Diary -January 15, 2018

Angie Mattingly was the leader when I participated in the Landmark Forum four years ago.  Many of the things she said still resonate.

Being up to something

Landmark Insight by Angie Mattingly, Landmark Forum leader

What marks a visionary is dedication to a possibility, a dedication that rejects outright the complacency of those who prefer the status quo and insists that there has to be another way. Instead of reaching for the nearest, most convenient conclusions, their commitment causes them to push hard against the limits of what others might see as possible.*

When we are up to something, we are called to step forward, to be and act in wholly new ways, to risk what we already know for something beyond the predictable. To be up to something calls forth strength and creativity—it generates energy and excitement that attracts and invites the participation of others. When we are up to something, we step outside the constraints of our circumstances, and stand for a possibility. We don’t reference what’s possible against who we’ve been or what’s been done in the past, what’s predictable or expected, but rather against what we stand for and see as possible. Conditions and circumstances begin to reorder and realign themselves inside of what we stand for. Our relationship to possibility moves from an abstract ideal or remote objective to a viable, living reality.

Diary January 8, 2018

In brief, people with self-respect exhibit a certain toughness, a kind of moral nerve; they display what was once called character, a quality which, although approved in the abstract, sometimes loses ground to other, more instantly negotiable virtues. The measure of its slipping prestige is that one tends to think of it only in connection with homely children and with United States senators who have been defeated, preferably in the primary, for re-election. Nonetheless, character—the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life—is the source from which self-respect springs.           Joan Didion

Diary January 6, 2018

My plan for the year is to write a periodic diary, in the vein of Alan Bennett in TLS.  Short entries, sparked by some event, or person, random idea, or thought for the day.  Bennett is a master at this.  I won’t be so droll.  But, here goes:

Went for a late morning swim which while the water is cold the sun was shining so 51 degrees didn’t feel so stunning.   Nevertheless when I got out I found my friend Stevie Ray stretched prone on the floor of the showers, unable to stand for fear of passing out (he’s done that many times) due to hypothermia.  The winter water has claimed several victims in the past weeks, with a few times paramedics needing to be summoned.

Being at the South End Rowing Club this morning resulted in an confrontation I hadn’t planned but wasn’t unhappy to experience.  I’m on the board (an eye-opener to dysfunction, ego, and human frailty); during the last months of 2017 a drama ensued regarding the disposal of two thirty-year old rowing shells, both having been deemed unseaworthy in the open Bay by one of the owners of the company that manufactured them.  Neither had been rowed in years, and both required repairs before they could even be put back in any water.  The needed to go.  Two brand new shells were purchased to replace them.  That should have been the end of the matter.

Not so.  A non-board member rower (fire captain and assistant rowing coach at a San Francisco high school)–largely absent from the club for many years but “Now I’m back!” on the scene again–ranted and bullied the Boat House Captain, Vice-President, and President (who instigated the entire controversy) into keeping at least one of these old tired shells as a training vessel for new rowers.  The sitting Rowing Commissioner and most of the board were against the idea, though our protagonist enlisted the support of the newly elected naive 2018 Rowing Commissioner.

I’ll refrain from describing the illogic of this plan, or the backroom politics of their campaign.  ALL the serious rowers at the club were against keeping either boat.  Nevertheless, duplicitous behavior and spineless decision making (the Boat House Captain changed his mind no less than four times) resulted in one inappropriate boat being retained.

My confrontation this morning was with the new 2018 Rowing Commissioner, a thin-skinned fellow constantly espousing “transparency” when in fact a key participant in the duplicitous deeds.  He once had my, and other rower’s support, but that’s all lost. He, and the lily-livered Boat House Captain, backed out of an agreement they had reached only the night before.

All of this is small time politics.  In the era of Trump, when every day is more ghastly than the one before, who could care whether two old boats stayed or went at a tiny rowing club in San Francisco.  But the issue was never about the boats.  It was about–as most issues are–people and their egos.  I should neither be surprised nor disappointed but I am.