"And the days dwindle down..." Thoughts for dear friend and colleague Wallace Johnson upon the occasion of his 86th birthday April 18, 2011,
by Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Today is a special day, a festive day, a day of celebration and
hijinx... today Wallace Johnson, friend, turns 86 years young; legions of
his friends and well wishers will gather via the Internet to toast, to laugh
with and to note the day and the man.
Wallace, for all that he was a test pilot with the Apollo Project, (and so truly
flew high) is a man of sentiment, art, culture. So I looked for a suitable song to mark this event, and had no trouble selecting "The September Song" by Kurt Weil (music) and Maxwell Anderson (lyrics). It first appeared in the Broadway musical "Knickerbocher Holiday" (1938).
It is a grand tune with haunting music and a message that grows more
apt and poignant day by day.
A host of top artists have recorded this song, and no wonder; Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Durante (in 1955 in a particularly touching manner). I select Lotte Lenya. She did, after all, know Weill best; she married him twice. Her rendition is mesmerizing. Go to any search engine and find it; let the music and its lyrics envelop you as you read an article straight from the heart on this his special day.
".And the days dwindle down
To a precious few September, November
And these few precious days I'll spend with you.
These precious days I'll spend with you."
Thoughts from a whippersnapper of only 64.
Readers, if you're lucky in life you have a friend and colleague like Wallace.
He is dedicated, conscientious to a fault, and he knows the fine art of handling a CEO, which (being the CEO in question) I appreciate more than he knows Today, greatly daring, with grave temerity, this self-same CEO offers a few limpid reflections and observations in the hope that they are welcome...and, more to the point, correct.
1) You've lived.
In 1955 best-selling author Patrick Dennis wrote a pip of an novel entitled
"Auntie Mame". It offered this pithy admonition well loved by my mother, "Live! Live! Live! Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death."
Wallace, you are a lucky man; you have lived... you have loved... and most
importantly you have been loved, and still are. You have known and lived by
the truth of Sigmund Freud's famous observation that the best life is composed of love and work. It is not given to all to know, much less to benefit from, this.
"Happiness is composed of love and work."
(Gl?k ist Liebe und Arbeit zusammen.")
You have, of course, made errors; not one of us is immune from that. But
I suspect, as well as one human can know another, that yours were the faults of generosity. You, I know, are quite capable of giving too much to those who may not have been worth the gift, being neither capable of understanding nor reciprocating. If this is a "fault", it is a good one to have. It is, after all, always better to have given, even if from time to time, to the unworthy. Let a man be evaluated by such errors...and he shall be found, assuredly, a good man, a kind man, a man of heart. That man is you.
2) You served America proudly, regarding her as needing the support of all
who love her, a bastion, not a milch cow for exploitation.
Wallace, you have been since your earliest days, a man who knew the secret
of life was always to look up, to the place beyond the rainbows, for it is only by the exertions of untrammeled people that progress can come. You looked up and saw the cosmos as a subject of study, as a great adventure, as a never-ending source of wonder; a place to embrace and excite, never to shrink from. As a test pilot for the Apollo Project during the heady days of its inception and development, you saw first-hand what this great nation can do... no technical impediment too difficult... no vision too unlikely... no
destination too remote.
You are one of the very elect who can say, and proudly, "I was there... and it mattered." And so it did. The salary was meager; the hours long; the effect profound and inspiring. And you were there, dedicated.
3) You have been a great teacher.
Ask a new member of our Worldprofit community to name a single member, a single monitor, and the odds are overwhelming they will name you. I know why. First because you saw in us the best of you and in joining did no lip service but made the most serious of commitments. You resolved not merely to take, but to enhance, improve, and through every season and year, to give.
You learned our innovative business... you excelled. You understood, as so many have not, that the Internet is not a destination; it is a process, a process of connecting the members of our species, wherever they are located, so that they may communicate the very best of which we are capable.
You embraced this mission as you embraced all your missions: with seriousness of intent, with full commitment, and with an unexampled talent for training other good people worldwide who understood the vital importance of our monitor program and wanted to add their talents to the corps epitomized by you. As such you have, first, touched the lives of these monitors, directly, personally, diplomatically, thoroughly.
In turn these monitors, with their important tasks, have touched the
lives of untold thousands, who may perhaps never know they have benefited from you and your gift of giving. But they most assuredly have.
4) You have helped your CEO, a "lad" still on the sunny side of Social Security, just. Wallace, many people today, and on many days to come, will extol your virtues, and rightly so. But I am the only man in the universe who can extol you for this: that you have helped your CEO, not least by your empathy, diplomacy, and the art of knowing just when to offer home truths, the better to attend to them... and to listen. I appreciate your deftness... and your unflagging assistance.
Many people, 2 decades and more senior in age, would have found ways to roil the waters. You chose with consummate loyalty, to smooth the road... without the slightest hint of servility or arriere pensee. You have been amidst so many loyal, the most loyal of all.
You have given me the benefit of wisdom, without condescension. You have listened... you have spoken candidly... you have reminded when necessary and "forgotten" when prudent. I am appreciative, in your debt, impressed and grateful.
"And these few precious days, I'll spend with you."
If we are known and greatly defined by the company we keep, then surely we are here at Worldprofit, all of us the beneficiaries of this: that from a multitude of other companies and opportunities, Wallace Johnson selected us.
Now my 86th birthday gift to you, Wallace, is this:
May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face...
(ancient Irish prayer).
Wherever you go, whenever you go there, you take a particle from us with you, just as we carry a bit of you on our own unique journey through time and space.
Readers: for more information on Wallace Johnson and the Apollo Project,
visit any search engine.
Dr. Jeffrey Lant, Harvard educated, started writing for publication at age 5. Since then, he has published over 1,000 articles and 63 books, and counting.