Tag Archives: imagination

Running Cold

Running BreckenridgeOn an amazing trip to India a couple of years ago I experienced an unfortunate illness in the magical city of Shimla in the southwestern ranges of the Himalayas. It was awful. Altitude sickness was a potential culprit given the location, timing, and some of the symptoms, but that never was confirmed. Just to be safe I concluded that I should avoid higher elevations for the rest of my life. Such drastic solutions come to mind more often as one ages.

But then our staff planned a retreat to Breckenridge, Colorado. At ten thousand feet elevation. Awesome.

I could have said that the trip was a bad idea, which would have been a lie. I could have simply wimped out, which fits me. I could have created some excuse, but I ran out of time before coming up with a good one. So just over a week ago I found myself in Breckenridge, Colorado, in dazzling scenery and single-digit temperatures with a wind chill double-digits below zero.

Our fearless leader counseled that we start hydrating several days prior to the trip, and as anyone monitoring my trips to the bathroom would confirm, I complied. In addition, my doctor prescribed some meds, which I took as directed, so all in all I did my part and waited to see what happened.

I was great. Zero problems whatsoever. The view was breathtaking, but not even literally. I never felt light-headed or short of breath, nor did I experience any of the harsh and unspeakable things I did in that unfortunate hotel bathroom in India.

I took my running shoes to Colorado just in case. I am a runner that has grown less interested in races and far more attracted to fun runs in fascinating places. I have now been on crazy cool runs on five continents and in bunches of states and am always on the lookout for more, and I had never been in a place like that gorgeous cabin in Breckenridge. So on our last morning I woke up with the rising sun, layered up, stretched, and stepped out into the bitter cold.

My intention was to run a mile up the road from the cabin and then come back down for a second easy mile and declare victory, but it turns out that running uphill at elevation in ridiculously cold weather is not as easy as it sounds. So I labored to make it a half mile uphill without passing out before returning for some quarter mile repeats until I made it to two miles.

I had unnecessarily worried about my footing; my major worry (beyond passing out) turned out to be that I could not feel my hands. Thankfully I was running instead of juggling. But any worries had to take a break because the experience was just so awesome that it defies description. Crunching snow in running shoes on a rave run high in the Rockies is one of the coolest experiences ever. No pun intended, but duly noted.

It is funny how we avoid our deepest fears. Sometimes, at least, facing those fears leads to a place so beautiful that you could not have imagined it even if you tried.


A Night at the Orchestra

17267869_230418650696729_6304749396227522560_n(1)Last week, my oldest daughter and I attended a concert of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, or as we sophisticated people call it, the LA Phil.  The specific concert was titled, “Tetzlaff Plays Dvorak,” which as it turned out, was not a tennis match after all.  

You may be surprised to learn that I did not attend orchestral performances growing up in Paragould, Arkansas.  We had our share of drama, sure, but not much orchestra.  The closest I came was purchasing the soundtrack to Close Encounters of the Third Kind on vinyl.  

But who knew, if you purchase a ticket and have a beautiful date, “LA Phil” will apparently let pretty much anyone into the crazy cool Walt Disney Concert Hall.

I really did enjoy (most of) the performance, but my cultural unsophistication did allow my mind to wander to less-than-cultured places from time to time.  Like whether the guest conductor also played Captain Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation.  And how one particularly animated violinist looked like a marionette under the influence of a tipsy puppeteer.  And how two gentlemen with a remarkable resemblance to Stephen King and former NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy were playing an unidentifiable instrument that made them look as if they were smoking fancy grenade launchers.

But the best part of the evening came shortly after intermission when a woman in our general vicinity began to painfully unwrap a piece of candy, which in that hall of hushed reverence sounded like she had trapped a squirrel in a bag of potato chips.  The surrounding patrons were silently livid, which my daughter and I discovered to be the funniest kind of livid to watch.

Much more seriously, as we sat side by side listening to classical music in Walt Disney Concert Hall, it occurred to me how far Erica and I have come in our precious years together.  I did not feel smug in this thought–as this essay shows, I remain far too ignorant to feel arrogant.  And yet I did not feel out of place either, even though that was obviously the case.  Instead, I just felt happy .  Happy at the honor of allowing such beautiful music to wash across my soul in that spectacular venue in this magical city with such a lovely young lady that I have been privileged to walk alongside for all these years.

I never imagined an evening like that one.  I wonder what other evenings I have yet to imagine?

Future Friends


hk4I fiercely disagree with Donald Trump’s assertion that the firestorm surrounding his 2005 remarks “is nothing more than a distraction” and strongly believe that the resulting conversations on misogyny and sexual assault (not to mention presidential choices) are significant and important.

Same time, somewhere in the neighborhood of a thousand people are dead in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, and as a survivor/veteran/victim of Hurricane Katrina who was a beneficiary of intense public attention and the resulting flood of love and support, my thoughts are especially with those grieving families and all who have suffered from the storm.

Last week, as Matthew grew in intensity, our good friend, Hung, shared a sweet Facebook post that featured a picture from 2005 of cute kiddos working a lemonade stand at Pepperdine University for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.  It touched my heart since the cute kiddos in that picture eventually became friends, classmates, and youth group buddies of our youngest daughter who lost the only house she had ever known in that storm two thousand miles away.  Who could have imagined that years later those same kids would be fast friends?  I am certain that the money collected that day did not specifically rescue us from our homelessness, but as I looked at that picture, in my mind it was as direct a connection as if they had hand-delivered the cash seen sitting in that Tupperware container.

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the great needs in this world and the inability to address them all.  As a recovered victim with the luxury of looking back, I can say that the sentiment expressed in both the Quran and the Talmud that whoever saves one life saves them all rings true.  And if we ever need extra motivation to take action, imagining that your pocket change will directly benefit someone you will come to know and love just might do the trick—even more so if you can sense how it will touch the heart of your Future Friend.



First Day, Fresh Start

After four wonderful years as Dean of Students at Pepperdine School of Law, I am transitioning to a completely new position as Dean of Graduate Programs.  I am still at the law school, same wonderful people, but new office, new role, and new adventures.  My new job involves joining forces with the amazing team at the world-renowned Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution as we design, market, and deliver new non-JD programs while continuing to expand the reach of the Institute’s world class dispute resolution program.

Any sadness over leaving such a great job is relieved because my friend, Steve Schultz, will be a rock star successor and allow me to focus on the excitement of the new opportunity.  (I just hope that the students wait to dance until my back is turned!)  I am particularly excited by my new role because the Straus Institute drew me to Pepperdine in the first place, and the opportunity to join the day-to-day work of the Straus family is really a dream come true.  Blessed are the peacemakers.

In the dizzying swirl of activity as I attempt to absorb massive information for the new role and hand off the responsibilities of the fading role, I can test an old trick that I have recommended to many along the way.  Here’s the trick: When cynicism starts to settle in at work and you start to think snippy thoughts about everyone and everything… (Wait, I’m not alone here, right?  This has happened to me once or twice in the past quarter century.)  Anyway, when you notice that teensy bit of bitterness about your work, that why-try-because-who-really-cares-and-I-sure-don’t-anymore sort of fun mood that your colleagues find so endearing, my trick is to imagine that it is suddenly your first day on the job.

Go ahead.  Give it a shot.  Imagine it is your first day.

What do you do?

What you don’t do on your first day is think “well that will never work because so-and-so, blah, blah, blah…”  No, on your first day you have no idea what will work.  Instead, what you do is take a good look around and size up your new colleagues, resources, and surroundings and imagine the possibilities before you.  It is a somewhat scary but always exhilarating time.  Who knows what might come?

I am once again embarking on a fresh start, and just as I remembered, it is a pretty great/queasy feeling, so I think my old trick is still a good one.  If you are in a rut in your present circumstances, you don’t have to quit an old job and start a new one to get the benefit of a fresh start.  Starting to look up simply requires an active imagination.


Can You Imagine?

Graham Greene’s classic novel, The Power and the Glory, is set in an historical period when Christianity was outlawed in Mexico, and the main character, an alcoholic priest, lands in an inhuman, overcrowded jail as a result of his addiction. It is there, surrounded by hopelessness, that the priest reveals his identity only to be ridiculed by a fellow inmate for being a bad priest.

Greene writes:

He couldn’t see her in the darkness, but there were plenty of faces he could remember from the old days which fitted the voice. When you visualized a man or woman carefully, you could always begin to feel pity… that was a quality God’s image carried with it… when you saw the lines at the corners of the eyes, the shape of the mouth, how the hair grew, it was impossible to hate. Hate was just a failure of imagination.

That line: Hate was just a failure of imagination.

I would like to aim higher in life, and if I could be so bold, to learn even to love, but maybe the prerequisite is first to learn not to hate. And today, in our (politically and otherwise) polarized society, conquering hate would be refreshing progress.

I am convinced that the inner child in each of us recalls how to imagine. If true, then the crucial step is to notice hate, demonization, and condescension as these harmful sensations seek to harden into the dismissal of another as less than human and choose to replace the hate with a sincere desire to understand. For any progress to occur, we must understand one another, especially those we have a predisposition to despise.

I imagine this is possible.