Author: DJB

It Takes However Long It Takes

After his death, Stephen Jay Gould, the great paleontologist and scholar of evolutionary history, was still teaching about a subject he loved—through a posthumous book of essays about baseball. Gould and other famous scholars and writers—individuals such as historians David Halberstam and Doris Kearns Goodwin, novelist John Updike, financial journalist Michael Lewis, and New Yorker essayist Roger Angell—have all written with a special affinity for the game. Ken Burns found many of them for his 9-part PBS documentary Baseball. Yes, even poet Walt Whitman wrote about baseball in the mid-nineteenth century. I’m here to report that we have a candidate for the 2019 addition to the “smart people write about baseball” library. Let’s see what it might tell us about baseball, and life. Infinite Baseball: Notes from a Philosopher at the Ballpark is a short and entertaining work written by Alva Noë, a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a lifelong New York Mets fan. I went against my standing policy of rejecting books with jacket blurbs by George Will and took …

Wonder

Imagine living 99 years inspired by a sense of wonder. Entering into the world as children, we began with the curiosity and amazement found at the heart of a wonder-filled life. Yet along our journeys, most step out of this sense of wonderment and instead become cautious, cynical, hardened, haughty or any number of other traits designed to protect our egos and allow us to function—or so we believe—in the adult world. In taking that step, we too often lose a generous, more imaginative perspective. Wonder came into my consciousness last week while I was in Charlottesville for the memorial service of a long-time friend, Anne Worrell. I met Anne soon after moving to Virginia in the early 1980s, and over the years I came to know her primarily as a historic preservationist, businesswoman, newspaper publisher, philanthropist, and convener extraordinaire. With her husband Gene she founded their first newspaper, the Virginia Tennessean, in Bristol, and together they grew the company to be one of the largest chains of small dailies in the country. Anne, who …

Toni Morrison, R.I.P.

Toni Morrison, Nobel Prize-winning author and arguably our First Lady of Letters, passed away last evening, August 5th, at the age of 88. She left this earth as a new book of essays, The Source of Self-Regard, along with a recently released documentary entitled Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am, introduced long-time fans and new readers alike to her towering intellect and broad vision. These works could not have come along at a better time. Now that she has died, we will have to rely on the power of Morrison’s words; the clarity of her vision for social justice; the love of art, music, and literature that permeates the meditations in The Source of Self-Regard and the interviews in The Pieces I Am more than ever. At the end of “Peril,” the very first offering in The Source of Self-Regard, Morrison makes the bold statement that, “A writer’s life and work are not a gift to mankind; they are its necessity.” And through 350 pages of speeches, essays, and meditations, she shows why. There are 43 pieces in The Source of Self-Regard, …

The Search for Wise Leaders

Is it possible to find wise leaders in this era dominated by 30-second soundbites, cable news demands for conflict, twitter-length pronouncements that take the place of rational discourse, and increasingly short — or nonexistent — attention spans? I began thinking anew about wisdom after hearing the Rev. Emily Griffin speak a few weeks ago on how those who are wise stay afloat in a figurative sea of rising waters. Those thoughts were carried forward in one new book that has been on my nightstand, along with another I’ve returned to in recent months. Both included perspectives on wisdom, insight, and discernment. Making the link between wisdom and leadership followed later as — with increasing frustration — I watched two nights of the Democratic presidential debates on CNN at the end of July. First, consider how we know that someone is wise. The writers I have been reading suggest that wisdom includes meaningful self-knowledge as well as an important outward-facing impact. Defining wisdom as “knowledge translated into action,” Emily struck a chord and helped begin my …

The NFL Season Begins Anew. Heaven Help Us.

Late yesterday afternoon I was watching a bit of ESPN. Suddenly, the excitement level of the announcers’ voices rose significantly as they began talking about “THE FIRST NFL PRE-SEASON GAME OF THE YEAR” scheduled for later that evening. On August 1st. Doesn’t this thing ever go away? Heaven help us. We’re in the midst of a baseball pennant race where, with two months to go, 17 teams are either division leaders or within four games of the two wild-card slots in each league and thus have a legitimate chance at making the playoffs. Teams are going on improbable streaks (I’m looking at you, New York Mets and San Francisco Giants). Strong teams (Houston) just made themselves better with deadline trades, while other teams (New York Yankees and Washington Nationals) left their fans disappointed by their lack of imagination and just plain guts in filling in their weaknesses. Suffice it to say, there’s a lot to watch (and talk about) around baseball. But noooo. We have to hear about pro football ad infinitum. Well, I’m (still) …

Discipline

An acquaintance who overcame addiction to remake her life once told me, “Discipline is remembering what you really want.” So much of what we accomplish comes back to having the discipline to achieve our goals. After years of giving in to dependency, my friend wanted to change her life in a way that aligned with her goals; with what she — when she was brutally honest with herself — really wanted from life.* As a different person than I was in my 20s or 40s, I’m now focusing on what I really want to accomplish in the years ahead. Discipline is hard and involves pain, no matter where you are in your life journey: in school, beginning a career, as a senior manager, building and growing a business, caring for others, living out a gap year, sailing along effortlessly, or fighting addiction. However, it has been said, “We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.” …

A Human Touch

I first saw Jackson Browne in the 1970s. Today, at 70 years of age, he is still writing and singing some of the most beautiful and heartfelt music around. A Human Touch is among his most moving. Written with Steve McEwan and Leslie Mendelson for the Paul Haggis documentary 5B, the song captures the compassion of the caregivers in the 1980s in San Francisco General’s Ward 5B, the world’s first AIDS ward unit. The video of the beautiful Browne / Mendelson duet includes footage of how courage and compassion changed the way doctors and nurses approached and treated AIDS as the epidemic spread fear and hatred throughout the world. “You can call it a decision I say it’s how we’re made There’s no point in shouting from your island Proclaiming only Jesus saves There will always be suffering And there will always be pain But because of it there’ll always be love And love, we know, it will remain Everybody gets lonely Feel like it’s all too much Reaching out for some connections Or maybe …