Thursday, February 18, 2010

Happy Birthday, Huck Finn!

"All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn."

Ernest Hemingway

On this day 125 years ago, February 18, 1885, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain was published by Charles L. Webster and Company, New York.

How do I know it was published by Charles L. Webster and Company, New York?

Well, since 1982, an analog of this Year of Superior Vision, 2010, I've been the proud owner of a facsimile First Edition of this Greatest American Novel.

And very proud of it I am.

I've read this book since I was in Second Grade. I've read it 15 - 18 times, and I started reading it again tonight.

I love this book. It is the quintessential American Novel. It examines the essential American conflict: freedom vs slavery, and without doubt the noblest character, the most human, the most loving is the slave, Jim.

Few moments in literature rival Huck's resolution in Chapter 31 to stand by his friend.

Motherless Huck, whose father is an abusive drunk, accepts on faith that his entire adventure down the Mississippi with runaway slave, Jim, has been sinful. He may not have good or proper breeding, but he knows right from wrong, and absconding with someone else's property is unequivocally wrong.

And Jim is property. Not a man. An asset. Capital. Physical plant. A factory.

Certainly not a father.

Though Huck knows nothing of karma, he's feeling bad about not having spoken up long ago. He's been carrying and protecting stolen merchandise, and finally resolves to clear his conscience by writing to Miss Watson, Jim's rightful owner.

Of course, he hasn't felt guilty until he learns "the king" and "the duke," two All-American confidence men, have sold Jim to a local farmer, and made him a slave again "and amongst strangers, too, for forty dirty dollars."

But Huck's feeling it now, acutely, and fears, "It would get all around, that Huck Finn helped a nigger to get his freedom; and if I was to ever see anybody from [my home]town again, I'd be ready to get down and lick his boots for shame . . . here was the plain hand of Providence slapping me in the face and letting me know my wickedness was being watched . . . whilst I was stealing a poor old woman's nigger that hadn't ever done me no harm . . . ."

The misplaced modifier is crucial.

Faced with the prospect of "everlasting fire," Huck resolves to pray. "But the words wouldn't come. . . . because my heart warn't right; it was because I warn't square; is (sic) was because I was playing double. . . deep down in me I knowed it was a lie--and He knowed it. You can't pray a lie," Huck concludes.

So he writes a simple, one-sentence letter to Miss Watson telling where Jim is and where to send the reward money to get him back, and immediately feels better.

Then Huck begins to pray for his eternal salvation.

But not right away. First , he sits and thinks.

He thinks of how close he has come to going to hell. Then he thinks of the ease and joy of his life with Jim on the raft on the river. And he thinks of Jim looking out for him, and caring for him. And he remembers Jim saying Huck was the best friend "[he] ever had in the world, and the only one he's got now. . . ."

Then Huck looks down at the letter, and thinks:

"It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and says to myself:

'All right, then, I'll go to hell'--and tore it up."

If you've never read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, start today.

If you've read Huckleberry Finn, read it again.

I hear you can get it on Kindle for a quarter.

There's no finer story in any language.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ready For Anything: Chapter 10 -- Creativity Shows Up When There's Space

Getting ready to write this latest post in the series, a further reinforcement of David Allen’s premise that the mind is truly open for business and cleared for takeoff--aka creativity--only when it is first relieved of its standard job as office space, I realized, “You know, I haven’t actually CoPORDed in a while.”

Yeah, it’s been at least a week, maybe a couple.

I can rightly attribute this to my focus on several key ongoing projects with multiple next actions, but the truth is, in so doing, I’ve neglected to write down everything as Allen instructs from the beginning.

And, as a result, some of the little stuff has been falling through the cracks.

So, before I go any further, allow me to CoPORD right here, right now.

Finish pulling up the rugs in bedroom. Too dusty. Must get rid of.

Call in prescription refill. Hey, wait, I’ve done that! But waiting on follow-up from pharmacy as to pickup/delivery instructions.

Dig out car from under latest 15” of snow.

Congratulate self for waiting till today to do so, when it’s above freezing and snow is beginning to melt anyway, making preceding job easier.

Call about Barbara’s gifts. I wonder if she’s reading this. Hey Babe!

This just in: help out neighbor downstairs in wake of snowfall. This falls into the urgent and important quadrant; won’t take less than 5 minutes, but needs to be done now.

Organize for yard sale in May. Designate other clothes for Goodwill. Get clothes, house wares, etc. to Goodwill. Throw out trash. Buy more trash bags. Plan dinner.

OK, you get the point. And this is just the beginning.

But I appreciate your indulgence in the utterly boring minutia of the warp and woof of my daily decisions-making.

What David Allen brings up in Chapter 10 of Ready For Anything: Creativity shows up when there’s space, is that getting it all down intimidates a lot of people because they fear there won’t be anything really there.

“Is that all there is?” is a pervasive angst among far more people than you might think. The worry is that with all one’s responsibilities, projects, even simple daily to-dos out and in the open, “Is that all there is?” will resonate and echo deafeningly.

So we insist on keeping it all “up here” with a smile and a tap of the forehead, convinced both that we’re managing just fine, and that we could be great, and will be eventually, once our awesome burdens ease up a little and we have time to see clearly again.

No, says David Allen. CoPORD! Get it all out. Review it all regularly. Manage it all in a completely integrated fashion. Only then will we be operating at the top of our game.

David Allen’s point in this chapter is again: Get it all on paper. A mind is a terrible thing to waste on office space. Holding it in clogs the pipes. Getting it out clears the pipes.

Clearing the paths is liberating and almost instantly puts the mind in flow, and flow is where you want to go.

Allen asks this question at chapter’s end: Are you ready for a bigger parade?

Well, are you?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Ready For Anything: Chapter 9 -- If It's On Your Mind, It's Probably Not Getting Done

"To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end in life."

Robert Louis Stevenson

Allen comments on "mental karma." That goals as disparate as buying groceries or buying a company, when left in the same storage bin--one's mind--interfere with each other in importance, immediacy, real need vs imagined want.

Allen's solution is, as ever: "Write it down."

Process it. Review it.

Decide, "Do today." Or, "Maybe later."

But get it out of your head and onto paper, where you can reliably review the same data every day, even as you move projects to long-term or even not-at-all status.

Because doing so will be just as reliably moving forward the most immediate, most meaningful projects forward.

And the bigger reason: Maintaining a system that stores information reliably, so your mind is free to spend less time on pure processing and prioritizing, and more time on vision and creativity.

Allen's last point is that it takes adults years to fully incorporate his CoPORD model, but kids seem to take to it immediately.

It's true that the younger the mind, the more easily it learns huge masses of new information, so it stands to reason that younger minds will quickly adapt to Allen's methodology.

But learning is always preceded by motivation, and putting David Allen's good ideas and models to work must be proceeded by it.

Let's hope, not only that David Allen's ways get incorporated into curriculum, and that students quickly recognize its value, and so are motivated to practice it.

"The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled."


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Monthly MeetUp Goals -- Feb 2010

In case you didn't notice, I skipped the monthly meet up goals for January.

Must be some anti-establishmentarianism stuck in my craw, resisting the norm of New Year's Resolutions, having my David Allen, Getting Things Done, CoPORDing well in hand.

At least, as a guiding hand.

Whatever. I didn't post goals for Jan, because I felt I really hadn't accomplished too many of my December goals, and frankly, was a little embarrassed by all that.

And I thought of posting in mid-Jan, and almost did, but have been busy with other things, and so, said to myself: Let it go. Post again in Feb, and keep on going.

"When you're going through hell / Keep on going..."

Therefore, herewith my Feb 2010 Goals:

1. Keep working on AOAYA. I've written / drafted three chapters, and have an outline for 72. Outline will be a-revising, but there's a modality, some framework, and I need to press on.

2. Keep developing "Let's Play SAT!" Sometimes tedious, but needs doing. I've got some good tips, not only for succeeding in the SAT, but also for developing better problem solving skills, better critical/analytical reading skills, and better reasoning skills, especially in the context of the SAT, but which are also transferable in all academic areas, as well as interpersonal and business.

Need to keep tips shorter and to point. On the other hand, Content is King!

Yeah, Content is King!

3. Hand make more t-shirts! Have made one so far, but problems uploading picture files have prevented me from presenting this beauty online. Look for regular production from HepCatIndstries this month, once the pic uploading problem is solved.

4. Also, look for a weekly 8Tracks song mix each week at HepCatIndstries.

5. Last, but not least, develop a copywriting blog--Yeah, yeah, I know: I don't have enough blogs yet. But this month I pledge to get really serious about my copywriting, so I'm putting that out here.

6. That's enough, don't you think?

7. Till next month...