When entering my public library I am often overwhelmed when trying to find a few books to pack – for free(!) – into my ‘self improvement’ bag I started carrying during deployments and extended travels. The stress doesn’t come from having to find the perfect book. I stopped that goofball plan when I learned that few things I life were either perfect or available. But the choice of fiction, historical analysis, good story lines, something enlightening…all of those…make for challenging times.

I normally grab two tomes from the “What’s New” display and take my chances. The last two have been diamonds. “Danger’s Hour” by Robert Kennedy’s son Max tells the story of the Kamikaze sinking on the USS Bunker Hill from the perspective of the crew and the very young Japanese pilot who inflicted so much damage. That men aboard that ship endured such things and actually were emboldened by those events speaks volumes of that generation’s resiliency. It also reminds me of what so many of you endure and overcome…often without even realizing it. The second book is called “Fame”, written by a young German author. It is a completely unhinged work about some of the oddest characters who we all have to live with. I guarantee you won’t see yourself in his various character narratives, but you’ll reckon he knows some of the same people you do. It’s a cracker from start to finish with one or two highlights… hence this narrative.

‘Fame’ embodies in human form that dialectic between what we want and what we settle for. In my 2001 book entitled ‘The Paradox of Underachievement’, I ventured to ask why people who start out with such lofty life goals settle for less even when the means exist to accomplish same. The answer – not so odd when you think about it – is that life gets in the way. Choices are made. Families put together. We start thinking in a different way. And things get complicated. Not math and physics complicated, but larger in scope than we often bargain for or are prepared to handle. And so…we settle. We alter our baseline hopes, goals, and dreams so as to appease the warring in the subconscious. The small voice that shouts; “asshole” when you move on to stasis and forego jumping off a pier, learn to fly, or buy a Harley instead Of kitchen cabinets. Its capitulation alright…but it has a reason and that reason makes sense the longer a path is pursued. In ‘Fame’, the usual suspects appear – bad hygiene and all – and force us to give thanks for being…bolder.

And then there is Laura Gaspar…the heroine ‘Doctors Without Borders’ humanitarian savant’ whose auburn haired good looks wafts onto the last few pages of the book and reminds us why we ‘challenge the wind’ and accept the tough assignments. Live large and make sacrifices.

When all is said and done, looking like you belong to a real life with real challenges, filled with real live people makes life – famous or not – pretty freaking attractive. And that’s coming from a bald guy…


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