I have always been an Aristotle guy. Don’t get me wrong, Plato and Socrates had their moments. Socrates asked questions, lots of them, because he recognized we do not always have the answers, and thus we have the scientific method. Plato went deep and elevated the human relationship with love past the physical plane to the Divine Eros – what my Sufi Muslim pals call “Ishq-e-Haqeeqi.” Plato and Socrates were not messing around.
Aristotle was a student of Plato and by extension Socrates, and their cadence certainly echoes in his rhymes. But he added new beats of his own that set modern critical thought and man’s intellectual and ethical evolution in motion. It was kind of like Woody Guthrie starting the conversation that Bob Dylan revolutionized into an eternal pathos cycle in the key of humanism. Before the word was cool (or even a word), Aristotle was one of the first great “innovators.”
Aristotle and Plato both championed thoughts over senses. But Plato pretty much back-shelved sensory experiences in favor of innate knowledge while Aristotle said “Whoa there, buddy. We need the senses to actually figure out what the hell is going on.” That is why I dig him. He knew man’s true journey is more complicated than just knowing stuff – you have to feel and get felt by it all too.
For me, the Bush Fellowship is an opportunity to put Aristotelean notions in motion through practical application. Plato’s world was a cave where people can only see shadows from the outside light and reality is equal to thought and perception. Aristotle pushed back, challenging conventional wisdom and extended the conversation by saying: “Dude, get out of the cave. The world is out there and you have to feel the light of the sun and the moon to know they are real. Then you add your own constellations to the sky. That is your reality.”
My Bush Fellowship is the chance to step outside my comfort-cave to hone and acquire valuable skill sets, enhance network connections and challenge myself to imagine a whole new personal and professional horizon line. Cue Captain James T. Kirk (he is an Aristotle guy too.) In the first six months, I have been learning a new language (I mean literally – Spanish), pushed myself to reconsider my place and value in the order of things, actually focused on self-care as meaning something more than sleeping in on Sundays, and extended my international, national and local networks. And I am just getting started. 2016 is going to be an all-out blitzkrieg of “experiencing” – traveling, listening, absorbing, questioning, engaging and growing. I am leaving the door wide-open for brand new experiences that were previously unavailable or unknown. I have no secret sauce that will make this Aristotle burger the perfect soul-meat pie. I just know my mouth is watering and I am going to take big bites.
Here is the thing Aristotle got supremely right – wisdom is not a given, it is earned. Be practical in your approach and empathetic in your actions. But be authentic. Tune-in your own voice on the radio dial as you amble down the road. You have to obtain the skills and expand knowledge of self and the world around you to make virtue a habit. Wisdom is the result of the meaningful application and refinement of this notion. A Bush Fellowship is the opportunity to do just that – to obtain, apply and grow. I seek to better understand my relationship to leadership and apply knowledge gained to expand my contribution to society.
I think one can do this and still be pragmatic and realistic in methodology and expectations as my boy “A- Stots” would recommend. It is not without its challenges, though. There are various work and life calendrical hurdles that complicate Fellowship experience planning. Expanding networks is easier said than done. I am learning as I go on that front. The barometer for success dips and rises. There is pressure to consider every step, over-examine every moment, and fret about opportunities missed or bungled. Am I making the best choices? Will I mess this up? Did they actually pick the right Adam Perry for this gig? Maybe there is some other better-looking, over-achiever dude named Adam Perry whose place I am taking in some sort of bizarre multi-dimensional switcheroo? And why can’t Joe Mauer just swing at a slow first-pitch cheeseball down the middle of the plate every now and then? Would it not raise his batting average? Am I missing those pitches too? Maybe I should choke up and try to slap some singles versus swinging for the fences. Can I combine these approaches to be the kind of player I want to be?
Aristotle preached that while there are a million different paths to take, happiness is the ultimate human end to pursue and happiness is intrinsically linked to one’s role in society. With each new convening I experience, each new educational challenge I undertake, and the new networks I explore, I am kinetically charging myself to pursue happiness by contributing to the greater good. I might bounce off the rails a bit and the path may take some unexpected twists and turns, but I have the wisdom of Aristotle to nudge me along.
“Think bigger. Think differently.” Aristotle would have probably said something like that, paused, scratched his fluffy white philosopher beard, grabbed a goblet of wine and barked “But you gotta feel the light to know your own shadow. Then set about the doing. Choke-up and grind out some hits or launch moonshots into the night, just make sure you are producing.”
Ok, Mr. A. Batter up.