A Different Kind of Music Lesson

When I was very young I wanted to take piano lessons. My older brother was doing it and I enjoyed imitating everything he did even though there was a six year difference in our ages. Besides the obvious advantage he had by virtue of being more mature and disciplined, he also by nature was more of a studious person, comfortable staying indoors for long periods of time, while I was the outdoor type. Every minute of my day was dedicated to playing outside, which is not remotely conducive to becoming a competent pianist.

Much later I did learn to strum a guitar and finger the major chords plus a few minor ones. That allowed me to be part of our impromptu folk groups, not just to harmonize vocally, but to be a player in real terms, a musician if only at the most elementary level.

I must thank my competitive nature for this accomplishment, engendered from all those prior years of playing outside games since competition was my motivation for learning to play the guitar in the first place. A girl I met during my college years could play and I was not about to let her show me up, at least not in this area. She has subsequently found many other ways to do so during the 40-plus years of our marriage.

Still, I love music and am disheartened at this late stage of my life by the awareness that I never developed the proper discipline to read and interpret music the way I can words. A large part of my management career required some fluency in communicating with others of differing interests, whether they be clients, staff, supervisors or peers. But had I been as fluent with musical notations as I was with blog posts, news releases and promotional talking points, I would have been in league with those who can speak the language of angels.

One of my recent reads is a book published in 2016 entitled Absolutely on Music. It consists primarily of a sequence of discussions between the celebrated conductor Seiji Ozawa and novelist Haruki Murakami. I honestly understood very little of it. I simply lack the knowledge of the classical music they discussed in order to capture the nuances of the points they were making about composers and the challenges of leading others in creating inspiring performances on an orchestral scale. But Ozawa did make a few statements, which I found both intriguing and applicable to my own professional experiences and therefore came away with an awareness of having enjoyed a music lesson of a different kind.

When asked if he spent his time preparing for a performance by memorizing the score, Ozawa said no. A conductor, after all, has the score in front of him when he conducts the orchestra. Rather what was of the utmost concern was his ability to understand the score. And this is where I felt that being a manager and being a music conductor crossed paths, sharing a common perspective. A large part of my time was spent presenting my organization to customers, members and donors, which required me to have the most complete understanding of the organization possible. No one would acknowledge me as being an artist or call me maestro, no matter how effective my informed presentation might be. But I do believe that my compatriot, conductor Ozawa, would understand and offer a respectful nod of affirmation.

A True Son of Adam

Anyone familiar with the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden likely knows that a serpent enticed Eve into eating the forbidden fruit. She in turn convinced her chump of a husband to do the same. One of the lesser elements of this story, which many people may not know, is that when asked by God why he, Adam, ate what Eve had offered replied that, “The woman you put here with me  – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” In essence Adam’s defense was that the woman, not the devil, made him do it and indirectly it was God’s fault for making the woman in the first place.

Like a true son of Adam I am prepared to make the same assertion as my forebear. In my case, however, the excuse needs to be stated in the plural. It’s the women’s fault! And what in heaven’s name is my offense? I have given in to an insatiable gluttony of watching all of those athletically gifted daughters of Eve who are competing in the World Cup.

I have yet to miss a game other than when the Fox network simulcast two games a day during the group stage. Otherwise my calendar has been loaded with the start times and opponents engaged in soccer combat that has come to dictate my daily regimen. My obsession with the tournament has completely obliterated my previous discipline of writing, including posting this belated web log message. Saturday was my self-imposed deadline, but this fall from grace in my daily productivity is the best indication I can offer of my inclination towards the deadly sin of sloth.

I know that you will think that lust should be included in my explanation of why I am doing little more than sitting in my recliner for several hours a day. But I plead an interest in watching a sport I could never master being played by my fellow exiles from the Garden in a way that the testosterone charged bad boys of soccer cannot. I can envy the abilities of the female combatants precisely because of their natural allure whereas the athletic prowess of the elite men in the international world of football, aka soccer to those of us in the US, produces a wrath born of competitive impotence by comparison.

My sense of greed fuels my desire for the US women’s team to be the ones to hoist the World Cup trophy when the final whistle blows. And the pride I will feel at witnessing their achievement can only be equaled by seeing them do it again four years from now. I will be watching, Lord willing.

Whose Past? Whose Path?

One of my addictions is my walk to the library on a Saturday afternoon to read the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal. The addiction stems from my reliance on their Review section to let me know if there is a new book of inordinate promise for my reading interests and pleasure. In case this seems like a source for capitalist consumption only, I must point out now that I learned about George R. R. Martin through WSJ long before Game of Thrones was a mega hit for HBO as well as the works of Bernard Cornwell without the knowledge of Sharp’s Rifles having been a popular series of lesser status on the more cultured PBS network.

I mention this as the setup for the articles which absorbed my attention in the June 1-2 edition of the paper. Front page and occupying a large part of the Review section was a group of articles about the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations for democracy, which prompted the brutal crackdown by the Chinese ruling party. This was at a time when the mainstream news outlets in America were still committed to reporting the news and those of us old enough to cherish those times of a reputable free press remember the televised image of a single man confronting a line of tanks. The exhilarating promise of the birth of democracy within a totalitarian regime gave way to censorship during a bloody repression tantamount to a botched abortion.

This being the first weekend in June 2019, space was also made available for reviews of five new books about the 1944 D-Day invasion of the Normandy coast in France, which ultimately led to the defeat of the German army the following year. As something of a sidebar there was also a review of a book entitled The Washington War by James Lacey about the inner workings of President Roosevelt’s administration during the entire conflict. The timing of the books’ release is easily understandable since this is the 75th anniversary of the allied armies establishing the much hoped for western front by the launching the most complex logistical invasion ever undertaken in human history. The result bequeathed to the world a largely free and independent Western Europe. Those nations liberated by Russia didn’t fare so well.

The contrast between the two anniversaries can only be described in polar opposite terms. If there be any point of commonality between them it is only in the bloody nature of the fighting which accompanied the clash between ideologies on the shores of the French coastline and later in the streets of Tiananmen. The absence of events commemorating the sacrifices made by the exuberant Chinese students who launched a peaceful protest for democracy thirty years ago gives silent testimony, mercilessly enforced, to the basic contrast between the two events. We cannot say enough often enough to memorialize what was done seventy-five years ago, hence the issue of new books about a day in the life of freedom.

There is much about Chinese culture that we praise, sometimes to the point of envy. The ancient nation’s achievements in the arts and sciences dwarf American aspirations when the comparison is based on their longevity. But the disparate legacies of a June day in 1944 and that of one in April 1989 should tell us about whose path we wish to take based on whose history portends the greatest promise for a free and prosperous future. America the upstart is still the beautiful and sometimes wonderfully boastful to the point of national arrogance. But as long as our good intentions continue to let freedom ring, then I can join in with a little flag waving and even dare to kneel at the sound of our national anthem in prayerful gratitude for the time and place of my birth.

Prisoners of Hope

I am drawn to statements which turn our perspective from the obvious to what we often regard as being counterintuitive. It intrigues me that someone has the gift to see below the surface of our conditions and experiences to recognize an opportunity we would otherwise miss as the result of being mesmerized by the reflection of a glistening facade. We bestow on such people a mystic quality denied the rest of us held captive by the ordinary vistas of plain sight. We even revere them or sometimes fear them based upon our own emotional strengths and weaknesses.

One such person was an Old Testament prophet by the name of Zechariah. He appeared among the Hebrew people at a time when they were attempting to rebuild their culture following their return from an forced exile imposed on them by the Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar. The duration of their captivity was approximately seventy years, a type of statute of limitations foretold by another prophet named Jeremiah. He also advised them to pursue an industrious life while in exile. His rationale was that while their labor would benefit their captors, they would also be benefitting themselves, acquiring skills and wealth in preparation for their ultimate return to the land of promise.

Upon their arrival they did start to construct the foundation for a new temple, the central component of their national identity. They also built an altar on which to resume their practice of animal sacrifices to symbolically bring cleansing to the people. But then a form of apathy set in and all progress stopped. They regressed into a form of self-aggrandizement, which produced a negative return. Their resources were dwindling and all the promises inherent in a sense of restoration became seemingly ethereal. This denouement in their return was the cue for Zechariah to take center stage and convince them otherwise.

Bible scholars debate the credibility of his message. But what else is new? All the books contained within the cover of the Bible, especially those which claim prophetic privilege, are critiqued for time, place, and authorship based on the internal evidence of the writer’s syntax and historic references. Regardless of the efficacy of these critiques, students committed to puzzling through Zechariah’s sequence of visions have identified eight key pieces in the peoples’ spiritual heritage, which he used as the means for inspiring them to resume their labors in constructing the temple and abiding by the rules of sacrifice to and worship of the Maker of heaven and earth.

What certain scholars claim to see in his eschatology is: 1) the people of Israel were God’s chosen for whom he cared deeply; 2)  their foes had been completely destroyed; 3) God’s blessings would follow the completion of the temple; 4) Joshua, the high priest, was symbolic of the coming messiah; 5) the work would be done “not by might” but by the invigorating power of God’s spirit; 6) the land would be purified of all wickedness with the teaching of the law; 7) wickedness, itself, would be banished to the land of Israel’s former captors; and 8) the end result would be the kingdom’s perpetual security.

I must acknowledge that the preceding paragraph is simply a theological freebie. Such conclusions are beyond by capabilities to discern from my casual reading of the text and is offered here as a surrender to substance before getting to my own point for this message. By comparison to what Biblical scholars may offer, my own dalliance with a single phrase lifted from Zechariah’s writing might best be viewed in keeping with the proverbial phrase plucked from the pages of the New Testament in which the Apostle Paul admitted to looking through a glass darkly. I am not of the time or culture in which Zechariah made his prophetic statements. Yet echoing down through the long ages (another borrowed sentiment) Z’s words do have a pleasant, perhaps even pertinent, implication for our own particular time and place.

Zechariah said of these returnees from seventy years of captivity in Babylonia that they were prisoners of hope. Here, then, is that counter-intuitive insight of which I am enamored. The young prophet turned the political aspects of their enslavement into a moral and emotional one. Building on the foundation laid by his revered predecessor, Jeremiah, he was able to upend the peoples’ popular concept of their troubles by interpreting their captivity as a time of hope. During their years in exile they had anticipated their own return to the land of their origin due to Jeremiah’s promise of a time limit to their exile, which would also prove to be a time of spiritual and temporal growth. The people had lived with hope despite the restraints on their movements and what we term their civil liberties.

Given the malaise in which Zechariah found them, this was like a splash of cold water tossed in the face of their despair. His wakeup call to their true status may have damaged his credibility given the all too apparent harsh reality of the circumstances, which kept the people focused solely on their subsistence. So Zechariah urged them on to something greater than themselves by changing their perspective about those circumstances supported by a vision for Israel’s future. He was vindicated in his strategy when the people renewed their avowed purpose and finished the temple’s construction.

If we are to be captives, what better jailer could we have than the positive outlook that overrides every situation in the anticipation that something good will happen? This is not in spite of the circumstances, but because of them; good emerging in the midst of oppressive conditions because of what we make of them. Otherwise we let circumstances define us and yield to the chorus of woes, which reinforce the tendency to do little or nothing at all.

Prisoners are people, who are denied the liberty of movement by a force more powerful than themselves.   Hope is an attitude, which seeks the perfect expression of liberty. To be a prisoner of hope, therefore, is to be controlled by an overwhelming force, which empowers us without deviation to pursue the goals which give life meaning. Let us choose in this day and age to heed Zechariah’s words and be prisoners of hope rather than prisoners of an all-consuming hopelessness.

Whistling In The Dark

Part of the dinner conversation I had the other night with someone close to me concerned one of the most common dilemmas we face when working for any hierarchical organization; the abuses a subordinate sees taking place yet has no bestowed authority by which they can mandate a remedy. What is left to them is either silence, which is a distasteful form of collaboration, or what we term whistle blowing.

If a person takes the latter path, they do so without really knowing how high up in the organization the moral corruption exists. In any entity where this kind of behavior persists long enough to be considered the norm, you can be assured that the sky is the limit when it comes to the lack of the courage and integrity amongst the leadership to address the abuses. The whistle blower is then literally as well as figuratively whistling in the dark.

Another undesirable aspect we must confront within the confines of whistle blowing is that it is a decision taken in admission that we can never be part of the solution. It is an act of surrender since the unstated aspect of this tactic is the implicit acknowledgement that changes from within is beyond one’s capabilities to implement. Heads may roll, but the avalanche is just as likely to include the bearer of bad news as well as the culprits we wish to bring to some sort of justice.

The sad news is that there is rarely any justice within the framework of human operations. Human nature assigns blame to all who are involved in any investigation. And there is a certain stigma attached to the whistle blower for being another kind of offender, a stooge or a snitch if you will, a person who has violated the trust of everyone else affiliated with the organization in question. For when the whistle is blown even the innocent will bear the mark of guilt by association if only for being blind to what the rest of us now know to be obviously true thanks to the superiority invested in us by hindsight.

My sympathies are with the person of integrity, who knows that there is something wrong with the system, which fails to serve the people who are supposed to be the beneficiaries of the organization’s reason for existence. There is no easy solution for how to act on such knowledge. The analogy I have often employed when attempting to address any type of abuse is that it is like striking the tar baby; even if you can subsequently extricate yourself from the offender, you will still come away with some measure of stain from the experience. Hopefully a measure of wisdom also ensues as experience is credited with being our best teacher.

Despite my occasional susceptibility to cynicism, I am an optimist. I can honestly campaign for the premise that right makes might, with the caveat that might in this case is the struggle to maintain one’s own good name in pursuit of a worthy cause. Success for correcting the abuses cannot be guaranteed. Success, however, in emerging with one’s soul intact is a given.

My suggested solution is to personify right behavior and always ask – especially in the presence of others – if the correct tactic can be implemented. Then be prepared to illustrate how this can be done to achieve the best result. The why is less important than the how as abuses often arise because a supervisor has been elevated to a position of authority beyond their means to perform, not because they are congenitally immoral.

A credible solution, which you will help to implement, has its own appeal, especially if you do not care who gets the credit for its success. Applaud the work of everyone involved and give your supervisor the necessary accolades for choosing the best path. Maintain a modicum of humility in order to position yourself for the next opportunity to amend a deficiency and then act once again with the same resolution.

I do have an ulterior motive for suggesting this strategy as an alternative to whistle blowing. The advantage here is that it creates its own form of accountability. The “A” word for the incompetent creates discomfort, which in turn can lead to early retirement or a late in life career change. Ultimately abuses are corrected with personnel changes, not adjustments to policies and procedures. Being the good and faithful servant to an abusive leader means having one eye on the benefits bestowed on those you serve and one eye on the abusers eventual exit – peacefully achieved. When successfully done, you can whistle a happy tune resonating with a clear conscience.

The Eyes Of The Heart

There is a line in a prayer which intrigues me. Actually there is more than one, but this particular line or phrase is beguiling enough to become the subject of this week’s message. It tells us of a person’s earnest request that the eyes of the heart be enlightened. The intent of this illumination is that the heart may come to gain certain insights exclusive to its inherent ability to comprehend and employ such revelations as a mitigating factor in our behavior.

For the heart to have eyes which need to be enlightened, implies first of all that the core of our feelings generally abides in a darkness imposed by ignorance. The eternal command spoken at the creation to allow the light to shine resonates here in the pleading of one whose supplication was for the benefit of others.

Second, it asserts the belief that certain knowledge must be felt as well as thought. More than just an attainment of verifiable facts, this concept of knowledge uses informed emotions to fashion our capacity for understanding. It foresees how knowledge requires the presence of compassion to soften the blows from the blunt force trauma of naked truth or mercy overruling the cold calculation of results.

We attribute knowledge to the mind, emotions to the heart. Both are needed. The soul in balance is a prerequisite for delving into the deeper meanings of such essentials as hope, contentment and security. This, at least, was the passionate opinion of the supplicant, whose meditation and writings inspired my own brief message. My trust is in the efficacy of another’s prayer to produce more in me than the mere fulfillment of a writing assignment. My mind is skeptical, my heart reassuring.

Questions From Answers

I took advantage of the inclement weather during my visit to my daughter’s farm as the reason to stay indoors away from the outside work of clearing more pasture land on which her horses can graze. Inside is something of a euphemism as it includes being inside a car for a reasonably short drive to the small Oklahoma town where my family resided in the early 1900s. The balance of my inside time was in the Genealogy Room of the Okmulgee Public Library, my interest being the discovery of information about my maternal grandmother in order to resolve some of the mysteries about her quiet life.

Everyone who knew her loved her. Sher was a major player in my young life as she would stay with us during the school year in order to help my mother, her only daughter, manage three young school-aged boys. We were a trial, but not an ordeal. From oldest to youngest there was an eleven year span of time, which means our interests and activities were as unique to us individually as they were varied when taken as a whole. My scholarly older brother excelled in school activities while my childish younger brother was too small to do anything without adult supervision. Me, I majored in play, which included every sport and every juvenile game as long as it took place outside despite the weather.

These memories are of a time when we lived in Southern California, the Promised Land of the continental U.S. My grandmother’s heart, however, was in her small town, Oklahoma home. Summers she would take the train “back east” to my young way of thinking, and live with her oldest son and be accessible to her female grandchildren of much gentler pursuits.

All of us, regardless of the location of our homestead, remember our grandmother as a kind, caring, quietly helping and supportive soul. We loved her then and love her memory still. It is her quiet nature, though, that causes me keen displeasure in my own old age. She did not talk much about her young life, which has created many a mystery about her. Before my mom’s passing I asked her what I regarded to be simple questions about her mother, but was amazed that she often answered “I don’t know. I never asked.” It seems we all took grandma’s compassionate qualities for granted. We absorbed her love like a gathering of sponges and rested secure in her ability to leave us satiated with the joy of her presence.

Grandma, I have since come to appreciate, was something of an illusion. Her life with us was real enough. Her past, however, was left where she once lived it, seemingly content with the knowledge that she did her best to handle the pain of life’s challenges and willing to leave it all behind, where it could no longer hurt anyone she loved. There were some good times, no doubt, but what we know based on family lore and legend is that the pain was likely greater than the joy one associates with one’s childhood. It seems that Grandma intentionally forged for her children and her grandchildren the kind of life she did not know when she was young.

Grandma never spoke about her father. He disappeared from the family records without a trace other than leaving behind a wife, a daughter and two dead infant sons. This part of her history is so shrouded in mystery that we do not even know where grandma was born. She always claimed Missouri as her state of origin, but the specific location remains unknown. I have a copy of her obituary (an answer of sorts), but the community named as her birthplace never existed (leaving me with further questions). We know Grandma’s birthday and the year, 1888, but the U.S. census for 1890 (a potential source of answers) was destroyed in a fire (leaving me with questions once again).

My great grandmother remarried. Her second husband was a widower with seven children and their own union contributed three more daughters to the expansive household. Family legend (a source of answers) says that Grandma pleaded with her mom not to marry the man. But women alone in that day were bound for hardship. And my guess is that great grandmother Mollie was not well educated and therefore not very well suited for any other life than that of being a wife and mother (a guess and therefore an unresolved question).

During my trip to that small Oklahoma town where Grandma spent most of her adult life and where my own mother was born, uncovered some good documentary evidence about her life (answers). She worked as a checker in Cowden’s Laundry and lived with her Aunt Lizzie and Uncle Bart. Their obituaries disclosed that they made the trip from Missouri to Oklahoma with their two daughters in 1901. Did Grandma make the journey with them or arrive at a later date (a question)? I know from an ad in an old directory that the laundry was founded in 1906 (an answer), but the earliest edition of that directory listing all the residence of the town and their occupations was 1909. That is where I learned that Grandma was one of their employees. It would be nice to think that she was an original employee of Cowden’s, but that is just a guess (another question).

I asked my mother once if Grandma ever talked about her wedding to my grandfather. She said no. All she knew is that his family, a prominent one in that small Oklahoma town, opposed his marriage to a lowly laundress. I found a copy of their marriage license (an answer). It was issued on the same day their wedding ceremony took place before a justice of the peace and not the church wedding one would anticipate Grandma desired. But then the young couple disappeared from all documentary evidence until grandfather’s death just eight and a half years later. The cause of his death is unknown (a question).

Family lore says it was due to typhoid fever, but his death occurred at a time when the Spanish influenza carried away many. He left Grandma with three young sons, a daughter to be born five months later, and me with a lot of questions about their life together during the brief time they had. From his death on the story is pretty clear. Grandma went back to working at the laundry and remained there until she retired in the late 1940s. Photos and personal memories abound, all of them good and well cherished by those of us who knew her. I could only wish my own children had the opportunity to experience the love, which pervaded my childhood home due to her wonderful presence.

I am committed to finding out more about her as the opportunity arises to visit places where the evidence might linger. Grandma was born into a time and place that did not easily submit itself to paper. There is no birth certificate for her and no death certificate for her father. They were not prominent enough to make the news reported in the short-lived newspapers of those days. Then, as now, politics dominated the press coverage. Murders made the grade as did the chicanery of those in the east, who connived to keep prices for crops and livestock sales low. Widows and their children were of little concern. They were too plentiful and lacked the voting power sufficient to be anything other than a nuisance.

My hope is to do Lula’s story justice, even if its publication remains confined to family members, even though questions arise from every answer I find. Love wills out. And I have the time in my retirement days to pursue my investigations, when not helping my children cope with their own challenges in life like expanding pasture land. Grandma would be pleased with my attempts and would have a wonderful dinner waiting for us, when our labors were through. It is what I know about her life that suggests this would be true.

About Being A Letter

Most of my messages are based on books that I have read. The most influential of these has always been the Bible. I was told as a child that it contained all I needed to know about the meaning and purpose of life. Such a notion has provided adequate motivation to make its acquaintance a daily habit. I have subsequently often found small things in its contents, which are very intriguing, to me at least, and allow my imagination to ramble along lines of reasoning uniquely my own.

Take for example a comment made by the Apostle Paul in his second letter to the Christian community in the Greek city of Corinth. This is a group he had founded, but it was also one that caused him a good deal of grief. It seems appropriate that he considered himself to be their spiritual father for their behavior mirrored that of many a mischievous child.

Defending his intrusion as a disciplining parent, he asked if he needed a letter of introduction to them in order to justify his attempts to impart some much needed guidance. Many of us as children have been on the receiving end of such a rhetorical question. No answer is really being sought by our parental authorities. Rather it is simply an introduction to the current lesson on proper deportment.

In the case of the Corinthian problem children the good man answered his own question by telling them that they were his letter; one written by their lord Jesus. The implication was that its contents were not of introduction but of commendation; another’s assessment of Paul’s efficacy as a parent. It is his use of this metaphorical image where the cogs in my brain begin to churn even though I have no obvious association with the apostle’s hard core case of delinquents.

My mental meandering begins with the simple act of demystifying the authorship of my own revealing epistle by asking, “Whose letter am I?” As a child, the answer would be almost exclusively my parents. As an older perpetrator of mischief the answer would be much more complex; teachers, friends, employers, a spouse and ultimately my children of natural and supernatural origin.

A follow-up question is far more challenging to contemplate. If I am a letter, what is my message? I can best answer that by telling you what I want it to be. Disregarding titles, although I have attained a few of them during my career, my preference would be for comments – and hopefully compliments – about my character. Honorable, trustworthy, loyal, truthful, compassionate, dependable and loving are the words I would want to hear spoken in eulogy at my funeral, if I could only manage to be in attendance for that particular occasion. Suffice it to say, I will be elsewhere.

What about you? If you think of your life as being someone else’s letter, what would your message be? What we value says a lot about who we are. The pursuit of fame and fortune seems to dominate the news as the popular measures of a person’s worth. At least these are the things that will make you newsworthy, if that is indeed your goal. If your self-appraisal is not all that commendable in your own eyes, it is not too late to make a change. That is one of the joys of life; we are never actually done living – learning, maturing and developing – until the eulogist has cause to prepare his or her comments concerning the message of our life.

Piling On!

A popular game on the playground, when I was in grade school, was one we called Piling On. The rules were simple: tackle some unsuspecting dupe and then encourage everyone else to pile on. The goal was to crush the guy on the bottom, a condition we found to be extremely delightful for some reason. And this being our prepubescent years, we never saw any reason to let the girls play. It would take a few more years for us to discover that gender equality has its merits.

The only reason this game has come to mind after all these years is watching the reaction to the Muller Report. No matter who you are or what your political affiliation might be, it seems the name of the game is that of piling on. Everyone has a comment to make. Well, almost everyone. I have to admit that I have not seen any quotes coming from Princess Charlotte yet, but give her time. She is cute, adorable and extremely fashionable, which are all perquisites for having highly sought after opinions. Just ask the family members that no one seems to be able to keep up with.

My own opinion is merely an echo of a wonderful line written by Eva Stachniak, author of The Winter Palace. Regarding the court intrigue surrounding Catherine the Great’s rule over Imperial Russia she writes “Life is a game and every player is cheating.”

This is perhaps the best executive summary of the Mueller Report. No redaction needed.

Concessions

My new initiative concerns my website. It is old, as am I. It can be renewed and in a way, so can I. The transformation for us both is essentially internal. For me it’s a change of perspective and for the website it’s a change in plug-ins, widgets and content. But once these modifications are complete the appearance of the website will be different than before, while I will remain the same old man I see in the mirror on those occasional mornings, when I determine there is a need to shave.

The transformation of us both is taking place, as usual, with the help of someone younger than myself, someone more computer literate, and certainly someone more prone to take risks in the digital world. Her presence confers on me the mantel of being in charge, while remaining clueless as to the actual functions she is implementing, which need to be activated to achieve the desired result.

This is all humbling to my aging ego. But if I am to make progress in the current age of communication, then a little humility is an acceptable currency I can afford to expend in the name of progress. There are some other concessions I must also make if I am to look my best in the virtual marketplace. Chief among them is a new identity.

It has been several years since another young friend set me up with a website promoting my consulting services for non-profit organizations. The emphasis of the content then was to highlight my experience with strategic planning, budgeting, accounting, financing, fund raising, and volunteer recruitment. Good stuff all, but no longer in keeping with what I truly want my retirement life to entail.

Escaping the bean counter imprimatur of my professional career, I am resurrecting one of my youthful aspirations and that is the role of being a writer. My new website will promote this identity first and foremost, while allowing the past to remain just that in an honorable fashion befitting its former success.

My seconded concession is closely related to the first and that is a change in persona. Self-promotion has never been a characteristic of my work. Low-key, restrained, and stable are the terms the people who know me would likely use if asked to describe me in one word or less. And in public that will continue to be the case. I am those things as I occupy any tangible arena.

But on the web a new character will be evident; one who is letting his various forays into event planning, marketing and public relations to further define his enhanced identity by using titles like producer and director as well as that of writer. Once the website is completely updated, it will hopefully justify my claim to such fame.

A modicum of humility will also be in evidence as I make a third concession in order to moderate the excess of the cosmetic appearances of a new identity and persona. This concerns my pursuit of being published. In all likelihood my website will be the extent of my public presence. So the site is going to suffer from serious overload of content rather than just containing headlines, blurbs and images of book covers that published authors can get by with. They have more, which you can find on a library bookshelf or download from a service like Audible.com. I am not surrendering to something inevitable, just resigning myself to the internet being my one and only publishing house.

The trade-off is a change in attitude. Bean counters are not allowed to be creative or frivolous. That mindset is all behind me now. The point is to enjoy these moments to the fullest. If self-proclaimed titles are all I have, then I say let’s celebrate even this modicum of success and have a little fun.

Humorist Will Rogers once quipped about the income tax making bigger liars out of us than golf ever did. Now we have the internet and our websites offer a far more robust opportunity for fibbing than Rogers ever imagined. And once the weather improves, I’ll start working on my golf game.