Sunday, April 17, 2011

Useful. Honorable. Compassionate.

Bad News? The AP is reporting that author Jon Krakauer and 60 Minutes (Steve Kroft) is accusing Greg Mortenson founder of the Central Asia Institute and author of Three Cups of Tea of falsifying and embellishing his exploits in Pakistan. The piece will air on 60 minutes tonight.

Jon Krakauer seems to make a living discrediting the reputations of both living and dead persons. Krakauer has cast aspersions on the integrity of Pat Tillman, Major John Wesley Powell, Joseph Smith, Anatoli Boukreev, and others. There ought to be a category between fiction and non-fiction for authors like Krakauer, Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck and others for 'literary' works with unverified and questionable claims with an obvious propensity for bias and lacking the obvious and wise efforts to consult a variety of sources to establish the truth of a matter.

I have read good books by both Krakauer and Mortenson. Mortenson readily concedes that he isn't much of an author and received tremendous editorial support for his works. He is also conceding that substantial abridgement to his experiences on K2 and in Pakistan has taken place but that the account is still fundamentally sound and factual. Who knows, but his books are still on my favorite list.

The Good News "The purpose of life is not to be happy. … It is to be useful, to be honorable. It is to be compassionate. It is to matter, to have it make some difference that you lived.” i Useful. Honorable. Compassionate. These are not just lofty words—they are keys to living well. Put into action, they build character, shape a positive outlook, and bless the lives of others as well as our own. Consider the efforts of Don Schoendorfer, an engineer who, during a visit to Morocco saw a disabled beggar woman drag herself across the street, almost like a snake, because she had lost the use of her legs. He never forgot her plight and finally decided to do something about it. For the next several years, he spent his free time, usually early in the morning before work, in his garage tinkering on the design of a cost-efficient wheelchair. He presented his creation, made from a common plastic lawn chair and inexpensive bike tires, to an 11-year-old in India. The young boy’s mother said through a translator, "Bless you for this chariot.” Today, more than 500,000 wheelchairs have been delivered to those desperately in need in 77 developing nations. Don can speak from personal experience about being compassionate, about making a difference. ii As we make our plans for the future, may we choose to be useful, honorable, and compassionate. We will then find that our life has indeed mattered, that it has made some difference that we have lived.

(Good News from

i "The Myths by Which We Live,” The Rotarian, Sept. 1965, 55.

ii See Stephen R. Covey, Everyday Greatness (2006), 189–91; see also Abby Sewell, "A Moving Image Got This Wheelchair Maker Rolling,” Los Angeles Times, July 10, 2010,

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