Friday Sabbatical

The present situation of the world seems pedagogical to me. Like we’re being taught something, if only we’ll sufficiently quiet ourselves to listen.

The lesson, I imagine, is unique to each of us. But the opportunity to learn it is undoubtedly now. This year, this day, this time.


So, I invite you to take a breath. To quiet your mind for a moment, and simply listen. Listen to your life, as if your life depended on it. Because, in fact, at this fulcrum of intense worldwide and personal change, more now than ever before, it just may.

Here are five things that stuck with me this week:

1. I remember when Dave Chappelle left to travel Africa and other things, the explanation that I retained for the change was that he had become aware that he had become part of the racial problem in America. I remember thinking at that point (probably in college) “what racial problem in America?”

15 years later, I finally am starting to get it. The world has changed, and, as importantly, I have changed. My ears are different.

And 15 years later, Dave Chappelle has also changed, at least in his approach. I stumbled upon this story about how he dealt with an unruly, racist young white girl at a show he was doing recently, and was heartened by not only his skill, but his grace, which is not necessarily something I would have equated with him in the past. If “Game. Blouses.” means anything to you, do yourself a favor.

2. I’ve had the profound pleasure of getting to know Nadia Brigham recently through Startgarden’s Whiskey and Wine weekly conversation. That particular weekly conversation is the subject of a future blog post, but suffice it to say it’s become an important touchstone for me in my journey to understanding racism in America, in Grand Rapids, and in myself. Nadia is a big reason why. She’s a force of nature. I have not yet met someone with as effective a combination of deep expertise in the area of racial equity, and profound skill in communicating said expertise to folks from all backgrounds, in ways they can understand.

That as context, if your business is looking for help in navigating the change of recent days with employees through training, workshops, conferences, leadership development etc., I can’t recommend Brigham Consulting highly enough.

“CEOs and leaders across corporate Birmingham (AL) are engaging their employees and saying, ‘Look, we can’t ignore this conversation, let’s make sure our values are not only in line, but let’s make sure we act on our values,” so says Randall Woodfin, mayor of Birmingham. When businesses in Birmingham are investing here, it’s become past time for your business as well. And if you need bottom line justification, I imagine that one corporate conversation with Nadia may save many hours of employee time around the (metaphorical, because work from home) water cooler.

3. Ever since Trump channeled 1984 and told us to ignore our eyes in favor of what he said, ever since the term alternative facts was first uttered, the truth has become an incredibly flexible thing. It’s probably one of the aspects of this presidency that has been the most damaging to our society, and among other things it’s changed my reading habits such that the first thing I read when anyone sends me a link is the byline. COVID19 is ground zero for areas of inquiry in which actual facts would be helpful. Watching the back and forth between our political leadership and the epidemiologists that work for them has been comically depressing.

But I found two articles this week that struck me as objective, interesting and useful as it relates to COVID. One from Blue Zones interviewing a top, non-politically-affiliated epidemiologist about what’s coming from COVID, and another from a blogger, entrepreneur and investor who correctly predicted the peak of COVID v1 to be April 15 way back in February (you’ll have to decide whether to trust my judgement that he’s worth listening to).

One says the second wave of the virus will result in 1/10 the fatalities or less, and the other says the worst scenario possible would be if the virus seems to fade away on its own this summer, which could lead to 8-16x the fatalities. So I guess we still don’t know, but for some reason it was helpful to read people who will simply come out and cop to that.

4. Here’s my favorite find this week. The Atlantic (who has been on fire recently, btw), put together a ridiculously in-depth look at political revolutions throughout history, and why some people contort themselves into crazy knots to follow their leaders propaganda no matter what denials of reality or previously-indefensible actions that demands from them, while others resist, even at significant cost. These types of revolutions happened with Hitler & the Nazi takeover of the German government (here’s another reminder that the Germans voted him in), in Vichy France, in East Germany, with fascists, and with Communists, and a similar thing is happening with Trump’s takeover of the Republican party now. The leader demands loyalty from his subordinates, even if that means covering their eyes and changing their beliefs, morals and substance. Some will resist this and continue to stand up for what they’ve always believed–these people will mostly be put to pasture or otherwise consequenced–while the vast majority will simply find whatever reason necessary to go along with things and stay safe and in power.

The whole article is enthralling, but I found it particularly insightful the juxtaposition between the Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Mitt Romney:

Both were vocal in their disapproval of Trump. Before the election, Graham called him a “jackass,” a “nutjob,” and a “race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot.” He seemed unhappy, even depressed, by the election: I happened to see him at a conference in Europe in the spring of 2016, and he spoke in monosyllables, if at all.

Romney went further. “Let me put it very plainly,” he said in March 2016, in a speech criticizing Trump: “If we Republicans choose Donald Trump as our nominee, the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished.” Romney spoke of “the bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third-grade theatrics.” He called Trump a “con man” and a “fraud.” Even after Trump won the nomination, Romney refused to endorse him. On his presidential ballot, Romney said, he wrote in his wife. Graham said he voted for the independent candidate Evan McMullin.

And you see where we are now. Romney voting to impeach Trump, and Graham his bestie BFF leading rallies with the words “I just got off the phone with Donald.”

Anyway, the analysis helped me understand why what has happened to the Republican party happened, and how it followed a similar script with similar actors playing similar parts throughout key moments in history.

I suppose the winners will eventually decide who’re the heroes.

5. Finally, holy shit what a reentry for this guy, who just came back from a 75-day, silent meditation retreat.

As always, please let me know what you think in the comments. What did you like? What do you want to see more of? What cool things did I miss? Thanks for reading.

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Nadia Brigham
1 year ago

Wow! I certainly wasn’t expecting that this Friday morning!! I can’t quite explain the flood of emotions they cause me to feel. I’m grateful, and it’s affirming, that my life’s purpose has impacted your life in some small way. Thank you!

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