One Shoe

1935. India. Mahatma Gandhi rushed into a railroad terminal to catch a train. He was late. And as he ran, the train began to move out of the station. Gandhi raced and grabbed the railing on the last car. And pulled himself up. But just as he stepped on board, the sandal of one foot fell off — and landed between the tracks.

QUESTION: Did Gandhi jump off the train to retrieve the sandal (and then try to make it back on the train)? Or did he shrug – and step inside the railroad car with one bare foot? What would you do?

It really is a trick question. Gandhi did neither. Instead, he quickly removed the sandal on the other foot and lobbed it into the center of the tracks — near the one that had fallen. An acquaintance who was already on board the train asked why he had thrown his other sandal. Gandhi replied that he was hoping that the person who found the first would find the second — and have a fine new pair of sandals.

This is an example of what might be called “creative compassion” — an ability to help others in ways that may not be so obvious. It is stories like this that give credence to the idea that we may not be able to change the world — but we may be able to change the world of another human being. The biggest thing we might do on any given day is simply to do an act of kindness, of compassion or of love — to another person.

How Can You Eat that Stuff?

[A repeat from August 3, 2017] De gustibus non est disputandum is a favorite phrase of mine (I know – “get a life RH“). It means “in matters of taste, there can be no disputes.”  We all have different tastes – in food, activities, temperature, friends, work, politics and other things.  Your “taste” in food may be way out of my wheelhouse but that doesn’t make it wrong.  Or right.  It’s just your taste.  

I love spaghetti carbonara with lean bacon, pancetta and peas.  I crave avocados (see 8/20/13) and smoked salmon with mustard.  You may hate the stuff (you poor soul) but – hey brother – de gustibus non est disputandum.  

I know a lot of folks swear by soft shell crabs.  But what is tasty about chewing on shards of broken plastic?   I’m not a fan of corned beef and cabbage.  I’ve never ordered it and on occasions when it has been served to me, I will nibble a piece of cabbage and bury the rest under a roll.  And pat my stomach “delicious!”   Ribs?  I mean what’s the point?  

I’m not afraid to try new things.  I’ve eaten worms, bugs, brains, innards, gizzards and goat tongue – often in business settings.  But when given the choice?  I’ll tee up something I like.  Or tolerate.  What’s your most unfavorite foods?    

Mulligans

[A repeat from November 9, 2014] Speaking of golf, when I’m with my buds on the golf course and we tee off on the first hole, a “Mulligan” is frequently offered for an errant tee shot.  We call it a “breakfast ball.” It’s a do-over.  Even if we’re playing for a few coins, it’s “hit another – nobody saw that first one.” 

Wouldn’t it be nice if in life we had do-overs? Mulligans? For errant words or deeds?   We do in a way though the granting of a do-over often lies in the province of the recipient of the errant words or deeds.  It’s called “forgiveness.”  I’m sure we all have things we’d like to do over.  Words.  Deeds.  And we’re all grateful for the granting of forgiveness (or lack of ill consequence).  I’m sorry . . . . It’s okay.  No worries

But today, there is a poison of political correctness that can sink careers.  Free speech is being crushed.  Do overs?  For the wrong word?  Forget it.   Accusations – even though false – are often enough to destroy a life.  

I’ve said some dumb things and done some even dumber ones that I’d like to call back.  But in the words of the great poet Omar Khayyam:

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

Our futures lie within our own hands.  The “moving finger” business is probably a good reason to think twice before we act — or speak.  And knowing of our own fallibility – and frailty – a reason to consider the granting of Mulligans to others.   

Christmas 2021

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given . . . . and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.   Isaiah 9:6

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the house and lineage of David). To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.   Luke 2:4-7

Here we are again! Christmas 2021.  Mercy – the days are often long but the years go fast. . . .

Our best wishes to all of you for a Happy and Blessed Christmas, New Year and Holiday Season!!

A Car Guy

Donna and I toodle around in a silver Lexus of recent vintage. Nice machine. All the bells and whistles, maps, guidance and extras. It’s what we drive hither and yon. We enjoy it together. When Donna needs to go somewhere, she drives the Lexus. However . . . .

We have a second car that normally only I drive. It is. . . my favorite car. It is a 1999 Ford Explorer with 91,600 miles on the odometer. We bought it new – 22 years ago. We’ve discussed the prospects of a new(er) car. But “we” really have no need for one. Donna drives the Lexus and I drive the Ford. I would prefer to drive the Ford in heavy snows and icy streets. It is like an aging gorilla (much like the driver) who knows the ropes. And roads.

I’ve never thought of myself as a “car guy” like some chaps who enjoy fixing and tuning their own cars. Or who like fancy cars, speed or state-of-the-art vehicles. Truth be told, our ’99 Ford does not have functioning air conditioning (which can be an issue when it’s blazing hot). And the radio imaging doesn’t work so apart from the channel selection buttons (or the “Scan” button that still works), I’d have no idea where I am on the dial. On the flip side, I do keep this machine well-oiled and souped up. New tires. New transmission. Brakes. Power steering. Yadda yadda. And every time I bring it in for servicing, one or two of the chaps there will sidle up and ask if I want to sell it.

I never really thought of myself as a car guy. But maybe – just maybe – I am. . . . .

My Brother was Killed in the Civil War

[An interesting repeat from August 9, 2013] Let’s say you meet a chap (his name is “Frank”) who tells you that his brother was killed in the Civil War.  Possible??  The quick answer is sure.  This was a question I recall hearing in grade school or high school though at that time, the brother was killed in the Revolutionary War. 

Frank is 90 years old (born in 1923).  When Frank was born, his father was 90 years old (born in 1833).  Frank’s father first married in 1850 and promptly had a son who became a drummer boy during the Civil War (1861-1865).  In 1863 at the terrible Battle of Gettysburg, the young man – age 12 – was killed in an explosion.  Frank’s father had a few more children, his wife died in 1915 and he remarried to a young woman and in 1923, Frank was born.  Thus if you meet Frank and he says “My brother was killed during the Civil War,” you’d best believe it.   🙂    

I Hope. . . .

Our “Inboxes” get an abundance of jokes, videos, political tripe, inspiration and miscellany. Most that I receive, I delete. But the video below is an exception. It struck a nerve. I would like to share it with you.

Just two weeks ago (May 26th), I mentioned how in World War II – 16.1 million Americans served in the military. 408,000 were killed – to the tune of abut 1,800 young Americans killed every week for nearly four years.

As we enter the post Memorial Day weekend, I would invite you to spend 6 minutes and 50 seconds and watch this powerful narration. And conclusion. We continue to owe much to our parents and grandparents for what they went through during years of conflict. And we owe many of our friends, brothers and sisters for their service today. I hope that future generations will remember their sacrifice. And appreciate.

Anti-Semitism

[An appropriate update of June 1, 2019] Donna and I went to a local synagogue to hear James Carroll speak about his book The Cloister. The presentation was on a Saturday following Shabbat services. As we approached the entrance, we were greeted by a heavily-armed security guard – wearing body armor. We looked okay so we entered the temple.  And I donned my kippah. . . .

Mr. Carroll, a former Catholic priest (who remains a devout Catholic), discussed his book — and the love story of Heloise and Abelard.  But then he began discussing the issue of anti-Semitism which has roots going back more than a thousand years.  14 million Jews in the world.  1.8 billion Muslims.  2.18 billion Christians.  And who today gets an uneven distribution of hatred?    Yep. . . . .

I just finished the book Anti-Semitism – Here and Now by Deborah Lipstadt.  Read it.  Please.  Most of us are aware of anti-Semites from alt-Right jerks.  But there is a smoldering anti-Semitism from progressives and those on the left. We see bigotry and hatred of Israel and Jews in American colleges and universities. For the latter, it is pointless to ask why we do not boycott human rights abuses in China, Russia, Syria, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Sudan, Zimbabwe. Oh no. It is Israel that is in the cross hairs of the left.  And because many Israelis are Jewish, it is their faith that take the heat. 

In Europe it can be dangerous for a man to wear a kippah in public.  Synagogues are guarded by police.  And Jews feel concerns for safety from the moment they arise in the morning.   Anti-Semitism.  Making a comeback.  But did it ever leave?   

Randy Rosenthal’s Chicago Tribune review comments and quotes Lipstadt’s work “And so if we think ourselves to be liberal, or progressive, or simply decent, ‘we must insist that anti-Semitism be treated with the same seriousness as racism, sexism, homophobia and Islamophobia.'”  I hope you say “Amen.”   

Therefore. . . .

Henry Joel Cadbury (1883-1974) was a Biblical scholar and Quaker historian. He served as a professor of divinity at Harvard. He was Chairman of the American Friends Service Committee. And he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947 on behalf of the Religious Society of Friends.

When addressing his fellow Quakers, he would often speak of how there are two kinds of people in the world: “Therefore” people and “However” people. He explained that when faced with life’s problems and difficulties, many folks will say “Therefore” I need to do something. “Therefore” I need to help. These folks would then go on to correct the problem – or seek ways in which to do so. It is the “Therefore” people who continually look for reasons, ways and means to help.

“However” people have a different view. When faced with the same problems or difficulties, their response might be “I see the problem, however there’s nothing I can do about it. . . . .” Cadbury’s conclusion was that the world needs more “Therefore” people. We each have the capacity — to be a “Therefore” person. Each day is an opportunity — to make a difference.

Mother Teresa’s eloquence gives inspiration to “Therefore” people:

I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.

Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.

Therefore. . . .

There is this Girl. . . .

[A repeat from July 10, 2016] There is this girl. Her name is Lisa.  She is captivating and I’ve admired her for a long time. Donna is vaguely aware of my interest in Lisa but she let’s it go.  I have gone on websites to read about Lisa.  And there was one occasion some years ago when our paths actually crossed.  It was in Paris.  There she was.  And I stood. Watching her.  For quite a while.  From about thirty feet away.  Lisa’s last name is Gherardini.

I guess I’m not the only guy in the world who has had a special interest in Lisa.  You see Lisa Gherardini is — the Mona Lisa.  

Lisa – the young wife of Francesco del Gioconda – was painted by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) between 1503 and 1506.  However Leonardo – who claimed he “never completed a single work” – continued to refine Lisa after he moved to France.  He may have applied the final touches of paint in 1516 or 1517.

After Leonardo’s death, the painting was purchased by Francis I of France.  Louis XIV moved Lisa to the Palace of Versailles – and after the Revolution, Lisa was placed in the Louvre.  In 1911, Lisa was stolen by a Louvre employee – Vincenzo Peruggia – who felt that Lisa should be returned to Italy.  Peruggia’s theft was discovered two years later when he tried to sell Lisa to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.  There have been several attempts to deface Lisa – but she continues smiling seductively – behind layers of bulletproof glass.

The aesthetics of da Vinci’s painting are nuanced.  Lisa is sitting upright with hands folded in a reserved attitude.  There is an imaginary landscape behind Lisa which introduces for the first time an “aerial perspective.”  Lisa is considered the most famous painting in the world.  And the most valuable – with an estimated worth of $782,000,000.   I can’t wait to cross paths with Lisa again. . . . .