Here is a report of some books I’ve recently read.
Zen and the Art of Anything
Hal W. French has written Zen and the Art of Anything and, in it, he tells about his teacher Edwin Prince Booth, who told a story of his childhood. He had been on a picnic with his father and had wandered unto a train trestle when a train whistle sounded. It was too far for the father to get to him in time so his father said in a loud firm voice: "Edwin, Jump" which the boy did just in time. The point of the story was to show the power of words. As French says:
"You can give life in your speech. You can diminish life when you speak in hate or anger."
What I took from this story, however, was the fact that clear, motivating communication should be brief and to the point. The father didn’t say, as many lawyers might have said: "Edwin, there is a train coming and you must get off the tracks as soon as possible or you could e seriously injured." That’s how a lawyer might communicate. But, this father said simply and clearly: "Edwin, jump" and that was all that was required. Too many times in too many situations unnecessary words are piled on unnecessary words. A lesson to be learned I think.
French’s book also discussed the importance of being focused on the moment. One of the problems we all have is distraction and multitasking thinking so that we really never fully enjoy or explore the present moment. We are surrounded by advertising distractions, lights, signs, sounds – both intentional and unintentional distractions. The phrase French used, I thought was right on point. He said "You must be present to win." Some other observations of French included:
"If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon, in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live"
Not a bad thought for us all in our busy world.
Tippecanoe and Tyler Too
My son Nick (http://technorati.com/people/technorati/Calabrese) gave me a book at Christmas by Jan R. Van Meter Tippecanoe and Tyler Too which is about famous slogans and catchphrases in American History. Think of all the slogans from television, movies and history such as "Make my day; Veni, vidi vici" and "Millions for defense but not a cent for tribute" There is Admiral Farragut’s; "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead" and the black Sock 1920's baseball scandal "Say it ain’t so Joe."
Then there is Thomas Paine’s famous "Crisis Papers" paragraph which George Washington read to his troops:
"These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their county, but he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives every thing its value."
We learn in this book that long before Lyndon Johnson, General George Sherman said these famous words when he was told he was going to be nominated for the presidency: "If nominated I will not run; if elected I will not serve."
William Jennings Bryan is known today as the lawyer who prosecuted the Scopes "monkey trial" case against Clarence Darrow. However, he was in fact a famous orator and was nominated three times for the office of president of the United States. His most famous speech was known as the "cross of gold speech" dealing with the issue of free silver vs the gold standard for the United States. In it Bryan in a booming voice with dramatic extension of his arms as if on a cross cried out:
"Having behind us the producing masses of this nation and the world, supported by the commercial interests, the laboring interests, and the toilers everywhere, you will answer the demand for a gold standard by saying to them: ‘You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold."
The author talks about the growth of radio and radio programs. I have vivid memories of my childhood,long before television, coming home from school and laying on the floor next to a radio to listen to my favorite radio programs, such as the Lone Ranger and many others like The Shadow featuring Lamont Cranston. The show opened with the lines "who knows…what evil…lurks… in the hearts of men?….the shadow knows!" All the shows had catchphrases like Superman’s "up, up and away" or Captain Marvel’s "Shazam." You could get wonderful things by writing into the program or by offers on cereral boxes. There were such things as decoder rings you got by sending a box top from Wheaties cereal and a dime. When a secret code was given on your favorite program you could use your ring to decode it. The wonderful theater of imagination radio demanded was far more entertaining then television programs of today.
One story in the book I enjoyed was reading was about the 1926 double header game between Dodgers and Red Socks. Late in one game the Dodgers had the bases loaded with one man out when Babe Herman hit to right field. The man on third scored, but the man on second held up to see if the hit was caught. When he saw the ball hit the ground he ran for third and went a short distance to home, but turned and came back. Meanwhile the man on first thinking it was a triple, ran full speed for second and kept going to third. Herman trying to stretch his hit out ran for first, kept going to second and headed for third. As a result, in a few short minutes there were three men on third base. Herman turned to head back to second as one of the other runners was tagged out, but didn’t make it in time and was also tagged out. They called this Dodger team "The Daffiness Boys."
Now that I have purchased the Amazon Kindle, to avoid packing heavy books in my suit case, I hope to find it easier to read books. We'll see.