A Sleight Setback

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

There has been a small setback to my recovery.  When I awoke yesterday I discovered that the locus of my knee pain had shifted and was now located just under the kneecap.  It appears that the area became stressed as I made adjustments to the way I walked when the pain was more centered in my joints.  I am limping again.  They have made a change in my rehabilitation to deal with this new problem and I am hopeful that the inflammation will decrease over the next few days.  Be that as it may, it is rather frustrating.  I guess I will just have to dig the well of patience a bit deeper.

Monday we were able to go out to lunch and we ended up at Salatën.  Susan opted for a salad to start and I chose the arroz a la banda.  Susan’s entrée was salmon and I chose the veal.  For dessert we chose the almond flan.  The food was enjoyable, but, at the same time, one cannot fail to notice that everything appears to be made in advance in large quantities and then served in individual portions.  I like A Nou’s approach of preparing a dish when ordered and since the price is the same, I know where to go for lunch the next time around.

Yesterday we ate at home.  Susan prepared a veal with mushroom dish that was absolutely spectacular.  She served it over pasta with a salad on the side.  Life is good!  I spent the rest of the day on the couch with my foot elevated and applying ice packs every other hour.  Susan went to PhotoShop class last night and learned and practiced a few more techniques.  I forgot to mention that we paid a visit to the Apple Store yesterday in the hopes that they could fix the problem that she was having with iMail, but they were unable to solve the problem.

I am including a speech I made a number of years ago for two reasons.  The first is that some of the issues that we touched upon Sunday night at Brian and Ofelia’s are ones I addressed in my speech.  The second reason is that, out of the blue, I received an e-mail on Monday from one of the students who was in the audience that evening.  She sent me a belated thank you for my words and allowed as how she frequently reflected on them.   What follows s rather lengthy.


Remarks by Martin Kaplan

On the Occasion of His Induction into Cum Laude

February 17, 2008


I think the last time I spoke before this many adults it was at my Bar Mitzvah.  Some of you may have read about it.  Moses couldn’t make it because he was still wandering in the desert. Okay, I exaggerate a bit …but not that much.  And I say that because as I sat down to commit my thoughts to paper, I did the math and discovered that I have spent the past sixty-four years of my life in an educational setting either as a student or a teacher.  And in those sixty-four years I have always sat on the other side of this lectern, where you are sitting now, and have always been the recipient of the message rather than the deliverer.  So, given my experience and given the fact that I am a magician, I know what you are thinking.  You’re thinking, “Dear Lord, let him be interesting and, above all, let him be brief.  You will be relieved to know that those are my two goals for this evening and I hope to realize both, but, truth be told, I will be happy to realize one of the two.  That would give me a batting average of 500 and that’s not too shabby.  Especially when you consider that I will have done it without the use of steroids.


Our life is frequently compared to a journey and I, along with those of you who have been honored tonight and those of you who were honored last year, are about to travel down a new road.  You juniors will spend the summer thinking about your next steps after you graduate from Westridge.  By the first of May you seniors will have a clear idea of where your next destination lies.  As of this moment, as I prepare to leave Westridge, I am not yet sure where my path will lead me, but I know that many exciting adventures await me.  Keeping the journey analogy in mind, I have decided to share with you some of my thoughts about twelve items or reminders we should consider taking along with us in our metaphorical backpack as we continue on our separate ways.  I guess you could think of these as ROAD FOOD…FOR THOUGHT.


1. Cultivate the ability to laugh at yourself and always remember to pack your sense of humor.  They will help get you through a number of the difficulties that you most certainly will confront in the future. Try not to take what are truly the minor aggravations in life too seriously.  As we used to say in the 60’s – that’s the 1960’s – “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”  Or, as my wife is fond of saying to her best friend, Ruth, “Ruth, lighten up.”


2. Everyone has something to teach you.  My students have taught me some of the most important lessons that I have learned in my time here at Westridge.  However, keep in mind that in order to learn the lessons that others might teach us, we need to be a good listener and to truly understand what it is that someone is telling us.  In addition to processing the message, we need to capture the emotions behind the message.  We all need to tell our story.  We all need to be understood.  We all need people to listen to us and not just hear us. Make every effort to be an active listener.


3. Initially, everyone deserves your respect.  That means that, in my book, respect does not have to be earned, but rather it needs to be maintained.  It is incumbent on me, as it is on others, to continue to be deserving of that initial respect that was freely given, because, at the beginning of a relationship, no one deserves to be nor should they be disrespected.  When asked what is the secret of my success here at Westridge, I respond that, among other things, I treat ALL people as people and it makes no difference to me if they are a fourth grader or the Head of School.


4.  Happiness comes from within.  It is not a cloak that we can wrap around others. We can cheer people up.  We can make them smile and we can make them laugh.  However, no matter what we do, we cannot make them happy.  If your goal in life is to make your daughter or your friend or your partner happy, you are doomed to failure. That is something they need to do for themselves. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Happiness is not a goal, it is a byproduct.”


5. Seek to uncover your passions.  Discover what it is that really animates you, that really motivates you, that truly brings you pleasure, that makes you feel vibrant and alive. I shudder to think who I would be without my passion for magic, for Spain, for Spanish and for teaching.


6. Do not underestimate the importance of the little things in life – a smile, a hug, a please, a thank you.  They enrich our days and they enrich our lives.  They are the bases on which relationships grow or whither.  To greet someone by name empowers people.  It let’s them know that they are known, that they are not just one of the multitude, that they are someone.  Sometimes even a nickname will do the trick.  I recently made the acquaintance of a fourth grader.  We literally ran into each other in the main hall.  It was at that moment that I christened her Speedy.  From that moment on, every time that I saw her I would greet her with, “Hi, Speedy!”  You could just see her face light up.  Recently, she was passing through my office and stopped and said to me, “I need to give you a name, too.”  Fifteen minutes later she returned, looked at me and said, “I have a name for you.  I am going to call you Mr. Nice Man.”


7.  Be here now!  We are often so busy planning our future that we forget the present.  We constantly pass up opportunities to be with our family, our friends or our loved ones because we are just too busy.  Sometimes we even forget to make time for ourselves in our overly full day. Then comes that moment when we stop and ask ourselves, “Why am I doing all this?”  “What’s the payoff? These are excellent questions because it is the love; comfort and understanding that we receive from our friends, family and loved ones that help us feel good about ourselves and give life its meaning. One of my favorite quotes continues to be, “Yesterday is history.  Tomorrow is mystery.  Today is a gift.  That’s why we call it the present.”  This quote always makes me think of a memorable meal that I had in Spain with one of my best friends.  At one point I looked at him and asked, “Shouldn’t you be getting back to work?  His response was an eye opener.  He said, “Not really.  My work will be there tomorrow, but you won’t.”


8. Be worthy of other people’s trust.  Say what you mean and mean what you say.  Stephen R. Covey in his best-selling The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People writes about the need to establish with others an emotional bank account that we pay into regularly.  The currency of that account is trust and the more deposits you make the better and stronger a relationship becomes.  If you overdraw that account, you jeopardize your relationship with others.  They will no longer take you at your word.  They will no longer believe what you say.  They will no longer believe in you. On the other hand, if you have a large surplus in your account, it will see you through those times when you make mistakes- and we all make mistakes – provided that you acknowledge those mistakes.


9. Be your own genuine self.  As those of us who are familiar with Shakespeare know, this is not new advice. In Act I, scene iii of Hamlet, the character of Polonius prepares his son Laertes for travel abroad with a speech (ll.55-81) in which he says, “This above all: to thine own self be true, /And it must follow, as the night the day, /Thou cans’t not be false to any man “(ll.78-80).  As you may already well know, this is easier said than done.  Just who is your genuine or true self?  Is it the self your parents want you to be, or is it the self your teachers want you to be?  Maybe it’s the self your friends want you to be.  Or perhaps it’s the self that society wants you to be.  Maybe it’s the self that Westridge wants you to be.  Maybe it’s some of each.  Maybe it’s none of the above.  Wherever the answer lies, it is your responsibility to discover your true self and discover it you must.  So the question remains.  Who are you?  What is it you love?  What is it you value?  What is it you cherish?  What is it you espouse?  What is it you are willing to defend?  Who are you? I honestly cannot tell you how many times I have been asked why I am so nice. The answer is very simple. I am so nice because that is who I am. As you may have already discovered or as you will soon discover, there are three basic questions in life that we all must answer.  Who am I?  Where do I come from?  Where am I going?  It is clear that all three are inter-related, but the first must be answered before we can answer the other two.


10.  With time, as you look at the canvas of your life, you will realize, as I have, that it is populated by acausal events.  Acausal events are events that happen to us that cannot be attributed to a conscious or unconscious choice and show a pattern that cannot be explained away by attributing them to chance or happenstance.  If you were a Jungian you would call it synchronicity.  If you believed in destiny, that’s what you would call it.  No matter what you wish to call it, I can point out, at least twelve acausal events in my life that clearly show me what it is that I was meant to do and who it was that I was meant to be.  Why was it in 1960, when I was a sophomore at Boston University, needing a fifth course to round out my schedule, I decided, if that is indeed the correct verb, to take a beginning Spanish course?  I had no previous interest in the language.  No one in my family or circle of friends was of Hispanic heritage.  In truth, I just wanted to finish registering for the semester and get the heck out of that building.  Had I not signed up for that course at that point in time, I doubt that I would have ever considered taking Spanish again and had I not signed up for that course, I would never have been a Spanish teacher and I never would have met my wife of almost 44 years.  There are other acausal events in my life that explain why I am a teacher, a translator, a writer, a magician and an adopted Spaniard.  All of this is to say that we need to take advantage of every experience with which life presents us, because it is only later in our lives that we will be able to put them into a context, as we attempt to discover what it is that we are meant to do and who it is that we are meant to be.


11. Patience and persistence are two qualities that we should all cultivate. These two qualities are probably the key to why I am a successful teacher and why I am who I am today.  It is only by being patient, perhaps overly patient, with our students that we can give them the time and space to develop their true potential.  Learners send themselves a goodly amount of negative messages.  We, as teachers, should never add to that list.  The undeniable truth about teaching is that some students get the concept more quickly than others.  The true test of teaching is what you, as a teacher, do to ensure that everyone “gets it” to the best of their abilities.  Being patient is a virtue that is worth cultivating in all our relationships.  We need to recognize that we are all works in progress, no matter what our age.  I am constantly reminded of the need for patience when I recall a thank you note that was written to me by a former student.  It read, “Thank you for believing in me when I couldn’t.  Thank you for believing in me when I wouldn’t.  Thank you for believing in me now that I can and do believe in myself.”


12. Love is not finite.  Love is infinite.  The amount of love we are capable of giving to others is limited only by ourselves.  Life does not impose any limit on love.  Let me be clear in defining what I mean by love.  When I say love, I mean a genuine concern for the well-being of others and a genuine desire to help them become the best person that they can become.  Is it possible for me to love all the members of the class of 2009, as well as all the students I currently teach and all current students whom I have taught?  The answer is a resounding yes.  And I am not even counting the other members of this community for whom I have a great deal of love and affection.


In conclusion, let me extend my congratulations to my fellow members of Cum Laude, both old and new and let me extend my thanks to the other members of this community – parents, faculty, administration and staff – who have assisted, encouraged and supported us on this leg of our journey.  In all sincerity and honesty, I cannot think of any other place where I would have wanted to spend these past twenty-six years.  Lastly, let me thank all of you for believing in me even though you have known for a long time that I can and do believe in myself.

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1 Response to A Sleight Setback

  1. Penny Geis says:

    Thanks for sharing, Marty! I don’t often comment, but I always try to read your blog. Hang in there with the knee – I’ve had my share of knee problems and know how frustrating it can be. I’m printing out your speech – and I’ll be packing up my backpack.

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