I recently watched, on HBO, The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling. Judd Apatow, Garry’s friend for twenty five years, created the four and one half hour examination of the life of the ground breaking comedian.
When I was watching Mr. Shandling in his show that was about a show, The Larry Sanders Show, I knew that I was witness to something unique and a bit mysterious. I received the complete DVD Set for a retirement gift.
The Apatow documentary took time to focus on Garry Shandling’s perfectionism and his unflagging desire to have his stand up comedy seem perfectly natural and his delivery totally relaxed. He worked tirelessly to present himself as a genuine and in the moment person…real and without pretense.
The famous comedians that owe their success to Shandling is numerous and includes; Jim Carey and Kevin Nealon and Sarah Silverman and Bob Saget and Conan O’Brien. Garry was a mensch.
I am currently watching a Netflix documentary entitled Wild Wild Country,which is about the Indian Mystic Guru, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. The controversial move to Wasco County, Oregon by the mystic and his followers, is a fascinating examination of a religious cult that has by and large been forgotten.
One of the most notable items, in the first three episodes, was the tremendous emotional and intellectual hold that Bhagwan had over his followers. This cult leader connected with his flock on such an elemental and visceral level that they were willing to follow him anywhere and do whatever that they perceived that he desired. At times, just a look from him would drive them into weeping and an ecstatic emotional experience.
There is a reason that many young people leave denominational religion and join charismatic and fundamentalist groups. They are hungry for someone that cares about them.
When I began at Southern Illinois University in 1978, one of the first people that I heard about was former University President Delyte Morris. My colleagues told me that President and Mrs. Morris had bicycled the Campus on a daily basis and that they stopped and spoke with members of the campus community.
The students felt that President and Mrs. Morris cared about them and their lives and that they were a part of a large SIU family.
Former Chancellor Jo Ann Agersinger told me, after I had referred to her as Dr. Argersinger, several times, during my hosting her in an open forum on campus, to please call her Jo Ann.
Chancellor Argersinger was know to walk out into the middle of a field that was being mowed by a Ground’s staff member, to shake their hand and introduce herself and demonstrate her care and concern for the vital member of the University.
People who met Jo Ann felt that they knew her and that they were a part of her plan to revitalize SIU and that they were recognized as necessary and an integral member of her staff.
My friend, who I have total confidence in, tells me that new chancellor Montemagno has a similar concern for the Physical Plant staff. I understand that he greets them warmly and asks their opinion and works to ensure that their jobs are secure.
Another friend, who…again I have total confidence in, tells me that the chancellor has worked to revitalize the Dog Pound at Basketball games in the Arena. He often sits with the students in the Dog Pound and cheers the game with them.
President Trump won election to the Presidency because that he connected with enough Americans that had felt forgotten and ignored and disenfranchised…for many years.
We are all searching for someone who inspires us.
We are all searching for a leader that is more than talk…a leader who’s actions demonstrate that they care about our welfare and that empathize’s with our concerns.
Perhaps the secret for turning around the enrollment issues of our beloved SIU is to make it one large Saluki Dog Pound and our chancellor lead us in successive cheers regarding our alma matter and all that is right about it and good about it and extraordinary about it?
I can see the history professors coming from the east and the engineering professor coming from the west and the agriculture professors coming from the north and the theatre professors coming from the south.
I can see the undergraduate and the graduate students coming through the middle of the throng and they are arm in arm.
I can see the Building Service Workers and the Grounds workers and the locksmiths and the carpenters and the clerks and the plumbers and the electricians and the painters and the food service workers…all taking their seats in the congregation of the vital and important and integral members of SIU’s Community.
And, Oh My….there comes the Mayor of Carbondale and the City Manager and business owners and the Kroger’ Managers and the Schnucks’ Managers and representatives from Murphysboro and Anna and Harrisburg and Eldorado and all of the towns and villages of Southern Illinois.
Synergy comes automatically when people feel valued and needed and the dynamic propulsion of ideas are sought and accepted by those charged with leadership decisions.
I walk the Campus of Southern Illinois University, daily.
I was there at the height of the student enrollment. Almost 25,000 students were in attendance and between classes it was difficult to walk down the campus sidewalks.
University Housing was placing three students in two student dormitory rooms and this meant crowding in another twin bed and a small desk for study.
I worked second and third shifts and at anytime of the evening or night I could see students jogging across campus.
Building Services, the housekeeping department of which I was the Assistant Superintendent, had 160 full time staff and over two hundred student staff.
Today, I am told, that Building Services has under 60 full time staff.
SIU has a vibrant and rich tradition that has been formed for nearly 150 years.
Many of our academic programs are leaders in the nation and recognized throughout the world.
For over the past 20 years we have spent an inordinate amount of time contemplating our own mirrored visage and trying to determine what manner of woman or man that we are.
I knew a chancellor who wanted us to attain greatness by our 150th birthday. Many of the challenges in Southern @ 150 were noble…and some were attainable.
We lost nearly 1,000 students in more than one year of this man’s five year tenure.
I knew another chancellor who was sure that a new university logo and a revitalized look for the central campus…was the answer.
The outside consultants for the new logo…were worth a million dollars per year…for at least three of this woman’s five year tenure.
We purchased new I Pad type tablets for the entire freshman class, for at least two years of this chancellor’s reign.
After her departure the interim chancellor told the civil service council that one of the first problems that he had to wrestle with was how to pay for the Tablets as there was no money for them in the Budget.
Over 2,000 students were lost during her chancellorship.
I have heard several chancellor’s tell our university community that they were in it for the long haul and that they were not going anywhere…and they are gone…and our enrollment is at an all time low.
If we are not careful we can be looked upon as if we are a bit rural and quaint and in need of a savior.
When the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred, ‘A day that shall live in infamy’, our nation was focused, like a laser beam, on our one goal…wining the war. All able bodied men enlisted and all women went to the factories to make war armaments.
The home front had victory gardens and ration tickets and blood drives and everyone was immersed in the paramount goal, for the survival of the United States.
Former President Roosevelt inherited a country in the midst of the Great Depression. People were standing in soup lines and bread lines and working for a nickel or a dime a day.
President Roosevelt knew that the first thing that he had to do was put the United States back to work…and that is what he did. Focusing on infrastructure the WPA and other Depression Era Programs caused our nation to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Our university has one need that is the zenith of it’s concerns…to the exclusion of all others…increase enrollment.
One of the most full proof solutions to understanding what is needed to achieve the number one goal of increasing enrollment is to listen to the customers of the university…our students.
‘Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.’ Proverbs 16:18 KJV
There is no room for pride in the solving of the critical problem of enrollment at our university.
SIU is a proponent of a rigid flow chart for leadership. Often this type of authority and responsibility model has the ability to break-down at any level that a middle manager or administrator is unwilling or unable to share ideas of their subordinates. This often happens, at the university, for petty reasons.
I sat at the Constituency Heads Table at the monthly Board of Trustees Meetings for five years. The Table is positioned in front of the BOT and before the audience seating. There is a microphone at each seat for the purpose of the elected Constituency Heads to address the BOT…at each meeting…if needed.
I have noticed, of late, that the Constituency Heads, must now place their names on a sheet of potential public comments before the BOT and that they can be denied to speak or their time allotment reduced at the pleasure of the chair of the BOT.
Why the special Constituency Head Table and why the microphones…if the elected spokes’ people for the; Faculty Senate and the Graduate Council and the Administrative and Professional Council and the Civil Service Council and other groups…have no particular right to address the BOT on behalf of thousands of members of the university community that they have been elected to represent?
When I was the president of the Civil Service Council…I met with the chancellor on a monthly basis. I was a first hand witness to a chancellor being terminated and one of the reasons for termination was that he had ceased to meet with individual Constituency Heads on a monthly basis.
Ideas regarding increasing enrollment will not percolate to the top…if there is no forum to be heard.
So often, in life and business, we want to devise a new and unique plan to solve a problem that has its’ solution before our face.
SIU is the possessor of greatness and human dedication and potential that is extraordinary…not ordinary.
The sleeping tiger…must be awakened!
As I was reflecting on enriching elements of the past 40 years, the subject of travel came to mind numerous times.
‘Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.’
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things, cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.’ Travel Quotes
When we visited Tunis, Tunisia…we relished the, obvious love and respect that our tour guide had for America.
The ethnic and religious prejudice that many in our country exhibit for Muslims…was not shown us, conversely, because we were Americans. On the contrary, we were treated with respect and offered homemade cakes and tea and made to feel at home in Tunis.
Our first evening in Rome, Italy, we were welcomed as if we were, special friends and members of the family, as our waiter prepared us, ‘his special pasta dish’, and it was delicious.
When we left the ristorante our happy server followed us into the street and beseeched us to return, again, and he would take care of us, personally. We assured him that we would…and we did…more than once. He even served us his finest Grappa, ‘which is a pomace brandy and is 35% to 60% alcohol by volume (70 to 120 US proof).’ Wikipedia
When we visited Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, there were more Japanese school children looking at the exhibits…that Americans.
In Florence, Italy, we found such a wonderful ristorante that we had a half dozen meals there. The pace was leisurely, or what we Americans would call slow, and the focus of the diners was on the wonders of the food and the fragrance and body of the drink and the joy of the fellowship and friendship.
The pleasant and un-hurried pace of our French neighbors in Paris, for the three days and nights that we visited, was refreshing and calming and peaceful. Friendly greetings are important to the French. Many Parisians are accompanied by their dogs and the elderly are not, defeated, by the vagaries of age.
When we visited the island of Aruba we took a boat, that had a glass bottom and windows to enable the viewing of the sunken ships and treasures and the aquatic life in the Caribbean Ocean. The Dutch tour guide renamed me Papa Illinois. She regularly endeavored to secure for me the best view of the sunken ships and aquatic life…to the visible consternation of the other passengers.
In Nice, France, our friend Margo, invited us to a gathering of authors. It was a lovely evening that was conducted by well known author, Patricia Sands. We felt included and welcome.
In Edinburgh, Scotland I helped a dignified Scottish man to his feet, from his wheelchair, to facilitate his ordering his dinner at a restaurant. In the few minutes that I spoke with this gentleman it was manifest to me how wonderful the people of Scotland are…through his kindness and generosity.
I attended a business meeting with my friend Jeff, that was near York, England. A lady enquired of me, ‘Are you alright?’
I thought that she was referring to a terrible cold that I had contracted. I later found out that this is a typical greeting in the United Kingdom.
The Brits that I met that evening were so lovely and kind and one even told me that I reminded her of the American Actor Tom Hanks…especially when I spoke. I often tell people that…to this day.
The mistaken belief that people from other countries are bad…or failing in some manner or all wishing that they could be Americans…is a concept that is hatched from a lack of exposure to others and learned bias.
Most people that you meet around the world…are friendly and inviting human beings that, often, have different cultures that are much older than the United States and that are based in history going back for thousands of years.
Instead of building walls we need to build longer tables to sit down and break bread with our fellow human travelers.
Now you may think that I am speaking of age…but I passed 40 over 20 years ago.
Today is Mary Jane and my 40th anniversary. Forty years ago I promised my bride a beautiful day with no clouds in the sky. It was cloudy and rainy and cold. It is cloudy and rainy and cold today, also.
Sometimes my weather forecast is a little off.
Never have two people, united, that had any less financially or in material possessions than the newlywed Brooks.
We each had a car. Mine was a 1963 Ford Fairlane and MJ’s was a Ford Maverick. A significant portion of the floor, on the passenger side front, was rusted out and you could observe the road as it whisked by, in my automobile. Also, the front passenger seat was broken and had to be braced with a small board to keep it from free falling on to the back seat.
Mary Jane’s Maverick was somewhat better then my Farilane…but I had my pride…and thus I insisted that we take my car when we drove to Carbondale from Elkville, Illinois to eat dinner at the Golden Bear Restaurant. It was winter and I noticed that my sweetheart’s cheeks were a rosy glow from the winter wind that was entering the, decrepit, Ford from the hole in the floor.
I began working at Southern Illinois University, October 10, 1978, and we purchased a new Ford LTD on the 25th of October. Not long after the new car purchase I was still driving my vintage vehicle to work, when one morning at the quitting time of 1:00 a.m….it would not start. My kind colleague, Ray Phoenix, offered to drive me home. As we pulled up to our trailer home, Ray, commented that the new LTD was a nice looking car. I replied that we had, had it for a couple of weeks and that I thought that I had better start driving it to work.
Forty years ago…when the minister pronounced us husband and wife and Mary Jane took my hand…I thought that life had changed for me and that I was embarking on a great adventure.
A few years later came Aaron…with a little blue cap and a lusty cry. Aaron called me Di Da…and it was music to my ears.
Then came Jonathon…who laughed at everything and climbed out of his crib and jumped on to the floor.
Through out the rapid succession to this noteworthy number we have had constants that have helped to remove the rocks in our path and leveled the hills that were before us.
A love and dedication to each other…and fascination with our two sons…and a quiet christian faith that has never failed us…has caused the years to fly by.
We laugh at every opportunity…tears come…when you least expect them.
A good and steady job at SIU was a great blessing to our little family. To have a salary that you can build a life upon and the knowledge and security that it will be there tomorrow…is a confirmation for plans and dreams.
We have traveled, as much a possible, and it is a nice way to raise children and appreciate the diversity of our country and world.
One of the most valuable goals that I am still endeavoring to achieve is to not take myself to seriously. When I can achieve this Zen…all of life problems seem to diminish and importance of love and life and beauty and humanity become paramount.
And, so, 40 down…and 40 to go.
Being of a certain age, a baby boomer, I remember when the movie, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf, premiered and it was, somewhat, scandalous in that the word bastard was used.
My Mom’s favorite movie of 1939 was, Gone With The Wind, where Rhett Butler replied to Scarlet O’Hara’s question to him, at the conclusion of the movie, ‘frankly Scarlet I don’t give a damn.’
The student who, openly cursed in school, was considered the ‘bad seed’ or ‘from the wrong side of the tracks.’
The F Word was used in only the most risqué of circumstances and it was considered a religious sacrilege to use God’s Name in Vain.
I walked out on one of the Back to the Future movies…as there were some curse words used in the dialogue. Aaron and Jonathon have not forgotten the disappointment of the protest…to this day.
I recall when a youth never referred to their elders by their first name, unless they had been given special permission to do so by the respected senior.
When you visited a retail establishment or were served by a waiter or waitress or at anytime that you said thank you to the person serving you…there was one simple reply…you’re welcome…not, the popular, ‘no problem.’
Now, you may be thinking that Jay is old and needs to modernize. You would be right, in many ways, but good etiquette is the oil of human interaction that keeps each of us appreciative and respectful of our mutual worth and human dignity.
When I was driving prospective chancellor candidate, Dr. Jo Ann Argersinger, from one campus appointment to another, I remember a news article on the car radio coming on…just as she entered the automobile, that was discussing former President Bill Clinton’s sexual liaison with Ms. Monica Lewinsky. I quickly turned the radio off and I was embarrassed that Dr. Argersinger had heard any part of the broadcast as the subject matter was corse and offensive.
It seems that the current news regarding President Trump and his alleged sexual relations with both a porn star and a playmate…at one time…would have been an assault on our senses.
Chaos is the operational construct of our day and indeed our government.
We hear…sometimes daily…of additional woman and graphic details of, in excess of, 20 women and our president. These include accusations of, sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and hush money and non disclosure agreements, between the president and women who assert consensual sexual relationship with Mr. Trump.
The president, in his law suit against Stormy Daniels, asserts that he is Donald Trump or David Dennison…an alias.
Recently we lost one of the greatest minds of our time…or any time. Theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking was our Albert Einstein.
Dr. Hawking was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease in 1963.
Stephen Hawking revealed more about our universe than most christian ministers and philosophies have even considered.
For any, narrow minded person and a proponent of christianity, to proclaim that Hawking would experience ‘hell’ due to his denial of God…fails to understand the magnificence of what he revealed to humanity and its’ magnification and glorification of the vastness of God.
Please enjoy a great Blog from my son, Jonathon.
The idea of blessings in disguise fascinates me. It’s interesting whenever a horrible thing or experience helps lead to something wonderful. Our human family overcomes remarkable odds on a regular basis. Many of us must journey through serious darkness before we become flooded with light. I imagine a lot of people who believe in heaven had to travel through hellish circumstances before they looked up and believed.
I was born with bipolar disorder. This disease of the mind, according to statistics I’ve read, kills thirty to forty percent of those of us who have it. The cause of death is suicide. Life might’ve been a whole lot easier if I’d been born with a mind without a disease. Easier, however, doesn’t equal better. I’ve fought hard throughout my life story. I’ve fought hard to become a good man. I’ve fought hard in my Christian faith and prayer life and Bible…
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I was watching a great documentary about the famous playwright, Arthur Miller, by his daughter, Rebecca Miller.
‘But at the end of this film, when she asks Miller what makes a ‘great play,’ he responds: ‘It’s the process of approaching the unwritten and the unspoken and the unspeakable, and the closer you get to it, the more life there seems to be.’ Newsday
‘His last words to her come from his journals. It is about coyotes wandering near the Roxbury, Connecticut, home where he spent so much of his life: ‘We are all connected, watching one another, even the trees.’ Newsday
One of the most fascinating utterances that I heard Mr. Miller say was that he strove to write lines, for his plays, that would illustrate what was unsaid…or between the lines.
I think that the striving to magnify what is left unsaid is to turn the spotlight on life.
We make choices daily. Our life path is clearly drawn by the twists and turns of our decisions and by our reactions too the reversals and opportunities that confront us on our journey.
If you would inquire of a 90 year old as to their understanding of their life experience…they might answer that often it seemed like shadows and markers of something grand and glorious and yet not quite attainable.
‘For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.’ I Corinthians 13:12 KJV
‘Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.’ Albert Einstein
‘Suppose the you are on your death bed (don’t take it otherwise) not exactly a death bed but on a road after being hit by some speeding car, then the car stops and a beautiful girl comes out of the car, worried (obviously), running towards you. But you are lying there tied to a mere thread of conscious, saw her and immediately loose consciousness. Then while you are unconscious you were dreaming, right from the start i.e. that is your birth, you were a happy child (whatever your life story really is), went to a good school, got good grades, then college, you met the same girl who came out of the car after hitting you, you fell in love, immediately, she also liked you.’
‘You both fell in love deeply, married together, had many cheerful experiences in life, in short it was the life worth living.’
‘But since you were very happy something had to happen, you both had gone for a long drive and enjoying the moment, then a speeding car becomes the cause of your wife’s death.’
‘Then with a jolt you wake up in a hospital, beside you is the same girl, weeping for what she had done, and you are smiling, happy from inside that she’s alive, that it was only a dream.’
‘But really was that just a dream or our whole meaningful life in a dream?’ Rahul Gupta Quora Movie: Stay