Sunday, August 2, 2020

Post No. 198: There Has to be Something Bigger than One's Self

© 2020, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

My last blog post was on June 4, 2016.  It has been a complex 4 years. Shortly before that date, my good friend, mentor, and Founding Member of the Institute for Applied Common Sense, Willy Hopkins (a/k/a The Laughingman), left, as he would characterize it, “…this mortal coil.”  My father, who I consider to have been a great man (and not just because he was my father), passed a couple of weeks short of his 97th birthday. He had that indomitable spirit and positive influence on me to the end. Finally, one of the most in-depth thinkers and a calming influence in my life, Darryl Jackson (a/k/a The Optimizer of the Institute), passed far too early in life when he had so much more value to bestow on the young people who he taught.

So here I stand, the only surviving member of the Institute for Applied Common Sense (2 weeks shy of the tender age of 69 and before I start the 2nd half of my life), trying to figure out what to say in 750 words or less, which pays tribute to these men in life, and yet encapsulates all my thoughts for the past 4 years.  In September of last year, while observing the Senate hearings on Brett Kavanaugh, I decided on the title of this piece, but did not get around to writing it until today, when the memorial service for civil rights icon, John Lewis, took place.  I listened to all of the speakers at his service, and there appeared to be a common theme, and thus the title of this piece.

Recently, I have been concerned about the extent to which many people think that, “it’s all about them, and what they want.”   My dad was a caring, humble, relatively quiet man, who did wonders for his community.  He won several community service awards from the NAACP and never mentioned them to me while I was living in California.  But then again, he never had to be concerned about being re-elected.

I first started gathering my thoughts about this life principle when Bill Clinton was facing impeachment.  It just seemed to me that the office and institution of the presidency, and the goals which he sought to accomplish, were more important than Bill Clinton, the individual, remaining in that position. He was not the only individual who could advance those goals.  Additionally, his credibility and effectiveness were severely affected by his indiscretions.  My position is that he should have immediately resigned, and allowed his vice – president, Al Gore, to carry on the mission (which Clinton did not personally own).  

I felt the same way during the hearings with respect to prospective Supreme Court Associate Justice, Brett Cavanaugh.  Even if he felt that the allegations of sexual misconduct had no validity whatsoever, I felt that he should have removed his name from consideration and fought the allegations outside of the context of the hearings.  Once again, it seemed to me that the seat and institution of the Supreme Court justice, and the goals which his party and supporters sought to accomplish, were more important than Brett Cavanagh, the individual, putting up a fight to acquire that position. He was not the only individual who could advance those goals. 

Additionally, his credibility and effectiveness, and respect for the Court would be, arguably, negatively impacted by his getting the seat.  Why would someone want that to satisfy one’s personal desires?  Interestingly, right after Mr. Kavanagh was successful in fending off the challenges, and confirmed by the Senate, President Trump congratulated Mr. Kavanagh for putting up the vigorous fight, and alluded to former Senator Al Franken, as having “folded like a wet rag.”

So, what is my message to college students, who are my target audience?  It seems to me that personal responsibility includes thinking beyond one’s self and one’s personal goals.  Though the Laughingman and the Optimizer are gone, I still reach out to others to expand my thinking about the concepts and issues about which I write.  The Laughingman introduced me to someone who often provides kernels of thought.  During an exchange with him earlier this year, he suggested that I pose two questions to the readers of this piece.

The first was, “What would your grandfather or grandmother have done confronted with your current situation?”

The second was, “While you may presently be strapped for money because of being ‘sheltered in place’, you now have a lot of free time.  What can you do with this free time to make a difference in the quality of someone else’s life?”  He suggests that thinking about improving someone else’s life can help you improve your own....

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