This week my college’s entire faculty and the president and the provost got together and discussed a major change in the academic calendar, a change which some support and some oppose, and we worked toward a compromise. Though we didn’t solve the problem yet, we agreed to keep talking. If we didn’t keep cooperating and communicating constructively, the institution would cease to function and it would fail the needs of those we serve, the students.
A few days ago, I finished reading an eight hundred page biography of George Washington, which I reviewed at length on my Booklikes blog. Washington was flawed, as all of us are, leaders and unknowns alike. He was successful because he listened and took time to think.
Here are two of my favorite quotations from his letters (also quoted in my review):
In this one, he was writing to his adopted grandson: “Where there is no occasion for expressing an opinion, it is best to be silent, for there is nothing more certain than it is at all times more easy to make enemies than friends.”
The following is an excerpt from a letter Washington wrote to a Jewish congregation in Philadelphia. Note that the word “demean” back then related to one’s demeanor and didn’t have its modern meaning of debasing. It meant comport or behave. “All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunity of citizenship. It is now no more that tolerance is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily, the government of the United States, which gives bigotry no sanction, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens.” He found religious tolerance to be too weak a concept, too condescending toward religious minorities.
Between two classes today, I took an outdoor yoga break. My route out the side of my building passes under a walnut tree and then across a lawn beside the tennis courts. Earlier in the fall, it was hard to tell a walnut in the grass from a tennis ball. A closer look at the bright yellow-green spheres revealed either the smooth texture of a walnut pod or the fuzzy skin of a tennis ball. Now the walnuts are yellow, resembling golden delicious apples, and some have softened open or been punctured by squirrels for the nut inside. The tennis balls, of course, are still firm and green. I place them on the wall of the court or toss them inside, in case they can be used again. Once they’ve been hit past the fence and left there, though, I wonder if they can serve any purpose in the game, or if these wild shots can’t be reclaimed by either the tennis players or the earth.