Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

Cape Cod

Sunday musings 10/21/18

Sunday musings…

1) Banal. Ordinary. Most tragedies begin with something banal. A tiny misstep. Truth bent just a little bit. Took a wrong turn.  Tragedy averted or avoided is likewise usually accomplished by the banal.

When doing the next right thing, in spite of an error either forced or unforced, is the ordinary thing.

2) Proximity. To greatness that is. What must it be like to spend your life in the presence or proximity of true greatness? I’ve long publicly held that I am not in possession of the genius gene. Rather I seem to have a rather dominant expression of the “Salieri” gene, that certain ability to both identify and promote the genius of another. Unlike the real Salieri I also inherited the gene that prompts me to protect any of those geniuses with whom I may come in contact (Salieri famously was said to have destroyed Mozart the man while promoting, and profiting from, his genius).

To be in the presence of the giants in any field is a privilege. In my day job I have reached a stage (I’m old enough) and have acquired enough status (a few people know who I am) where I occasionally share a stage with the giants upon whose shoulders we all ride. Just last month I sat next to Ken Kenyon and Hank Perry, two of the pioneers in the tiny slice of eye care where I might yet make my mark. Not gonna lie, it’s hard not to be a little bit starstruck up there.

Which makes me wonder what it must be like to spend your entire career recording the exploits and the thoughts on the same of some of the best “whatever” in the world. More than that, what if in so doing you become one of them, so good at how you let the rest of us into the world of whoevers, athletes or musicians, artists or scientists who are simply the best at what they do. Sometimes the best ever. Hemingway taught us about soldiers and war in his early works. Jimmy Chin and Jon Krakauer have likewise opened the eyes of flatlanders everywhere to what it’s like to stand on the top of the world.

Sportswriters are classic examples of individuals who spend their days in the presence of varying degrees of excellence. Of genius. Most give us a fair rendering of the facts, sometimes leavened by insight, but an occasional writer stands out among the others through their own sheer excellence. Grantland Rice, Red Smith, and Jim Anderson form a kind of Mt. Rushmore of pioneers. Perhaps Dan Deform and Bob Ryan belong there as well. If you follow athletics at all you have favorites. At some time, though, these men and women either pass from this life or simply pass from writing. My point, then, is a simple one: those who spend their working lives in the presence of other types of genius who are, themselves, the very best at putting together the words that let us, those who are at best a Salieri, see into the world of the best athletes should be treasured. Recognized and enjoyed while they ply their gifts on our behalf. Their words, like “A Farewell to Arms”, will live on, but there is something special about reading those words when they are fresh.

Do yourself a favor. Pick up or surf to Sports Illustrated and read Tim Layden’s piece on Tommie Smith and John Carlos. It’s a story 50 years in the making that in the hands of Layden feels as fresh as last week’s news. Yet like so many of his pieces you know that it will feel just as important 5, or 10, or 50 years hence. Read it and be in the presence of greatness.

3) Judgement. Who am I? Today, that is. Who am I today? Who is it you know if you know me today? My friend and I were chatting a bit about our college years and who we were (and who we thought we were) back then. Make no mistake, we both loved our years in school (though we went to the same college our paths did not cross until many years later) and look back on them with great fondness. Recent events in our country have prompted us to look back and view our college years through a slightly different lens. While we were enjoying our college experience, how did our experience impact others there at the time? How have we grown as men and women since then?

Who are we today? When you think of us, judge us, choose whether or not to associate with us, are you thinking of who we are today or who we were (or you thought we were) at some time in our past? Which version of who we are–for you cannot escape any version of yourself–is the one that makes you choose to stand with us or agin us? Nobody is the same person today that they were yesterday, and who you are today is only how you start out tomorrow. Which version do you see when you see us?

No answers here my friends; the answers are for you to divine when you look at all of us in and around your life. For my friend and for me we appear to be mostly cut from similar cloth, two men with some of the standard issue flaws of humanity who have simply tried to be better in all ways each tomorrow since we started thinking about it. We were hardly “bad boys” but we are both saddened when we look back and realize that we could have done better, been better. We want to give our children a head start by sharing this; they are often already there, instead guiding us to be better now.

We are who we have become today, and who we will continue to try to be for a forever’s worth of tomorrow’s. Because we did want to be better, even as we were learning what that meant. We still do. Who am I to you today? Who do you see when I stand before you today?My friend and I have spent many yesterday’s trying to be better so that who you see today is worthy of you.

I’ll see you next week…


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