In a quite moment of reflection, years ago, I asked my Uncle Grant (Uncle John’s youngest brother).
It’s the second day after the “total joint replacement” of my right hip. I’m in the physical therapy rehab room on the 4th floor of the Dixie Regional Medical Center.
With one exception the six other patients in the room are one day behind me in their surgeries. All of us are still tethered to “IVs” hanging from rolling IV poles and have tubes draining fluid from our operations into round suction boxes pinned to our clothes. We ambulate using walkers with catheter bags attached.
Two patients have knee replacements. The rest, like me, have a hip replacement. Each of us is assisted by our spouse wearing an official “coach” badge. Together, we learn the exercises that will be repeated ad infimum over the six-week recovery period. With my wife’s (Blanche) help, I start the next set of exercises.
One… two… three…
Suddenly, what I see around me flashes a scene from the musical: “Fiddler on the Roof.”
Tevye comforts his wife Golde with the question: “Golde, do you love me?” We have reached the plot point in the story where Tevye learns the essential thing necessary to his character development in the story – what love is?
(At the stories beginning, Tevye expresses his frustration with the lot fate has given him and fantasizes in the song, “If I Were A Rich Man.”)
Now, his daughters are falling in love and getting married. Tevye desperately hangs on to tradition as his world changes around him. In his confusion he asked Golde, “Do you love me?”
She bushes his question aside.
He asked again.
Golde sidesteps again.
Golde finally faces his question and enumerates the things she has been doing for Tevye for 25 years and concludes with the statement: “If that’s not love. What is?”
Embarrassed by the discovery of their mutual love, they temper it with the word “suppose” and conclude with. “It hasn’t changed a thing, but after 25 years it’s nice to know.”
But, it has changed everything! Tevye and Golde will never be the same again. The center of their world has shifted from tradition to love (Tevye realizes that he is a “rich man”.) and it is this shift that allows Tevye in the final scene to give his disowned daughter Chava his blessing.
Five… six… seven…
On the plent (raised exercise table) next to me a woman with a blood plasma bag added to her IV pole is laying on her back. Her husband is sitting next to her on a stool clasping her hand in both of his hands. His head close to hers. He whispers encouragement.
Across from me on plents and reconstruction bikes this scene is repeated – patient and spouse working together, physically close – all of them 18 inches or less apart – a magnetic like force between them. I hear Golde’s words, “If that’s not love. What is?”
I loose count.
“How many?” I asked.
”Two more.” My wife answers.
I feel a congratulatory caress across my back and like Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof” — I am a rich man.
I have a nostalgia for ”the Fifties,” because I was there. It is easy to remember the music, the “Happy Days” and forget polio, duck-and-cover and the draft. However, there was a word in common use then, that has disappeared from use today.
I heard it in conversations. It was promoted in speeches, sermons and lectures by teachers, religious leaders, civic officials, business leaders and even politicians. There was even a best selling book by John W. Gardner with that title.
It was considered a worthy goal.
What is the missing word?
Excellence was replaced in the sixties by a combination of two words made infamous by the Vietnam War – “body count.”
We hear body counts incessantly. No news reports is complete without references to numerous polls, box office numbers trump quality, attendance is the standard measure of just about everything, customer service is a dinosaur, “Black Friday” competition by retailers is smothering Thanksgiving.
Recently I was enjoying a local event when my pleasure was jared by the head of the event walking the isles counting. Afterword, I overheard him and his lieutenants, not talking about the excellence of the program, but making sure that late comers and those standing outside were included in the final count to be reported up the next day. Why, couldn’t they simply have reported: “the auditorium was full!”
Attendance at one-time events is usually the result of promotion and name recognition, not content. How many times have you been disappointed? It is true that growing attendance at a continuing event may reflect excellent content because of word-of-mouth; but, how many times have you been to a sparsely attended ongoing event of incredible excellence?
Unfortunately, we have been brainwashed by: “The Measurement Fallacy.”
“People tend to think that what they can measures is what they want, just because they can measure it. Because it can be counted, it must be important.”
Do you know who said?
“One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic.
Surprise! it was Joseph Stalin.
When was the last time you heard the word excellence or thought about it?
Is excellence the way out of our current doldrums? Did lack of excellence get us here?
Why, is excellence a missing word today?
Are you a “body counter?”
How do you develop excellence? John W. Gardner said in his book referenced above:
“Excellence is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.”
“If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.”
– Colin Powell
Do things well and numbers will not matter.
Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it has enriched my life.
I grew-up on a college campus. When my father returned after the Second World War, we moved into an apartment in one of the buildings on what was then Utah State Agriculture College, where my father taught.
The campus became my backyard where I roamed and played. First, I was attracted to sports and spent hours watching the various teams practice. But, gradually I became aware of the may free seminars, lectures and other activities on campus that were open to the public. My curiosity sucked me in. Of course, I didn’t understand everything I heard and saw, but I would hurry home to share with my parents the few small nuggets of knowledge that I had discovered.
We built a home at the foot of college hill as USAC was transitioning from a college to a University (USU). Now, the college campus became my front yard. I roamed from department to department scanning the bulletin boards for learning adventures where I could gather more nuggets, not just from the university faculty, but from visiting world class artists, musicians, scientists, writers, poets and teachers.
I found the magic of live theatre and discovered Shakespeare. My mind was opened to philosophy and critical thinking. I was taught by the Dean of Fine Arts in a free public seminar how to to look at, understand and enjoy a painting. A free seven session seminar by visiting astronomers opened the universe. I learned how to Rumba, gained an understand of Jazz and an appreciation of classic music, got the inside story of political campaigning, the fun of history, and on and on – and on and on.
Dixie State College just passed 9,000 students in enrollment. It is growing into a four year university. With that growth will come more opportunities for adventures of the mind if you make Dixie State College your backyard. I will roam the departments scanning their bulletin boards for nuggets and post them on this web site because Dixie State College is the perfect bailiwick for a curious cat.
In politics is winning everything? The Ides of March a movie written, directed and mostly financed by George Clooney is a morality play about winning. Does the end justify the means? Is it worth trading your soul to win?
The protagonist, Steve, played by Ryan Gosling says:
I’ll do anything if I believe in it. But, I have to believe in it.
Steve is lectured by his boss on loyalty. Then fired for disloyalty. But, in the end isn’t it Steve’s loyalty to what he believes in that wins? Does loyalty to what one believes in trump ethics?
In this movie, The Ides off March, who is Caesar? Who is Brutus?
A movie to see and think about.
See Charlie Rose’s interview with George Clooney on Oct 6 Here » » »
Watching Grease at Tuachan was a reflective time for me. I was a teenager during the 50’s. I had seen Grease first on the big screen and many times on the tube, but hearing the music and seeing all the trapping of the 5o’s LIVE was different. It was time travel.
At the end, during the curtain call, a group sitting across the aisle from me jumped up and joined the thin stream of “beat the trafficers” rushing to get to their cars.
I was one of the last to leave the amphitheater. On the patio outside I struck up a conversation with a group my age from New York. We traded war stories about the 50’s.
Then, down the steps to the parking lot where under a street light I bumped into another group – from Idaho – more 50’s war stories. Not just the good times. We remember polio, “duck and cover,” bomb shelters and the draft. By now the parking lot is almost empty. I can easily find my car.
Tuachan disappears in my rear view mirror. No cars in front or behind just a starry night and my headlights on the narrow road ahead – the music echoing in my ears.
I’m in no hurry.
I round a curve and see the lights of St. George and the 21st century waiting for me.