How are we to influence the world in which we live?

Yesterday’s two NYT obits and the story of the ailing saxophonist Michael Brecker contained some clues. Like a game of chess, influence involves observation, analyzation and response.

1) Observation. Armand Deutsch is described as a Zelig-like witness to the events and personalities of his day. Witnessing the events and personalities of our day, observing our own age discerningly is the first step towards influencing it.

2) Analysis. Observations need to be thoughtfully analyzed. Michael Brecker, one of jazz’s most influential tenor saxophonists over the last quarter-century, has been forced to stop performing by blood and bone marrow disease and is searching for a stranger to save his life¢â‚¬¦ He was at Sloan-Kettering for seven weeks recovering from an intense regimen of chemotherapy before being released last week. While there, he listened to iTunes on his laptop and researched his illness online, learning a whole new language with words like leukocyte, antigen and hematological oncology. We’ve entered into this world we knew nothing about,” said his wife, Susan Brecker. Their daughter, Jessica, 16, has joined the search, working the phones and the Internet every day.

3) Response. In the Old Testament the sons of Issachar are described as those who had “understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do.” “Knowing what to do” means to develop a response to what you’ve observed and analyzed.

Brother Roger, one of the founders of the Taize movement, knew what to do with what he saw. He saw young people in Europe who were growing up in a secular world and who needed to be awakened spiritually. He formed a community that would take monastic vows, pray, listen and pursue joy, simplicity and compassion. Though his action plan was counter-intuitive the Taize movement attracted 1’000’s of young people to a simpler, spiritual way of life.

One thing I notice about influence. It may be spearheaded by an individual, but involves a “company of friends.” Proverbs 18:1 has this interesting advice. “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” This great warning against the lone individualist is counterbalanced by the final verse (24) ” a man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” It is not the quantity of people with whom you seek to influence the world but the quality, and whatever you do, don’t go it alone!

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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    Posted in Staublog in August 19, 2005 by | No Comments »

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