My Top 5 Books of 2015

SnoopyILoveReading

I felt as if I were walking with destiny, and that all my life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial”

Winston Churchill

Destiny was my reading discovery in 2015.  It was an unintended but welcome consequence of reading superb writing about people who changed the world.  What follows is my top five books from my 2015 reading list with a brief reason for their selection.

#1 Traitor To His Class

H.W. Brands has always been a dry read for me, but “Traitor To His Class,” subtitled “The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt” breaths fire.  I have read a number of books about Franklin Roosevelt, but none clarified his personal courage, radical nonconformity, and visionary hopefulness quite like this volume.  By the time I reached the end of the book I wanted to change the world.  What I learned was it would have been far easier for Roosevelt to choose a comfortable life of privilege, but he instead embraced a radical life of service, which lead him into a destiny which gave hope to a despairing world.

#2 Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye

This book is authored by Kenneth P. O’Donnell and David F. Powers with Joe McCarthy.  I actually read this book in college, and remembered being inspired, so I embarked on a reread.   O’Donnell and Powers were close friends and White House assistants to John F. Kennedy.  Their story is an emotional one, filled with personal antidotes of the intimate journey they traveled with Kennedy from beginning to end.  Read this book if only for the account of the hunting trip at Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson’s ranch.  The lesson I learned is John F. Kennedy became president in large part because he had great friends, who recognized their destiny was inextricably tied to his. They sacrificed their individuality so that together with him they could turn the ideas of the New Frontier into a national reality.

#3 The Georgetown Set

Lloyd James beat out my favorite historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and her book “The Bully Pulpit” as my favorite about journalism, and as a result took second place.  His book “The Georgetown Set” was riveting from beginning to end.   Having lived in DC, and witnessed the importance of political journalism, it was inspiring to see and feel the power of relationship described in its pages.  Subtitled “Friends and Rivals in Cold War Washington,” I was left wishing for this type of courageous relationship journalism as contrasted with the ratings motivated media of today.  The lesson I learned is the major players in the spotlight are not always the most influential people on the ground.  Whether we appear large or small in the eyes of people, we should embrace our destiny, because our potential for influence could be greater than we imagine.

#4 The Wright Brothers

I still can’t remember what possessed me to read “The Wright Brothers” by David McCullough.  When it was initially published, I questioned why anyone would write a history about the discovery of air flight and the invention of the airplane.  After reading this book, which I began begrudgingly, two things became clear.  David McCullough is the premier historical storyteller of our time, and the Wright Brothers story needed to be told.  Their curiosity, courage, and endurance can be applied to any area of life for inspiration.  What truly moved me was the relationship between Wilbur and Orville, and that destiny is not about the individual but rather the team or in this case family!

#5 Destiny and Power

First of all, I am a Jon Meacham fan, because he embraces a political neutrality, which allows him to see deep into the soul of those whose lives he documents.  I am also a political junkie, whose entire childhood was shaped by a family of democrats living in a republican stronghold.  Both of these facts explain why I am a political independent…I like to see both sides.   Reading Destiny and Power I saw both sides, and came away impressed with George H.W. Bush.  Meacham does a wonderful job giving voice to the elder Bush through the very honest and compelling diary accounts of the former president.  I have never read anything from a president as humble, vulnerable, and authentic.  No matter where you stand politically (and I don’t agree on a lot with Bush), it is impossible not to appreciate the personal life of George H.W. Bush.  The lesson I learned is you don’t have to believe you are better than everyone else to believe you have an important destiny to fulfill.

Honorable Mentions

  1. Crucible of Command by William C. Davis
  2. C.S. Lewis – A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet by Robin Sachs
  3. Education of a Coach by David Halberstam
  4. Becoming Steve Jobs by Brent Schlender, Rick Tetzelli
  5. Brothers, Rivals, Victors by Jonathan W. Jordan
  6. Rebel Yell by S.C. Gwynne
  7. Wilson by A. Scott Berg

 

 

 

5 Reasons We Love The Force

Yoda

“The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.”

Obi-Wan Kenobi

 “The Force Awakens” is upon us, which makes this a good time to reflect on “The Force,” which in my view is the real star in Star Wars.  Obi-Wan Kenobi gave us the best definition of “The Force,” when he explained it to Luke Skywalker in the 28 words above (How Star Wars Conquered the Universe, p. 58).

Here are five interesting and enjoyable reasons to consider for reasons why we love the Force.  They are in no particular order.

Reason #1 – The Tension Between Technology and Spirituality

VaderDeathStar

“We know that Vader believes the Force to be far superior to the technological power of the Death Star and that he can use it to choke people he disagrees with from across a room. Luke is taught to “let go your conscious mind” and “reach out with your feelings.” He is told the Force “will be with you, always.” Han Solo believes the Force a “hokey religion,” no substitute for a good blaster, but later grudgingly wishes for the Force to be with Luke.” (Taylor, page 58)

Since Star Wars first hit the screen in 1977 a cultural constant has been the tension between technological progress and spirituality (not merely religion but all aspects of mystery in the universe).  We enjoy movies which help us examine, question, and try to resolve the existential problems we face.

Reason #2 – The Battle Between Good and Evil

 dark side emperor

“But Lucas’s intent in the movies had been to distill religious beliefs that were already in existence, not to add a new one. “Knowing that the film was made for a young audience, I was trying to say, in a simple way, that there is a God and that there is both a good side and a bad side,” Lucas told his biographer Dale Pollock. “You have a choice between them, but the world works better if you’re on the good side.” (Taylor, pages 57-58)

While some may be disturbed by the spiritual overtones, there is no question that “The Force” adheres to a fundamental religio-philosophical principle, which is the existence of good and evil.  The profound journey in life is to choose between the light and dark sides of “The Force,” and this choice will determine our destiny.

Reason #3 – The Force as a Mystery

luke meets obiwan

“The Force is so basic a concept as to be universally appealing: a religion for the secular age that is so well suited to our times precisely because it is so bereft of detail. Everyone gets to add their own layers of meaning. Lucas, through a long process of trial and error, seems to have deliberately encouraged viewers’ unique interpretations. “The more detail I went into, the more it detracted from the concept I was trying to put forward,” Lucas recalled in 1997. “So the real essence was to deal with the Force but not be too specific about it.” (Taylor, page 58)

The first time I saw Star Wars I held no deep beliefs about anything other than success.  I can still remember being “Bewitched” by “Star Wars.”  What I mean is I felt the same emotion as when I watched “Bewitched” reruns on television, which is the mystery and wonder of the potential that there might be something beyond human power and ability.  In this way, I was step for step with Luke Skywalker in his discovery of “The Force,” and pursuit of its mysteries.  Apparently, this is exactly the quest Lucas hoped to encourage his viewers to take.

Reason #4 – The Power of the Force

luketrainingremote

Luke was able to destroy the Death Star because he puts his targeting computer aside and relies on the Force— you might just as well call it intuition. (Taylor, page 58)

Whether we find science or spirituality most compelling, each one of us believes there are capacities and power we are not yet tapping into.  “The Force” gives voice to the sixth sense we all have that there is more power available to us than we are currently using.  This makes it exciting to think there is nothing we can’t overcome or accomplish if we can only tap into the “Force.”

Reason #5 – The Force and Destiny

I can still remember watching Stars Wars at age 14.  One thing stood out to me more than anything else, which is each one of us had a destiny.  Watching Luke struggle to understand his destiny, the path he must travel, and need to master “The Force” was compelling.  This “Hero’s Journey” is not unlike the narrative identified by Joseph Campbell as a guiding principle in storytelling be it mythological, religious, or psychological.  This capacity to speak to every metaphysical demographic is probably why George Lucas, Star Wars, and especially “The Force” are so universally loved.

May The Force Be with You!

 

 

 

LeBron Assists Special Needs!

This NBA 2016 season the Golden State Warriors are the talk of the town.  Lead by Stephen Curry they are playing the game at a historic level, and for many Curry is the best and most charismatic player in the NBA.

This leaves LeBron James a bit in the shadows, which is strange since we haven’t seen a player of his capability ever before.   It is a lesson to all of us about time, how it moves on eventually lifting younger people into the spotlight, and leaving those growing more mature to redefine themselves.

This film snapshot of LeBron James publicly congratulating a Special Olympics athlete, and expressing a bond with him tells me LeBron is going to be special beyond basketball.  The authentic expression of connection with this young man who was wearing shoes LeBron designed for kids with special needs is nothing short of breathtaking.

Take a look and see if you conclude what I have concluded, which is LeBron James is bigger than basketball, and understands the value of his brand to lift up and include those with special needs.

This may be the most important assist of his career, and one which I hope other players imitate!