Friday, July 31, 2009

Woody Allen on Abraham and Knowing the Voice of the Lord

The great biblical scholar, Woody Allen, wrote the following version of the testing of Abraham:

And Abraham awoke in the middle of the night and said to his only son, Isaac, "I have had a dream where the voice of the Lord sayeth that I must sacrifice my only son, so put your pants on."

And Isaac trembled and said, "So what did you say? I mean when He brought this whole thing up?"

"What am I going to say?" Abraham said. "I'm standing there at two A.M. I'm in my underwear with the Creator of the Universe. Should I argue?"

"Well, did he say why he wants me sacrificed?" Isaac asked his father.

But Abraham said, "The faithful do not question. Now let's go because I have a heavy day tomorrow."

And Sarah who heard Abraham's plan grew vexed and said, "How doth thou know it was the Lord and not, say, thy friend who loveth practical jokes, for the Lord hateth practical jokes and whosoever shall pull one shall be delivered into the hands of his enemies whether they pay the delivery charge or not."

And Abraham answered, "Because I know it was the Lord. It was a deep, resonant voice, well modulated, and nobody in the desert can get a rumble in it like that."

And Sarah said, "And thou art willing to carry out this senseless act?" But Abraham told her, "Frankly yes, for to question the Lord's word is one of the worst things a person can do, particularly with the economy in the state it's in."

And so he took Isaac to a certain place and prepared to sacrifice him but at the last minute the Lord stayed Abraham's hand and said, "How could thou doest such a thing?"

And Abraham said, "But thou said ---"

"Never mind what I said," the Lord spake. "Doth thou listen to every crazy idea that comes thy way?" And Abraham grew ashamed. "Er - not really … no."

"I jokingly suggest thou sacrifice Isaac and thou immediately runs out to do it."

And Abraham fell to his knees, "See, I never know when you're kidding."

And the Lord thundered, "No sense of humor. I can't believe it."

"But doth this not prove I love thee, that I was willing to donate mine only son on thy whim?"

And the Lord said, "It proves that some men will follow any order no matter how asinine as long as it comes from a resonant, well-modulated voice."

And with that, the Lord bid Abraham get some rest and check with him tomorrow.

Woody Allen, Without Feathers, 26-7. Part of a longer address posted at this link.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: Woody Allen: Cartoon courtesy of this site where you can buy wonderful full-sized cartoons of famous people like this one.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

This Story Suggests We Should Send Our Politicians to Space

Following his venture into space, astronaut Michael Collins made this statement:

“I really believe that if the political leaders of the world could see their planet from a distance of 100,000 miles their outlook could be fundamentally changed.”

“That all-important border would be invisible, that noisy argument silenced. The tiny globe would continue to turn, serenely ignoring its subdivisions, presenting a unified façade that would cry out for unified understanding, for homogeneous treatment. The earth must become as it appears: blue and white, not capitalist or Communist; blue and white, not rich or poor; blue and white, not envious or envied.”

Circling the lonely moon by yourself, the loneliest person in the universe, weren't you lonely? Miss Lynnster, Metafilter, 28 July 2009.

Seeing the World as a Whole, SFS, 4 November 2006.
Apollo 11- ‘In This One Moment, the World Came Together in Peace’, SFS, 16 July 2009.
JFK’s High Vision—We Choose to Go to the Moon, SFS, 16 July 2009.
Lunar Communion, SFS, 21 April 2006.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: Michael Collins; seeing the earth from space (Photos courtesy of NASA).

Learning the Power of Teamwork

$1Million Prize
A contest set up by Netflix, which offered a $1 million prize to anyone who could significantly improve its movie recommendation system, ended on Sunday with two teams in a virtual dead heat, and no winner to be declared until September.

Contest Produces Innovation
But the contest, which began in October 2006, has already produced an impressive legacy. It has shaped careers, spawned at least one start-up company and inspired research papers. It has also changed conventional wisdom about the best way to build the automated systems that increasingly help people make online choices about movies, books, clothing, restaurants, news and other goods and services.

The Biggest Lesson
The biggest lesson learned, according to members of the two top teams, was the power of collaboration. It was not a single insight, algorithm or concept that allowed both teams to surpass the goal Netflix, the movie rental company, set nearly three years ago: to improve the movie recommendations made by its internal software by at least 10 percent, as measured by predicted versus actual one-through-five-star ratings by customers.

Formula for Success
Instead, they say, the formula for success was to bring together people with complementary skills and combine different methods of problem-solving. This became increasingly apparent as the contest evolved.

Mr. Volinsky’s team, BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos, was the longtime front-runner and the first to surpass the 10 percent hurdle. It is actually a seven-person collection of other teams, and its members are statisticians, machine learning experts and computer engineers from the United States, Austria, Canada and Israel.

Read the entire story at this link:
Steve Lohr, Netflix Competitors Learn the Power of Teamwork, New York Times, 27 July 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: Teamwork.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Monk Says If You Want To Find Yourself Don’t Use Google Search

Are You a Real Monk?
Brother Paulus Terwitte took the stage at TED Global (25 July 2009) and immediately confronted the two questions he says everyone always asks.

The first is, "Are you a real monk?"

When he asked that, his usual reply is "Are you real?"

What Do Monks Do?
The second is: "What do you do?"

His answer to that one is, "Nothing."

He says that he does nothing because he wants to find the answer to the most important question in life, one that you can read on the first page of the Bible. We still don't know what this question is, so he tells us that there’s a little machine used all over the world to remind us of this question -- it's the cell phone that everybody calls to say “Where are you?” And that was what God asked, "Adam, where are you?" Brother Terwitte asks, "Where are you with your thoughts and your feelings? Are you at home or all over the world?"

Ditch Your Mobile Phone
He says that he was talking to someone the other day, when their phone rang, and the person took his mobile and walked away. It happens all the time, he notes. The phone rings, in the middle of dinner, in the middle of sharing ideas and people go away like the President is calling. Brother Terwitte says he eventually left the area after five minutes of waiting on this person, thinking he must not be so important.

Doing Nothing
He says that he spends three hours of an organized, scheduled doing nothing every day at his monastery. He explains that they want to find the inner voice of their being, and that every man wants to find the inner sense of things. We all want to get the whole world in our hands, he says, and you have to decide how you will do this thing.

Find Yourself Without Google
He declares that God made a paradise, and in the middle of it he put Google, and said, "If you want to find something don’t use Google. You are a human being, so go to your neighbor, not a machine."

Hunters and Gatherers on Facebook and Twitter
Brother Terwitte recounts how many followers he has on Twitter, friends on Facebook and other connections on other social media. "Is it possible that humans can have 300 friends? Is it possible to contact 600 Twitterers?" he asks. He wants to know what are we looking for. We have become primitive hunters and gatherers, he says. We are gathering information. We think that what we have is what we are. He reminds us that primitive hunters and gatherers moved forward when they began to paint. They painted the animals and all that they saw so that when there was a long winter they where happy, because they could look back on what they had seen in the world.

15 Seconds of Solitude
That’s what we friars are doing all over the world, Brother Terwitte says. He tells us that we’ve seen many things and many ideas at this conference and now he wants to give us 15 seconds to think about this alone. The room is quiet for 15 seconds.

Decide the Most Important Things
When he speaks again, he says that now we are in a time when human beings are taught to go away, to travel, volunteer here and there, to go to Venice and New York and gather all the things you can gather. Then at the end, you can say now I have made enough experiences, I can decide what I want to do. But when you look at your life you haven’t decided the most important things, you haven’t looked for them. What you have found you have found on the street, in a party, in a book and then splash, it’s over.

Be Astonished About the World
He tells us that the world is not made for us such that the world has to fulfill us. We have to become astonished about the world. There is a voice in all things that we can see. No-one can show us, but we can hear it with our hearts. It is necessary to begin to realize that we have the inner sense of the world in our life. Every man has the inner point of everything in themselves.

15 Minutes to Creativity and Connection
He says that if we were to take 15 minutes to meditate, to go on vacation without our mobiles, to make it one day without the Internet, we would find that we are all creative human beings and we would find the source that connects us all.

This is a potted summary or the ‘running notes’ that are posted at:
Brother Paulus Terwitte, Session 12: "Enquire within," TEDGlobal 24 July 2009, Oxford, UK; TED Blog, 25 July 2009.

Subscribe to TED blog for some written summaries (in different languages) and video presentations of a fascinating range of speakers—as the byline says, “Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world.” TED Global is about ‘Spreading Ideas.”

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Photo: Brother Paulus Terwitte at TEDGlobal 2009. (Photo courtesy of TED/James Duncan Davidson).

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Dr Francis Collins Shares Awesome Pictures from Book of Life

Introducing New Director
In a New York Times article (27 July 2009) Dr Francis Collins receives this introduction:

“PRESIDENT OBAMA has nominated Francis Collins to be the next director of the National Institutes of Health. It would seem a brilliant choice.

“Dr. Collins’s credentials are impeccable: he is a physical chemist, a medical geneticist and the former head of the Human Genome Project. He is also, by his own account, living proof that there is no conflict between science and religion.”

“In 2006, he published ‘The Language of God,’ in which he claimed to demonstrate “a consistent and profoundly satisfying harmony” between 21st-century science and evangelical Christianity.”
The article, Science is in the Details’ about Francis Collins by Sam Harris is published at the New York Times for paid up members but it appears fully on the web site of the author.

Awesome Pictures from the Book of Life
Author and speaker Ravi Zacharias, tells this amazing experience in his book, ‘The Grand Weaver’:

Some time ago I had the privilege to speak at a conference at Johns Hopkins University on the theme “What Does It Mean to Be Human?” Before my address, Francis Collins, the director of the Human Genome Project and the co-mapper of human DNA, presented his talk. He spoke of the intelligibility and marvel of the book of life, filled with more than three billion bits of information. In a strange way, he became both the subject and the object of his study, both the designer and the design of his research. Extraordinary thoughts swarmed within me as I listened, virtually tuning in and out of the talk in order to reflect on the wonder of it all.

In his last slide, he showed two pictures side by side [Pictured above. CLICK TO MAGNIFY]. On the left appeared a magnificent photo of the stained-glass rose window from Yorkminster Cathedral in Yorkshire, England, its symmetry radiating from the center, its colors and geometric patterns spectacular—clearly a work of art purposefully designed by a gifted artist. Its sheer beauty stirred the mind.

On the right side of the screen appeared a slide showing a cross section of a strand of human DNA. The picture did more than take away one’s breath; it was awesome in the profoundest sense of the term—not just beautiful, but overwhelming. And it almost mirrored the pattern of the rose window in Yorkminster. The intricacy of the DNA’s design that pointed to the Transcendent One astonished those who are themselves the design and who have been created semi-transcendent by design. We see ourselves only partially, but through our Creator’s eyes, we see our transcendence. In looking at our own DNA, the subject and the object came together.

The audience gasped at the sight, for it saw itself. The design, the color, the splendor of the design left everyone speechless, even though it is this very design that makes us capable of speech. Because of this design we can think in profound ways, but we felt paralyzed by the thought and could go no further. Because of that design we remained trapped in time but were momentarily lifted to the eternal. Because of that design we were capable of love and suddenly could see the loveliness of who we are.

We can map out the human genome and in it see the evidence of a great Cartographer. We can plan and now see a great Planner. We can sing and now see poetry in matter. We speculate and see the intricacies of purpose. We live, seeing the blueprint of life. And we die, but we can look through the keyhole of life.

At Johns Hopkins that day we saw the handiwork of the One who made us for himself.

Postscript by Geoff Pound
Ravi’s vivid description left me wanting to see more. I Googled ‘Francis Collins and discovered more information about him and his work. I sent him this story and asked if he could send me the pictures.

Francis replied with the pictures saying, “I had not previously seen this powerful excerpt from Ravi Zacharias’ book. Attached is the image that stirred him to such inspiring words.”

I am grateful to Francis for permission to post these pictures and to Ravi for penning his reflections.

Francis Collin’s Biography
Ravi Zacharias
The Grand Weaver: How God Shapes us through the Events of our Lives, Zondervan, 2007. Publishing details, review and a fascinating interview with Ravi.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: Rose Window, Yorkminster; View along the axis of the β DNA Double Helix.


Sonia Sotomayor—‘I Don’t Use Labels’

Asked at the US Senate Court confirmation (13 July 2009) hearing to describe whether she subscribed to one or another school of constitutional interpretation, Judge Sonia Sotomayor said, “I don’t use labels.”

Kate Phillips, Live Blogging Sotomayor Hearings, Day 2, New York Times, 14 July 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: Judge Sonia Sotomayor at her first day of the hearing (photo courtesy of Stephen Crowley and the NY Times from the link above).

Monday, July 27, 2009

Frank McCourt on Learning the Significance of His Insignificant Life

Frank McCourt, a former New York City schoolteacher who turned his miserable childhood in Limerick, Ireland, into a phenomenally popular, Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir, “Angela’s Ashes,” died in Manhattan recently. He was 78 and lived in Manhattan and Roxbury, Conn.

It was “Angela’s Ashes” that loomed over all things McCourt, however, and constituted a transformative experience for its author.

Significance of Insignificant
Speaking to students at Bay Shore High School on Long Island in 1997, he said, “I learned the significance of my own insignificant life.”

‘Oh Well’
“I think there’s something about the Irish experience — that we had to have a sense of humor or die,” Mr. McCourt once told an interviewer. “That’s what kept us going — a sense of absurdity, rather than humor.

“And it did help because sometimes you’d get desperate,” he continued. “And I developed this habit of saying to myself, ‘Oh, well.’ I might be in the midst of some misery, and I’d say to myself, ‘Well, someday you’ll think it’s funny.’ And the other part of my head will say: ‘No, you won’t — you’ll never think this is funny. This is the most miserable experience you’ve ever had.’ But later on you look back and you say, ‘That was funny, that was absurd.’ ”

Read the entire article
William Grimes, Frank McCourt, Whose Irish Childhood Illuminated His Prose, Is Dead at 78, New York Times, 19 July 2009.

Frank McCourt the Storytelling Teacher, SFS.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: Frank McCourt sitting in his old insignificant class room.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Alberto Contador Tells About the Hardest Moment in the Tour de France

Alberto Contador won the Tour de France for a second time Sunday (26 July 2009), and Lance Armstrong capped his return to the race with an impressive third-place finish.

Hardest Moment
After nearly 3,500 kilometers and 21 stages of racing over three weeks, Contador was asked on French TV what was the hardest moment in the race.

He replied: "It was in the (team) hotel," without elaborating.

Contador and Armstrong reportedly had differences early in the race, as tensions grew over who was the No. 1 Astana rider.

"We are totally incompatible. In the end, Armstrong will go his way and I'll go mine," Contador said.

Jamey Keaten, Alberto Contador Wins Tour; Lance Armstrong 3rd, Huffington Post, 26 July 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: Tour de France winner Alberto Contador of Spain, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, celebrates after winning the cycling race for the second time. (Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Laurent Rebours).

Walter Cronkite’s Advice When You Think You’ve Done a Brilliant Job

Tom Brokaw offers this reflection on Walter Cronkite, ‘the most famous journalist of his time’:

When I was taking over Nightly News, some mutual friends had a small dinner, and Cronkite rose to offer some advice. "There will be nights," he said, "when you think you've done a brilliant job on a big story. You'll leave the studio with the echoes of praise from your colleagues ringing in your ears. And once outside in New York, you'll realize there are millions of people in this city alone who didn't watch and who don't give a damn what you just did."

That was a line I remembered at the end of many days. To those of us of a younger generation, Cronkite was never paternalistic. He didn't like many of the changes in network news, but he was always generous. In the end, what endeared him to so many was that he always seemed like a man you were as likely to find walking down Main Street as knocking back drinks at Toots Shor's or manning his yacht, asking all around him, "What's the latest news?"

If I told him this week, "Walter Cronkite died," he'd laugh and say, "Walter who? Never heard of him."

Read the entire article:
Tom Brokaw, Walter Cronkite, a No-Nonsense Newshound, Time, 23 July 2009.

The Modesty of Walter Cronkite—‘Just a Reporter’, SFE.
Walter Cronkite on Being Clear About Your Role, SFS.
Walter Cronkite and the Difference One Person can Make, SFS.
Authentic Transparency is Walter Cronkite’s Greatest Lesson Says Seth Godin, SFS.
Walter Cronkite—‘Relentlessly Inquisitive’, SFS.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: Walter Cronkite on the cover of TIME.

Malcolm Gladwell on Gallipoli and the Problem of Overconfidence

In his essay in The New Yorker entitled ‘Cocksure: Banks, Battles and the Psychology of Overconfidence’ Malcolm Gladwell shares and ruminates on this story:

In “Military Misfortunes,” the historians Eliot Cohen and John Gooch offer, as a textbook example of this kind of failure, the British-led invasion of Gallipoli, in 1915. Gallipoli is a peninsula in southern Turkey, jutting out into the Aegean. The British hoped that by landing an army there they could make an end run around the stalemate on the Western Front, and give themselves a clear shot at the soft underbelly of Germany. It was a brilliant and daring strategy. “In my judgment, it would have produced a far greater effect upon the whole conduct of the war than anything [else],” the British Prime Minister H. H. Asquith later concluded. But the invasion ended in disaster, and Cohen and Gooch find the roots of that disaster in the curious complacency displayed by the British.

The invasion required a large-scale amphibious landing, something the British had little experience with. It then required combat against a foe dug into ravines and rocky outcroppings and hills and thickly vegetated landscapes that Cohen and Gooch call “one of the finest natural fortresses in the world.” Yet the British never bothered to draw up a formal plan of operations. The British military leadership had originally estimated that the Allies would need a hundred and fifty thousand troops to take Gallipoli. Only seventy thousand were sent. The British troops should have had artillery—more than three hundred guns. They took a hundred and eighteen, and, for the most part, neglected to bring howitzers, trench mortars, or grenades. Command of the landing at Sulva Bay—the most critical element of the attack—was given to Frederick Stopford, a retired officer whose experience was largely administrative. Stopford had two days during which he had a ten-to-one advantage over the Turks and could easily have seized the highlands overlooking the bay. Instead, his troops lingered on the beach, while Stopford lounged offshore, aboard a command ship. Winston Churchill later described the scene as “the placid, prudent, elderly English gentleman with his 20,000 men spread around the beaches, the front lines sitting on the tops of shallow trenches, smoking and cooking, with here and there an occasional rifle shot, others bathing by hundreds in the bright blue bay where, disturbed hardly by a single shell, floated the great ships of war.” When word of Stopford’s ineptitude reached the British commander, Sir Ian Hamilton, he rushed to Sulva Bay to intercede—although “rushed” may not be quite the right word here, since Hamilton had chosen to set up his command post on an island an hour away and it took him a good while to find a boat to take him to the scene.

Cohen and Gooch ascribe the disaster at Gallipoli to a failure to adapt—a failure to take into account how reality did not conform to their expectations. And behind that failure to adapt was a deeply psychological problem: the British simply couldn’t wrap their heads around the fact that they might have to adapt. “Let me bring my lads face to face with Turks in the open field,” Hamilton wrote in his diary before the attack. “We must beat them every time because British volunteer soldiers are superior individuals to Anatolians, Syrians or Arabs and are animated with a superior ideal and an equal joy in battle.”

Hamilton was not a fool. Cohen and Gooch call him an experienced and “brilliant commander who was also a firstrate trainer of men and a good organizer.” Nor was he entirely wrong in his assessments. The British probably were a superior fighting force. Certainly they were more numerous, especially when they held that ten-to-one advantage at Sulva Bay. Hamilton, it seems clear, was simply overconfident—and one of the things that happen to us when we become overconfident is that we start to blur the line between the kinds of things that we can control and the kinds of things that we can’t. The psychologist Ellen Langer once had subjects engage in a betting game against either a self-assured, well-dressed opponent or a shy and badly dressed opponent (in Langer’s delightful phrasing, the “dapper” or the “schnook” condition), and she found that her subjects bet far more aggressively when they played against the schnook. They looked at their awkward opponent and thought, I’m better than he is. Yet the game was pure chance: all the players did was draw cards at random from a deck, and see who had the high hand. This is called the “illusion of control”: confidence spills over from areas where it may be warranted (“I’m savvier than that schnook”) to areas where it isn’t warranted at all (“and that means I’m going to draw higher cards”).

At Gallipoli, the British acted as if their avowed superiority over the Turks gave them superiority over all aspects of the contest. They neglected to take into account the fact that the morning sun would be directly in the eyes of the troops as they stormed ashore. They didn’t bring enough water. They didn’t factor in the harsh terrain. “The attack was based on two assumptions,” Cohen and Gooch write, “both of which turned out to be unwise: that the only really difficult part of the operation would be getting ashore, after which the Turks could easily be pushed off the peninsula; and that the main obstacles to a happy landing would be provided by the enemy.”

Most people are inclined to use moral terms to describe overconfidence—terms like “arrogance” or “hubris.” But psychologists tend to regard overconfidence as a state as much as a trait. The British at Gallipoli were victims of a situation that promoted overconfidence. Langer didn’t say that it was only arrogant gamblers who upped their bets in the presence of the schnook. She argues that this is what competition does to all of us; because ability makes a difference in competitions of skill, we make the mistake of thinking that it must also make a difference in competitions of pure chance. Other studies have reached similar conclusions. As novices, we don’t trust our judgment. Then we have some success, and begin to feel a little surer of ourselves. Finally, we get to the top of our game and succumb to the trap of thinking that there’s nothing we can’t master. As we get older and more experienced, we overestimate the accuracy of our judgments, especially when the task before us is difficult and when we’re involved with something of great personal importance. The British were overconfident at Gallipoli not because Gallipoli didn’t matter but, paradoxically, because it did; it was a high-stakes contest, of daunting complexity, and it is often in those circumstances that overconfidence takes root.

Read the entire article:
Malcolm Gladwell, Cocksure: Banks, battles, and the psychology of overconfidence, The New Yorker, 27 July 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: “The invasion required a large-scale amphibious landing, something the British had little experience with. It then required combat against a foe dug into ravines and rocky outcroppings and hills and thickly vegetated landscapes that Cohen and Gooch call ‘one of the finest natural fortresses in the world.’”

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Modesty of Walter Cronkite—‘Just a Reporter’

Walter Cronkite, the pioneering anchorman of America’s “CBS Evening News” from 1962 to 1981, told his children from time to time that he was “just” a reporter, one who had “just ended up reporting bigger and bigger stories.”

Brian Stelter, Friends at Service Recall Walter Cronkite’s Private Side, New York Times, 23 July 2009.

Walter Cronkite on Being Clear About Your Role, SFS.
Walter Cronkite and the Difference One Person can Make, SFS.
Authentic Transparency is Walter Cronkite’s Greatest Lesson Says Seth Godin, SFS.
Walter Cronkite—‘Relentlessly Inquisitive’, SFS.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: ‘Just a Reporter’

Friday, July 24, 2009

Walter Cronkite on Being Clear About Your Role

Walter Cronkite, who pioneered and then mastered the role of television news anchorman with such plain-spoken grace that he was called the most trusted man in America, died last week at his home in New York. He was 92.

“I am a news presenter, a news broadcaster, an anchorman, a managing editor — not a commentator or analyst,” he said in an interview with The Christian Science Monitor in 1973. “I feel no compulsion to be a pundit.”

Douglas Martin, Walter Cronkite, 92, Dies; Trusted Voice of TV News, New York Times, 17 July 2009.

Walter Cronkite and the Difference One Person can Make, SFS.
Authentic Transparency is Walter Cronkite’s Greatest Lesson Says Seth Godin, SFS.
Walter Cronkite—‘Relentlessly Inquisitive’, SFS.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Walter Cronkite—‘Relentlessly Inquisitive’

Andy Rooney, newspaper columnist and television commentator said of Walter Cronkite:

“A group of reporters would meet at St. Pancras station and board a train for Bedford. Among the friends I made on those trips was...Walter Cronkite with United Press...”

“Cronkite had escaped being drafted because he was color-blind....”

“These reporters were my teachers although they didn't know it. While I tried to act more like one of them than a student, I watched and listened carefully.”

“Anyone who thinks of Walter Cronkite today as the authoritative father figure of television news would be surprised to know what a tough, competitive scrambler he was in the old Front Page tradition of newspaper reporting."

"He became the best anchorman there ever was in television because he knew news when he saw it and cared about it. He was relentlessly inquisitive. The subject of his interview always sensed that Cronkite was interested in what he had to say and knew a great deal about the issue himself.”

Andy Rooney, "My War, by Andy Rooney" (Times Books/Random House, 1995).
Compiled by Dana Cook, Walter Cronkite, 1916-2009, Remembrances of "the most trusted man in America", Salon, 18 July 2009.

Walter Cronkite and the Difference One Person can Make, SFS.
Authentic Transparency is Walter Cronkite’s Greatest Lesson Says Seth Godin, SFS.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: “What a tough, competitive scrambler he was…”

Authentic Transparency is Walter Cronkite’s Greatest Lesson Says Seth Godin

As always Seth Godin is brief and to the point in his recent tribute to Walter Cronkite:

Here's the thing about the life of Walter Cronkite:

At every turn, he acted as if he had a responsibility to his audience. He didn't do the right thing because he thought it would help him get ahead and then one day he'd get his share. Instead, he always did the right thing because that's who he was. No sellouts, no political consulting, no false transparency.

That's the way it is.

Transparency works if it's authentic.

See and subscribe to Seth Godin’s blog:
Walter’s Lesson, Seth Godin’s Blog.

Walter Cronkite and the Difference One Person Can Make, SFS, 20 July 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Main Thing We Want is Service

Restaurants and other businesses often work hard on their:

Data base
Facebook page
(you fill in this gap…)

... while the main thing that people want is good service.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Giving and Breaking Bread is the Everyday Sacrament

A friend included this nourishing slice in a recent letter:

We were enjoying the hospitality of a Tajik family in a remote village when our hostess disappeared for a few minutes.

She came back with the largest bread I've ever seen. She cooked it herself in her tandoor.

Bread is sacred in Central Asia culture. You thank God for it. You handle it with care. You never lay it down with the bottom side up. Bread is never thrown away. If it gets old, then feed it to the cows but it would be a sin to throw in the garbage.

When guests come, break the bread and place a piece in front of each guest. Honor them and God who has brought them safely to you.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: A small loaf of Tajik bread.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Frank McCourt the Storytelling Teacher

Eric Konigsberg has written in the New York Times (20 July 2009) a wonderful tribute to the author, Frank McCourt. Here are some snippets about storytelling to whet your appetite for the complete article:

Storytelling Produced the Writer
Frank McCourt, who died Sunday (19 July 2009), was the first to say that those years [teaching creative writing in high schools], while depriving him of the time actually to write, were what made a writer out of him.

Literature is Telling Stories
“His students learned from him that literature was nothing more — and nothing less — than the telling of stories…. But, as many of them have said, the most inspired and inspiring hours spent in his classroom were devoted to listening to him share experiences from his own life.

“A lot of the class was him telling tales and telling them over and over,” said Alissa Quart, an author and a 2009 Nieman Fellow at Harvard who was Mr. McCourt’s student during her freshman year at Stuyvesant, in 1985-86. “He used to sort of recite from memory the stories that became ‘Angela’s Ashes.’ ”

Telling Your Story
“Looking back, it was all part of a technique,” said Vernon Silver…. “He wanted you to tell a story too.”

“A common exercise was asking students to describe what they had done when they got home the night before. “He would coax it out of us, showing us how to pay attention to mundane but telling details,” Mr. Silver said.

Attention to Detail
“I remember a dialogue with a shy student. The kid said, ‘I did my homework.’ McCourt said: ‘No, no, no. What did you do when you walked in? You went through a door, didn’t you? Did you have anything in your hands? A book bag? You didn’t carry it with you all night, did you? Did you hang it on a hook? Did you throw it across the room and your mom yelled at you for it?’”

And on and on, until enough significant glimpses of the boy’s life emerged to begin to paint a picture.”

Dangers and Delights of Transparency
“In the teachers’ cafeteria veterans warned me, Son, tell ’em nothing about yourself. ...You’re the teacher. You have a right to privacy. The little buggers are diabolical. They are not, repeat not, your natural friends. ... You can never get back the bits and pieces of your life that stick in their little heads. Your life, man. It’s all you have.”

He went on: “The advice was wasted. ... My life saved my life.”

Read the entire article at this link:
Eric Konigsberg, The Storyteller Begat the Teacher who Begat the Writer, New York Times, 20 July 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: Frank McCourt.

Walter Cronkite and the Difference One Person Can Make

Walter Cronkite has died and there have been posted since Friday many remembrances of "the most trusted man in America."

Here is a memory by the actor Eve Arden which she penned more than fifty years ago.

“We were given a welcome-back [from Europe] party by Dottie Leffler, a CBS publicist who had become a good friend while doing publicity for ‘Miss Brooks.’ That evening I was miserable with what I thought might be the flu....When I arrived, I still felt awful, so Dottie took me to the guest room to relax awhile. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself when suddenly Dottie appeared in the door saying, ‘Here's some company for you, and in walked Walter and Mrs. Cronkite and their daughter Kathy.”

“As we talked I began to feel better and better. He's always had that effect on me, whether on TV or the few times we happened to meet him on the street. He makes me believe in the difference that one man can make in this world.”
(New York, 1953)

Link: From "Three Phases of Eve," by Eve Arden (St. Martin's Press, 1985) and Walter Cronkite, 1916-2009: Remembrances of "the most trusted man in America", Compiled by Dana Cook, Salon, July 18, 2009

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: Walter Cronkite.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Lesson 1 in Communication and Marketing—Grab Attention

The woman who posted this billboard demonstrates creativity, innovation and courage.

She models how important it is for marketers and communicators to grab the attention of your specific audience.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Neil Armstrong on the Importance of Having a Great Vision

The Sky's the Limit
On the 20th July, 1969 the first lunar module touched down on the moon near the Sea of Tranquillity.

When stepping down the ladder onto the dusty surface, astronaut Neil Armstrong voiced those memorable words: "This is one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

Many who watched the events on their television had a sense that history was being made, that this day heralded a new era in the exploration of the universe.

Sustaining Vision
While the path toward this step appeared to have started seven years earlier when Armstrong entered the space programme, in reality it began much earlier, for Armstrong said that from the time he was a child growing up in the 1930's in the American state of Ohio, he always knew that he would do something significant in aviation history. As a youngster he had a vision that he would be someone important and it was this vision that sustained him and spurred him on literally to those very great heights.

Downward Movement
A few years after that momentous event, Neil Armstrong made a very interesting observation. He said that of the fourteen men who had gone to the moon at that stage, eight of them had had a nervous breakdown after they had returned.

When asked to explain he said: “One of our biggest problems is that it takes so many years for astronauts to train. We live the space programme and we breathe the space programme then we do it and after we've done it there's nothing left! Your vision has been accomplished.”

This story from space illustrates the way that reaching toward a grand vision can be a marvellous sustainer for individuals and organizations. Although visions can be too high that they appear daunting and out of reach, often the greater the vision, the greater the spur, the more impossible the vision appears, the greater the sense of challenge it evokes.

Gordon Moyes, Be a Winner: How to Create a Positive Personality. Melbourne: Vital Publications, 1982.

Apollo 11- ‘In This One Moment, the World Came Together in Peace’, Stories for Speakers and Writers (SFS), 16 July 2009.
JFK’s High Vision—We Choose to Go to the Moon, SFS, 16 July 2009.
Lunar Communion, SFS, 21 April 2006.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Television footage of the first human footstep on Lunar soil on July 20, 1969. Astronaut Neil Armstrong took these first steps, followed shortly by Buzz Aldrin. This is a reproduction of the television image that was transmitted to the world on July 20th, 1969, NASA.

Picture courtesy of Boston’s The Big Picture. See the forty fantastic photos at this link: Remembering Apollo 11, The Big Picture, 15 July 2009.

Friday, July 17, 2009

John F Kennedy’s High Vision—‘We Choose to Go to the Moon’

In a speech to a Houston College in September 1962, President John F. Kennedy delivered his memorable ‘We choose to go to the Moon’ address, stating that humankind will be on the moon before the end of the decade.

The speech had strong tones of national one-upmanship and the need to put stakes in space before other countries do but it also demonstrates the power of a grand vision.

He said:

“But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?”

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too….”

“Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, ‘Because it is there.’”

“Well, space is there, and we're going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God's blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.”

Link to the Entire Speech
John F. Kennedy, Moon Speech, September 12, 1962

Apollo 11- ‘In This One Moment, the World Came Together in Peace’, Stories for Speakers and Writers (SFS), 16 July 2009.
Lunar Communion, SFS, 21 April 2006.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

German scientist Dr. Wernher von Braun explains the Saturn Launch System to President John F. Kennedy during a visit. NASA Deputy Administrator Robert Seamans is to the left of von Braun. (NASA).

Picture courtesy of Boston’s The Big Picture. See the forty fantastic photos at this link: Remembering Apollo 11, The Big Picture, 15 July 2009.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Apollo 11-‘In this One Moment, the World Came Together in Peace’

Fortieth Anniversary
Boston’s The Big Picture has an anniversary album (40 images) celebrating the first mission to the moon.

Here is its preamble:

“40 years ago, three human beings - with the help of many thousands of others - left our planet on a successful journey to our Moon, setting foot on another world for the first time.

Tomorrow marks the 40th anniversary of the July 16, 1969 launch of Apollo 11, with astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin Jr. aboard.

The entire trip lasted only 8 days, the time spent on the surface was less than one day, the entire time spent walking on the moon, a mere 2 1/2 hours - but they were surely historic hours….

Collected here are 40 images from that journey four decades ago, when, in the words of astronaut Buzz Aldrin: "In this one moment, the world came together in peace for all [hu]mankind".

Caption to Photo #28 (pictured)
“Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, photographed by Neil Armstrong (visible in reflection).”

“Buzz Aldrin: ‘As I walked away from the Eagle Lunar Module, Neil said 'Hold it, Buzz', so I stopped and turned around, and then he took what has become known as the 'Visor' photo.’”

A Solitary Moment
“I like this photo because it captures the moment of a solitary human figure against the horizon of the Moon, along with a reflection in my helmet's visor of our home away from home, the Eagle, and of Neil snapping the photo.”

The World Came Together
“Here we were, farther away from the rest of humanity than any two humans had ever ventured. Yet, in another sense, we became inextricably connected to the hundreds of millions watching us more than 240,000 miles away. In this one moment, the world came together in peace for all [hu]mankind.”

Link: Remembering Apollo 11, The Big Picture, 15 July 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: Photo #28 (courtesy of The Big Picture at the above link). Check out the entire album of 40 photographs. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I Don't Want to End Up Simply Having Visited this World

Dr Judith Rich’s breast cancer diagnosis three months ago has brought the ‘death’ word to the forefront of her mind and awareness in a new and urgent way.

In her article about life and death she quotes Mary Oliver's wonderful poem:

When Death Comes (not to worry, this poem is really about life)

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps his purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering;
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

Link for the entire article: Dr Judith Rich, Knowing I Will Die Someday, How Then Shall I Live? Huffington Post, 15 July 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: “And I think of each life as a flower” (I took this photo of the field of sunflowers in Provence, France in the northern summer of 2007. The sunflower is such a lovely image of living life to the full and turning yourself towards the light).

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Antoni Gaudí of Barcelona—Madman or Genius?

Gaudí of Barcelona
I am living in Barcelona for several weeks and roving around this city one becomes aware of how the architect Antoni Gaudí has left his mark.

Constructive Mark
From lamp posts, to parks, churches and houses, Gaudí pushed the bounds of what was familiar and put his creative stamp on everything he touched.

In a web site giving information on Barcelona’s modernisme movement, there is this thumbnail sketch of Gaudí’s life and the insightful statement made about the young architect at his graduation:

Antoni Gaudí i Cornet (1852-1926)
Antoni Gaudí i Cornet was born in 1852 in Reus to a family of coppersmiths from Riudoms. The smallest of five brothers, he moved to Barcelona in 1873 to study architecture, which he finished four years later.

Only Time Will Tell
It is said that on awarding him his degree, the Director of the School of Architecture, Elies Rogent, muttered “Who knows whether we have given the degree to a madman or a genius: only time will tell”.

Source: Ruta del Modernisme, Barcelona Modernisme Route, Ajuntament de Barcelona.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff Pound can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: Some of the buildings and spaces where Gaudí made his mark.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Elaborate Solutions for Simple Problems

Brian Clark shares this story:

Back when NASA started launching manned spacecraft in the 1960s, they found out that the astronauts couldn’t use pens to write with while in space. The ink wouldn’t flow down through the pen in a zero-gravity environment. NASA decided to retain a man named Paul Fisher to design a pen that would work in space.

A mere $1.5 million later, they had a solution. NASA now had a pen that worked in zero gravity, in a vacuum, and in a drastic temperature range.

The Russian cosmonauts had the same problem, of course. So they used a pencil.

Now, this anecdote isn’t historically accurate, and has become a bit of an urban legend.

The truth is both the US and Russia used pencils at first, and Paul Fisher independently created the pen and sold 400 of them to NASA for a song.

The reason the exaggerated story is so widely embraced, though, is because it rings true.

We often expend large amounts of time and effort creating elaborate solutions to problems when a simple answer is right under our noses.

Source: Brian Clark, Teaching Sells Report, Teaching Sells.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff Pound can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: Fisher Space Pen.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Talent is Overrated-Ask Mozart or Tiger

Walter Shurden, in his monthly dispatch, writes of two authors giving their variation on a theme:

Genes or Grind
In an article titled Genius: The Modern View in the May 1 issue of The New York Times, Brooks weighs in on the issue of whence comes talent.

Is it predestination or practice? Genes or grinding work?

Did Mozart and Tiger come hard-wired that way or did they get that way by practice, practice, practice?

Brooks opts for the latter.

Construction Site
He closes his op-ed piece with these two lines. “We construct ourselves through behavior.”

As Daniel Coyle observes in his book, The Talent Code, it’s not who you are, it’s what you do.”

The subtitle to Coyle’s book is Greatness Isn’t Born, It’s Grown.

Thanks to Walter ‘Buddy’ Shurden for this story. Let me know if you want to be added to his meaty monthly email which I always read as soon as it arrives.

More stories on Tiger.
More on the discipline exercised by Mozart.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: “We construct ourselves through behavior.”

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Sex Pistols Firing Up a Movement

It’s June of 1976 in Manchester, England, and a small group of people gather in a tiny venue called the Lesser Free Trade Hall to see a band play.

There’s nothing really remarkable about this group of 42 people, and that evening’s featured musicians are unknown at the time. The band calls themselves the Sex Pistols.

As I mentioned, there were no famous people in the crowd at this show, or at the follow-up show that happened about a month later.

The Sex Pistols had not yet caused an uproar throughout the UK with songs like Anarchy in the UK and God Save the Queen, and it was well before they invaded the US in 1978.

Attendees ranged from the local mailman to a few rebellious school children. But a handful of others in that small audience became some of the most influential people in independent and now mainstream music.

In that tiny crowd were the likes of Tony Wilson, who went on to start the influential Factory Records (home to New Order and Happy Mondays) and The Haçienda nightclub (the birthplace of rave culture), legendary producer Martin Hannett, and Paul Morley who became a music journalist for NME.

Also in attendance were the members of future punk favorites the Buzzcocks, Mark E. Smith of The Fall, Mick Hucknall who became lead singer of Simply Red, Morrissey who would later front The Smiths, and the founding members of Joy Division, who after the death of their lead singer would carry on as New Order.

If you’re not familiar with alternative music from the 1980s, let me put this in perspective. This tiny concert is considered on par with Woodstock and Live Aid in terms of importance, due to the influence the audience went on to have on popular music by creating the independent music scene.

Contrary to what you might think, not all of these people in the audience thought the Sex Pistols were fantastic. Sure, some were attracted to the fresh, raw power of punk and the “do it yourself” ethos that came with it, but others thought the Pistols sounded like rubbish and thought they could do better.

Regardless, that small group of people spotted the changing dynamics in music and took action, because if the Pistols could do it, so could they. By seeing the inevitable future they became important players in that future.

Source: Brian Clark, Teaching Sells Report, Teaching Sells, 18-19.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: The Sex Pistols, 1976.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Contagious Disease of Bad News

THERE were four of us – George, and William Samuel Harris, and myself, and Montmorency. We were sitting in my room, smoking, and talking about how bad we were – bad from a medical point of view I mean, of course.

We were all feeling seedy, and we were getting quite nervous about it. Harris said he felt such extraordinary fits of giddiness come over him at times, that he hardly knew what he was doing; and then George said that HE had fits of giddiness too, and hardly knew what HE was doing. With me, it was my liver that was out of order. I knew it was my liver that was out of order, because I had just been reading a patent liver-pill circular, in which were detailed the various symptoms by which a man could tell when his liver was out of order. I had them all.

It is a most extraordinary thing, but I never read a patent medicine advertisement without being impelled to the conclusion that I am suffering from the particular disease therein dealt with in its most virulent form. The diagnosis seems in every case to correspond exactly with all the sensations that I have ever felt.

I remember going to the British Museum one day to read up the treatment for some slight ailment of which I had a touch – hay fever, I fancy it was. I got down the book, and read all I came to read; and then, in an unthinking moment, I idly turned the leaves, and began to indolently study diseases, generally. I forget which was the first distemper I plunged into – some fearful, devastating scourge, I know – and, before I had glanced half down the list of “premonitory symptoms,” it was borne in upon me that I had fairly got it.

I sat for awhile, frozen with horror; and then, in the listlessness of despair, I again turned over the pages. I came to typhoid fever – read the symptoms – discovered that I had typhoid fever, must have had it for months without knowing it – wondered what else I had got; turned up St. Vitus’s Dance – found, as I expected, that I had that too, – began to get interested in my case, and determined to sift it to the bottom, and so started alphabetically – read up ague, and learnt that I was sickening for it, and that the acute stage would commence in about another fortnight. Bright’s disease, I was relieved to find, I had only in a modified form, and, so far as that was concerned, I might live for years. Cholera I had, with severe complications; and diphtheria I seemed to have been born with. I plodded conscientiously through the twenty-six letters, and the only malady I could conclude I had not got was housemaid’s knee.

I felt rather hurt about this at first; it seemed somehow to be a sort of slight. Why hadn’t I got housemaid’s knee? Why this invidious reservation? After a while, however, less grasping feelings prevailed. I reflected that I had every other known malady in the pharmacology, and I grew less selfish, and determined to do without housemaid’s knee. Gout, in its most malignant stage, it would appear, had seized me without my being aware of it; and zymosis I had evidently been suffering with from boyhood. There were no more diseases after zymosis, so I concluded there was nothing else the matter with me.

I sat and pondered. I thought what an interesting case I must be from a medical point of view, what an acquisition I should be to a class! Students would have no need to “walk the hospitals,” if they had me. I was a hospital in myself. All they need do would be to walk round me, and, after that, take their diploma.

Then I wondered how long I had to live. I tried to examine myself. I felt my pulse. I could not at first feel any pulse at all. Then, all of a sudden, it seemed to start off. I pulled out my watch and timed it. I made it a hundred and forty-seven to the minute. I tried to feel my heart. I could not feel my heart. It had stopped beating. I have since been induced to come to the opinion that it must have been there all the time, and must have been beating, but I cannot account for it. I patted myself all over my front, from what I call my waist up to my head, and I went a bit round each side, and a little way up the back. But I could not feel or hear anything. I tried to look at my tongue. I stuck it out as far as ever it would go, and I shut one eye, and tried to examine it with the other. I could only see the tip, and the only thing that I could gain from that was to feel more certain than before that I had scarlet fever.

I had walked into that reading-room a happy, healthy man. I crawled out a decrepit wreck.

Source: Jerome K Jerome, Three Men in a Boat, p1-2.

Dr Geoff Pound

Monday, July 06, 2009

As Close and Unobtrusive as That

John V. Taylor shares this story and reflection in his book:

A colleague has recently described to me an occasion when a West Indian woman in a London flat was told of her husband’s death in a street accident. The shock of grief stunned her like a blow, she sank into a corner of the sofa and sat there rigid and unhearing. For a long time her terrible tranced look continued to concern and embarrass the family, friends and officials who came and went.

Then the schoolteacher of one of her children, an Englishwoman, called and, seeing how things were, went and sat beside her. Without a word she threw an arm around the tight shoulders, clasping them with her full strength. The white cheek was thrust hard against the brown. Then as the unrelenting pain seeped through to her the newcomer’s tears began to flow, falling on their two hands linked in the woman’s lap.

For a long time that was all that was happening. And then at last the West Indian woman started to sob. Still not a word was spoken and after a little while the visitor got up and went, leaving her contribution to help the family meet its immediate needs.

That is the embrace of God, his kiss of life. That is the embrace of his mission and our intercession. And the Holy Spirit is the force in the straining muscles of an arm, the film of sweat between pressed cheeks, the mingled wetness on the back of clasped hands. He is as close and unobtrusive as that, and as irresistibly strong.

Source: John V. Taylor, The Go-Between God.

Dr Geoff Pound

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Hugh MacLeod on Remembering the White Pebble

Hugh MacLeod has a web site called Gaping Void upon which he posts “cartoons drawn on the back of business cards” (like the one pictured).

In a recent post Hugh shares this story:

There's a wonderful metaphor in the Bible [Revelation 2:17] about "a white pebble".

17 Let the one who has an ear hear what the spirit says to the congregations: To him that conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white pebble, and upon the pebble a new name written which no one knows except the one receiving it.

The metaphor was once explained to me by a Catholic monk. To paraphrase:

"You have three selves: The person that you think you are, the person that other people think you are, and the person that God thinks you are. The white pebble represents the latter. And of the three, it is by far the most important."

He then gave me some good advice, something I've always kept with me:

"When life gets really tough, just remember the white pebble. Just remember who you really are. Just remember the person that only God can see."

Whatever your thoughts on God or Religion may be, positive or negative, the white pebble is a very simple metaphor that audaciously asks the question: "Who are you, really?"

Yes, why are you here, exactly? Who are you here for? Yourself? Other people? God? Or maybe some other cause? You tell me...

It's one of those questions that never gets old. Unlike the poor body that houses us.

Read the full post and subscribe to Hugh’s (in)site at:

Hugh MacLeod, Everyone Needs an Evil Plan, Gaping Void, 25 June 2009.

Dr Geoff Pound

Friday, July 03, 2009

Anthony Trollope and What’s in a Name?

At the height of his fame, the Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope became so intrigued by what he felt to be ‘an injustice in literary affairs’ that he decided to perform an unusual experiment:

"It seemed to me that a name once earned carried with it too much favour … I felt that aspirants coming up below me might do work as good as mine, and probably much better work, and yet fail to have it appreciated. In order to test this, I determined to be such an aspirant myself, and to begin a course of novels anonymously, in order that I might see whether I could obtain a second identity."
(Anthony Trollope, An Autobiography, 1883)

See what happened by reading the rest of the story, as told by Mark McGuinness, poet, creative coach and co-founder of the popular Lateral Action blog at this post:
Why It Matters Who You Are, LA.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Anthony Trollope.