Monday, April 23, 2018

Do They Influence You?

Perhaps you have seen that Time magazine recently published their annual listing of what they claim are the 100 Most Influential People in the World, the ones for whom 2018 “is their year.” So. how many of the following ‘world shapers’ are influencing you?  Remember, these are among the most influential folks in the whole world.

Guillermo del Toro, Millie Bobby Brown, Christian Siriano, Greta Gerwig, Kehine Wiley, Sterling K Brown, Gal Gadot, Shawn Mendes, Deepika Padukone, Judy Chicago, Ryan Coogler, JR, Lena Waithe, Jose Andres, Sonia Friedman, Masoyoshi Son, Adam Neumann, Elizabeth Diller, Virat Kohli, Giuliano Testa, Pony Ma, Cindy Holland, Ronan Farrow, Jodi Kantor, Megan Twohey, Kevin Kwan, Rachael Denhollander, Virgil Abloh, Daniela Vega, Cristina Jimenez, Chadwick Boseman, Sinta Nuriyah, Tarana Burke, Christopher Wylie, Janet Mock

I leafed through the magazine’s pages from beginning to end, moving from one unknown name and photo to the next. Obviously, if Time is right I am being influenced every day by persons unknown to me.
Truth be told, it has probably always been that way. Perhaps there is no reason we should know of or about the people who influence the lives we live. Still, I accept it as a sign of my November state of mind that my world is shaped by so many persons I have never heard of.........a list that includes the following.........

Tiffany Haddish, Cameron Kasky, Jaclyn Corin, David Hogg, Emma Gonzalez, Alex Wind, Rught Davidson, Whitney Wolfe Herd, Kumail Nanjiani, Marcia Branchesi, Nice Nailantei Lengete, Carl June, Peggy Whitson, Issa Rae, Jan Rader, Bhavish Aggarwal, Cardi B, Ann KmKee, Jian-Wei Pan, Jesmyn Ward, Satya Nadella, Kenneth C Frazier, Mauricio Macri, Haider al-Aladi, Carmen Yulin Cruz, Moon Jae-in, Emmerson Mnangagwa, Sheikh Hasina, Sadiq Khan, Leo Varadkar, Jacina Ardern, Hoda Koth

Look through those names one more time. If I interpret Time’s claim correctly, fully 70% of the thoughts we think and the choices we choose are influenced to some degree by the folks on those two lists. Just as interesting to my November mind, nearly half of them are under 40 years old.
My own inventory of the Time’s list included 31 names I recognized....31 among the total of 100. Though I probably cannot explain exactly how each of them creates his or her influence, at least the name, and or photo, was familiar. The folks I personally noted  were.......

Kicole Kidman, Jimmy Kimmel, Hugh Jackman, Roseanne Barr, Jeff Bezos, Kevin Durant, Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Lopez, Maxine Waters, Adam Rippon, Rihanna, Chloe Kim, Trevor Noah, Emmanuel Macron, Kim Jong Un, Prince Henry, Meghan Markle, Jeff Sessinos, Nancy Pelosi, Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, Donald Trump, Robert Mueller, Scott Pruitt, Shinzo Abe, JJ Watt, Sean Hannity, Xi Jinping, Savannah Guthrie, Justin Trudeau, Roger Federer, 

All of which means I must be very far out of the loop, and/or a great deal of influential influencing is wasted on the likes of me....a possibility I can readily accept. In any case, I hope that each of you is able to find productive influence in the work of those folks whose claim to fame means nothing to me.
Finally, it seems to me a good time to take a step back from any “100 Most XXXX” list, the kind that is meant to sell magazines. Instead, let’s take a moment to give thanks for the truly influential persons in our life, the ones who made an impact on us, and the ways they have made our journey satisfying and productive. We owe those folks so much, even when some of us have failed to apply the wisdom they had to offer.


And now, I would like to mention a different sort of ‘influencing,’ an important part of our journey into the uncharted waters of October and November.
Sunday night’s edition of 60 Minutes featured a piece on a multi-year study of one couple’s struggle with Alzheimer’s Disease, tracing the wife’s descent into dementia. The ways their article paralleled my Best Friends and Promises story was seriously startling. From the beginning it was clear that the husband’s heroic efforts would not enough to create a happy ending---only the knowing that he had done all he could. 
Watching as the man struggled to overcome his growing resentment of a fight he could not win, I was reminded of my Don Quixote metaphor---the image of a good man spending his late-life energies tilting at those same frustrating windmills. It literally hurts to see a good soul consumed by such a noble and brave endeavor, which on the surface is obviously hopeless---pursued only in the name of love and matrimonial vows taken seriously.
And yet, in one way or another, each of us who are fortunate enough to experience October and November in the company of a loved one, must one day face those hard times. 
I am able to read my Tanner Chronicle stories as hopeful, upbeat tales of ‘becoming,’ even in late-life. Still, I realize that a November ‘happy ending’ will not look like an April ‘happy ending.’ Like it or not, it is the nature of our journey. That is why my stories of  late-life ‘becoming’ deal with Alzheimer’s, heart attacks, strokes, financial distress, marital discord, lost spouses, and various other October realities.
Small wonder then, that having guided my fictional friends through those late-life minefields, I am left with such strong affection for the persons they have become ‘in spite of.’