Choice makes timing: V2 B1 C11

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Plancenoit was the choice. And as Hugo says, had the Prussians chosen some other door, the battle would have gone to Napoleon.

In such a manner we create our lives and shape the lives of others.

Types of decisions:

  1. Blind
  2. Difficult
  3. Self-sacrificing
  4. Disciplined
  5. Easy
  6. Mindless
  7. Wise
  8. Foolish
  9. Calculated
  10. Spontaneous
  11. Quick
  12. Long
  13. Selfish
  14. Deceived
  15. Put-off
  16. Joint
  17. Regular
  18. Repeated
  19. Mindless
  20. Premeditated
  21. Deliberate
  22. Dumb
  23. Rash
  24. Incomplete
  25. Waffling

Choose to love. Choose to exert energy. Choose to live.

Timing is everything: V2 B1 C10

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French: Cuirass is a piece of armor which covers the front of the torso. The Cuirassiers were cavalry equipped with cuirass and firearms.

English: The infantry squares were tightly fit and double-rowed arrangement of soldiers commonly used against calvary attack.

This confrontation at Mont Saint Jean seems a voluminous pouring out of the lives of men to decide the direction of Europe. And the picture of Wellington and his men hanging on to the final minute before Blucher’s cavalry arrives keeps me on the edge of my seat as I read of the account. But such “nick-of-time” occurrences are not uncommon on smaller scales.

The coincidental timings of two separate event paths crossing is outside the control of independent participants. But at Waterloo, Wellington and Blucher were not independent, and they indeed reached each other just in time. But when are these coincidences worth the effort, and when are the urgent difficulties and engagements more important than the strivings? At Waterloo the hindsight answer seems clear, but there are many instances where it is not, and the assessment itself is subjective.

Pace and rhythm are important topics that I have neglected to value as objects of study.  I have taken the view that I need to get as much accomplished as possible as soon as possible. The extra effort that I have to put in to getting everything done at once has only been important as it represents a certain amount of energy. But the timing issues are important all to themselves. A slow controlled walk with good posture is to be valued above a hurried race from one meeting to the next, just of itself.

There is timing that we cannot control, and then there is timing that we can. What are some symptoms that we are not exercising control of our timing?

  1. Being always in a hurry.
  2. Being impatient in traffic or in a queue.
  3. Always being late.
  4. Never being late.
  5. Not speaking in complete sentences.
  6. Not listening well.
  7. Often forgetting items.
  8. Racing back to get items forgot that could have been abandoned once it was realized that they were forgotten.
  9. Avoiding solitude and silence and fasting.
  10. Lamenting over idle time thrust upon us during waiting instead of rejoicing for the moments of meditation gained.

Live at the right pace and keep margins for spontaneity.

 

Speaking better: V2 B1 C9

Hugo says in this chapter that Napoleon finally reached his limit of immorality at Waterloo, where God had had enough of the death and destruction brought by his hand. Hugo seems to mix the karma idea in with a personal God of justice. He says:

“Reeking blood, overcrowded cemeteries, weeping mothers – these are formidable pleaders.”

Hugo says God hears the human sufferings and enough is enough.

The optimism makes sense to most people, whether they believe in a just God, or karma or whether they believe that people are basically good so that good will eventually win out over evil: most people believe that what goes around comes around. And I believe that most people know that they deserve worse than what they have gotten in life so far. I am definitely of that opinion regarding myself. Despite that I often play the victim in stories that I tell or complaints that I offer, when I honestly weigh the motives of my heart against the standard of right living to which I aspire in my clear-headed moments, I know that I have it really good and the other shoe could drop if I am exposed.

This is consistent with Genesis where we read that God spoke to Cain, “The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground” (4:10).

But the jiu jitsu of it all was the work of Christ as described in Hebrews 12:

 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.

Whereas the selfish hurtful actions of each person bring consequences that are noticed by a just God, i.e. the “mornings from the deeps which the heavens hear,” the blood of Christ speaks better and provides a way again for us to approach a loving heavenly Father. Because his blood speaks better than the blood on the ground which I have spilled, I can speak better by my personal living.

  1. I can walk in freedom and gratitude without fear and anxiety.
  2. I can speak better for those who don’t deserve my mercy or kindness.
  3. I can please that God who made it possible for me to come to His mountain by speaking better for me.

Peek behind that different door!: V2 B1 C8

Today, I will decide something different. Just one little thing. But maybe two. And I will be observant to enter in to the little opportunities that arise. I will exchange a smile and a greeting for cold eye contact. I will speak a little differently with unusual care and thoughtfulness to my bride of 34 years.

Napoleon’s spy missed some small detail and it cost them the battle. Not today. Not me. How exciting to pry open the life events that lie behind the door of stopping to talk to that neighbor at the mailbox. How powerful the opportunity that lies behind following that subtle curiosity about taking that class, or joining that club, or just visiting that other neighborhood.

When we go on long trips down I75 or I40, we whiz by the same exits that I have seen for years. Some of them have signs that raise my curiosity every time I go by, but just not enough to interrupt my agenda off making time to my far destination. Its only those same Chik Fil A restaurants that have a strong enough pull to get us off for a pit stop – clean, fast, and convenient. But interruptions and different doors and new introductions are what vastly increase the quality and memorability of each day. Opportunity for relationship abounds.

The biggest decisions that I ever made were probably – who I am going to marry, and where was I going to work. The effects on those decisions by the apparent miscalculations and mistakes of others is clear  from a cause and effect vantage point. But there can be no responsibility (blame or credit) assigned for those who made the apparent errors. For each day is a new day and potential good deeds and wonderful joys are at hand through the doors of decision right now.

 

Napoleon’s Pride: V2 B1 C7

“The perfect smile belongs to God alone.” Proverbs 16:18 applies. Apparently Napoleon was in a good mood. Hugo paints him as extremely confident, as he directed ten thousands of men to their deaths. “Therefore his calamity will come suddenly; Instantly he will be broken and there will be no healing.” And there was the trench as Hugo points out. But other sources I read speak more about Marshall Ney’s impatience and foolish decisions. Still, it meant the end of the empire that threatened all of Europe.

Vain rulers beware. And although the humble suffer as well in this world, we do not know when tough circumstances might appear, but those of us who believe that God is who he says he is in the Bible, and that this apparent physical world is but a part of a much bigger reality, can also trust that our suffering is limited by his full knowledge and definitive lovingkindness. The vain ruler cannot be reassured by a God whom he is opposing by a prideful aim.

 

Wellington’s leadership: V2 B1 C6

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Go for it! We can do this! I want to do this! To achieve a goal, the team members must have a common attitude. So much depends on the resolve of individual men/women in the battle. Here is an example with Wellingtons troops, many of them them novices, but apparently found that extra strength within themselves – they wanted it worse than the professional soldiers of Napoleon that they faced. And such a resolve was modeled for them by their leader.

In the chapter, Hugo describes Wellington’s unrelenting attitude, and he relates 3 statements made by Wellington to motivate his men. Basically, they are: (1) If I am killed, follow my example, (2) Hold that spot that you are on to the last man, and (3) We must not be beat because they will say bad things about us at home.

So let me generalize these three even further to apply them to myself as a leader at work.

  1. Be an example of enthusiasm, commitment, and hard work.
  2. Make sure everyone knows how their job is important and that the rest of the group depends on them.
  3. Extrapolate to the legacy – we can be the heroes – maybe unsung – but heroes nonetheless.
We can take that mountain,
Though we die on this ground.
While the storms assail us,
We can choose right now.

 

 

Decisive, specific, and abandon: V2 B1 C5

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Hugo theorizes about the “art” of warfare and the executive strengths of men such as Napoleon, Blucher, and Wellington. He emphasizes the importance of gathering the data: exact positions of clumps of trees, rocks and boards. Then there is a chaotic aspect to each engagement, where the organization breaks down into eddies of hand-to-hand or regimental skirmishes, on various scales of strategy and conflict.

The general is responsible for specific preparation, to the last detail, and communicating the plan clearly to the troops, but during the engagement that plan will be modified in the field as each man decides to move on the spur of a moment. The general must expect this eventuality, and allow the events to unfold in chaos to some degree without interference at some level, all the while inspiring the troops and calling out orders clear and hard at just the right scale.

Each frame of life has its differences and each culture its language, and the leader must assess which details are important, how to prepare his troops, and when to use his/her authority. Still, one thing remains constant: that the leader must be trusted.

My Grandma and Napoleon’s Shadow: V2 B1 C4

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Few men will leave their name so indelible as this conquering ruler. And yes, their is a batting about of impressions that disperse, resonate, and distort the initial life through the halls of history and human cultural impressions. Perhaps Hugo is right that the light of history illumines the actions of a man. But really, what is left of the man in a memory? Without being known in personal relationship, the substance passes quickly, and the name comes an empty symbol which takes on the properties and opinions of the user.

I thought of my Grams this morning who died June 13, 2015; Compared with the Battle of Waterloo June 18, 1815.

When I thought of Grams, Inez Simon. I thought of her reassuring and encouraging voice that led me in childhood and through becoming a man: even in crisis she was a steadfast harbor. She played with me and made things exciting with cards, and nuts, and Dr. Pepper, a big back yard, an interesting attic, and the summer joys of childhood.

I thought of her life of service – brushing of the dust from her sheet as she arose from that 1930s farm bed, but “not knowing she had it bad.” Then marrying a man who would father her 4 children, go off to war, and lose his mind and eventually his family, and Grams would have to work two jobs, and so my mother learned to cook and care for others. Grams would say: “You do what you have to do. It’s no use complaining,” when things got hard. She wasn’t surprised when hard times came, but felt strong compassion for others in their pain. Then in her last 3 years when she came to stay in our town, I remember walks with Kizzie, stopping by Grams’ apartment where she would bring a bowl of water for the dog, and we would sit and talk about family and friends – that reassuring voice and weathered attitude still strong at 90 years.

The existence of Grams is not dispersed or distorted. Her life may have been an inch wide in the sea of the billions of people that live and that have ever lived, but it was a mile deep, and lasts in its high fidelity, as a meaningful memory engraved on my soul. And my life’s core has been permanently shaped by her presence and legacy, unlike the impersonal surface waves of political history. Like my Savior, she did not need riches, fame, or platform to transform the lives of the people she touched, and the people that the touched would touch: only love.

Artless judge: V2 B1 C3

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“…and when destiny is called in , this mysterious accused, we judge like the people, that artless judge.”

Hugo attributed the result of Waterloo to “a chain of accidents” then yet qualifies his statement by acknowledging his position of ignorance subject to the winds of perception. My reading of these final words of this chapter is that common judgments are made rashly and with a heard mentality; more generally that life goes on by expediency and without art.

This week I attended a stimulating workshop about artistic leadership (I am no longer surprised by the seeming coincidences of my readings, and I am not so artless as to stubbornly insist that they are due to a random chance.) The workshop encouraged me to move out existentially into the mystery of the future. To take a chance and  not care about the perceptions of others, but to move out boldly into the darkness creating as I go. The same call that I have heard for years (Silence of Adam by Larry Crabb, Paradise Lost, John Milton) since considering my role as a creator, launching out into the unknowing. Creation is the act of worship as I live out my existence as a man created in the image of God, corrupted by the sin disease, and restored as a new creature by the rescue of God Himself, another more relevant creation which I can emulate.

Redemption is an act of creation within the chaos of destruction and devaluation. I am now redeemed and renewed, commissioned and empowered with untold resources to move out and choose worship, which is my creative loving and leading. There is the artless behavior of the people marching toward their deaths and squandering the moments in following the impulses of their neighbors; there is the savoring of moments and smelling of the roses which is self-aware and delights in moments but still is powerless to change anything; then there is the worship of God – something intimate and purposeful which delights to glorify Him as a creature creating, enjoy His approval and fellowship in eternal life. Shout joyfully to God all the earth! (Psalm 66:1).