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Laird's Commentary on Community and Consensus
For 25+ years I’ve been a community networker & group process consultant. I believe that people today are starved for community—for a greater sense of belonging and connection—and I’ve dedicated my life to making available as widely as possible the tools and inspiration of cooperative living. I’m on the road half the time teaching groups consensus, meeting facilitation, and how to work with conflict. This blog is a collection of my observations and musings along the way.

  • New Phrases
    As any reader of my blog knows, words interest me a great deal. I am fascinated by how language evolves. It is semipermeable to change. On the one hand it resists it; on the other it allows it—if the tidal surge is sufficiently strong and persistent.

    In recent years I've noticed the following handful of new entries have muscled their way into our contemporary vocabulary (please note that this is only a sampling—phrases and words that rose to the surface when I turned my attention to this phenomenon). In alphabetical order, I shine my bloglight on the following decad of freshly minted terms:

    Calculus
    Meaning: calculation. The origin of this word is a specific mathematical process (invented by Newton and/or Leibniz—take your pick—in the late 17th Century) to study continuous rates of change. Bursting out of its scientific restraints, in modern parlance calculus is being used to indicate a complex, thoughtful assessment, flavored with a dash of sophistication and high-brow energy. 

    Checks All the Boxes
    Meaning: has completed due diligence, met all qualifications, or fulfilled all promises. This aligns with the image of a checklist on a clipboard, and is relatively easy to understand on first pass.

    Double Down
    Meaning: to stick with one's position in the face of criticism (the opposite of "backing down"). This is in contrast with "walking back" (see below). Instead of a retraction or apology, the initiator responds to feedback by repeating the claim—however spurious or unsubstantiated—often with antagonistic energy ("How dare you question my word!"). The consequence of doubling down is often a heating up.

    I believe this is derived from gambling argot. In most casino games of blackjack, for instance, when the bettor's two dealt cards add to eleven and the dealer does not have blackjack, the bettor is allowed to face their cards, to double their bet and and to receive one more card, usually delivered face down. This is action is styled "doubling down."

    Dumpster Fire
    Meaning: across the board disaster. It may not be life-threatening, but we're talking about major disorganization, serious underperformance, and sharp disappointment. Think acute embarrassment. There may not be anything (much) that's salvageable.

    Gaslighting
    Meaning: the denial of one person's experience by another—in particular, men denying the experience of women, though the term could be applied across any gender mix. This has surfaced strongly in the Me, Too context, when a women levels charges of sexual misconduct against a man and he denies it, claiming either that the encounter never happened or was consensual.

    This term is derived from the Oscar-nominated 1944 movie Gaslight, starring Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman, in which Boyer tries to convince his wife (Bergman) that she's going crazy by subtly, purposefully denying her reality. 

    Hot Mess
    Meaning: an unwelcome, awkward situation that recently manifested and requires immediate attention. I suspect the origin is a steaming pile of shit (as in puppy's present on the carpet), but that's just a guess. In any event, it's an image that this phrase invariable evokes for me.

    OK, Boomer
    Meaning: this is a dismissive rejoinder made by younger people when responding to someone in the Boomer generation (born in years 1946-64, which translates to those aged 56-74 today) who comes across as dismissive of the statements or interests of those younger than themselves. The flavor of this is that the speaker is too self-absorbed or is condescending of those with less life experience. (Just because you're old, doesn't mean you're wise; and the corollary—being young doesn't mean you're callow or a lightweight).

    Mansplaining
    Meaning: this is a man explaining something to others—prototypically a women, but the recipient can be any gender—in a condescending or patronizing way, perhaps without checking to see if the recipient wanted or needed the explanation. On top of that the explanation may not be accurate. The root of this is the dubious assumption that men naturally know best, resulting in this particular flavor of arrogance.

    Smell Test
    Meaning: intuitive first take. It is generally much more difficult to persuade someone to your ideas if your proposition fails the smell test.

    Walk Back
    Meaning: to stand down on a prior claim or statement. While this may result from solitary reflection, it most often occurs in the face of blow back from supporters, or the realization that the speaker misspoke. Perhaps the speaker overreacted; perhaps they were indulging in bluster and got caught out. Or perhaps the speaker was more honest than they meant to be, and is scrambling to rebury the truth. Oops! (We're seeing quite a bit of that now in the Trump impeachment circus, as the administration scrambles to recover from the President being caught with his hand in the Ukrainian cookie jar.)
    • • •
    I find words and phrases to be endlessly fascinating.

  • Bedlam 2019
    As it's time again to replace calendars around the house, that's my cue to offer up my annual summary of where I slept last year, and what I was up to when I wandered away from the head waters of Lake Superior. 

    I refer to this report as "bedlam" because: a) I'm on the road a lot and have a quixotic (and hopefully entertaining) distribution of sleeping arrangements; b) some think that my travel schedule is prima facie evidence of mental imbalance; and c) I have a congenital propensity for word play.

    Here are the highlights of where I was when the lights went out each night, along with my musing about trends and what it all means.

    o  As usual, I slept at home most often—229 nights, or 63% of the time. That's up slightly from the year before. That said, this past year there were 28 nights that I was home and Susan wasn't, mainly because she became a new grandmother in August and she had a number of trips to Denver, both for the birth watch (of Nico!) and to lend a hand during the crazy, sleep-deprived early month's of her daughter's adventures in mothering. I'm confident there will be more Susan-only forays to the Mile High City in 2020. Susan's delighted to be grandma and she's stoked to hold Nico as often as possible.

    o  I stayed with clients only 36 nights last year, which is a sharp decline from 67 the year before. While I expect this number to bounce back up this year, we'll see.

    o  I visited with family (either mine or Susan's) 33 nights in 2019, up a tad from 2018. I find that as I get older, I look more for opportunities to spend time with family, as one is never sure which visit will be the last (and what kind of excuse is it to say that you chose to recaulk the basement storm windows or read a good book instead of seeing siblings?).

    o  I slept overnight with friends a modest 15 times (double the year before, yet still well below the high water mark of 42 in 2015).

    o  In midwinter I once again succumbed briefly to a respiratory setback (both pneumonia and influenza—a double whammy), requiring three nights in the local hospital (where I caught up on college basketball just prior to March Madness).

    o  While I no longer attend as many events as I once did, I participated in the biennial national Cohousing Conference in Portland last spring, the triennial International Communal Studies Association Conference near Hudson NY in July, and a board meeting of the Arthur Morgan Institute for Community Solutions later the same month. These gatherings were a delightful mixture of seeing old friends and offering presentations, accounting for seven nights away from home all together.

    o  Despite fewer consulting gigs last year, I was cleverly able to retain my Select Plus status with Amtrak (buying an upgrade to sleeper car accommodations on my final trip of the year put me over the top). I spent a robust 37 nights on the train, up 20% from the year before. Two of those choo choo journeys were pleasure trips with Susan.

    o  I slept in a hotel paid for by myself only six times in 2018: three nights while vacationing with Susan, and three nights at the ICSA Conference. I purposely try to keep this number small. It's far more interesting staying with family, friends, and clients—which I manage to do almost a quarter of the time. (In my line of work—itinerant process consultant—a hidden benefit is the wealth of opportunities I have to see friends and family around the edges of my paid work.)

    o  For a mere 10 nights last year I slept on couches (seven nights of which the couch folded out into a double bed). The rest of the time I had a real bed (excepting the reclining coach seats on Amtrak overnight trains). Having now reached the august status of septuagenarian—and living with a hinky back, courtesy of my multiple myeloma—I'm happy to forego air mattresses in my declining years and my reclining nights.

    o  Over the course of my peregrinations last year I planted my feet, lay my head, or rolled my suitcase through 16 states and one province—which are exactly the same North American statistics as the previous year. In 2020 there will be more, if for no other reason than Susan and I will be vacationing across Canada (from Vancouver to Quebec City) in late April/early May. 

    On the front end we'll enjoy first-class accommodations aboard Via train #2, The Canadien, rumbling for four days from the western terminus of the Canadian Pacific Railway to Toronto. After sampling museums and bistros in Canada's largest city, we'll continue east in search of Three Pines, the fictional Brigadoonish village featured in Louise Penny's murder mystery series, centered around Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, augmented by a sterling cast of oddball personalities in supporting roles. Even if we don't find it, we'll have fun looking.

    I hope you have fun lined up in 2020 as well.

  • There's No Place Like Home
    Last week Susan and I attended a local production of the Wizard of Oz. Toward the end of the show, we witnessed Dorothy, acting on the guidance of Glinda, figure out how to return to Kansas. All she needed to do was close her eyes and click the heels of her ruby slippers three times while chanting the magic words, "There's no place like home." Voila! I-70.

    It's Christmas Eve and I was reminded of Dorothy's lesson yesterday in a surprising way. This is a time of ritual, when many of us set aside business as usual for a fortnight, to celebrate family, friends, and relationship to the divine. One the ways we do that is through food—in particular, traditional dishes or libations. Perhaps tied to ethnic heritage. Perhaps linked to an old-time family favorite. Perhaps something clipped years ago from a newspaper food column.

    In my case that includes plum pudding, a steamed English dessert featuring plenty of dried fruit in a thick, sweet batter, and served with hard sauce (powdered sugar worked into butter until your wrist falls off) and a warmed up sugary bechamel laced with bourbon. You can feel your fillings dissolve when you eat it. The roots of this dish go back to Aunt Hennie, my mother's homesteading older sister.

    [To give you an idea of how far back this particular recipe goes, it's often called "suet pudding," after what used to be its most prized ingredient: beef fat. Back a century or more, people craved calories—of course, they still do in less developed and overpopulated countries today—and nothing delivers like fat. In my modern adaptation I substitute butter, but this dessert has never been a good choice for dieters.]

    In the fruit department, my recipe calls for raisins, currants, figs, candied orange peel, and citron. While I've never had any trouble in the past (I've made this pudding many times) I was frustrated this past week in my attempts to locate orange peel and citron. I struck out at three grocery stores as well as at a hoity-toity gourmet food emporium. It turns out to be easier these days to find sriracha, hoisin sauce, or wasabi peas than candied fruit. Who knew?

    Thus, I returned home yesterday evening empty handed after my final forays in the hunt for orange peel, resigned to my fate: I would need to substitute or do without. How about candied pineapple and dried cherries? As I was mulling this over, Susan decided to take a look at what we had squirreled away on the top shelf of one of our kitchen cupboards—you know, the shelf you need a step stool to access and have forgotten what you have up there.

    When what to my wondering eyes did appear
    But miniature containers of holiday cheer.

    I'm talking about a pint of candied cherries and a small stash of orange peel. Hallelujah! 

    Dorothy was right. There's no place like home.

  • It's Snow Miracle—It's Community
    The last 48 hours Susan and I had some pretty interesting travel moments, especially for a couple of 70-year-old geezers.

    Each day started before dawn (no sleeping in for us)…

    Sunday
    We awoke in Las Vegas, where we were winding up a Thanksgiving Weekend with my kids and grandkids. While the rest of the house slept in, we piled our bags into the trunk of our rental car and tootled over to McCarran amidst light traffic and under fair skies. Dropping off the car went smoothly and we were at our gates in plenty of time. (I said "gates" because we were not flying on the same plane. I bought a one-way ticket much earlier than Susan because it was the tail end of a 23-day trip that included stops in Eugene OR and Spokane WA. 

    I enticed Susan into joining me in Vegas only after my trip was in place, and she got the best deal on a round-trip ticket with Delta. I was flying Sun Country. While the flights were both nonstop and were scheduled to take off and arrive a mere 30 minutes apart, that's not how it worked out. Susan's plane was early into MSP, while my flight was substantially delayed out of McCarran—first because the equipment was late from a prior flight and then a cargo door light malfunctioned, necessitating a trip back to the terminal to get it fixed. In all, we landed 1.75 hours late, which meant we'd missed our schedule shuttle to Duluth.

    But it turned out that didn't matter much, because all shuttles to Duluth had been canceled due to our home town being blasted by 20 inches of snow sculpted by 40 mph winds—the ninth worst blizzard in the city's history. Yikes!

    Fortunately, Susan was busy using her unexpected layover at the airport well. After finding out the bad news about our shuttle, she rebooked for a morning shuttle (the snow had stopped in Duluth midday and the shuttle folks were optimistic about being able to get through on Monday). She also responded to a fortuitous text inquiry from Ray (partner of Elsie, her college roommate and lifelong friend) who was curious how our travels were going. They live in Minneapolis, and when they found out we were stranded promptly invited us to dinner and to stay the night—chauffeur service to and from the airport thrown in at no additional charge. Talk about tripping on a tree root and landing in clover!

    So Sunday ended well, if not in the city we meant to be in.

    Monday
    After getting fortified with mugs of strong coffee, Ray drove us to the airport, arriving 10 minutes before the scheduled shuttle departure. While we got underway a bit late and the driving was noticeably slower than usual in order to safely negotiate the marginal road conditions, we arrived safely in Duluth circa 10:45 am.

    The main push to get back home was for me to keep a monthly date with my oncologist and to receive infusion therapy as part of the regimen that keeps my multiple myeloma at bay. Monday was my one day to accomplish that (because I was loath to shorten my family visit in Vegas, and needed to take a train east Tuesday morning to be on location to start a facilitation training Thursday evening). In short, my time in Duluth was tightly choreographed, and I was already in trouble. By virtue of having spent Sunday night in Minneapolis, there was no way I was going to be able to keep my 9 am date with my oncologist.

    Thus, I was on the phone to my hospital (St Luke's) during the shuttle ride north, trying to negotiate a later slot in the day so that I could still leave town Tuesday morning. While same-day rescheduling is usually impossible, others were struggling with weather delays also, which worked in my favor. My doctor had 23 appointments queued up for Monday, but there were eight no-shows, which unexpectedly provided me with a precious afternoon make-up slot—if I could get there by 12:30 pm to do my blood work.

    While we were optimistic about that schedule when we first hit Duluth, it turned out that we were the very last stop—there were five deliveries before ours—and that ate 30 minutes. Susan had left the car in the shuttle parking lot Nov 26, so that it would be there waiting for us upon our return. While that plan looked solid when the ground was bare, we found our Subaru Legacy buried in 20 inches of snow with no lanes plowed out near it. Ugh! Now what?

    The silver lining was that there was another customer who just had her vehicle shoveled out and was ready to depart when Susan recognized her as a former member of her church, and asked if she could drop me off at St Luke's on her way home. Sure, she said. She'd be happy to be our angel of mercy. While I left Susan to figure out how to extract the car, I jumped into Alison's Prius and away we went like a red rat, trying to solve the maze of which streets had been plowed and which hadn't—and which plowed streets had enough clearance that we could negotiate the snow pan. It was exciting and circuitous but I was delivered to St Luke's at 12:20—10 minutes to spare. Whew!

    While I spent the next seven hours in the hospital (blood draw, doctor visit, infusion therapy), Susan performed miracles in the open air. First she nudged the folks at the shuttle place to locate a plow to clear a path near her car while she and an underemployed shuttle driver dug out the vehicle. Then she connected with our dear friend Nat (who had been dog sitting Lucie in our absence) to retrieve our retriever. 

    Amazingly she got all of that done just as I was wrapping up at St Luke's, so she swung by the hospital and collected me. After Lucie got through with her effusive slobbery greeting (she missed me!) we stopped at a nearby grocery for essential vittles and headed home, not knowing what we'd find. 

    We had been advised by a neighbor to approach our back alley from the uphill side (the access on the downhill side had not been plowed), where one lane had been cleared by the concerted efforts of neighbors with snowblowers (there's no telling when the city would get to it). Not only was the snow blown away, so were we. When we sashayed down to our garage we discovered that our parking pad had been cleared as well and there was even a path to our back door one shovel-width wide! We were tired and cranky after a long day, and suddenly we were enveloped in love.

    Lucie waltzed in through the back door, we unloaded the car, and we were home. Hurray!

    After basking in the alpenglow of our good neighbors' ministrations for about 10 minutes, I got back up and did trip accounting, opened mail, sharpened my pencil (there are always crosswords out there needing attention), changed dirty clothes for clean ones in my suitcase, swapped out read books for unread ones, notified family and close friends of our safe arrival, and plopped into bed about 11 pm. It took all of about five minutes to pass into a sound sleep.

    Tuesday
    Susan's iPhone went off alarming early at 3:30 am. While we did that on purpose, it was still jarring. For the first few seconds I had no idea where I was. Then I remembered (if this is Tuesday it must be Duluth), and popped out of bed, got dressed and finished assembling my travel gear. We were in the car by 3:45 and at the pick-up spot by 4:05. The shuttle was on time at 4:15, and back I went south—less than 18 hours after we'd arrived from the other direction. I felt like the end of a giant yo-yo.

    Today, thankfully, has been easy so far (knock on something with cellulose). While it's only noon and I have to make a train connection in Chicago—never a sure thing—the eastbound Empire Builder auspiciously arrived early into St Paul (I thought I'd faint). We're still on time halfway to the Windy City, and the vast majority of the snow is north of us now as we rumble through the Wisconsin Dells.
    • • •
    Aside from the sheer joy of reading about the harrowing travel adventures that people survive, it occurred to me how much this story is a testament to Community Where You Are, a concept that the Fellowship for Intentional Community adopted as part of its mission in 2005. 

    Over the years I've noted with interest how my dedication to community building has remained steadfast though I am less and less attached to any particular form. From a commitment to income-sharing that started in 1974, I got involved on the ground floor with FIC in 1987, which promoted intentional communities of all stripes. My position there became the springboard from which I expanded my thinking to embrace Community Where You Are.

    Then my reality followed. I left the income-sharing of Sandhill Farm in 2013 for the non-income-sharing ecovillage of Dancing Rabbit. After my marriage dissolved in 2015, I left northeast Missouri to live in a cooperative house in Chapel Hill NC with two facilitation friends. After only six months there I left NC for Duluth, to live with Susan, who was thoroughly integrated in a traditional neighborhood of single family middle class residences.

    How much community can there be in such a neighborhood? Take a look at our driveway and the path to our back door.

  • Lessons from a Founding Father
    A couple weeks back a friend loaned me their copy of David McCullough's biography, John Adams, offering insights into the life and times of our second PresidentIt's a 650-page monster that was published in 2001, and I just finished it.

    There were several aspects of the story that have lingered with me:

    Power and Corruption
    On the one hand, John Adams—the primary focus of the book—stood out as an exemplar of Puritan ethics. He was a hard worker and lived an agrarian life in Braintree, an outer southern suburb of Boston at the time (today, of course, it's a stop on the T). Money was always a bit tight, but he never shirked from answering the call to public service. He did it as a patriot, and never particularly gained financially from his decades in service.

    You get to see how being in public service meant wearing the shirt with a bullseye on it—where you are sure to be mistreated and mischaracterized both by the press and by your fellow politicians. For Adams it went with the territory and he mostly suffered in silence or shrugged it off.

    Others, including contemporary notables Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and even Thomas Jefferson, found it more difficult to resist the seductive song of the Lorilei: coveting personal power—to the point where that was more compelling than doing what was best for the nation.

    Of course, the story that power corrupts is a very old one, and continues to this day. While our Founding Fathers were remarkable people acting at a special moment in time, they mostly had the same feet of clay as the rest of us. What stood out was that Adams is portrayed as someone who was singularly resistant to the siren call of power. In my view he is all the more worth honoring for that achievement. It's damn hard to do.

    Party Politics
    In the 1770s Americans sorted themselves into one of two political camps: Loyalists (those reluctant to separate from England) and Patriots (those who thought it was high time to cut ties with the monarchy of George III).

    Once the Declaration of Independence was signed the die was cast and Patriots (of various stripes) filled out the Continental Congress and the lead-up to the creation of the US Constitution in 1787. (Of course, the greatest accomplish in the intervening years was General Washington's ability—with French support—to ultimately defeat the British mercenaries on the field of battle, allowing the American Revolution to continue.) Unanimity, however, was a chimera, and didn't last long. To Adams' dismay, two parties quickly coalesced: the Federalists (pro-British) squared off against the Republicans (pro-French). 

    Because Adams favored a strong central government he was assigned a Federalist label and was falsely accused of wanting the US government to be a monarchy—something he had no interest in at all. In fact, Adams was the main author of the Constitution.

    Epistolary Relationships
    I'm old enough to remember being taught penmanship in school… and then being expected to use it. In this day of emojis and instant messaging most people don't even communicate in complete sentences any more, and who hand writes a letter?

    Much of McCollough's work is interlarded with snippets of primary source material in the form of actual correspondence. This is especially true in the portraits he develops of John Adams, Abigail Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, as so much if what we know about them comes from private letters—rather than from media reports or public documents. Adams spent a large portion of a typical day carrying on an active correspondence with friends and peers. 

    As I am drawn to expressing myself in writing, it appealed to me to know that so did Adams. Though I do it almost exclusively through email today, I used to type letters (circa 1975-90) and before that I wrote by hand (in fact, I still take meeting notes by hand). So I can relate to Adams' epistolary discipline.

    Scale
    When Adams was elected President in 1796, the largest city in the US was Philadelphia, with around 55,000 people—which is less than one percent of the number who reside today in the metropolitan area of the City of Brotherly Love. Think of that.

    It's amazing to contemplate how well the Constitution has served us given that the country today would have been impossible to envision when it was drafted more than two centuries ago. I am shaking my head at the school of thought among jurists who are styled strict constructionists—who believe that the best we can do is interpret what the Founding Fathers meant in 1787, and stalwartly resist any efforts to reinterpret law situationally, as culture and mores evolve. Are you kidding me? 

    The US Constitution was (and is) an experiment in government by representative democracy, and there is no evidence whatsoever that the Founding Fathers considered themselves infallible or didn't think that changes could be made as times warranted. Good thinking didn't end with the Founding Fathers, and I'm convinced that John Adams would have a good laugh, perhaps over a gill of hard cider, if he knew that Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh were working so diligently to interpret his long dead intentions.

    The Long View
    There were a number of principles that Adams held dear and that are worth highlighting today:

    —Wars are incredibly expensive, and to be avoided if at all possible.

    —America cannot trust Europe to hold American interests close. England will always be more concerned with France and France will be more concerned with England. America is just a pawn to either. While the value if this insight is diminished in concert with the decline of the British Empire, the rise of America as a world power, and the expansion of the world stage, if we substitute Russia and China for England and France we have a workable principle still.

    —The polar star for people in public service should not be what is best for oneself or for one's party, but what is best for the country in the long run. Amen.

    —Human nature is such that good people frequently succumb to the temptation to abuse power in pursuit of personal gain. Don't be surprised.

    The Power of a Loving Partnership Between Equals
    Abigail Adams was a strong woman well before the time when women were allowed to be strong. (Not that there isn't still work to do here, but we've come a long way, baby.) Abigail and John spent a large fraction of their long marriage living apart (she didn't accompany him on his first tour of duty as an American envoy to Europe prior to independence, and often stayed in Braintree to manage their farm while he was a public servant. In addition to his work on the Declaration of Independence in 1776, he played a central role in the Continental Congress that ultimately produced the US Constitution, he served as Washington's Vice President for eight years (1789-1797), and then was in the top spot himself for one term. It wasn't until 1801 that he retired from public life, after 30 years in one saddle or another.

    The compelling thing is that Abigail "got it" about public service and personal sacrifice for the good of the country. And John got it about the preciousness of having a partner who got him (especially when many of his political contemporaries wanted to crawl up his back to advance their careers). While John's private correspondence (and Abigail's also, for that matter) contained many instances of their venting frustrations, he largely refrained from carrying on public feuds (oh where is such forbearance today with a President who exhibits no self-discipline about indulging in the corrosive habit of knee-jerk, caustic tweeting).

    [Trump supporters who find his raw statements refreshing for their candor, conveniently turn a blind eye to their vicious, divisive, and self-serving nature.]

    They were an amazing and inspirational couple. Refreshingly, there did not appear to be any sexual scandal associated with Adams. Abigail (and the judicious application of abstinence) was enough for John.

    His Dance with Jefferson
    Last, I enjoyed the book for its in-depth examination of Adams' longstanding and complex relationship with Thomas Jefferson, his contemporary to the point where they both died on the same day: July 4, 1826 (I'm telling you folks, you can't make this kind of thing up—they died exactly on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, a seminal document that Jefferson drafted and Adams floor managed through the Continental Congress. Wowzers.)

    Jefferson and Adams had a powerful, friendship that evolved over the course of decades, and that survived their markedly divergent political views (where Adams was a Federalist, favoring a strong Union and close ties with England; Jefferson preferred a confederation and was inspired by the spirit of the French Revolution) and different styles of political action (where Adams was direct to the point of being blunt; Jefferson was indirect and often preferred working through intermediaries on the front lines while he positioned himself above the fray, pottering around at Monticello).

    Despite their differences in substance and style they remained true friends as two voracious readers who energetically discussed various features of their experiment in democracy. Jefferson was the more elegant writer, while Adams was the more talented administrator (his constitutional skills and ability to take the long view were legendary). In the end, the US was lucky to have two such lions both on the ground, fearlessly getting the job done in the chaos of the American Revolution.