In March of 2014 I finished reading Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography by Theodore Roosevelt and I started going through my notes on the book and I came across a quote Roosevelt used from The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson by Mark Twain. In skimming Twain’s book recently I came across this piece that reminds me of how factions believe consensus in the group is truth with no consideration that they may not understand the facts or nuances of a situation. Factions rarely—without tragedy—change their collective mind.
In [the] month of February, Dawson’s Landing gained a new citizen. This was Mr. David Wilson, a young fellow of Scotch parentage. He had wandered to this remote region from his birthplace in the interior of the State of New York, to seek his fortune. He was twenty-five years old, college bred, and had finished a post-college course in an Eastern law school a couple of years before.
He was a homely, freckled, sandy-haired young fellow, with an intelligent blue eye that had frankness and comradeship in it and a covert twinkle of a pleasant sort. But for an unfortunate remark of his, he would no doubt have entered at once upon a successful career at Dawson’s Landing. But he made his fatal remark the first day he spent in the village, and it “gaged” him. He had just made the acquaintance of a group of citizens when an invisible [out of eyesight] dog began to yelp and snarl and howl and make himself very comprehensively disagreeable, whereupon young Wilson said, much as one who is thinking aloud:
“I wish I owned half of that dog.”
“Why?” somebody asked.
“Because I would kill my half.”
The group searched his face with curiosity, with anxiety even, but found no light there, no expression that they could read. They fell away from him as from something uncanny, and went into privacy to discuss him. One said:
“‘Pears to be a fool.”
“‘Pears?” said another. “Is, I reckon you better say.”
“Said he wished he owned half of the dog, the idiot,” said a third. “What did he reckon would become of the other half if he killed his half? Do you reckon he thought it would live?”
“Why, he must have thought it, unless he IS the downrightest fool in the world; because if he hadn’t thought it, he would have wanted to own the whole dog, knowing that if he killed his half and the other half died, he would be responsible for that half just the same as if he had killed that half instead of his own. Don’t it look that way to you, gents?”
“Yes, it does. If he owned one half of the general dog, it would be so; if he owned one end of the dog and another person owned the other end, it would be so, just the same; particularly in the first case, because if you kill one half of a general dog, there ain’t any man that can tell whose half it was; but if he owned one end of the dog, maybe he could kill his end of it and—”
“No, he couldn’t either; he couldn’t and not be responsible if the other end died, which it would. In my opinion that man ain’t in his right mind.”
“In my opinion he hain’t got any mind.”
No. 3 said: “Well, he’s a lummox, anyway.”
“That’s what he is;” said No. 4. “He’s a labrick—just a Simon-pure labrick, if there was one.”
“Yes, sir, he’s a dam fool. That’s the way I put him up,” said No. 5. “Anybody can think different that wants to, but those are my sentiments.”
“I’m with you, gentlemen,” said No. 6. “Perfect jackass—yes, and it ain’t going too far to say he is a pudd’nhead. If he ain’t a pudd’nhead, I ain’t no judge, that’s all.”
Mr. Wilson stood elected. The incident was told all over the town, and gravely discussed by everybody. Within a week he had lost his first name; Pudd’nhead took its place. In time he came to be liked, and well liked too; but by that time the nickname had got well stuck on, and it stayed. That first day’s verdict made him a fool, and he was not able to get it set aside, or even modified. The nickname soon ceased to carry any harsh or unfriendly feeling with it, but it held its place, and was to continue to hold its place for twenty long years.
I’m a technology geek. It’s not for the sake of technology, it’s for the sake of simplicity. For me, there’s no purpose whatsoever in having technology that does not serve the purpose of simplifying a task. Also, I acknowledge that old technology can be as good as, often better than, current technology.
Hand tools are a perfect example where old technology excels; many times hand tools outperform power tools. This fact extends to good old paper and pen. I’ve learned something over the years as I’ve steadily edged out paper and pen with other, more modern, technologies. As I’ve migrated to electronic formats for journaling and note taking I’ve noticed something has been lost.
The Classic Lined (Large) Moleskine Notebook
Intimacy and warmth are absent in the electronic formats. Hand-written entries, written in paper journals, bring back much richer memories when I read them many years later. When someone sees, reads or touches a handwritten journal they feel the presence of the person who created that journal.
Here’s how Vaughn describes the type of journal he wanted to use to leave letters of exhortation to his seven children in:
I went straight to the best stationery store I knew of and told the salesman I wanted the most expensive stationery he had, and I wanted the nicest, most expensive leather binder so I would have some place to keep those letters once I’d written them, and I wanted those binders embossed and engraved with the names of my kids . . . and . . . and . . . puff! puff! gasp! gasp! . . . I was so excited I was hyperventilating.
It’s understandable that he wanted the best of the best media for the letters he wants to leave his children. But there’s another message I want to leave in my journal as well: the great things in life don’t have to cost a lot of money. Memories are the only thing of value you can make and keep from this world. But I do agree with Vaughn on leaving letters of exhortation to my family and that it should be a tangible, personal item to convey those messages.
The media I choose for this task is Moleskine® Large Notebooks due to their simplicity, size, quality and affordability; they’re beautiful little creations. Composition books used to be my paper media of choice because of their fixed pages; if a page was removed, it was obvious. The Moleskine® has the same fixed page feature but it’s made to a much higher quality (acid-free paper, stitched pages, etc) and it’s much more elegant. The large notebooks measure 5″ x 8 ¼” and have rounded pages corners which make them very convenient to carry everywhere.
Instead of spending the $100 each on them like Vaughn, the Moleskine® Notebooks cost less than $20 each. Hopefully I can fill many of them for each of the boys in my life; like Vaughn notes, a few pages at time throughout your life becomes a book in a lifetime. This weekend I’m starting each of those journals. There’s something else I’m implementing because, remember, I’m a technology geek still. This is where Evernote comes into play.
The mobile app for Evernote has a great feature that allows importing documents with the camera on my iPhone. It scans the document, crops it to page size, uploads it to the cloud and performs Optical Character Recognition (OCR) on it. So, as I write in the journals I can scan them into Evernote and the text is then searchable in the Evernote apps on all my mobile devices and desktop computer.
Having searchable text was one of the most important features to using the electronic formats to journal. It’s important that, as I write more and more in the journals, I’m able to find previous entries on particular topics so I don’t become too redundant (repeating myself over and over). Another important factor to having the searchable archives concerns my changing views.
Over time, as I read and study more, my view may change on a particular subject. Being able to search through the Evernote archives of the journals allows me to go back to those entries and put margin notes next to them pointing to a newer point of view in a later journal. It’s the best of the old technology paper and new tech gadgetry. I like the possibilities and I’m really looking forward to writing these legacy books. I pray they are useful and effective.
There’s a strange phenomena that I’m experiencing. As I get older—I’m not old yet—I begin to, retrospectively, realize the happy moments in my life. This gives me an interesting perspective on life going forward.
Here’s a photo of one of those past events:
Looks pretty basic, huh? Let me say this: I cherish that picture. Memories flood into my mind when I see it. It’s very special because it’s a happy, candid time I’m having with Karen and Corbin after mowing the yard on a Saturday morning at Chelsham house.
I’m very fond of this scene and it reminds me of many other moments with Clinton, Cole and Kyle that I cherish just as much. The sad thing is, I probably didn’t realize it at the time. Like I said at the beginning of this post, time—age—is giving me a new perspective.
I pray I won’t miss the beauty of these moments I have with my family going forward. Grand-parenting will probably be staggeringly awesome. We’ll see, once we get all these guys through college…
Last night we attended the Eagle Scout Court of Honor for the twins, Cole and Kyle. It was one of those occasions that starts out stressful and, afterward, turned out to be something that none of us (most of us are introverts) would have wanted to miss.
There were eleven young men receiving their Eagle awards last night, two of them were ours. Not only that, Clinton (he’s the oldest) came in from Law School to attend the ceremony. For me, know that our boys have earned this award is less about my pride and more about my admiration of them and hope for them.
I deeply admire their accomplishment and it gives me hope that they will have a balanced, healthy approach to living their lives. Here’s the 12 points of the Scout Law as they learned it:
A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.
There are no rational arguments against living that code. It’s a happy time for our family when two more of our boys—three out of four, so far—become young men with that code in their psyche. The world and the people they touch in their lives will be better for it.
Now for the fourth…
The stage at TWUMC.
(Top) Clinton, Me (Bottom) Kyle, Cole, Corbin, Wendy
The family closeup.
The Eagles: Kyle, Clinton and Cole.
Wendy, sorting through all the pictures.
The display Wendy made.
P.S. — Thank you Wendy for making the night special for everyone. Your awesomeness is…well…awesome.
Today I had a great day visiting with Wendy’s people (family). One of the things that made it so great was the fact that I was able to express myself to some of them through things I built with my own hands.
As an introvert, I find it difficult to express myself…especially in a loving way to others. Wendy’s people (family) are warm, loving, kind people that I cherish. Those feelings I have toward them doesn’t always come across to them when we are at family functions.
Today was different. Wendy came up with many ideas for things I was able build with my own tools and hands for her certain people in her family. It connected me to them. Suddenly an introvert (me) had a connection to her family (them).
It was exciting. I enjoyed it. I want more of that. Hopefully this will be an avenue that we will be able to leverage in the future. Truly, I’m thankful of this venue.
I completely agree with this article. Extroverts look at me—an introvert, note that I operate differently and think, “I need to help him become normal.” Then they help me by attempting to make me do all things I find uncomfortable. Ugh.
I used to really resent people (extroverts) because I thought they were being intentionally unkind to me. Now I realize they don’t really know they are being cruel. It also reminds me to slow down and evaluate the situation when people I’m attempting to help someone and they balk or close off.
This is going on my list of “Books Every Young Man Should Read” along side other great books like C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. I love to read books that have one “Aha!” moment after another. This one does.