Just months earlier, I was wandering around Asia and Europe with a backpack and a little money. I explored the world for over a year by hitchhiking, bicycling, and cheap Indian trains. Now I was in charge of 150 people in southern Venezuela, making decisions on what people to layoff, where to use our expensive helicopters, and how to ensure the safety of all the crews spread out on the Venezuela-Colombian border during the days of active FARC guerilla operations.
That was a long time ago.
I learned that it just takes having responsibility foisted onto your shoulders for you to step up to the task. Fatherhood demonstrated the same beautifully human ability. Our potential to take on great roles is incredible. We can move into whatever role is necessary.
With experience I have become fast and efficient in my work. However, speed isn’t the greatest measures of usefulness or effectiveness. What are we actually producing? With so much self-adulation/self-marketing on social media (guilty as charged!), I'm reminded of the problem of living in our own bubble of a controlled environment and inflated importance.
Nearly one hundred years ago, US President, Calvin Coolidge noted the problems with “self-worship” when people in authority are “constantly assured of their greatness”. He notes:
“They live in an artificial atmosphere of adulation and exaltation which sooner or later impairs their judgment. They are in great danger of becoming careless and arrogant.”
Serving others is a kiss from the fingertips to the air. It is one of the most noble pursuits. The following is a poem I wrote a long time ago for my students. I give them a copy when they graduate–when they move from students to colleagues.
Wrapped in parchment,
Sunshine has worn days,
On those paused in learning.
The door is slammed shut
It is your time to lead.
Knowledge meet wisdom,
Courage meet need.
Feet vault where they will,
They can manage all curves.
Summit the lithe garden
Where it's the victor who serves.
I have been writing poems all my adult life, but who really needs poetry? In Glittering Vices, philosopher Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung confesses:
“I lust after recognition, I am desperate to win all the little merit badges and trinkets of my profession, and I am of less real use in this world than any good cleaning lady.”
Joyce Kilmer wrote this beautiful poem, recognizing our limited ability and importance.
I think that I shall never see Trees
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,