Friday, November 16, 2012

My Name is Asher Lev

My Name is Asher Lev

I enjoy reading novels and when I find an author I like I try to read all of their works.  Chaim Potok is one of my favorite authors and he wrote several books, one of which was My Name is Asher Lev. I read this and his other works many years ago, and these left a lasting impression on me.  Books have a way of doing that.

One of the neat things about living in NYC is the diversity of cultural things to do, and the live theater here is great. So when we saw that an adaptation of this book was playing at an off-Broadway theater, we got tickets and went to see it. 

It’s set in post-war Brooklyn and tells the story of a boy prodigy who must be a painter at any cost – against the will of his family, community and tradition.  It is a moving portrait of a young artist with a universal theme about following one’s passion. 

Following one’s passions was a fairly common theme for many in my generation, and the breadth of new and exciting opportunities presented to us seemed endless.  Art, music, science, technology, social mores, drugs – all of these cascaded around us with such intensity and attractiveness – it was a wonder than the culture of our parents survived. That’s what this play was about.

And now that we have kids and grandchildren, most of whom are facing similar challenges, it doesn’t seem all that intense or passionate.  Is that what now being of an age that once seemed so distant does to us?  Are our passions subdued, or have our experiences moderated those passions? I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I do know that the play was excellent, the acting was inspired, and the story was as moving as ever. 

Maybe a good story is what it’s really all about.  Maybe a provocative theme is forever inspiring.  And maybe lessons learned once carry on throughout our lives.  A good book, like great acting, has the ability to teach us lessons that serve us well. And lessons, at any age, are a wonderful thing!

One of my messages this week was about the joy of becoming who you are:

“The secret of happiness lies in the ancient saying: "Become what you are"  Alan Watts

What’s the secret of happiness?  Some will say it’s the love of their life, others that it’s their car; some will say it’s good health, others claim it to be good fortune; still others will say it’s fulfilling their career ambitions, others will say it’s their retirement; and then there are those who will say they’re happy no matter what.  In truth, to be truly happy one has to be in the full realization of who and what they are, to be doing the things that make them feel fulfilled, to feel that what they’re doing makes a difference, and to know that they’ve left nothing undone.  All of these have the potential to add to your happiness, and together these can form the basis for doing great things.  Because only by becoming what you are can you fully achieve the breadth and scope of your capabilities.  Do that and you’ll find happiness and greatness today!

Stay well!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Who Won?

Who Won?
It was quite an election this past week: lots of winners and losers, lots of after-the-fact analyses about why some won and some lost, and lots of polling about what the majority of the people who voted really want. Everybody seems to have an opinion, but nobody seems to be listening.
We elect people to lead us – how come they don’t?  We try to make sense out of all the noise – but the noisemakers are not making sense.  There are lots of assertions – but not a lot of truth. The only thing that everyone seems to agree on is that the partisan bickering has to stop, and nobody believes that it will.

The guy who lost gave a concession speech that made us want to give him another chance – but it was too little, too late.  The guy who won sounded reasonably conciliatory and magnanimous – but will ideology or commonsense prevail?

Politics, like life, is all about the give and take required to keep moving forward. We elect people to figure out solutions to the problems we face but unfortunately, after they get elected, our representatives tend to then make speeches rather than decisions.  And that’s no way to solve problems and move the country forward.

So, who won? If the people we elected, and those who lost, stop bickering and start working together, then we’ll all have won. But if they revert back to the same old partisan and ideological grandstanding, then everyone will have lost.  It should not be about party ideology as much as it should be about honesty, leadership, and working together to address and solve our real problems.  If they realize that – we win; if they don’t – we lose.

Now is the time for serious leadership, not ideological partisanship.  If our elected officials and the parties they’re affiliated with don’t get that then there will be no winners.  Let your elected officials know how you feel if you really want to be a winner in these elections!

One of my messages this week was about working together and winning as a team, and it seems appropriate in light of this week’s events:

“To find a fault is easy; to do better may be difficult.”  Plutarch
What kind of team player are you?  Do you get fully involved with others and support them, or do you stay by yourself and/or complain a lot?  We all know people who are one or the other, and probably have an opinion about which is better.  But seeing this in others isn’t the same as assessing the same in ourselves.  It pays to be an unselfish and committed team player when trying to get stuff done. That means you have to be focused on the task, supportive of what others are doing, being on the look-out for what needs to be done, and always volunteering to help others.  When called upon to do something, you should always give it your best effort, and when others fall short, don’t complain or criticize – look at that as an opportunity to contribute.  So don’t be so quick to find fault, because doing better yourself may be difficult.  Just do your best and give your best all the time – that’s all anyone can ask or expect.

Stay well!

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Night the Lights Went Out

The Night the Lights Went Out

We just don’t think it will happen to us.  Because we don’t want to believe it can happen to us.  Probably because we’re optimists.

And then the Storm of the Century hit.  And it was worse than we ever could have imagined.  All the things we take for granted were mostly gone, in the blink of an eye.  There were warnings.  But who listens to warnings: it’s like the little boy who cried “wolf”!

This might just change everything.  Like: not taking things for granted, and really being prepared, and listening more.  Devastation can do that to you, and whether or not it directly affected you, the pictures and stories on the news have a way of affecting us too.

It might be less about changing things as it is about forcing us to go back to basics: no internet – walk over and check on someone directly; no transportation – car pool; no lights – candles and flashlights; no power – read a book in the daylight or by the firelight.  Think about Abe Lincoln – he not only read by firelight, he also seems to have gotten his law degree that way too. Because he couldn't, and now we can’t, get away from the dark, we must rely on our basic instincts and capabilities to deal with it. 

These days, cell phones and the Internet are our primary means of connecting, and they mostly weren't working this week.  And without them we were really in the dark and had to improvise to connect with others.  We had to walk over and knock on someone's door (if we could), or wait until conditions improved. But connect we did because we need personal contact: to let us know we’re not alone and reassure us that others are there and care.

So the moral of this story is that while some things change, others stay the same.  We use the tools we have to stay close to family and friends and colleagues and community.  And as long as we know they are all safe then we can start to return to normal and rebuild.  Make sure your basics are in place today and be prepared if your lights go out.

My message this week is about study and preparation:  

“No one can ever reach to excellence in any one art or profession without having passed through the slow and painful process of study and preparation.”  Horace

How will you prepare to do what you have to do today? Will it come by you naturally, or will you have to work hard to prepare for it? There are lots of people who are naturals at what they do – singers naturally come by their trade because they have good pitch, and public speakers mostly do well because they don’t fear being in front of audiences, and of course service employees like helping others. But those are just the things that help you get started – after that it’s a slow and painful process of study and preparation if you are to excel at what you do.  And (like your mother said): "if anything is worth doing, it’s worth doing well"; so commit to the study and preparation that’s needed if you want to be good at what you do and to be rewarded for it.  That’s how to succeed at the art of your profession!

Stay well!