Category Archives: My Thoughts

Visionaries Share (useful) Insights

lluminaryA new post on Oprah.com titled “5 Breakthroughs You Can Learn from These Visionaries” sprinkles down little gems of wisdom, all delivered in neat, concise and totally believable little packages. These kinds of practical “cheerleading” tips really work — when we remember to follow them and to dig deeper when in the midst of worrying over whether (1) our new project is as viable as we first thought (2) our problem-solving approach is actually making said problem more manageable, or 3) our new take on a classic situation will appeal to anybody but us — and, of course, our loyal and ever-supportive family members and friends.

Take Philippe Petit, for example. He’s the high-wire artist who boldly scaled a wire between the World Center Twin towers in 1974 — a more innocent time when the terror of 9/11 was still simply unimaginable. See the amazing You Tube video here. Ever emphasizing his rarely matched pursuit of perfection, he proudly says , “People label me a madman of detail, and I don’t refute the title. I work towards perfection for thousands of hours….”

On another front, Paleontologist Neil Shubin, Ph.D., agrees with many individuals profiled in Bright Lights of the Second City that luck is, quite often, a factor in achieving one’s desired outcome. (See Shubin here on “The Colbert Report”.)

But Shubin is quick to remind us that tenacity trumps many other characteristics. When talking about how the time that he and his team found the snout of a Titaalik rosea — finally! —  he emphasizes that “We could have given up — it had been six years. But we didn’t!” If you’re interested in paleontology, also meet Paul Sereno, profiled in Bright Lights of the Second City. (Something extra cool: They’re both affiliated with and teach at the University of Chicago.)

Read the Oprah.com post to meet celebrity stylist June Ambrose, cellist Zoe Keating, and Jad Abumrad, cohost of WNYC’s Radiolab. For more fascinating insights, check out of the 50 stellar Chicagoans in Bright Lights of the Second City.

The Purpose and Passion that Drives Violin Virtuoso Rachel Barton Pine

Some babies are lucky enough to be wooed to sleep by the best of ‘em. In this case, that child is the daughter of virtuoso violinist Rachel Barton Pine. According to a recent article in the Chicago Sun Times, Pine prepared a special gift for her little girl – born in 2011— an album of some of the very best violin lullaby works culled from 150 transcriptions and original violin works from the 19th and 20th centuries.

rbpPine doesn’t do anything by half measures, and the success of her children’s album is another indicator of her commitment to expanding her artistic repertoire. When “Lullabies” was released last year, the record quickly filled the number-one spot on both the Billboard and the Amazon classical sales charts.

The Chicago-born violinist continues to enjoy a high profile career that successfully showcases a variety of styles and projects, including her participation with metal band Earthen Grave, for whom she plays electric violin.

When Pine was interviewed in 2011 for Bright Lights of the Second City, she offered readers this sage advice: “Figure out who you are, identify the ultimate gift you can offer, and discover where those two things align. Work as hard as you can. Remember that you must possess blind faith when you can’t see where the path is leading you. Keep striving as if you know where you’re headed.”

 

Gun Control Hero James Brady

Thumbs up

In a world awash in hyperbole, one in which labels like “hero” are easily bandied about, the simple, stately noun is epitomized by the likes of James Brady, the White House press secretary who took a bullet in the line of duty . . . then rallied to become a leading gun-control advocate. Brady died on August 4 at age 73.

As many people of a certain age well remember, in 1981, the press czar to president Ronald Reagan was seriously injured during an assassination attempt on the president’s life. As the result of a bullet to the right section of his brain, Brady suffered a host of maladies, including paralysis of his left arm, a compromised left leg, a weakening of his short-term memory and a speech impairment.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, a fork in the road arose — as it so often does after one’s world is forever altered. Brady and his wife, Sarah, could have (understandably) packed their bags and distanced themselves from the intrusive and demanding presence that life on the public stage demands. Instead, they fought courageously to keep others safe from gun violence.

To state the obvious, the Bradys had nothing to gain by launching what would become – and still is – an uphill battle (inexplicably) to enact commonsense gun legislation. With exceptional commitment and fervor, they forged a campaign to make the world a better, more humane, less violent place. Passion and purpose are always essential aspects of a sea change.

The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act was passed 12 years after the shooting that changed Jim’s and Sarah’s lives forever. It introduced the idea of background checks and waiting periods for many firearms purchases. According to The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, The Brady Law has blocked an estimated 2 million prohibited gun purchases and helped save countless lives.

Throughout his decades as an advocate, Brady maintained the trademark wit and plain speaking that made him such a favorite in Washington. For example: When the National Rifle Association asserted that it would be “ inconvenient”’ to expect citizens to abide by a brief waiting period to purchase a gun, Brady shared something of his own life to impress upon others that, well, “waiting time” was all about perspective: According to the August 4, 2014 New York Times obituary, Brady once testified, “I need help getting out of bed, help taking a shower, and help getting dressed, and — damn it — I need help going to the bathroom. I guess I’m paying for their convenience.”

The quest for commonsense gun laws endures, and it remains an arduous climb. As anti-violence advocates endure in their passion, they will be forever motivated, reassured and inspired by Jim and Sarah Brady.