and former Assistant Secretary of State — lectured on the Japan / Korea / China / United States relationships during the Asian portion of my current trip.  Fingar provided a realistic and sometimes sobering assessment of future difficulties (many self-inflicted) as we were visiting sites of great beauty and centuries-old history. A few days later I arrived in the U.K. as Prime Minister Theresa May was resigning and the airways were filled with commentary (some from the current resident of the White …