Let's Put This in Perspective
But that was before yesterday.
Now, I suppose that we mortals can always imagine ways that God enters our life, but yesterday was a significant experience for me.
Yesterday, I got the news of the judge's decision as I was threading my way through Napa Valley tourist traffic on the way to a memorial service for the boy scout and scout leader of Troop 1, St. Helena, killed by lightning a week ago.
I've known the Scoutmaster of the troop, Stuart Smith (founder of Smith Madrone Winery) for 15 years and called him right after he returned home. He and three others were knocked unconscious by lightning, but recovered and began a heroic CPR effort on the two. They managed to keep the 13-year-old scout, Ryan Collins, alive but he was later declared brain dead at the hospital in Fresno. But their efforts kept him alive so that his organs could be donated, and thus save more lives.
Stephen McCullagh was the 29-year-old scout leader killed. Like me he had bailed out of scouts two merit badges short of Eagle. He went back to scouting to help others.
I went back to scouting because my son, William (12) is a scout. There are many, many parallels between the my son and the dead scout, between McCullagh and my fellow scout leaders...so many that it's impossibly not to think: "There, but for the grace of God go I ... or William."
William's troop hikes that very same trail where the lightning killed Collins and McCullagh. A group from William's troop is heading out to the High Sierra tonight, just north of there.
But there's more. William was at scout camp in the sweltering, 105-degree boondocks of Mendocino County when the Scout Jamboree tragedies happened, and the ensuing heat exhaustion among the scouts there, and when Collins and McCullagh were killed. I accompanied the scouts for the first part of scout camp and spent a lot of time urging all the scouts to stay hydrated, that heat stroke can kill quickly.
Then I went home when my replacement scout leader arrived. Afterwards, I had some anxious days as a parent.
Then there was yesterday.
Before William and I got to the memorial service -- 1,500+ people from Boy Scout troops from all over -- I received a phone call from a NY Daily News reporter giving me the news from U.S. District Court that I didn't want. On the other hand, I expected the bad news given that we were fighting a foreign legal war on foreign soil which certainly harbors the publishing industry like Haditha harbors insurgents. Not to mention that my enemy, Random House, is the biggest publishing empire in the world and can spend a lot more money on lawyers than I can.
Anyway, I spoke with the reporter and emphasized that we would appeal and explained why (see other posts on this blog.)
Afterwards, I felt pretty discouraged.
Then God adjusted my attitude.
With William by my side, I watched, and listened to two sets of parents who'd lost their boys. Yes, they were a man and a boy becoming a man, but in a parent's mind, they are always their boys. I was connected by the events, affected by the events: Parents up there talking about the loss of a child. There is nothing worse for a parent. And my son was alive, next to me. In the middle of the sadness, I felt relief and thankfulness.
We listened to friends, brothers, and others talk about the lives lost. That was when I realized how ultimately trivial the whole Dan Brown, Random House case is.
After all, I had my son, alive and by my side. What was Judge Daniels' decision next to that? Fame, wealth, fortune -- are all gone in the blink of eternity. They do not endure and are unworthy of dedicating our lives to. And at the end of a life they count for nothing.
That is not to say that I don't plan to bring one hell of a fight right to Dan Brown's doorstep, right to the Random House doorstep. I will do that because it is a fight worth fighting and one that I'm not going to let go of until justice is done. After all, my integrity, my intellectual property and my writing career are at stake. I will fight for those and I will not stop until justice is done.
But when it comes to the things that truly matter, to the things that count when a life comes to a close, it will not be winning or losing this lawsuit that truly matters. Next to my son, my wife, my daughter -- Dan Brown and Random House and Judge Daniels will be trivial footnotes.
That's how God adjusted my attitude yesterday.
Ironically, it's given me a peace and perspective that are energizing. I have a calm about this plagiarism thing that frees me from the anger and the frustration. That gives me more energy, a greater clarity of thought and a stronger resolve than I had before. Perhaps it is a Zen-thing where I have gained strength from realizing the place this battle deserves in my life.
Overall, it has refreshed me and offered me a lot more strength to wage this battle than I had a day ago.