Thursday, January 12, 2017


Still thinking about the movie, Hidden Figures, which we saw a couple of days ago. It's an important story and deserves the widest audience. 

Most important, of course, is the belated recognition of the achievements of some truly remarkable black women. Then there are the circumstances they had to overcome, especially the generally ignored and scandalous fact that huge programs of the federal government were run according to the rules and practices of Jim Crow. Also, it's worth thinking about the cold war culture that fueled the space "race".

For now, I find myself thinking about what we take from the fact that rare individuals can overcome the most incredible obstacles. Surely that's a source of wonder and pride and deserves celebration, particularly when it's the "norms" of society itself that individuals have to overcome. 

In addition to the "hidden" heroes of this story, I think of others throughout history who rose to rare heights of human achievement despite their circumstances, despite slavery, poverty, or being condemned by cruel institutions of government and church. I think of current examples. Who can fathom a B. J. Miller, a triple amputee due to a ghastly accident as a teen-ager, who went on to become an outstanding MD and innovator in palliative care? When I read Charles Blow's book, Fire Shut Up in My Bones, I marveled at how a black kid born and raised in the rural Jim Crow South could in his early twenties become a widely read and admired columnist for the NY Times.

We rightly glory in the marvels of human achievement against all odds. But all the achievers and the rare genius are never the whole story. Hidden Figures should raise hopes and expectations for all young people, those of color most of all. It should also enhance our social conscience, our refusal to bow to those elements of our social order that crush hopes and opportunity for the millions.

We listen to music often during breakfast, and sometimes we happen on to a wonderful surprise. Today it was the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra playing Mozart Piano Concerto 17.

I have a strong preference for Mozart performed with the modern piano and orchestra rather than early instruments, so the joy I felt today was genuine surprise. The concerto is sandwiched in between two other concert pieces. The setting in Freiburg is old and gorgeous. But the biggest thrill is in the sheer joy of the performers. They absolutely love what they’re doing; the first violinist is irresistible, playing beautifully while bouncing almost out of her chair.

Am I the only one who often “thinks” and engages in political encounters in my dreams? Bizarre. Another weird one last night, near morning: I talked with an old man. (I was not old in the dream.) He told me that he had the solution for Israel/Palestine: just declare that everyone throughout the land is both an Arab and a Jew. On the spot, it sounded good to me, but then I woke up.

Seems the problems of the world can’t be solved in dreams; I wish they’d stop interrupting my sleep.


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  2. Hi Leon,I couldn't figure out how to post my comment to your last blog but I was happy to see there were a lot of people on my page. Expertise, insight, and wisdom come to mind when I relate to others about content of your discussions. I'm so glad my "subscription" has not run out. You have helped substantiate and shape my own opinions. In talking with friends the topic is often why would someone vote against their self interest? Maybe the pendulum is waiting for the next election. Best Regards David Mc.

  3. This piece touches my heart. David Duboff