Amid reports that negotiations between the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox are turning personal, I thought it appropriate to take a step back, and look at the bigger picture. No, I don’t mean the larger organizational picture – I don’t even mean anything to do with baseball. I mean the larger picture of life, and how we treat our fellow travelers in this world.
And who better to instruct in this retreat than the man heading up negotiations for the Red Sox? The man whom a CSN source described as “one of the most unreasonable people I have ever dealt with,” and whom the source said, “because of his frayed relationship with Theo Epstein, he is looking to make a point at the expense of Theo’s happiness and his desire to go to Chicago.”
Let me start with a personal note that is a bit embarrassing. Not long after I completed law school, I kept – enlarged, framed, and posted proudly in my office – a passage written by Brendan Gill, a writer and critic for The New Yorker magazine. He wrote it as encouragement for the young, who, even in the easy-going 1970s, were hearing, in Mr. Gill’s opinion, far too much about what a serious matter life was.
According to Mr. Gill (and my office wall), I quote: “Not a shred of evidence exists in favor of the argument that life is serious, though it is often hard and even terrible. And saying that, I am prompted to add what follows out of it: that since everything ends badly for us, in the inescapable catastrophe of death, it seems obvious that the first rule of life is to have a good time and that the second rule of life is to hurt as few people as possible. There is no third rule.”
Smile, laugh, and be pleasant. This may sound banal and naïve. It is not. It is a profound occupational and personal advantage. Let me quote Elwood P. Dowd, the central character in the unforgettable Jimmy Stewart film Harvey – a man with whom I have come to agree. Quote: “My mother used to say to me, ‘Elwood, in this world you must be oh-so clever, or oh-so pleasant.’ For 40 years I tried clever. I recommend pleasant.”
Remember Jackie Robinson, although, believe it or not, many baseball players do not. Be mindful of the catalytic effect one person can have on a community, on a neighborhood, on a nation, on a compelling cause or a nagging injustice. Hold within yourself a capacity for outrage at injustice. Be confident that if you fight long enough and hard enough, you too can make a difference. And like Jackie Robinson, you can do it with dignity.
Help some people along the way. The famous French soldier and statesman, Marquis de Lafayette, wrote long ago of America: “What charms me most is that all of the citizens are brethren.” We are – and must still be – brethren. Find a cause you care about. Involve yourself. And start early in life. For me, a two-time cancer survivor, cancer research and patient treatment are at the top my priorities, and those of the ever-growing Red Sox Foundation.
Life is not about warming yourself by the fire, life is about building the fire. And generosity is the match. To consider yourself – and to be considered – capable is good. To consider yourself – and to be considered – loving is even better. But to know yourself as generous is best of all. Generosity is its own reward. There is a Chinese proverb that applies. (Isn’t there always?) Roughly it says that if you want happiness for an hour, take a nap, but if you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.
I don’t know what’s going on behind the closed doors of the negotiations. Few truly do. To pin any delays or hurdles on Lucchino, alone, would be lazy and probably inaccurate.
But these are genuinely wonderful lessons from an obviously gifted man. May his words resonante with us all.
(h/t jeffmills1972 at BCB)