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The Joy of Reading Returns

March 29, 2010

The Joy of Reading Returns

I love to read and think, to plot and plan, to absorb and respond. Due to 2-1/2 months of illness, big daily doses of antibiotics and narcotic pain killers (they don’t heal the pain, they just mask it leaving you with a fuzzy mind and robbing you of the ability to “think straight”), I have been more or less without the appetite to read and think. It is a big, big side effect – without much doubt worth the price you pay when you consider the alternative but nevertheless the feeling has been one of great loss. You can be alive without being vitally alive, and I can’t be vitally alive without reading in a purposeful way.

Dr. Larry Allums reminded me last week that for the past ten years we have had a relationship where Larry assigns me a work of literature or history every two weeks. I read the piece, and then we discuss the work for two hours in my office. I call Larry, who is President of The Dallas Institute for Humanities and Culture, my personal trainer in literature. It is a big part of my life, one of the six goals I set for myself at age 34 – to be a lifelong learner. It has been absent in my “mindless” season.

Linda was asked last week by an author I am working on a book project with, “What is your most pleasant image of Bob?” She said, “It is early in the morning in Aspen when the temperature is about 40°. Bob is outside on the back deck. The Roaring Fork River is cascading by about thirty feet away. He is reading.”

My Drucker Foundation colleague, Marshall Goldsmith, named by The Wall Street Journal to be America’s leading consultant, has a new best seller that spends a whole book describing this sort of focused activity as “Mojo.” Here is what he says in his Introduction:

“The moment is the condition I call Mojo. It is the moment when we do something that’s purposeful, powerful, and positive … This book is about that moment – how we can create it in our lives, how we maintain it, and how we recapture it when we need it again.”

It sounds like a great read, doesn’t it.

I titled my last chapter, “In search of my lost mojo.” My pain level is near zero. It seems like all my appetites are returning to full force. And perhaps the most refreshing appetite is to read great works. Meanwhile a new spring bursts out all around me at Still Point Farm. It feels like a synonymous rebirth – of nature and of my will to read and think and write. Not only that, but my appetite to get back to contributing to the lives of others instead of rambling on about my experiences with pain and hospitals. I would say I am ¾ speed.

About Reading

There is a real luxury in words. When Larry Allums and I are immersed in discussion of the classics, we read some of the most evocative passages aloud often proceeded by, “Wow, listen to this!” For example this, the opening lines of Shakespeare’s Richard III (Act I, Scene I):

Now is the winter of our discontent

Made glorious summer by this sun of York;

And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house

In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.

Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;

Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;

Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,

Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.

Grim-visaged war hath smooth’d his wrinkled front.

For more Shakespeare, how about these glorious lines describing a completely opposite mood – one of utter despair. It is from the final scene of Macbeth:

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day

To the last syllable of recorded time,

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more: it is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing. (Macbeth)

Wheee! Lay on Macduff! I could go on and on without ever leaving Shakespeare or the Psalms.

I will close with writing devoted to a thoroughly different purpose – this from the Drucker Archives written in 1942. It is a sample of what Peter Drucker called “writing for action” – deeply serious, seminal, very much the center of fifty years of writing yet to come – probably hard going for some but worth the effort and right at the beating heart of what gets me up mornings:

Freedom is not fun. It is not the same as individual happiness, nor is it security or peace or progress … It is responsible choice. Freedom is not so much right as a duty. Real freedom is not freedom from something; that would be license. It is freedom to choose between doing or not doing something, to act one way or another, to hold one belief or the opposite. It is never a release and always, a responsibility. It is not “fun” but the heaviest burden laid on man; to decide his own individual conduct as well as the conduct of society and to be responsible for both decisions. The only basis of freedom is the Christian concept of man’s nature; imperfect, weak, a sinner, and dust destined into dust; yet made in God’s image and responsible for his actions. (Drucker 1942)

Closing Note:

I may not be done with the doctors yet, but at least on this beautiful spring day I’m back. I’m having fun.

Happy Easter!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 30, 2010 5:49 AM

    So glad you are beginning to return to the joy or reading and we have an opportunity to enjoy the fruits of your writing.
    Praying for your continued recovery~

  2. March 30, 2010 8:18 AM

    Great word on Mojo. I am glad you are returning to health. Thanks for your thoughts.

  3. Reggie permalink
    March 30, 2010 9:43 PM


    You inspire me. I share your love of reading and commitment to being a lifetime learner.

    Thanks for the info on Mojo and the quote from Drucker on Freedom.

    Glad you’re getting back in the saddle.


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