Bookends

bookends
Omar Aleman Aleman and Associates

You “old timers” probably remember the “mandatory” books that students were expected to read during their young adolescent school years. While a freshman, I was “forced” to read a historical novel by Charles Dickens which vividly brings to life the French Revolution in two European capitals. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way,” were the first lines of A Tale of Two Cities, well known words ascribed to one of the best accounts of historical fiction ever written.

If the truth be told, this publication is too complex a piece of literature to be clearly understood by young audiences, which says a lot about the expectations of our educational system back in the 1960’s. However, for me it was an eye opener; the revolution that Dickens described helped me to understand the one I had just fled to seek refuge in this country. And I must say, the ending  of this great novel has stayed with me for a lifetime…”It is a far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

 

The Peter Principle

bookendsFrom the sublime to the ridiculous. As I am writing these words, I am staring at the second book that made serious psychological inroads in my life, The Peter Principle. I was introduced to it shortly after college, and it became the road map to my career in the federal government. This very short treatise written in 1969 by Peter himself (Laurence Peter), exposes one of the main shortcomings of government service, which is that employees tend to rise “to their maximum level of incompetence.”

This thin red booklet was my constant companion during 32 years of service, and dare I say, one of the few sources of sanity to the inconceivable, incompetent and indescribable decisions made by the bosses in Washington. Managers in the seat of power who once mingled with the rest of us and were subsequently promoted to positions of prominence partially due to their level of incompetence became the norm. They were “kicked to the top” mostly because they could not function in their current assignments, so in order to “get rid of them” they were summarily promoted and sent to Headquarters. And then it came full circle, for in time their incompetence would become the catalyst which would fuel more bureaucratic interference.

 

The Godfather

At this time I am also looking at one of my most prized possessions, “The Godfather” movie trilogy. What I cannot seem to find is my copy of the book written by Mario Puzo and published in 1969, which inspired these epic films and which bears the same title. As you can imagine, the movie inspired me to read the book, which in my estimation is as persuasive as the former. Here Mario compares the Corleone family to the Brothers Karamazov, the Fyodor Dostoevsky novel which depicts a forceful father and his interactions with his sons.

An intense dive into culture, assimilation, intrigue, violence and betrayal, The Godfather gives the reader a glimpse of the influence of one person, his control of an empire and the grooming of his son to keep its dominance. In my case, an opportunity for a “good guy” to taste life from the perspective of the “bad guy.” Rarely do we see both book and film be so equally impacting, but such is the case here.  And, of course, in the end “he gives us an offer we can’t refuse.” 

 

The Bible

A homework assignment, a career manual and a societal piece, all three different yet influential in their own right. And they all intersect in the book that I am reading now, the Bible. I really have been at it for 35 years, but there is something about the Word of God that makes it come alive time and time again, gifting me with a unique story line every morning. In essence, I am the recipient of three books in one.

Bookends in Jerusalem

The magnificence of Jerusalem and its glorious temple gives way to the New Jerusalem, the city where God himself resides and which will be our permanent residence for eternity. It is indeed the story of two cities, and the revolutionary position taken by Jesus finds him on his throne in the last chapter of the Holy Book, which has a perfect ending.

The spontaneous Peter meets the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and this sometimes reckless fisherman becomes the rock on which Our Lord would build his church. In one fell swoop, the apostle became “principled Peter” who comes to life as he addresses the crowd in Acts II. His uncompromising service to the church stands in contrast to our chronic lack of leadership as he met his end in similar fashion to his Master.

Meanwhile, Father God, the creator of the family, waits patiently in heaven for his Son to make his triumphal return and take us to Him devoid of sin. The father had to put the son in harm’s way to accomplish the mission, impossible for men, possible for God. And in the end, today more than ever….”it is a far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

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