Shutter Island

This page written circa 30 September, 2017.

You can tell that Steve Jobs really is dead. Apple Mail is becoming flakey, and Steve would not have put up with this kind of crap. Elvis and JFK may be hiding out, but not Steve.

Things have got pretty flakey here too. I came back from study leave a few months ago to find that we have yet to sell our old house, which is tiresome, and then Denis became ill. Kay flew over to Sydney to be with him. She has been gone about two months. Denis is not expected to recover, or even to make Christmas, so Kay may be there sorting things out for months yet. I had visions of moving into this wonderful new house with a view to enjoying it, but this has been a winter of excessive rain, many illnesses, and being left to run the house and be a single parent. Work is no relief. Howell retired but will not be replaced. The dean has started having those meetings that are attended by someone from HR. Perhaps EE will cease to be a department with fewer EEs on staff than the Computer Science school (I kid you not) and twice as many physicists as EEs altogether (also absolutely literally true, 3 vs 6).

By all accounts, Steve Jobs was not all sunshine and light. He could become angry, he could not always express what he wanted, though apparently he could always express what he did not want. He did some monumental asshole things, professionally and personally. Yet Apple staff loved him, idolised him. I postulate that this is because he was authentic, no matter what. He never managed by extortion, he did not hold power by witholding information, he answered questions, he was always open about what he thought or what he wanted. He was, if not kind, then at least consistent. His darkness was on the outside, not the inside.

Authenticity in Leadership has become a significant point in the leadership literature in the last few years. I would go as far as to say that the power of authenticity, the importance of being straight and up front dealing with people, is a Threshold Concept in Leadership. Lots of leaders never passed through the portal on this one.

In the exposingly-named Shutter Island, our detective hero does, in the lucid moment of denouement, see everything, the full reality. Viewers who had not figured it out beforehand, see the truth as he realises it. Perhaps the schizophrenic tries to hold onto truth and reality against nature trying to prise it from their grasp, whereas the hypocrite throws it away because they wish it were not so. Pity the schizophrenic, revile the hypocrite.

Are hypocrisy and schizophrenia two manifestations of the same disconnection? This stuff, if there is a single stuff that goes by those names in small and large quantity, comes in two flavours, or at least with more or less malice. When hypocrisy deceives, it is not looked on with kindness. A little lie can still be malicious. Nevertheless, I have known the kindest of complete schizophrenics, with a rational appreciation of their own dark sides, in their moments of lucidity.

Shutter Island, in both of its metaphorical meanings, was a dark place. Right now home and work for me are both dark places. Yet the darkness at home comes with its reasons in plain view, and it may be sad, but it is without malice. Authentic darkness.

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