The Seven Greatest Appreciations of Life: Literature

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I am definitely biased when it comes to literature.  Without reading, books, magazines, articles, stories, plays, parables, and fables, I do not know what my life would be.  There are few things that enrich life more than the written word.  Movies, plays, and videos would be nothing if there were no words to go along with them.  Even sports and athletic events are heavily dependent on the written word.  Talk show hosts, TV actors, comedians and many other performers hire dozens of writers to script plots and routines that are the life blood of the entertainment industry.

I woke up this morning thinking how to convey the value of literature.  There is so much that I could say.  There is so much that needs to be said.  The question is how best to do justice to the world of literature and to keep this blog from becoming a book.  The thought came into my mind, that literature is everything to me from A to Z.  This gave me the idea to use the alphabet as a device to convey the importance literature has had for me.  But more importantly I want to inspire you as I have been inspired by the many books that I have read over the years.  I want to briefly touch on how they have enriched my life.

For each letter of the alphabet, I will try to note a few authors or books that I have read and what they have meant to me.  Some of my authors will be fiction writers, some poets, some non-fiction writers but each has left me with a piece of the puzzle.  The puzzle I refer to involves the existential quest to find the meaning of life.  I suppose that I may never find the meaning, but literature has helped create many of the puzzle pieces for me.  I am still struggling to put them all together.  The process is more fun than getting the finished puzzle.

A –

Aesop, Alistair MacLean, Agatha Christie, and August Wilson.  A few of the many authors whose writings have enriched my life.  From drama to morals to spies, I am sure that everyone has been exposed to these writers, perhaps without realizing it.   Numerous shows and movies have been based on their literature.  A is a good place to mention the following question, “What is the difference between someone who does not know how to read and someone who knows how but does not read?”

61aJkCcMlhL._SL500_Several of my stories have been influenced by Aesop’s stories.  When growing up, I loved reading stories of foxes, rabbits, scorpions, and other animals that Aesop used in his writing.  His parables and morals still guide my life in a myriad of ways.  I watched a few of August Wilson’s plays that were performed at Penumbra Theater in St. Paul, MN.  It was my introduction to the world of African American literature which was sorely missing in our education system.  For a good escape into the world of murder, drama and spies, MacLean and Christie cannot be beat. On countless rainy and often sunny days as well, I have curled up and said, “To hell with the world.  I am dropping out for a few hours into a world of fantasy.”

B –

I could speak of many authors here but nothing in literature has spawned more stories or ethics or plays or even religions than the Bible.   If you peruse my blogs, you will find at least a dozen stories that I have written that have been based on biblical sources.  There are many authors involved in the Bible.  The Bible notes for different books either who was the author or who they think the author might have been.  In many cases, the authors are unknown.

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Is the Bible fiction or non-fiction is a question that would create great dissention depending on who you asked?  Many would say that the Bible was the literal truth given by God to prophets to pass down to humanity.  Others would say, it was a series of stories that were embellished in the telling.   Neither of these issues ever bothered me.  The point is that the Bible is one of the greatest books in history, if not the greatest.  It has history, drama, murder, sex, morals, and good advice all wrapped up in one binder.  Read it and you will see why some people say that it is the only book they read.

C –

392278aCamus, Eldredge Cleaver, and Cervantes could not be more different.  Camus the existentialist.  Cleaver the revolutionary.  Cervantes the dreamer.  What puzzle pieces they inspired in me.  Hard to find out how they fit together but in the grand scheme of things, I would not leave any of them out.  Cleaver wrote, “Soul on Ice.”  One of the most inspiring prison writings ever written.

“From my prison cell, I have watched America slowly coming awake. It is not fully awake yet, but there is soul in the air and everywhere I see beauty…. I was very familiar with the Eldridge who came to prison, but that Eldridge no longer exists.  And the one I am now is in some ways a stranger to me.”  — Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Ice, 1968

Camus helped me to understand Existentialism from an applied perspective.  A great deal more helpful than a strictly theoretical understanding.  Cervantes created a character that I would like to be.  A man forever hopeful and willing to battle the world regardless of the forces arrayed against him.  A man willing to “dream the impossible dream.”   If only, I can retain Quixote’s optimism until the day I am no more.

D –

Dostoevsky, Dickens, and W. E. Deming.  I knew Dr. Deming personally.  I had dinner with Dr. Deming and took several clients to visit him at his home in Washington, D.C.  I helped out at several of his five-day seminars.  My first job after completing my Ph.D. degree was attained by reading his book, “Quality, Productivity and Competitive Position.”  A tour de force that would revolutionize American business.  A book that told me that 95 percent of what I learned in graduate school was wrong.  I learned more from Dr. Deming than I learned from all the great professors who wrote so many of the textbooks that I had been studying for 5 years.  Dr. Deming told me I wasted my time.  I was loath to accept his finding but gradually came to realize that he was right.  Eventually, the blinders were lifted from my eyes and I could see the truth of American business.  The truth that Dr. Deming had tried to share with the world.

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I cannot say that I have read all of Dostoevsky’s or Dicken’s works.  What I can say is that few writers I have read have been more articulate about the human condition than these two authors.  They are natural born psychologists.  Their insights into people are so profound that it seems a mystery to me that anyone could as accurately portray humanity as they have done in their writings.  It is not really stories that they tell so much as creating a picture of the inner souls of their characters.  It is easy to describe the outward characteristics of a character but much more difficult to portray their inner characters.  Both Dickens and Dostoevsky portray humans at their best and at their worst.  Reading either of them is better than reading a textbook on human psychology or taking a Psych 101 class.

E –

Jacques Ellul.  Jacques wrote the “Technological Society.”  I read this book in 1982 when I started graduate school.  There are many books that describe the “what” of technology.  Books that talk about computers, software, hardware, and the impact that they will have on society.  The central premise of Jacque’s book is this:  “In our technological society, technique is the totality of methods rationally arrived at and having absolute efficiency (for a given stage of development) in every field of human activity.”  Not exactly what we read about or think about when we hear the word technology.

But technology is technique.  It is not simply something electrical or digital.  Technology is a philosophy of life.  Ellul showed me the deeper meaning and relationship between life and gadgets.  Society is influenced by technology in more ways than I could ever have imagined.  Understanding technology has given me the ability to appreciate both its pro’s and con’s.  There is always a downside as well as an upside to new gadgets, particularly things like social media, the internet, and computers.  Each of these technologies have impacted our lives both for good and bad.

F –

BondAnatole France and Ian Fleming.  I discovered Fleming’s books on James Bond, after I saw the hit movie “From Russia with Love.”  I subsequently read every one of Fleming’s books and have seen every movie in the Bond franchise.  I loved the character so much I continued to read “Bond” books even when they were written by other approved writers.  I was attracted to the character who was everything I wanted to be.  Handsome, rugged, dashing, brave, a man’s man and a woman’s man as well.  I will never forget the line from one of Fleming’s books, “Boredom is the worst curse of all.”  Eventually, I outgrew James Bond but there will always be a part of me that wonders what it would be like to live in his world.

France on the other hand gave me a different view of the world.  I read several of his books during the early seventies when I was in my socialist learning stage.  I identified with many of his ideas.  France was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1921.  His books were often both ironic and satirical.  He approached subjects steeped in religion with a perspective that might have seemed atheistic.  He challenged us to think of God and Satan and their relationship together.  I think many of my blogs have been influenced by France.  Particularly my blog titled, “A Conversation between Satan and God.

G –

Grendel-2007-Beowulf-movie-Crispin-Glover-cJ. K. Galbraith, Goethe, and John Gardner. Perhaps my favorite story as well as my favorite opera are based on a man selling his soul to the devil in return for some privilege. Goethe wrote the story and called it Faust after a learned man who wanted more than knowledge.  Gounod did the opera based on Goethe’s story.  Many other stories have been based on the idea of a bargain between Satan and humans.  One other that I have always liked was “The Devil and Daniel Webster.”  It told the story of a New Hampshire farmer who sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for success.  When the devil came to collect his due, the farmer called on Daniel Webster to defend him.  This story ended happily as opposed to Goethe’s story which has a tragic ending.

Like many people, I would like to be more successful, more famous, and more admired.  Would I sell my soul to the Devil?  There have been times in my life when I would gladly have sold it.  I am at a point now where fame and fortune do not mean as much.  If I have a soul, I will depart this world with it intact.

J. K. Galbraith was a noted economist and Harvard Professor.  In his book, “The New Industrial State,” he supported much of what Dr. Deming had to say about American business.  I was particularly struck by Galbraith’s denunciation of MBA programs.  Deming also detested these programs and argued that they were destructive for American business.  Galbraith has been lionized and villainized.  Anyone with the audacity to challenge the inherent greediness of Capitalism cannot expect to win friends.  My thinking on Capitalism reflects what I have learned from both Deming and Galbraith.

John Gardner wrote several of my favorite stories.  He was a professor of literature well known for his writing and critiques.  Just when I thought I could learn everything from philosophy, I find a writer who mercilessly skewers philosophy with a character based on Socrates.  Agathon is a wise cynic who knows all about the world but nothing about life.  Gardner also wrote “Grendel” which was the Beowulf story told from the perspective of the beast.  Gardner had a unique way of turning things inside out and getting you to see an entirely different perspective.  His books often dealt with issues of morality, freedom, and justice.  From Gardner I leaned that life is seldom simple and when we look at the world it becomes complex and contradictory. 

H –

Chris Hedges.  Hedges wrote the “Empire of Illusion.”  This book portrays the American Dream as an illusion.  Hedges disparages the idea that America is exceptional and that we live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.  The book was published in 2010 and clearly outlines the descent of America into Trumpism.  On its webpage, Amazon summarizes the main theme of Hedge’s book as:

“A prescient book that forecast the culture that gave rise to Trump — a society beholden to empty spectacle and obsession with image at the expense of reality, reason, and truth.”

No society can make progress if illusions and fantasies guide its policies rather than truth and knowledge.  America today seems to be sorely lacking in truth or knowledge.  Morris Berman another critic of American culture gave up on changing anything in this country and moved to Mexico and off the grid.  I question every day pre-Trump and post-Trump whether America is on an unstoppable downhill slide and if there is anything I can do about it.  Will I be able to help make a difference and steer this country towards the dreams and values that it was founded on?   I wrote sixteen Anti-Trump articles dealing with the menace and danger that he held for America.  A president who represented everything that was bad for the future of our country.  He lost the election but how can anyone forget that 75 million Americans voted for him.

I –

0b243a477fd3257de4b036b2c7e4e52bIvan Illich and Washington Irving.  When I was in my undergraduate program in education which I started in 1971, I decided to read as much of the counter-education literature that I could find.  My most memorable readings were “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by P. Freire, “How Children Fail” by John Holt and “Deschooling Society” by Illich.   I have read many more books on education since the 70’s but it seems to me that nothing new has been added to the schooling critique leveled by these educators.  Schools are still failing students and society.  Educators are like fish.  They live up to the Chinese saying that “The fish are the last ones to see the water.”  I have written numerous critiques of the education system in America as have many other educators, but nothing changes.  The solutions to the problems that ail our education system are rooted in a theory of education that was appropriate 100 years ago but is now obsolete.

School prepares people for the alienating institutionalization of life, by teaching the necessity of being taught. Once this lesson is learned, people lose their incentive to develop independently; they no longer find it attractive to relate to each other, and the surprises that life offers when it is not predetermined by institutional definition are closed.” ― Ivan Illich,

Washington Irving wrote my favorite ghost story.  The “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” still scares and thrills anyone reading it.  Sit outside in the fall just before Halloween on a dark night in the woods and read this story.  Keep looking over your shoulder in case the Headless Horseman is out for his night ride.  Perhaps you will see Ichabod Crane running pell-mell through the woods to escape the Horseman.  This is only one of many great stories that Irving wrote.  I learned to brave the night woods knowing that I was a friend of Irving.

J –

The-12-Personality-Archetypes-Which-One-Dominates-YouCarl Jung was one of the many theorists I studied at the University of Wisconsin for my M.S. degree in Counseling.  Carl Jung was one of the acolytes of Freud along with Alfred Adler, Wilhelm Reich, Otto Rank, and his daughter Anna Freud.  Each follower eventually broke with Freud and founded their own school of psychology.  Jung started the most esoteric and enigmatic of these schools.  His philosophy or methods are called Jungian Analysis and appeal to many people due to his emphasis on the interpretation of dreams, archetypes, and symbolic behaviors.  Jung gave me an appreciation for the elements in life that we might simply write off as useless or meaningless.  To undergo a dream interpretation can be a very life changing experience.  I discovered that there is no single path to self-awareness and psychological health.  Different schools of therapy appeal to different people and each may be effective.

K –

41mABQ-2vlL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_John F. Kennedy, Ezra Klein, and Daniel Kahneman.   What do a President, Journalist and Nobel Prize winner in Economics have in Common?  I learned from Kennedy’s “Profiles in Courage” about what integrity really means.  Kennedy may not have written much of this book but the lives of the people he shares puts an exclamation point on the values that JFK had for this country.

I read Kahneman and Tversky’s “Judgement Under Uncertainty” in 1982 when I was in graduate school for my Ph.D. degree.  Years later they would win the Nobel Prize for Economics after having totally changed the way we think about and understand human economic behavior.  Much of the theory I was exposed to in graduate school was proven wrong by the research that Kahneman and Tversky conducted.  I learned a new way to think about economics and organizational behavior from this book.

Klein’s book “Why We’re Polarized” takes a more nuanced and data driven look at the gap that is separating Americans today.  He avoids the nauseous palliatives and bromides offered by so many writers on this subject.  You could fill an entire library bookshelf with all the authors telling us why Americans are divided and angry and how we can solve the problem.  Almost all see the division as a major problem.  Not Klein though.  He suggests it might be inevitable.  His book is laced with data proving that this divide did not just spring up with Trump but has its roots many years before Trump was on the radar.  One might say that Klein proves the adage that, “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.”

So what do these three authors have in common besides a last name that begins in K?  The answer is that each man has helped me to think about life in America and what it could be with more intelligent reflection and commitment to the values that our Founding Fathers promoted.  Economics is worthless without social commitment and social commitment is shallow without a strong economic system.  The principles of economics are not iron clad laws but continue to be better understood.  No doubt many years from now, we will see much of our economic decision making through a new set of lenses.  Kahneman has been a major force in the evolution of economic thinking.  Kennedy and Klein show us what is possible with integrity and intelligent thinking applied to politics and governance.

L –

795355R. D. Laing and Fritz Leiber. Do you know Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser?  If not, you are missing two of the most interesting and funny characters in the genre called Sword and Sorcery.  Fritz Leiber coined the phrase “Sword and Sorcery” and helped birth an entire new form of literature.  When we think of fantasy, most often we think of Lewis Carroll’s, “Alice in Wonderland.”  This classic story is imbued with fantasy and magic, but no one actually does any magic in the story.  Magic is limited to Alice’s dreaming.  Many fairy tales have more actual magic than Alice in Wonderland.  Tolkien’s “Hobbit and Ring Trilogy” come to mind.

When we think of Science Fiction, a more modern form of fantasy, we think of Star Wars and stories that blend fantasy and science.  Sword and Sorcery is different.  It blends heroic fantasy with magic.  Magic is the exact opposite of science.  The Marvel character, Dr. Strange is one of the few Marvel characters to blend fantasy with magic or the occult.

“So tell me, giant philosopher, why we’re not dukes,” the Gray Mouser demanded, unrolling a forefinger from the fist on his knee so that it pointed across the brazier at Fafhrd. “Or emperors, for that matter, or demigods.”

“We are not dukes because we’re no man’s man,” Fafhrd replied smugly, setting his shoulders against the stone horse-trough. “Even the duke must butter up a king, and demigods the gods. We butter no one. We go our own way, choosing our own adventures—and our own follies! Better freedom and a chilly road than a warm hearth and servitude.” — “Swords in the Mist”

R. D. Laing was a psychologist.  When I was in school for my graduate degree in counseling psychology, as I often did, I sought out the unconventional theorists.  Besides Wilhelm Reich, and Thomas Szasz, Laing was one of the most unconventional thinkers in the field of psychology.  Much as Thomas Kuhn became a target for many in science because of his radical thinking on science and paradigms, Laing also became the target of many in his field who felt threatened by his critique of psychology.  And well they should have for Laing challenged some of the major theories prevalent in the field at his time:

“Laing maintained that schizophrenia was “a theory not a fact”; he believed the models of genetically inherited schizophrenia being promoted by biologically based psychiatry were not accepted by leading medical geneticists.   He rejected the “medical model of mental illness.”  – Wikipedia

To go where no man has walked before, one does not have to go to Mars or another planet.  There are plenty of places in the human mind where few dare tread.  You go to these places at a risk to your sanity and reputation.  The status quo must protect itself and people who move to a different drummer or question common assumptions are treated as an invading virus that must be eradicated.  The normal system has no room for mutations.  You will be barraged by assaults from those in the system who have no desire to change.  Vested interests will marshal their big guns to eradicate you if you think differently.  You will begin to question your own sanity.  Only the strong can survive.

M –

Miyamoto Musashi, C.W. Mills and Yukio Mishima.  Two out of three in this group are Japanese.  I wonder if there are more last names starting with M in Japan?  Musashi was the greatest swordsman who ever lived.  He wrote philosophy with his sword.  His “The Book of Five Rings” blends swordsmanship and strategic thinking for anyone who wants a practical philosophy for success.  Some people talk about success but Musashi put his life on the line over thirty times fighting opponents in duels to the death.  His ideas about life and death are forged in a crucible of reality that few of us could ever comprehend, much less undertake.

miyamoto_musashi___vagabond_by_asi4abarai_dd23c8p-fullviewMishima was an author, poet, actor, and modern-day samurai who wanted to reinstate the Bonsai spirit in Japanese Culture.  After WWII, Americans occupied Japan and did everything they could to drive out the Samurai attitudes and policies that dominated Japan the previous fifty years or so.  Mishima created a group of followers who thought that they could overthrow the elected Japanese government and restore the old ruling order.  He greatly overestimated support for his ideas and after a failed rebellion he committed Seppuku or Hari Kari as it is also known.  I read a few of his novels and came to appreciate his writing and even his politics to some extent.  In his “The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea” he states that “living is merely the chaos of existence.”  He has also noted that “I still have no way to survive but to keep writing one line, one more line, one more line….”  A sentiment that I think anyone serious about literature would surely appreciate.

C. W. Mills was a sociologist, professor, and author. He became famous for many of his writings on Organization Theory.  By the time I was in graduate school, pursuing my degree in Organization Theory, he was no longer a popular theorist.  His writings were no longer mandatory readings.  I suppose I chose to read him since he had long since fallen out of favor.  My habit again of looking at those who are lepers in the establishment.

Mill’s, “The Power Elite” dispelled my nascent socialist leanings by clearly disputing the idea of a cabal of rich capitalists plotting to take over the world.  The ideas he had on bureaucracy as internalized social control had also been expounded by Max Weber.  When I was employed as a consultant at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in 1989, I augmented the prevailing quality theories I endorsed with the theories of Mills and Weber.  Mills died in 1962 at the age of 45 and Weber died in 1920 (Of the Spanish Flu) at the age of 56.  Neither man lived a long life, but their ideas were as valid in the 1980s, and even today as when they were written almost one hundred years ago now.

Conclusions:

I am halfway through the alphabet, and I realize that this blog is much too long.  After writing A-M, I do not think either you are I have the fortitude for N-Z.  I will offer to send you my list of authors for these letters.  People like Nietzsche, OSHO, Plato, Poe, Roddenberry, Idries Shah, Tolkien, Twain, Voltaire, Alice Walker, Mary Wollstonecraft, Yeats, and Emile Zola all made a big difference on my views of the world and thereby on my life.  But for now, this is enough.  If I have not yet convinced you of the importance of reading and literature both for pleasure and for learning, I am doomed to a hell for poor writers and debaters.  It will fall to a “better man than I” to convince you that reading is essential for a good life.

What is the difference between someone who can read and does not and someone who does not know how to read? –  Answer:  NOTHING!

 

 

 

 

My Four Best of Everything – Part 1

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Have you ever gone to a concert where the performers asked you to join in?  Well, I am asking you to join in today and contribute to my blog.  This week I am doing what I call my four best of everything.  Everything that matters to me anyway.  Perhaps I should say it is my four favorites of everything because best is such a qualitative term.  There may be little difference between the word favorite and the word best, however, using the term best is more provocative and usually ends up in arguments or debates.  Since I do not want to be judgmental, I will use the term favorites in the text of this blog.

I am going to share with you my four favorite fiction writers, my four favorite non-fiction writers, my four favorites writings/stories (both fiction and non-fiction) and my four favorite ideas.  After I list each of my favorites, I will provide a short explanation of why I like this writer or selection so much.  Each of my favorites are listed in no order or preference.  Asking me to pick the “best” of any of these would be impossible.

I am sure that each of you reading this will have some ideas concerning your favorites in these areas.  Like the concert performer inviting you to join in on song, I invite you to put your ideas or thoughts concerning your favorites in my comment sections.  The more the better.  Don’t be shy.  Use any language you want to share your ideas with the rest of the world.  Let us know what you like and why you like it.  Plenty of room in the blogosphere.

My Four Favorite Fiction Writers:

Mark Twain: I started reading Mark Twain when I was in grade school and fell in love with his short stories.  Later I graduated to his novels and then some of his commentaries.  I love his ability to combine satires with humor.  He had the ability to send a message about life while still making his reader laugh.

the war prayer

“O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst…”  — Mark Twain, “The War Prayer”

Kurt Vonnegut: My first book of Kurt’s was the novel “Cats Cradle”.  I am not sure if you would call it simply satire or more nihilism, but I was 18 when I found his pick and was just doing into the military.  I could not wait to read the other novels that he wrote, and I binged on Kurt for the next year or so.  I think I may have co opted many of his ideas as they became my ideas for much of my life.

“Perhaps, when we remember wars, we should take off our clothes and paint ourselves blue and go on all fours all day long and grunt like pigs. That would surely be more appropriate than noble oratory and shows of flags and well-oiled guns.”  — Kurt Vonnegut, “Cat’s Cradle”

Anatole France: I discovered France about five years after Vonnegut.  A very different writer but also with a keen sense of social justice and injustice.  I loved “Penguin Island”, “The Revolt of the Angels” and “Thais.”  How these stories shaped my thinking about life, I will never know but I am sure that they fueled my already growing skepticism about life, good, evil and truth.

“No, let us not conquer the heavens. It is enough to have the power to do so. War engenders war, and victory defeat. God, conquered, will become Satan; Satan, conquering, will become God. May the fates spare me this terrible lot!‎” — Anatole France, “The Revolt of the Angels”

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Edgar Allen Poe: Yes, it is true, sometimes I do read material that is simply escapism.  My favorite genres for many years were science fiction, science fantasy, horror and murder mysteries.   I am pretty sure that I read everything that Poe wrote.  I found many other fiction writers that entertain me but only Poe could blend horror, mystery and the foibles of humanity to create the strange stories that he wrote.

“He did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his immolation.”  — Edgar Allan Poe, “The Cask of Amontillado”

My Four Favorite Non-Fiction Writers:

Thomas Jefferson: Call him a Founding Father.  Call him a hypocrite.  Call him a racist.  Call him whatever you want, but no one has ever in my mind approached his depth of intellectual vigor in terms of delineating the necessities for a truly just society.  You need to separate the man from the message.  The message that Jefferson left us was sublime.  The man himself was not up to the message but that does not diminish the message one iota. 

“Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.” — Thomas Jefferson, “A Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge”W. E. Deming:

Dr. W. E. Deming:  Dr. Deming is the only one of my favorites that I have had the pleasure to not only meet but to also work along side of.  He was cantankerous, irascible and cynical.  He was also brilliant, compassionate and a true humanist.  His vision for humanity was a workplace that embraced both the scientific method with a love for all employees.  Dr. Deming spent most of his teaching and consulting life dedicated to making his vision a reality.  I had the privilege of working alongside Dr. Deming several times.  He taught me most of what I now know about organizations and how to continuously improve them.

“To manage, one must lead. To lead, one must understand the work that he and his people are responsible for. Who is the customer (the next stage), and how can we serve better the customer? An incoming manager, to lead, and to manage at the source of improvement, must learn. He must learn from his people what they are doing and must learn a lot of new subject matter.” — Dr. W. E. Deming, Out of the Crisis

00oshoOSHO: His given name was Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.  OSHO was a religious teacher from India.  He wrote numerous books on life, religion and spirituality.  He also gave talks and started several communities for his followers.  His books and talks were full of insights and stories to make you think and question your own life.  OSHO became infamous when he tried to start a community of acolytes in a rural area of Oregon.  The town OSHO started was called Rajneeshpuram.  It became a target for locals who thought that their community was being taken over by a bunch of cultists.  Things went south when some of OHSO’s devotees exceeded authority and tried to retaliate against the local community.  This is perhaps another case, where the man did not live up to his message.  Nevertheless, I have never found any spiritual writings that are as profound and thought provoking as OSHOs.

“Never belong to a crowd; Never belong to a nation; Never belong to a religion; Never belong to a race. Belong to the whole existence. Why limit yourself to small things? When the whole is available.” — OSHO

Daniel Kahneman: I first read Kahneman and Amos Tversky’s book “Judgement Under Uncertainty” in 1982.  Twenty years later Kahneman won the Nobel Prize for Economics.  Tversky had died in 1996.  Their research and work challenged the very bedrock of economic decision making since they attacked the assumption of human rationality that prevailed in modern economic theory.  I completed my Ph.D. degree and went into management consulting.

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One of the key foundations of my consulting was based on the work into heuristics and biases that were described in “Judgement Under Uncertainty.”  Corporations could make some brilliant decisions but too often they were guided by fallacies and misconceptions that relied more on emotions and prejudice than good data and facts.  Today, economics has taken a giant leap forward in understanding human decision making based on the work of Kahneman and his many followers.

“Searching for wisdom in historic events requires an act of faith—a belief in the existence of recurrent patterns waiting to be discovered.” — Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, “Judgment Under Uncertainty”

I hope you have enjoyed or at least found my list of favorites interesting.  I will follow up with Part 2 which will deal with my four favorite “Writings” and my four favorite “Ideas.” 

Now it is your turn to list some of your favorite authors or speakers or books in the comments section.  I am looking forward to hearing what some of you have found interesting and why you found them interesting.

 

 

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