Book Review: The Fire is Upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley Jr. and the Debate over Race in America

What a fascinating and enlightening book! I had seen the Baldwin/Buckley debate at Cambridge on YouTube so I was at least familiar with that event. However, I was not familiar with the backstories regarding the two men and how they influenced the civil rights movement. Buccola’s book provides an excellent historical context around the debate. I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I was not familiar with Mr. Baldwin’s contributions regarding the civil rights movement. Baldwin was certainly a very persuasive and excellent spokesman for civil rights.

I was familiar with Mr. Buckley, particularly through his TV show Firing Line which I watched in my much younger years. Though I did not always agree (or understand) Mr. Buckley’s point of view, I was always impressed by his articulateness, vocabulary and presentation. However after reading this book, I am not so impressed by Mr. Buckley. I had no idea about his views regarding civil rights and blacks as human beings. I know it was a different time and many people shared Mr. Buckley’s opinion that the civil rights movement was proceeding too quickly. But I ascribed more intelligence, judgment and reasoning to Mr. Buckley that he deserved. This book opened my eyes to this part of history that I missed.

According to the author, Mr Baldwin’s opinion of William F. Buckley was much harsher…

“Buckley, Baldwin believed, knew better and had the ability to exert a considerable amount of influence in the world. Indeed, Buckley’s work as a guardian of white supremacy was, from Baldwin’s perspective, more sinister than that of the most hardened racists in American politics. Time and again, Buckley’s ends were the same as the racist demagogues he was always sure to condemn; his primary objection to these men was the means they chose to use on behalf of ‘the cause of white people.’ For these reasons, Baldwin concluded, some of the blood shed as a result of the American racial nightmare was on Buckley’s hands.”

The author points out this warning for American politics today…

“The price of victory, though, has been incredibly high. The American Right seems to be in much the same place today as where it found itself over half a century ago. To achieve overwhelming power, conservatives have had to rely on the political energy provided by racial resentment and status anxiety. Much like Buckley, many conservative elites find reliance on such energy unseemly, but they cling to it because they know it gives life to their agenda. For the American Right, the price of power has been a deal with the devil of white supremacy. This was true in Buckley’s time, and it is true in our own.”

The book is about 400 pages. If you only have limited time, read the transcript of the debate at Cambridge found in the Appendix of the book.

My Favorite Books for 2021

I am a voracious reader. This year I have read 64 books so far and I will probably read another 2-3 books by year end. I tend to be picky as to what I read and I am somewhat reluctant to recommend books  to others given my “eclectic” tastes. Over 80% of what I read is non-fiction though I did recommend two fiction books that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Here are my Top 10 books of 2021 and two extra recommendations..

I have read many of the Trump presidency books. I find that the one written by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa is the best. Peril also covers the candidacy and early administration of Joe Biden and the comparison between the Trump and Biden administration is compelling. I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year by Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker is also excellent and the title is self explanatory as to the story within the book. Most of the book details Trump’s failure with managing the Covid pandemic.

1940: FDR, Wilkie, Lindbergh, Hitler—the Election Amid the Storm by Susan Dunn documents the leadership, judgment and foresight of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the year before we entered World War II. Many Americans wished to remain isolationist and did not want to support Great Britain even as its cities were attacked by German bombers. Wendell Wilkie was the unsuccessful Republican candidate for President in 1940. Wilkie ran an unconventional campaign but unlike many Republicans today accepted the results of the election and supported FDR’s policies about the impending war.

Corruption, bad judgment, mismanagement, suicides, deviant behavior, treachery and Donald Trump, all this and more in Dark Towers: Deutsche Bank, Donald Trump, and an Epic Trail of Destruction. This is a business book that reads like a novel, a huge international bank plagued by scandals.

If you are an Eagles fan, you will thoroughly enjoy Ray Didinger’s Finished Business. Lots of great stories about players, owners and coaches. If you are a basketball fan, Three Ring Circus by Jeff Pearlman about the Los Angeles Lakers team from 1996-2004 is very entertaining and provides some great insights into the rocky relationship between Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. Amazing how a very dysfunctional team was so successful. For baseball fans, October 1964 by David Halberstam is a bit of a dated book but an excellent read. It covered the 1964 seasons of the New York Yankees (with Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Yoga Berra) and the St Louis Cardinals (Bob Gibson, Tim McCarver, Stan Musial). Interesting personal portraits of many of the players were provided. Phillies fans, take note, the Phillies collapse towards the National League pennant is documented!

Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher about a crotchety, sarcastic Creative Writing teacher Jason Fitger was very funny. I would keep my wife awake with my laughter as I read the book in bed. Maybe the Fitger character reminded me of someone else who did not suffer fools gladly in his corporate life? I enjoyed the adventurous tales of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday in Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell. Interesting stories of the Wild West beyond the fight at the OK Corral.

The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, a Temptation, and the Longest Night of the Second World War by Malcolm Gladwell was an uncomfortable story. It detailed the thinking and strategies about how to close the wars against the Germans and the Japanese. There were two lines of thought. One was to bomb military and manufacturing targets primarily. Second, bomb population centers and destroy the morale of citizens. The decision on whether to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki also created moral dilemmas.

The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win by Maria Konnikova is primarily a story about a woman learning to play poker and also compete (and win) in big money tournaments. The bigger picture contains the lessons that she learns about psychology, luck, focus, risk and control that are useful as to how we conduct our lives, careers, finances and relationships.

Two extra recommendations:

Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America by Ijeoma Oluo (Title is self explanatory. I did not agree with some of her analysis but this book was very well presented and written.)

Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service by Carol Leonnig. Eye opening expose about the management and performance of the Secret Service. Interesting anecdotes about some of our Presidents and their interactions with the Secret Service.

Review: Peril by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa

Authors Bob Woodward and Robert Costa closed this book with the following warning based on a conversation with Donald Trump.

“Real power is – – I don’t even want to use the word – – fear,” Trump told us.

“I bring the rage out. I do bring rage out. I always have. I don’t know if that’s an asset or a liability, but whatever it is, I do.”

Could Trump work his will again? Were there any limits to what he and his supporters might do to put him back in power?

Peril remains.

I have read a number of the retrospectives of the Trump presidency particularly as it relates to his last year and last days in office. There is nothing in this book that presents Trump in a positive light. There are plenty of examples of him being a bully, arrogant, insensitive and just plain stupid. Despite entreaties from many in his cabinet, among advisers and even from his daughter Ivanka, Trump continued to believe that he was cheated in the 2020 presidential election. There is very little doubt that he caused the insurrection on January 6, 2021.

Most of the highlights of this book have been reported through various media. Here is my list of observations and analysis from this book:

Mike Pence was a coward. Yes he finally did the right thing by validating the election. But it appears to the reader that he was looking for a way to accommodate Donald Trump’s wishes to overturn the election results. Pence even sought the advice of that well-known constitutional scholar, Dan Quayle, as to what to do. Quayle thankfully told Pence that he had no role in overturning the election. Even after a Trump mob wanted to hang him, Pence returned to the White House and tried to mend a relationship with a man who mocked him and treated him very poorly during their four year administration.

General Mark Milley was a voice of reason during a very precarious period in our nation’s history. He understood the danger that Donald Trump represented and was very concerned that Trump would create either a war or some type of foreign policy crisis so he could stay in office. In particular Milley assured the Chinese that there would be no military actions against them. There were a few countries that were very concerned that Trump would initiate a military attack against them.

The benefit of this book was to see the campaign of Joe Biden and his first few months as President. The contrast in decency between Biden and Trump is very evident throughout the many anecdotes in this book. Unfortunately the Democratic party does not shine. Too much infighting. Lack of party discipline and unity. Too much influence by West Virginia senator Joe Manchin. One gets the sense that Biden is a placeholder and does not possess the necessary influence to put forward a transformative domestic agenda and get it passed in Congress.

Interestingly enough, there is not a lot of coverage about Vice President Kamala Harris. Biden had spoken with South Carolina congressman Jim Clyburn prior to the South Carolina primary and Biden indicated he was favorable to Kamala being on the national ticket. There is little indication how much influence Harris possesses in decision making or policy.

If you are going to read just one book about the end of the Trump presidency in 2021, this book is the best to read. Just don’t be surprised if Woodward has to write another sequel in 2024 about the re-election of Trump.

Book Review: Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump Presidency by Michael Wolff

There are so many tragedies described within this book. First, Donald Trump’s obsession with perceived fraud in the 2020 presidential election. It absolutely consumed him. Despite entreaties from some responsible Republicans, Trump continued to pursue crackpot theories and schemes that the election was stolen. His “legal team” filed hundreds of suits but no court, including the Supreme Court would listen to their case. Second, the complete fall of Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Once the hero of 9/11, he was described in this book as a drunk and a flatulent, senile old man, spinning wild conspiracy theories and urging Trump to just announce that he won the election. The third major tragedy was that approximately 74 million people voted for Donald Trump. And a significant majority of them also believed that Trump was the legitimate winner of the election.

The book describes the bizarre behaviors of Mike Lindell, Peter Navarro, Mike Flynn and Sidney Powell along with other Trump enablers to encourage Trump to protest the election.

Wolff also recounts the events of January 6, 2021 when at the urging of Donald Trump, his supporters invaded The Capitol. What will future generations think of us that such a horrific event could happen?

There are a number of unflattering portraits and descriptions of people within the Trump White House. Very few heroes exist as no one was able to curb the actions and plans of Donald Trump.

If you are not a supporter of President Trump, nothing in this book will surprise you. What may surprise you is how much worse things really were during his administration. Wolff also includes a chapter on his interview with Trump after the election. Unsurprisingly Trump is not apologetic or remorseful in what he put this nation through, especially in the last year of his Presidency.

Book Review: I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year by Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker

Anyone interested in reading this book should first understand that this is not a pro – Trump book. There are very few instances where Donald Trump is shown in a positive light or where he is shown competent in his job. This is not because of the prejudice of the authors but based on the actual reporting and eyewitness accounts during the last year of the Trump presidency. If you keep up with the news or have not been in a coma the past four years, there is not a lot in this book that will surprise you. If I gathered anything new it was that things were a lot worse than even I imagined.

This book primarily focuses on three major events/issues in Trump’s last year: handling (or mishandling) the coronavirus, the 2020 presidential election and post-election claims of fraud by Trump resulting in the January 6, 2021 invasion of The Capitol by his supporters.

What I was looking for were examples of competence and courage by people within the Trump administration. There were a few including General Mark Milley, who was very concerned about a possible coup and how Trump viewed the military as a weapon that he could use. Despite incredible abuse and intimidation by the White House, Dr. Anthony Fauci continued to tell the truth about COVID-19. On occasion, even Attorney General Bill Barr showed some back bone when pressed by Trump to initiate some bogus investigations against Trump enemies.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper was fired by Trump primarily due to his opposition to Trump’s plan to use the military against demonstrations from the George Floyd killing. Trump wanted to employ the Insurrection Act of 1807 as a means of curbing demonstrations.

Regrettably Trump had a lot of enablers.  Rudy Giuliani, Mike Flynn, and Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff was a faithful soldier to until the end of his Presidency. Mike Pence does not read well in this book. He blindly supported Trump throughout the four years. And though Pence did the right thing in certifying the electoral vote, it seems that he was looking for a way to blocking it. Pence comes off as a toady.

The authors appeared to make every attempt to keep this story as authentic and factual as possible. They also conducted a several hour interview with Trump after he left office.

A very revealing book though there are about 74 million people in the U.S. who might disagree.

A Self Interview about Books and Reading: NY Times Style

What books are on your night stand? Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe by Niall Ferguson, Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke, William James in the Maelstrom of American Modernism by Robert D. Richardson Jr., I Alone Can Fix It: Donald Trump’s Catastrophic Last Year by Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker.

What’s the last great book you read? The Quiet Americans: Four CIA Spies at the Dawn of the Cold War—-A Tragedy in Three Acts (non-fiction); The End of October by Lawrence Wright (fiction)

Are there any classic novels that you recently read for the first time? Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis.

Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how). Reading from my recliner in my living room or outside on the porch are my favorite reading places. I read all day and from a variety of locations. I also read in bed before I fall asleep. I read in the tub while taking a bath.

What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of? Stoner by John Williams

Which writers working today do you admire most? John Feinstein (sports), Seth Godin (business and marketing), Anthony Horowitz (mysteries), Robert Harris (historical fiction), Kurt Andersen (history) and Maria Konnikova (psychology).

Do you count any books as guilty pleasures? Stone Barrington series by Stuart Woods, James Bond novels by Ian Fleming, John Gardner, Kingsley Amis, Anthony Horowitz and Spenser detective series by Robert Parker.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

How do you organize your books? I get my books from three sources: my local library, Kindle and Barnes & Noble and in that order, if I can. I wish I had a study which could house thousands of books but I don’t. Normally as soon as I get a book, I read it. Books that I have purchased and that might be of interest to others, I pass on to friends.

What kind of reader were you as a child? Which childhood books stick with you most? I was an avid reader. I was a huge fan of The Hardy Boys series, Tom Swift, Chip Hilton. Rick Brant and Bronc Burnett. I’d rush through my school work just so I could read those books.

How have your reading tastes changed over time? I prefer shorter books (less than 250 pages). I’m starting to read more fiction and I avoid books that offer advice or self-help.

What books are you ashamed not to have read yet? None. I have read what I was always interested in. I have never had the desire to read The Bible or War and Peace. I also don’t follow what is a “best seller.”

What do you plan to read next? Today’s New York Times.

Beach Read Recommendations: Summer 2021

With the start of the summer season, in addition to reaching for the sun tan lotion, many are looking for a good beach read. I have listed a few of my favorite novels that I recommend.

Picture by Karolina Grabowski (Pexels)

Dear Committee Members (Julie Schumaker) I found this book very funny about an acerbic professor in a small midwestern college. The recommendations he writes for students applying for jobs and post graduate school are hilarious.

Epitaph :The OK Corral (Mary Doria Russell) Historical fiction centering on the interesting lives and legends of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday.

The End of October (Lawrence Wright) This novel was written prior to the Covid 19 pandemic. Amazing how much the author got right about what actually happened.

Talk to Me (John Kenney) How one man’s public fall from grace leads him back to his family, and back to the man he used to be.

Fleishmann Is In Trouble (Taffy Brodesser Akner) Adventures of a man recently separated with two kids and a missing wife trying to figure out the rest of his life.

Babbitt (Sinclair Lewis) A classic. Written in 1920, this satirical novel about a man’s midlife crisis easily applies to today.

Forever and a Day (Anthony Horowitz) James Bond novel about his early spy adventures.

The Last Days of Night (Graham Moore) Historical fiction. Young lawyer thrown into one of the biggest legal battles in business, the patent around the light bulb.

Conclave (Robert Harris) Scandal, violence, sex, deception…and this is a novel about a papal election.

Our Souls at Night (Kent Haruf) Sentimental story about two elderly and lonely people dealing withe past and trying to work out their futures. Not my type of story generally but very compelling.

Disclosure (Michael Crichton) I literally did not put this book down until I finished it. A married male executive charges sexual harassment against his female boss, who also used to be his girlfriend. However he is being set up as a scapegoat in a corporate power play. Lots of corporate hijinks, politics and deception. Michael Douglas and Demi Moore starred in the movie version.

Lifespan: Why We Age and Why We Don’t Have To by David A. Sinclair (Review and Notes)

If you are over 50 years old, this book is an excellent resource related to your health, general fitness and quality of life.

I have included some excerpts for the book as my notes and reference:

I believe that aging is a disease. I believe it is treatable. I believe we can treat it within our lifetimes. And in doing so, I believe, everything we know about human health will be fundamentally changed.

There are some simple tests to determine how biologically old you probably are. The number of push-ups you can do is a good indicator. If you are over 45 and can do more than 20, you are doing well. The other test of age is the sitting rising test. Sit on the floor, barefooted, with the legs crossed. Lean forward quickly and see if you can get up in one move. A young person can. A middle-age person typically needs to push off with one of their hands. An elderly person often needs to get onto one knee.

There’s also a difference between extending life and prolonging vitality. We’re capable of both, but simply keeping people alive – – decades after their lives have been defined by pain, disease, frailty, and immobility – – is no virtue.

Multiple “hallmarks” of aging:
Genomic instability caused by DNA damage
Attrition of the protective chromosomal endocaps, the telomeres
Alterations to the epigenome that controls which genes are turned on and off
Loss of healthy protein maintenance, known as proteostatis
Deregulated nutrient sensing caused by metallic changes
Mitochondrial dysfunction
Accumulation of senescent zombielike cells that inflame healthy cells
Exhaustion of stem cells
Altered intercellular communication and the production of inflammatory molecules

Youth—broken DNA genome instability— disruption of DNA packaging and gene regulation (the epigenome)— loss of cell identity —cellular senescence— disease— death

The older we get, the less it takes for an injury or illness to drive us to our deaths. We are pushing closer and closer to the precipice until it takes nothing more than a gentle went to send us over. This is the very definition of frailty.

When we stay healthy and vibrant, as long as we feel young physically and mentally, our age doesn’t matter. That’s true whether you are 32, 52, or 92. Most middle-aged and older adults in the United States report feeling 10 to 20 years younger than their age, because they feel healthy. And feeling younger than your age predicts lower mortality and better cognitive abilities later in life.

After 25 years of researching aging and having read thousands of scientific papers, if there is one piece of advice I can offer, one sure fire way to stay healthy longer, one thing you can do to maximize your lifespan right now, it’s this: eat less often.

The important thing is not just what we eat but the way we eat. Many of the centenarians have spent their lives eschewing a morning meal. They generally eat their first small meal of the day around noon, then share a larger meal with their families at twilight. In this way, they typically spend 16 hours or more of each day without eating.

According to one study funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and published in 2017, individuals who exercise more – – the equivalent of at least a half hour of jogging five days a week – –have telomeres that appear to be nearly a decade younger than those who live a more sedentary life.

One recent study found that those who ran 4-5 miles a week – – for most people, that’s an amount of exercise that can be done in less than 15 minutes per day – – reduce the chance of death from a heart attack by 45% and all cause mortality by 30%.

It’s high intensity interval training (HIIT) the sort that significantly raises your heart and respiration rates— that engages the greatest number of health promoting genes and more of them in older exercisers.

A study of more than 41,000 metformin users between the ages of 68 and 81 concluded that metformin reduced the likelihood of dementia, cardiovascular disease, cancer, frailty, and depression, and not by a small amount.

People taking metformin were living notably healthier lives – – independent, it seemed, of its affects on diabetes.

The beauty of metformin is that it impacts many diseases. Through the power of AMPK activation, it makes more NAD and turns on sirtuins and other defenses against aging as a whole -– engaging the survival circuit upstream of these conditions, ostensibly slowing the loss of epi-genetic information and keeping metabolism in check, so all organs stay younger and healthier.

Like most people, I don’t want unlimited years, just ones filled with less sickness and more love. And for most of those I know who are engaged in this work, the fight against aging is not about ending death; it’s about prolonging healthy life and giving more people the chance to meet death on far better terms – – indeed, on their own terms. Quickly and painlessly. When they are ready.

Either by refusing the treatments and therapies at all for a prolong healthy life or accepting those interventions and then deciding to leave whenever the time is right, no one who has returned what they have been given should have to stay on this planet if he or she does not wish to do so. And we need to begin the process of developing the cultural, ethical, and legal principles that will allow that to happen.

Book Recommendation: Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant

This is a very useful book especially given the current fractious times that we live in. My guess is just about all of us needs to spend some time “re-thinking.” As the author correctly points out, “We live in an increasingly divisive time. For some people a single mention of kneeling during the national anthem is enough to end a friendship. For others a single ballot at a voting booth is enough to end the marriage. Calcified ideologies are tearing American culture apart.”

Re-thinking is not only useful for politics and debate but for every aspect of your life, including financial management, marriage, children, career, social relationships etc.

Grant provides a number of interesting people, scenarios and examples where re-thinking took place with very positive results. Probably the best example was the black musician Daryl Davis who persuaded white supremacists to abandon not only their membership in the Ku Klux Klan but more importantly their racist outlooks.

This is an important book that all of us could benefit from.

I have included some of my notes from the book:

This book is an invitation to let go of knowledge and opinions that are no longer serving you well, and to anchor your sense of self in flexibility rather than consistency.

Part of the problem is cognitive laziness. Some psychologists point out that we are mental misers: we often prefer the ease of hanging onto old views over the difficulty of grappling with new ones.

Most of us take pride in our knowledge and expertise, and in staying true to our beliefs and opinions. That makes sense in a stable world, where we get rewarded for having conviction and our ideas. The problem is that we live in the rapidly changing world, where we need to spend as much time rethinking as we do thinking. ( e.g. Mike Lazardis BlackBerry CEO)

Research reveals that the higher you score on an IQ test, the more likely you are to fall for stereotypes, because you’re faster at recognizing patterns. And recent experiments suggest that the smarter you are, the more you might struggle to update your beliefs.

When we are in scientific mode, we refuse to let our ideas become ideologies. We don’t start with answers or solutions; we lead with questions and puzzles.

We should all be able to make a long list of areas where we are ignorant. Recognizing our shortcomings opens the door to doubt.

In a meta-analysis of 95 studies involving over 100,000 people, women typically underestimated their leadership skills, while men overestimated their skills.

David Dunning and Justin Kruger published a modest report on skill and confidence that would soon become famous. They found that many situations, those who can’t… Don’t know they can’t. It’s when we lack confidence that we are most likely to be brimming with overconfidence.

Patient mortality rates in hospitals seem to spike in July, when new residents take over. It’s not their lack of skill alone that proves hazardous; it’s there over estimation of that skill.

“Arrogance is ignorance plus conviction.” Tim Urban

Achieving excellence in school often requires mastering old ways of thinking. Building an influential career demands new way of thinking.

Valedictorians aren’t likely to be the future’s visionaries education researcher Karen Arnold explains. They typically settle into the system instead of shaking it up.

Good teachers introduce new thoughts, but great teachers introduce new ways of thinking. Ultimately education is more than the information we accumulate in our heads. It’s the habits we develop as we keep revising our drafts and the skills we build to keep learning.

Takeaways:
Think like a scientist. When you start forming an opinion, resist the temptation to preach, prosecute or politick.
Define your identity in terms of values, not opinions.
Seek out information that goes against your views.
Embrace the joy of being wrong.
Build a challenge network, not just a support network.
Learn something new from each person you meet.
Ask “what evidence would change your mind?”
Make time to think again.

Early Spring Muses

The most impressive NCAA college basketball player this year is a woman, Paige Bueckers who plays for Connecticut. Only a freshman, she seems to be a better all around game than Diana Taurasi, who I had considered the best women’s college basketball player that I have seen.

***

With the announcement of the resignation of Roy Williams at North Carolina, the five best college basketball coaches in my lifetime:

  1. John Wooden
  2. Mike Krzyzewski
  3. Dean Smith
  4. Roy Williams
  5. Jay Wright (this choice may be a bit premature but I wanted a Big 5 coach on my list)

***

I would not need to sit on a jury for an hour, a day, a month, two months or however long the trial of Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd takes. I had the correct verdict figured out in nine minutes and 29 seconds.

***

Many years ago I bought and read a book by Lawrence Shames and Peter Barton titled Not Fade Away: A Short Life Well Lived. This book reflects the thoughts, actions and philosophies of Barton, a successful businessman who was dying from cancer in his early 50s. Barton began his book,  “There’s not one thing I regret or wish I could redo. There’s not one thing I wished I done, and didn’t. I’m contented and fulfilled.

Barton died at age 51.

Here are some sections of the book I have underlined as constant reference as I get older…

The stories of our lives have a due date, like books at the library.

A problem that can be fixed by money… is not a problem.

If I have anything at all to teach about life, it probably comes down to these two simple but far-reaching notions: 

Recognizing the difference between a dumb risk and a smart one, and 

Understanding when you need to change direction, and having the guts to do it.

I promised myself that I wouldn’t have a bad day for the rest of my life. If someone was wasting my time, i’d excuse myself and walk away. If a situation bothered me or refused to get resolved, I’d shrug and move on. I’d squander no energy on petty annoyances, poison no minutes with useless regret.

I would only work for someone I thought was wildly smart.

Duration, for him (Barton), is no longer quite the same as it is for most of us; he sees time not in terms of days or hours but in episodes of energy, bursts of attention.

There’s just one final thing I want to say. Probably it’s how everyone wants to be remembered. But that’s OK. I’ve said from the start that I make no claim of being special; I’m just one more person dying, revisiting his life. I think my father would’ve said the same thing, in the same words, If he had had the time. It’s simply this: I really tried. I did my best.”

***

Coincidently I have just finished a book by William R. Irvine titled the Stoic Challenge: A Philosopher’s Guide to Becoming Tougher, Calmer and More Resilient. I reommend the book. Barton epitomizes the stoic philosophy that Irvine promotes. Barton comments on his acceptance of his diagnosis and prognosis, “My frame of mind was something I could still control,. Doing so would be a sort of victory I was not accustomed to valuing – – a totally inward, private victory – – but a legitimate accomplishment nevertheless. I resolved to control my own discomfort, to rise above them if I possibly could. In doing so, I came to understand the deep truth that, while pain may be unavoidable, suffering is largely optional.