Saturday, February 16, 2013

Every Great Endeavor

Everyone imagines accomplishing things, and everyone finds him-or herself largely incapable of producing them.”—Tim Keller 

True or false?  

This line gave me pause recently as I read it, and found myself responding, “True and false.” 

True: I find myself in exactly that position, wondering if I will be able to squirt out a thing—my ‘leaf’—and am surrounded by unfinished projects and notebooks filled with ideas that have yet to be fulfilled.   

False: I’m not sure my father was capable of thinking he was incapable of producing the ideas in his head!  He certainly had to be overwhelmed at times by the demands on his life; on the other hand, he as a successful designer in Manhattan, at the height of the seminal design movement going on in the city, now called Mid-Century Modern (thanks to Pete for that one, and more to follow!).  He spent his career bringing ideas to life. 

A week or so ago, my sibs re-discovered some of his accomplishments, thanks to the internet and social media.  (Who knew Dad was on You Tube???)  We had fun, blasting around comments, likes and shares, as one or another dug up links and video clips.  Once again, my father became a little larger than life for us, more than the man who made us sit in weird chairs, or brought lamps home that looked like flying saucers.  To us children growing up, he was no more than a simple hobbit, who went from there and back again to Manhattan or the boatyard.  And yet this week, we saw him in the context of his time, inventing history:

They changed opinions… 

They abandoned rules…

They designed history…

As others of his generation, my father emerged from the Great Depression and World War II stamped more indelibly with pragmatism than idealism.  Survival was the name of the game.  Our boomer talk of “finding ourselves” and “doing what we love” was self-indulgent idiocy to them.  And yet…they built a world.  Our house filled with furniture designs, and our backyard filled up with a boat.         

Tolkien had a vision for a story the world had never seen.  He had a vision of a whole tree, and all he had to produce was one leaf (as he understood by “Leaf by Niggle”). 

My father and his colleagues had vision for designs the world had never seen.  I’m not sure what they hoped to accomplish, or if they ever got a glimpse of the tree Tolkien saw, but I’m pretty sure they thought they could change the world.  And with professional success came fuel for my dad’s passion to build a boat, raise six kids and renovate an old house.  Talk about energy… 

No comments:

Post a Comment