I read King David by Ta-Nehisi Coates for The Atlantic, posted earlier in the day. Mr. Coates received the George Polk Journalism Award for Commentary for The Case for Reparations, published in The Atlantic in June 2014. Big deal! In the essay he recounts how David Carr taught him to be a writer, sharing his thoughts on an extraordinary man who passed, who made a difference in his and many other lives.
However you see Mr. Coates’ on reparations for African-Americans, please read King David as a primer about how to be an inspiring boss and leader. Yelling may not be part of the playbook, and some people are one-offs, but Mr. Carr clearly knew how to inspire others, and if that does not say “he mattered,” I do not know what does.
Earlier, from both Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire and reader EP, I saw My Own Life, written by Oliver Sacks for the New York Times. Dr. Sacks, a neurologist, educator, writer, and public intellectual, learned in the past few weeks that he has multiple metastases in his liver, and not much more time among us.
You need to read this piece if you ever think about not dying suddenly. I’ve always wanted to pass in a moment, but if I died before this sentence ended, I have to admit that I would be leaving with unfinished business. Dr. Sacks, with a level of eloquence almost unimaginable given what he faces, plainly and with seemingly clear eyes describes his situation and how he intends to deal with it. In doing so—knowing that thinking about how I might die brings to mind “man plans, and G-d laughs”—Dr. Sacks makes me think about the opportunities which come with knowing death is in the hallway, ready to knock.
Dr. Sacks also discusses wasted time. We waste lots of it—I do, anyway—and it pains me that, without death or something big as a motivator, the most precious commodity does not get treated well; alas, that may simply be the way it goes. On this subject, Dr. Sacks shares the following comments:
I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends. I shall no longer look at “NewsHour” every night. I shall no longer pay any attention to politics or arguments about global warming.
This is not indifference but detachment — I still care deeply about the Middle East, about global warming, about growing inequality, but these are no longer my business; they belong to the future. I rejoice when I meet gifted young people — even the one who biopsied and diagnosed my metastases. I feel the future is in good hands.
So about that future? Well, for Dr. Sacks at least, the future is now, and right now we’re all wrapped up in whether or not President Obama loves America. For an overview here’s Report: Rudy Giuliani Tells Private Dinner ‘I Do Not Believe That the President Loves America’ by Lindsey Bever for the Washington Post on February 19. For analysis read What Does It Mean for Obama to Love or Hate America? by David Graham for The Atlantic on February 19.
Where do I begin? Really? Really??? Are these people serious?
I’m confident that when Dr. Sacks refers to “gifted young people” he’s not referring to former Mayor Rudy Guiliani, who is about 11 years his junior. Or even to real youngsters like Governors Bobby Jindal (Rep.-La.) and Scott Walker (Rep.-Wis.), young even to me, both of whom chimed in on the subject of loving America.
As it happens (and some 20 years ago), Aaron Sorkin wrote the words that best address the claptrap we face every day:
We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you [insert any blowhard circa 2015] is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things, and two things only: making you afraid of it, and telling you who’s to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections. You gather a group of middle age, middle class, middle income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family, and American values and character, … .
Godspeed, David Carr, and for Dr. Oliver Sacks, may your remaining days give you everything you deserve. And for the chattering class, full of crap and short on anything that adds value in our lives, shut your pieholes! Please!