Posted by: Don Linnen | 31 May 2018

A Mash-Up of Hope

Here’s a new mash-up: Jim Denison, Os Guinness, Shane Parrish, and Barbara Tuchman. Not too far out there since they’re all smart people, but rarely considered in the same breath.

After the Minnesota Miracle in January, Denison wrote a blog post that many may have missed. That’s understandable if you’re not big on football, Minnesota, or Jesus. But read a little deeper into his words, and you’ll find both concern for division in our country today and encouragement that we are alive “for such a time as this.”

Denison pointed me to Guinness speaking at The Colson Center’s Breakpoint. There Guinness traced the current division of views in America to “the heirs and allies of the American revolution (1776), where faith and freedom went hand in hand; and the heirs and allies of the thinking of the French revolution (1789), where faith and freedom were mortal enemies.”

Guinness continued (thanks to Denison for the full text): “The current crisis [in America] is a tale of these two revolutions. Both cry ‘freedom,’ but their views of freedom are diametrically opposed. They have: 

  • different roots (the Bible versus the Enlightenment), 
  • different views of human nature (realism versus utopianism), 
  • different views of change (incremental versus radical), 
  • different views of freedom (the power to do what you ought versus the permission to what you like), 
  • different views of government (protective versus Progressive), 
  • different views of accountability (‘under God’ versus without God), and 
  • different views of righting wrongs (repentance and reconciliation versus reparation and revenge).”

Now we’re just talking about freedom and living together. Imagine that. An argument over one word and a basic concept. An argument 230 years ago.

Parrish recently tweeted the principles for his excellent Farnam Street blog:
1. Direction over speed 
2. Live deliberately 
3. Thoughtful opinions held loosely 
4. Principles outlive tactics 
5. Own your actions

Meaningful. Substantial. Simple. 15 words on living a good life.

If thoughtful opinions were held without a defensive posture. If principles were followed for the long run. If actions coupled with accountability. Folly might be avoided.

Tuchman wrote the book on folly. The March on Folly is her comprehensive study of “wooden-headedness” from 670 B.C. to 1973 A.D. She asserts that wooden-headedness, the source of self deception, is acting according to your wishes “while not allowing oneself to be deflected by the facts.” Folly is often a “matter of ordinary men walking into water over their heads” without a set of principles to follow. 

Sound familiar? Tuchman published the book in 1984. For some reason John Meacham felt it important pen another review in 2018.

So here’s the mash-up. Folly is nothing new. Smart people are available now – and have been for a few thousand years – to share principles and encourage critical thinking. History offers good and bad, universally teachable moments. And no matter how bad things look, we are indeed alive “for such a time as this.”


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