Late Night Thoughts: Magic, Leadership, Feminism, Poetry, and More

(About a 9 minute read)

There are places you can visit at night in the San Luis Valley and not see an artificial light for miles.  If you stand in one of those places when the moon is down and tilt your head back until you are gazing nearly straight up, you risk falling into infinity.

I have never know a daytime sky to appear as deep, as vast, as infinite as a nighttime sky, though some of the crisp autumn blue skies of Colorado do seem to have a touch of the infinite.  Nothing, however, quite compares to stars by the thousands set in the black ocean.

Although you cannot possess the vastness of the night, you can long to possess it.  Long just as intensely as ever someone longed to requite an unrequitable love.  Long because its beauty makes you feel alive, and you want that feeling to stay with you forever.

It is wiser, though, to set aside any feelings of possessiveness.  Let them pass by you like winds without trying to cling to them or nurture them anymore than you would try to cling to or nurture those winds.  For possessiveness clung to kills the heart, kills love, even in human relationships, let alone in our relationships to nature.

To love the night so intensely that you might be in some sense renewed, reborn by it, you must be willing to let it go.

◊◊◊

Some years ago I took Becky’s children, Leah and Aaron, to a public Easter egg hunt.  Watching them and the other children dash about unsystematically exploring one possible hiding place after the next, and often the same hiding place they’d explored only moments before, I suddenly realized there was a sort of logic to their apparent randomness.  The logic of magic.

They were, it seemed to me, selectively picking “good” spots to explore, while ignoring “bad” spots, spots that perhaps did not seem to them magical enough to hold an egg.   And they would return to those good spots time and again, because, of course, magic.

The little legs of Easter
All hunt the same bushes
Each pair runs to check
And recheck the same spots

It’s the logic of magic
It’s found in good places
And appears where it wasn’t
Just a moment ago

◊◊◊

On a blog I recently came across a post by a young woman in which she expressed pride in being a leader.  She so reminded me of myself many years ago.  Had you asked me back then if I was proud of so often being the leader, I would have told you that I was, and I probably would have recited the choicest passages of my résumé, whether you wanted to hear them or not.

Then, in my 30s I finally got enough experience of people to have two or three modest, but still significant, insights into — not leaders — but followers.  It seemed to me then that there were two main (but not only) reasons people follow other people, and that neither reason was all that good of a reason for me to be proud they were following me.

Perhaps the best reason people follow is because they think their leader is going where they want to go.  People who harbor that reason won’t allow you to lead them down just any old path you want to take them.  They only go down the path they themselves want, and they stick you out front largely so you, and not them, must take the risk of being pounced on by a tiger waiting for its next meal to come loping along, full of pride at being allowed to play leader.

The second reason people follow seems to be that they themselves feel too insecure or threatened to lead themselves.  Such people would follow a chimpanzee if it promised them security.  And they are often so frightened of something that they would follow the chimp down any path the chimp chose to take, even the path to hell — just so long as the chimp kept reassuring them it was the safest route.

In either case, being a leader has less to do with special you, and much more to do with them, than your pride constantly tells you it has.  But add to all that the fact that about one-quarter to one-third of all people are such poor judges of character that they are incapable of distinguishing a wise leader from a damnable fool, and you end up with a pretty poor foundation for taking much pride in the fact people will follow you.

◊◊◊

On my second night in Colorado, I left my motel room to drive to a high place in the mountains where I got out of my car and witnessed a moon so seemingly huge that I had the absurd, yet remarkably visceral desire to see if I could touch it.  And I actually did stretch out an arm to it.   It appeared, then, to be just beyond my reach.

At the time I felt I was a refugee.  Earlier in the year, I’d gone out of business, lost my wife, my house, my friends, and most of my possessions.  It seemed to me that night that all my accomplishments in life were behind me, and that I’d been a fool to have for decades valued all those things more than I valued simply loving life.

On this mountain I’m alone
The moon a foot beyond my hand
And there’s nothing that I know
Do I ever understand?

I just wonder how it is
That all the things we ever did
Could mean so much more to us
Than the love we freely give.

For I am but a passing thing
From one moment to the next,
And with each moment’s passing
There is nothing left.

On this mountain I’m alone
The moon a foot beyond my hand
And for all the things I know
Do I ever understand?

◊◊◊

Few movements are as misunderstood these days as feminism.  Which is a bit strange because the movement is by and large based on a simple, easy to understand, ideology at its core.  That is, it’s a form of egalitarianism.  Specifically, the form of egalitarianism that asserts women ought everywhere to have the same rights, freedoms, and liberties as men.

Unfortunately for feminists, decades of anti-feminist propaganda have convinced vast numbers of people that the true core of feminism is misandry, the hatred of all things male.  And even more unfortunately, there are a few self-described “feminists” who feed and inflame that image of all feminists by themselves being actual misandrists.

What’s true of feminism, though, is true of all large movements, for every such movement has its lunatic fringe.

I wonder why.  Indeed, I quite often wonder why every movement has its lunatic fringe.  But I have yet to arrive at an answer that satisfies me.

◊◊◊

Have you ever reached the cardboard backing of a paper tablet only to find yourself torn between throwing it away and saving it for some use only god knows what?

◊◊◊

I had an uncle who grew up in the Great Depression when frugality so often meant the difference between eating three meals a day or merely two or one.  He taught me around the age of six or so never to throw away a bent nail.  “It’s a perfectly good nail.  Just hammer it out so it’s straight enough to use again.”

Shortly after my eight birthday, he taught me to shoot a rifle.  “Here’s your one bullet.  There will be no more bullets today.  Now aim well and carefully, Paul, so you hit the can with it.”

I took forever to aim, but I hit the beer can.

◊◊◊

As a rule, the more convinced we are that we are right, or have got hold of the truth, the less likely we are to have seen deeply into the matter.  So often, to look deeply is to become aware of how uncertain the truth is.

◊◊◊

The notion that our minds at birth are Tabula rasa, blank slates devoid of any innate knowledge, biases, instincts, etc., is an ancient one, dating back to at least the ancient Stoics.  It basically asserts that almost the whole of what we are as persons will be ultimately derived from our experiences in life, or from what we learn from them.   It is also a perennial idea in the social sciences.  And, last, is almost certainly nonsense.

For instance, humans have just too many ubiquitous behaviors for us not to be, at least in large part, an instinct driven species.  Moreover, we seem to be born with talents — that is, with aptitudes or predispositions — for various things.    We also seem to be born with inherent cognitive biases.  And there is at least some evidence that we even have in us at birth the rudiments of arithmetic.

All of which suggests the notion that we humans are connected to our past in much more profound ways than merely through the continuum of time.  Our DNA is ancient, and we are in so many ways, the manifestation of our DNA.

Throw Your Rockets Far

I shall not tell you Aaron at eight
Somewhere we walk in the yellow grass;
The sky huge, but our feet owning each step.
Somewhere we hear the shorebird’s cry
From a beach in Africa we never left.
Somewhere we are shaman, warrior, gatherer,
Women and men intimate with our past.

No, I shall not tell you Aaron at eight
What at eight you simply feel
On your lawn at dusk when you throw a bottle rocket
With a warrior’s grace — and hard at the moon.

10 thoughts on “Late Night Thoughts: Magic, Leadership, Feminism, Poetry, and More

  1. I think Leadership, at least as sold to today’s young people, is overrated. In the college admissions rat race, everyone is supposed to be a leader, but if everyone is leading, who is following? I think there’s an art to being a good follower. It’s related to your first reason, but I think a big part of it is being able to speak the truth to power and not just be a yes-man or -woman. A good leader listens to his or her followers and treats them as advisors. Of course they sometimes have to ignore the advice and do the unpopular thing–but that supposes that they’ve still thought about it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m in very substantial agreement with you, K.L. I learned (pretty much the hard way) that effective leadership hugely depends on the quality of your listening skills. The best people — the ones you really want as followers — simply will not support you unless you are in the habit of genuinely listening to them and taking their advice when it’s solid, or better than your own ideas.

      Those same people, by the way, usually refuse to follow an authoritarian leader, which suited me just fine back in the day because I’d now and then steal a great employee from someone else who was too authoritarian for their taste.

      On those occasions when I’ve not been in a leadership position I have done exactly as you and demanded to be an advisor.

      Last, and I say this mainly to amuse you, K.L. one of the ironies of my life has been that the most common reason I’ve accepted leadership roles in my life has been because I knew of some jerk who would get the position if I didn’t take it. That is, with a few exceptions, I’ve never actively sought to be a leader, and I eventually, around the age of 40, came to loathe the task. Yet, my employees through-out my business career generally performed well-above industry standards for productivity.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I don’t know. In Robert Prechter’s book “Conquer the Crash” (page 373) one of the characterizations he used for positive social mood (bull markets) is “practical thinking” and for negative social mood (bear markets) is “magical thinking”. I’ve been wondering what he meant by that for years and so when I read the word “magic”, that came to mind which motivated my earlier comment. I suspect in a bull market one would find optimistic individualism. We chase with the herd for those Easter eggs but we are more confident of finding enough of them. In a bear market we would come closer together for survival. We still follow the herd but we have less confidence in finding anything on our own without the help of those others or invoking some magician to help us. As I mentioned: I don’t know.

        Liked by 1 person

      • How fascinating to link Easter egg hunts to stock markets! Frank, that’s yet more evidence that you, Sir, have a creative mind. And you seem to me to combine that with a good memory — and respect — for facts. To me, that’s a huge thing. I also feel grateful you comment on my blog because you know you don’t know everything. Such a rare trait these days — and one that seems to me to be getting rarer. But in my opinion, it fits right in with the keenness of your insights. When we know we don’t know everything, we keep looking. When we think we know everything, we stop looking, usually short of the real insights.

        Sorry about all the gushing, but I really do enjoy your comments here, and your posts and comments on your own blog. I don’t always agree with them, but I try to always appreciate them.

        Like

  2. I TOTALLY agree with the feminism thing! I identify as a feminist myself — fighting for women’s rights, freedom, and equality all over the world. I do not shame women for traditional homemaking, nor do I hate men. I simply want women’s equality and rights. I could rant on and on about this, as I have before, but feminism has become so twisted today — people think it shames traditional women and is trying to make women superior to men. It’s really about the equality, and I HATE that some people are afraid to call themselves feminists, even they advocate women’s rights/equality, because of all the judgement they will get from society.

    That “beer can” story was super interesting! It got me thinking that we basically only have one chance at life — we have to make it worth it. Thanks for sharing, Paul!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It appears that you and I share quite similar core views on feminism, Your Mangoness!

    I know of people who refuse to call themselves “feminists” because they don’t like to be labeled. The same people refuse to call themselves most anything else, too.

    Making life worth it can be quite hard work, but the alternative is dreadful.

    Thank you for dropping by and cheering me up!

    Like

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