Sunday Contemplation — Finding Wisdom — Theodore Parker

Theodore Parker

“I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.” –Theodore Parker

Theodore Parker is not a household name in the 21st century–and needless to say his name also wasn’t one near the end of the 20th.  But given the extraordinary week that the country just experienced it seems apropos to write a short post about Unitarian Minister Parker.  His life was a relatively short one.  He was born in 1810 in Lexington, Massachusetts, and died in 1860 in Florence, Italy while seeking a cure for tuberculosis.  Yet, he influenced social reformers as varied as Abraham Lincoln, the Roosevelts, Martin Luther King, and Betty Friedan.  The quote that opens this post was later paraphrased by Dr. King in his book Where Do We Go From Here?

Parker was a controversial figure in his time as a minister, but also very popular and influential, drawing thousands to his 28th Congregational Society church and to his lectures around the country.  He eschewed all claims of supernaturalism and revelation in scripture and viewed the world through the lens of Transcendentalism: that the world and universe itself was divine.  Thus, rather than an unbending scriptural interpretation of creation, Parker saw that the Universe would reveal its truths if people were wise enough to use the tools at hand to see it.  Writing as he did on the cusp of the first discoveries under the modern conception of science–as well as the lectures and views of Ralph Waldo Emerson–he came to view the religious writings of a more primitive people by nature flawed, with religious experience having to be directly experienced by the individual through one’s direct connection with nature.  Interestingly, one can see some of these ideas expressed in the recent Encyclical “Laudato Si'” by Pope Francis.

In 1843 he took a sabbatical to Europe and there saw first hand political despotism and great inequality of wealth and condition.  Combined with his conception of Transcendentalism he began thinking about the relationship of the individual to civil society, and what a democratic society meant.  He came to advocate just about every type of social reform that came to the forefront of the later social movements: the abolition of slavery, the equality and improved social condition of women, free public education, prison reform, and the alleviation of class inequality.

The distillation of his philosophy is best found in his lecture now known as “The American Idea”, which he gave to the New England Anti-Slavery Convention in Boston on May 29, 1850.  A distillation and comparison of this speech can be found here, though the citation for the speech is wrong.   The citation for the actual sermon can be found here, thanks to Project Gutenberg.  In it he said:

There is what I call the American idea. I so name it, because it seems to me to lie at the basis of all our truly original, distinctive and American institutions. It is itself a complex idea, composed of three subordinate and more simple ideas, namely: The idea that all men have unalienable rights; that in respect thereof, all men are created equal; and that government is to be established and sustained for the purpose of giving every man an opportunity for the enjoyment and development of all these unalienable rights. This idea demands, as the proximate organization thereof, a democracy, that is, a government of all the people, by all the people, for all the people; of course, a government after the principles of eternal justice, the unchanging law of God; for shortness’ sake, I will call it the idea of Freedom.

That is one idea; and the other is, that one man has a right to hold another man in thraldom, not for the slave’s good, but for the master’s convenience; not on account of any wrong the slave has done or intended, but solely for the benefit of the master. This idea is not peculiarly American. For shortness’ sake, I will call this the idea of Slavery. It demands for its proximate organization, an aristocracy, that is, a government of all the people by a part of the people—the masters; for a part of the people—the masters; against a part of the people—the slaves; a government contrary to the principles of eternal justice, contrary to the unchanging law of God. These two ideas are hostile, irreconcilably hostile, and can no more be compromised and made to coalesce in the life of this nation, than the worship of the real God and the worship of the imaginary Devil can be combined and made to coalesce in the life of a single man.

Whether one accepts his theological views or not, his proposition, borrowed by Lincoln famously in the Gettysburg Address, is a simple, direct, and perpetually expanding and evolving view of freedom.  It hews to no ideology that promises some future nirvana or pie in the sky, or acts as an artificial brake on human action, demanding “sacrifices” in the short term for some long term achievement of perfection, nor does it accept the presumption of superiority of one over another.

Plain Yankee common sense is clear here:  the world is imperfect, our experience in it is immediate, our solutions must be real and practical, opening oneself up to that which is around us opens our minds and allows us to see more clearly than we otherwise would, given this information we must dedicate ourselves to doing what is right and good and just given the proposition of human dignity, and that this demands a type of democracy that eschews not only slavery, but feudalism, oligarchy, monarchy, and any form of class rule, authoritarianism, or subjugation.  Thus, one can see in Parker’s own growth and evolving philosophy the evolution and connections in the American experience from Transcendentalism to American Pragmatism.  His ideas are as vital today as they were when he was alive.

Saturday Music Interlude — Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear

Every once in awhile in music, amidst the complexly produced and orchestrated (for which, in their own right, there are also pleasures to be found), comes something so authentic and real that it takes you in.  Such is the case with Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear.  They were the WXPN Artist to Watch last month and appeared on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert which, if you’ve never checked it out, is the place to go on-line to see live some of the best up-and-coming acts and talent.  Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear’s performance on that program comprises the music video to follow.  Rolling Stone probably made the call early, listing them at the top of their “20 Best Things We Saw at Americana Music Fest 2014″.

This family duo, mother Ruth “the Mama Bear” Ward and son Madisen Ward, are out of the Kansas City, Missouri area.  Among most sources this is the totality of the bio they decide to publish, but thanks to we have a better feel for their roots and influences.  Ruth Ward, who was born in Gary, Indiana, back in 1952, has been into music for quite some time, leaving home at the age of 19 and kicking around coffee houses with her guitar while traveling the American Southwest and Midwest, and managed to make two independent albums along the way.  She met Kenneth Ward, her husband, and they settled down in Independence, Missouri, where they raised a family with Ruth putting her musical dreams on the back burner.  Madisen, who was born in 1988, shared the love of music that animated his mother.  Just like her, he began performing at the age of 19 at coffee houses and small clubs in St. Louis and Independence.  By 2013 they were performing together in and around Kansas City and their infectious music began to draw attention.  Since the Rolling Stone article I’ve run by some odd and sundry live performances of their work but now they have their first album out entitled Skeleton Crew.


Got to Make the Best of (My information)

While finding some respite from intense op-tempo and some minor physical maladies, I’m easing back into blogging.  To start out I thought that some obvious insight is useful in outlining information and how it applies to all kinds of systems.

The photo below is an example of Anolis carolinensis, also known as the green anole.  It is very common and competes with the introduced Anolis sagrei here in the American southeast.  (Photo thanks to GeorgiaInfo).  It is a complex adaptive biological system.

Green Anole

The genome of this amniote has been sequenced.  It consists of 1.78Gb, that is, Giga base pairs.  Information is everywhere and in everything.  Deriving its significance–tempered by wisdom and humanity–will lead us to the core, essential truth of our universe; including how to live our lives within it.

Fight the Power — Why Technical Performance is a Power Law

Just returning from a month of travel (and some summer bug fighting).  Had the opportunity to attend a large portion of EVM World 2015 in New Orleans the last week of May and, as usual, came out with some food for thought.  First is that my colleague Glen Alleman is also working on the proposition for a general theory of project management.  We shared some mutual insights on the topic and the ramifications for acquisition policy, particularly in regard to high tech.

In thinking about my previous studies on technical achievement–and the ways of tracking that achievement tied to performance management–it has become clear that my paper, published in 1997 for the Defense Acquisition University Acquisition Symposium, requires some updates, given subsequent advances in our knowledge of complex adaptive systems.  It is now clear to me that the basis for determining technical achievement against a plan is not a normal distribution, but a function of a power law.

This revision in insight comes from the developing science of complex adaptive systems–which is proper categorization of a project management organization.  Dave Gordon presents some skepticism in the comments section as response to my previous musings on a general theory of project management, but I think that he falls into the fallacy of special pleading.  I often encountered such skepticism when approaching people in commercial project management in their rejection of methods used in public project management.

There are a couple of problems with this line of thinking:  first, it is based on ideology most often, and not facts.  Project management is project management, whether you are building an aircraft, a ship, a satellite, a building, a dam, or software.  There are common principles that apply to organizational dynamics, structure, and behavior regardless of the end item being developed.  One noteworthy example to prove the fallacy is the example of earned value management (EVM).  Today, especially in approaching complex projects, earned value management is considered a best practice, whether applied to public works or to private development.  But this was not always the case.  Back in the 1990s I often heard the refrain that “we don’t do that guvmint stuff” when I would suggest the use of EVM.  The overwhelming evidence is that using EVM in tracking program performance is an essential tool (though not the be-all) in project management.  No longer do we hear the refrain “that guvmint stuff.”  Second, we always tend to believe psychologically that our situation is special.  This is a normal human reaction, especially among successful people.  But, once again, our experience with using larger repositories of data, applying stochastic methods, networking analysis, and recent insights into complex adaptive systems have changed our perceptions of the discipline.

For example, our understanding of self-organized complexity has greatly influenced economics over the last decade.  Recent studies here and here (as well as elsewhere in too many places to link) show a consistent rate of failure in projects that threaten the existence of the organization or enterprise–so called, Black Swans.  This has the ring of self-organized complexity that is yet to be fully identified.

Some final thoughts.  There has been some pushback from some, but not all, people involved in applying performance management to more closely associate the results to technical achievement.  The pushback may be somewhat defensible only because it is not fully understood.  I have heard many misattributions in project management meetings regarding the concept.  Aside from my own paper, I think the community would find it interesting that Martin Marietta applied the concept for many years.  In addition, SEI at Carnegie Mellon has been applying the model for quite some time.  A Google search will reveal many other proven methods.

When we take a step back and look at our processes, what good is the end item if it does not stay within the technical framing assumptions that initiated the requirement?  The challenge is always going to be the find the best way to do this on a regular basis and ensure fidelity and credibility in our performance reporting systems.  I believe that the first company that commits to this concept and does it on a consistent basis in an integrated fashion, much as Norm Augustine committed his own company to it back in the 1990s (who endorsed technical risk management in the cited book), will have a significant competitive advantage.


What Can You Do With A General (Theory of Project Management)?

For those wondering about the origin of the title, it’s (the first part) from an old Bing Crosby song by Irving Berlin.  Blogging has been slow due to travel and some minor travel-related wear and tear.  As Indiana Jones said in the original: “It’s not the years, my dear, it’s the mileage.”

Also related to my slow blogging is in writing longer pieces for  Referring to my last article was the welcome return from a short hiatus by Dave Gordon at The Practicing IT Project Manager blog in general, but his comment on my article “lays the groundwork for a generalized theory of managing software development and acquisition…”  I’m just finishing up the second half of that article now, but Dave identified something that I had probably been working on for quite a while through this observation, though subconsciously: a general theory of project management.

There is no doubt that information plays a large role in PM and one is almost tempted to specify software development and acquisition as a separate area of study.  But I’m not so sure that it merits special handling.  Information theory applies to just about everything in the universe.  As W.T. Grandy from the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Wyoming says in this paper: “In a very real sense the differential equations of physics are simply algorithms for processing the information contained in initial conditions…”  Yet, even a basic definition of information eludes us, and have evolved over time.  Some cosmologists and engineers believe that the universe itself is computational.

Such big ideas are well and fine, but for those of us who must make decisions at our own level of reality we need something more specific.  Our decisions, therefore, could be improved by the development of a general theory of project management.  An interesting proposal along these lines can be found by George Ray for Swiss Management Centre University.  In this case, he posits that the organizing principles of social psychology could be used as the basis for the development of such a theory.  I suspect that a general theory will need to include a multidisciplinary approach to include the mathematical basis derived from the study of complex adaptive systems, the physics that underlies R&D, and social psychology.

Sunday Contemplation — Finding Wisdom — John Steinbeck (Part 2)

later steinbeck


In my last post regarding John Steinbeck, I left off with the great novels of the 1930s, ending with the Grapes of Wrath.  For most novelists his achievements up to this point would be regarded as considerable.  What I am most impressed with is that his own history as a novelist proves how ephemeral such achievements can be.  He was a writer and good one.  His many jobs, especially the occasional newspaper job that he took, seemed to inspire him to his best work.  For more than anything he was a realist.  With his realist eye for detail, and his natural sympathy for people, he enraged both power and privilege through his precise and occasionally remonstrative prose.  I don’t think a better thing can be said of any writer.

With the controversy that followed the publication of The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck found solace in spending time collecting marine specimens with his friend and mentor Ed (Doc) Ricketts.  For six weeks the two men rented a Monterey fishing boat with a four man crew named the Western Flyer to travel down the Pacific Coast to Baja California and into the Gulf of California, recording and collecting marine species along the coast.  Ricketts had achieved some success with his book Between Pacific Tides, which became the definitive handbook for the study of intertidal species along the west coast, and which is still considered a seminal work.  The men had planned on co-writing a book about the species found within the tides in the San Francisco Bay area, but the project had come to nothing.  But even Ricketts was eager to get away from his beloved Monterey, suffering from a breakup with a married lover.

The end result of the journey was the book The Sea of Cortez: A Leisurely Journal of Travel and Research (1941), though the trip was anything but leisurely.  The expedition was an exhausting, though fulfilling and happy, one for the men, who concentrated their energies on collecting and cataloguing.  Steinbeck and Ricketts had hoped the sale of the book would at least be sufficient to pay for the expenses of the trip, aside from the sale of specimens to laboratories and public aquaria across the country that they brought back.  It proved to be, however, a commercial disappointment.  Soon the events of the Second World War would overtake any interest in the book.  Furthermore, the notes that underlay the book were those of Ricketts, while the prose to give the notes a narrative structure contributed by Steinbeck.  For the time it was considered an odd book: an uneven read, combining as it did scientific knowledge, storytelling, and contemplations on ecology and humankind’s connection to nature.  With the advantage of time, though, it can be seen that the book made a significant contribution to the science of marine invertebrate identification and distribution along Baja and within the Gulf of California.  The species list, which accompanied the initial editions of the book, is impressive and indicative of the dedication of the two men to their task.  But it also anticipated what later in the century and in our own time has become a common device among science popularizers such as Jacques Cousteau, Stephen Jay Gould, Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, and Jared Diamond, among others.  But it goes further than that, for the environmental message in the book anticipates such groundbreaking works as Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, and Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac.

For Steinbeck, the Second World War would change his life and transform his writing until the end of his life, as it did for Hemingway, Dos Passos, Salinger, Ballard, Heller, Jones, Mailer, Vonnegut, and others.  But unlike the younger writers on that list that would emerge in the post-war period, who could find a new language–oftentimes oblique–to deal with the industrial slaughter of that great catastrophe, the writers from the ’30s–oftentimes also veterans of the Great War–seemed to be struck dumb, horrified by the depths of human cruelty, altering their subjects by finding solace where they could.

A man of action, Steinbeck contributed his writing, at first, to the war effort in the book The Moon Is Down, about a village in an unnamed northern European occupied country (presumed to be Norway) that works to overthrow their invaders through a resistance movement, and Bombs Away: The Story of a Bomber Team.  For the former he received the Norwegian King Haakon VII Freedom Cross.  It was translated into several European languages and distributed secretly to underground organizations across the continent to bolster the morale of similar resistance movements elsewhere, especially in France.  The latter work was done with the cooperation of the U.S. Army Air Corps to increase recruitment.

Not content with continuing work on the home front, he accepted a position with the New York Herald Tribune, traveling with the units in the European theater.  As with his writing during the 1930s, his keen eye for reality informs his stories, telling the story of the life of the common soldier.   He was also recruited as a member of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which was the precursor for the CIA.  The actor Douglas Fairbanks Jr. had organized U.S. Navy special warfare units to engage in psychological, diversionary, and deception operations known as the Beach Jumpers.  He participated with Fairbanks in some of these raids, helping to capture a small island off the coast of Italy.  During his service he was wounded several times by shrapnel and suffered from what we now call Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Part Two:  The Pearl through The Winter of Our Discontent

One familiar with Steinbeck’s writing wants to follow him into his sojourn in the reminiscences of his time with Ed Ricketts.  The novels, Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday are guilty pleasures–escapism of the highest caliber.  One cannot visit the town of Monterey without the imprimatur of Ricketts and Steinbeck being noted everywhere, so great is the influence of these works.  Yet they are fantasies–idealized escapes from a tormented man who was reaching back to a simpler time, to the friend and mentor before the fire that engulfed the world.  The man of simple prose recording life as it is abandons reality in these works.  And who can blame him?  He had certainly contributed enough words to what had actually happened, having been there.  He did not possess the desire, as most men of that generation did not, to relive it.  He certainly did not seem to have the vocabulary to transform it into fiction.  Hemingway took a similar course with his writings of Cuba, Africa, anti-heroes running nightclubs or fishing boats, finally recapturing part of his voice with The Old Man and the Sea.

For Steinbeck the book that combined the return of his voice with his desire to look to the past was through the novella The Pearl (1947).  As with many of his stories, it is based on a folk tale, in this case one that he heard when visiting the region in Baja California in 1940 with Ricketts.  In the story, the child Coyotito is stung by a scorpion.  The parents, Kino and Juana, must find a way to pay for treatment for their young son.  Kino, who is a pearl diver, finds an enormous pearl, which everyone in the village covets.  They find that the local pearl auction is rigged, the buyers attempting to convince Kino that what he found is worthless.  Soon misfortune follows the family as the villagers and trackers attempt to take the pearl from them.  They try to make their way to the capital, where the auctions are not rigged, but are met with tragedy along the way.

The Pearl operates on many levels.  In high school it is often required reading, and most teachers present it as a parable of human greed, materialism, and the actual value of things.  But Steinbeck is not so simple.  For the pearl also represents anything of value that an individual may possess, whether it be tangible or intangible.  It is also something taken from nature, which Kino is convinced by the society in which he lives can be turned into money.  Its beauty disappears the longer it is out of its element so that by the end of the story it is a grotesque object.  Remembering Steinbeck’s influences, when people are separated from their humanity great misfortune follows.  For the village of the pearl its very presence corrupts everything around them, blinding them from acknowledging the humanity, the connections that bind them together as human beings.  As with his earlier stories, great misfortune results, and usually it falls on the most vulnerable.

Recovering from his depression from the war, the breakup of his marriage, and the death of Ed Ricketts, we find what Steinbeck intended to be his magnum opus, East of Eden (1952).  On the surface this is a novel about the Hamilton and Trask family in the Salinas Valley of California.  In reality, though, the novel moves away from the story of the Samuel Hamilton, the family patriarch, who Steinbeck modeled on his maternal grandfather, and toward the Trasks.  This is because the Hamiltons become the bedrock of the Salinas Valley, representing stability and good, as opposed to the Trasks, who want the same thing that binds the Hamiltons together, but which alludes them because of their poor decisions, despite the great wealth (though possibly misbegotten) that bought them the best farm in the valley.

It is also this characteristic that makes the Trasks more interesting.  Steinbeck apparently saw this himself as he transforms the second half of the novel into a parable based on the biblical account of Cain and Abel.  Adam Trask, who has had a difficult growing up back east, inherits money from his father’s estate, though he suspects that the fortune was dishonestly obtained.  He takes pity on Cathy Ames, who seems to be the victim of violence, and marries her, not knowing that she is cruel and a murderess.  Having deluded himself into domestic bliss, Adam soon finds out about Cathy’s true character.  She shoots and wounds him after giving birth to twin boys, Caleb and Aron, in making her escape from the boredom of domestic life.  Finding her way to the town of Salinas, she changes her name and takes over as the madam of the most notorious whorehouse in the county.

Adam tries to raise his boys with the help of his Cantonese cook, Lee, and the Hamiltons on the adjacent farm.  Adam is inspired to copy the success of Samuel Hamilton, but loses the family fortune in a badly conceived business venture.  As he nears maturity Caleb, the troubled son, is determined to redeem his father’s shame at losing the family fortune and goes into farming himself.  Aron, the “good” son, decides to attend Stanford and become an Episcopal priest.  The brothers vie for the affections of the beautiful daughter named Abra from one of the most well-to-do families in the valley.

Moody and always testing limits, Caleb discovers that his mother, who his father had said had died, was the notorious Madam Kate in the town of Salinas.  He keeps this knowledge a secret from both his father and his brother, but it fuels his skepticism of both his father’s sanctimoniousness, and his brother’s goodness.  Soon the First World War breaks out and Caleb enters into a business venture with Will Hamilton, the son of Samuel, to sell beans from the valley to European buyers at a premium.  He is wildly successful at this scheme and cannot wait to present the money to his father, seeking his father’s love and approval which always seemed to allude him.

When Aron returns from school, hoping not to be upstaged by his brother, Caleb presents the money to his father.  Adam rejects the money, characterizing it as tainted, compared to the pure motives of his brother.  In retaliation Caleb brings Aron to meet their mother, destroying the boy’s illusions.  The ties between father and sons, and between brothers, are now cut (the ties between the mother and her children long since severed), and in typical Steinbeck fashion tragedy ensues, though there is a sort of redemption at the end.

I am of two minds regarding East of Eden.  On the one hand it is an impressive work.  It introduces narrative elements that were extremely unconventional in 1952–anticipating the devices of changing narrative perspectives, and describing the times and places with his usual precision.  On the other hand, however, there is a heavy-handedness to the writing.  He takes the biblical story of Cain and Abel and turns it into a black-and-white assessment of human frailty.  The Trasks are doomed from the start, and one cannot but resent the author for making them so.  As such he not only diminishes the complexity of the human condition, but also dilutes the themes that he had explored in his previous works.  Still, it is a great novel and much wisdom can be found here, for in Steinbeck’s telling Caleb (as Cain) is the son most driven by that most human of all human needs–the need for love–while Aron (as Abel) is driven only by the slender reed of societal respectability.

For most literary critics Steinbeck’s best work usually ends here with East of Eden, with perhaps a mention of the non-fiction book Travels with Charley (1962).  In retrospect, however, while I find Steinbeck’s observations recorded in that volume regarding the changes that were overtaking his beloved California and the racial hatred he witnessed in the American South both interesting and as clear-eyed as usual, I keep coming back to The Winter of Our Discontent (1961) as his last significant work.

The book introduces us to the character Ethan Allen Hawley, whose family once was among the aristocrats of the seaside village of New Baytown somewhere in New England.  Now the Hawleys are common folk, Ethan having to make a living as a grocery clerk.  With so many reminders of the family’s once great past among the artifacts of their sprawling ancestral home, his wife Mary, and their children, Allen and Ellen, are ashamed of their lack of resources.  His friends criticize him for his integrity, suggesting that he take bribes, or be more ruthless in his business dealings, especially with his boss, Alfio Marullo.

Succumbing to the pressure to improve his economic condition he finds out that Marullo is an undocumented immigrant and in the country illegally.  Ethan turns Marullo in to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and the man is deported.  Before deportation, however, Marullo turns over the store to Ethan because of all of his years of his honest service, believing him deserving.  Having achieved this misbegotten gain, Ethan then seeks to take control of a strip of land owned by his best friend Danny, who is the town drunk, and on which the town plans to build an airfield.  Ethan gives Danny money to get treatment for his alcoholism in exchange for willing the land to him.  Danny, instead of seeking treatment, slips the will under the door of the store and is soon found dead with a bottle of whiskey and sleeping pills.

Thus, almost overnight Ethan has achieved the success that his wife and friends always wished for him.  Soon, however, he is in for a shock as he learns that his son has won an essay contest by plagiarizing the books found in their old home library.  When he confronts his son the boy is not remorseful, and it is this knowledge that wakes him to the corruption inherent in his own actions.  It is at this point that Ethan realizes that he must do something to atone for his greed.

As with so many of Steinbeck’s books, he was ahead of his time with The Winter of Our Discontent.  Some hailed it as his best work since The Grapes of Wrath, but most judged it an inferior work, preachy and cynical.  Given the time–the optimistic years of the early 1960s–Steinbeck’s novel seemed to be an unnecessary downer, misplaced in an era of expanding opportunities.  But with time it has been observed that he identified a sickness in the American character that was soon to overtake the nation in the ensuring years.  As such, the novel explores the same issues explored by Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby and Dreiser in An American Tragedy.  What is missing in Winter is the shocking dénouement that characterized his best work of the 1930s, and which is present in both Gatsby and American Tragedy.

In summary, John Steinbeck observed and recorded both the best and worst of the human character.  The wisdom in his books concern the same issues with which we grapple today–how to separate what is important from the material, how to stay true to our natures, and in staying true to our natures how to adhere to the best part of our natures.  He saw people for what they were and wrote of them sympathetically and accurately, even when they behaved badly.  As such we find that expecting to find perfection in the human species is a silly game and a fool’s quest.  We can do nothing but what is right and behave humanely–that the choice is in our hands–and that love is the organizing principle of our species.