The Humbling of Larry Laveman: Part I

The Humbling of Larry Laveman: Part I

June 21st, 2018 — Journal Entry: Today Charles Krauthammer died. It’s a sad day for journalism. I will miss his commentary and insight.

I was an admirer of Charles Krauthammer. He was a fair minded, well-spoken and highly intelligent writer and commentator. I periodically saw him on TV while channel surfing the news and commentary of the day. Whenever Krauthammer was on I would linger. He had an awkward look, and always seemed a little uncomfortable in his chair, but his reporting was so good that I would put down my remote and listen. He spoke with a very deliberate style, somewhat hesitatingly, yet was always interesting and informative. Altogether, he looked a little odd but I checked my inclination to be rash and tried my best not to be too judgmental.

I was unaware that he was on sabbatical from Fox News until I read that he was battling cancer. A couple of weeks prior to his death, when he knew his fight was over, he posted a note to his friends and viewers saying: I leave this life with no regrets. It was a wonderful life – full and complete with great loves and great endeavors that make it worth living. I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life that I intended. In pure Krauthammer fashion he left me thinking, have I lived the life I intended? That was the effect Krauthammer had on people; he informed their thinking and invited introspection and self-examination. He wasn’t an alarmist. He was rational and offered a trustworthy perspective counter to the over-the-top grandstanding that currently dominates the airwaves.

Upon his death I did some research into his life. I was surprised to find that he was a well-trained and award winning psychiatrist. He actually won many awards and honors in his lifetime, including a Pulitzer Prize in 1987 for his work at the Washington Post. The more I learned the more humbled I became. The man that I listened to for so long was accomplished far beyond my limited view of him. But what really got me was that he was wheelchair bound after suffering a spinal cord injury while in medical school at Harvard. I had no idea! How could I watch someone I admired for so long and not even know enough about him to know that he was in a wheelchair? Once I became aware of the extent of his injuries, all of his on-air awkwardness turned out to be not so awkward after all. I was the awkward one. He was working twice as hard as everyone else just to be on the set. I pre-judged him without knowing anything about him. I trusted him, loved listening to him, and learned how to be more even-handed from him but I also badly underestimated him and his circumstances.

Not only was I sad about his loss but I was also a little sad about how uninformed I was about his life. So many of our opinions are based on so little information and yet we have full confidence in our conclusions even in light of how uniformed they may be. My reaction to Charles Krauthammer was twofold: on one hand I was able to see and appreciate his gift of insight, clarity and communication without knowing very much about him. On the other hand, there was something about his presentation that seemed off to me and, in some respects, was off-putting because I didn’t know enough to appreciate the context from which he operated. That was my fault and I am humbled by that. It now serves as a reminder not to be so quick to judge and form opinions until I get more information. Snap judgments can snap back, and this one bit me hard. As open-minded and diverse as I think I am, there is still a part of me that is blind to my instant assessments and reactions to the world around me. I intend to live a better life in that regard, inspired by the life of Charles Krauthammer.

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10 Comments
  1. Fran Pearce says:

    We live, we learn. Welcome to the human race!
    On our journey, a valuable reminder: “… not to be so quick to judge and form opinions until I get more information.”
    Take a beat and breathe.
    Thank you.

    • Larry says:

      Thanks, Fran. Your comment reminds me of a poem by Rilke:He reproduced himself with so much humble objectivity, with the unquestioning, matter of fact interest of a dog who sees himself in a mirror and thinks: there’s another dog.

  2. Carol Elias says:

    I have been a fan of Charles for maybe 5 years. When he was in the news that’s where I stayed – glued to the TV Judy waiting for his rationality and wisdom. I miss him greatly.

    • Larry says:

      Thanks, Carol. His rationality and wisdom were his trademarks. There’s a lot to learn from what he went through, how he persevered and what he brought forth to the public as a result. A remarkable man with an equally remarkable legacy.

  3. Sean MacLeod says:

    “I leave this life with no regrets. It was a wonderful life.” What a perfect reminder to be grateful for everything we experience during our time here on earth. The glorious, the miserable, and everything in between. Peace and love, and thank you for sharing, Larry.

    • Larry says:

      You’re welcome, Sean. And thank you for the reminder that life has all sorts of wonders and challenges that make it what it is. Grateful, indeed.

  4. Manna Ko says:

    Oh Larry, this is so beautiful. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    • Larry says:

      Thanks so much, Manna. What was so cool about Charles Krauthammer was that you could disagree with his views and still respect him for how thoughtful, intelligent and informed they were. Could you imagine a world where that type of discourse exists. It would change everything…

  5. Mary Krut says:

    Lovely post. There are a few gems in there – not just judging others, but also how our filters direct our focus to what we already know and believe. May I repost on my media, Larry?

    • Larry says:

      Thank for your comment, Mary — and for finding some of the less obvious messages within the post, especially the one on confirmation bias. We’re all guilty of it but it’s so much easier to relate to people when you’re aware that it exists.

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