A Pause…

Driving to Amarillo on Tuesday morning, I took advantage of the “down time” to call my friend and mentor, Leon Bradley, in Western Australia.  His wife, Pat, answered the phone.  Leon is battling melanoma cancer and was not available to talk.

I wrote this letter to him this morning, through tears and laughter.  I do not even know if it’s appropriate to post here.  But another friend, Shorty Hofer from Montana, encouraged me this morning to keep writing.  So here you go, Shorty.

Back row, L-R:  Matt Thompson, Leon Bradley, Gary McGill, Janet Thompson.  Front:  Kate, Abby, Will and Luke Thompson Photo taken November 2011

Back row, L-R: Matt Thompson, Leon Bradley, Gary McGill, Janet Thompson. Front: Kate, Abby, Will and Luke Thompson
Photo taken November 2011

Dear Leon-

You once told me that you loved horse racing, in part, due to the attitude of the participants in that game.  They understood that losing was part of life;  whatever happened to them, they took it in their stride and carried on stoically and with a sense of humor.

I’ve reminded myself of this time and again since speaking to Pat on Tuesday evening your time.  I must admit, I’m struggling.  I’m sorry.  I know you’d hate that.  I’ll say this, get it off my chest, and then move on to other topics.  I feel like a dark curtain has been hanging over me since Pat informed me of your condition.  I am sorry for you, for her, and for the rest of us who have been so positively impacted by you and your beautiful mind.  I hate the thought of you suffering at all.

I am buoyed by considering the impact you’ve had on my life.  I do not know if you understand how significant that impact has been.  Pat (quite understandably) was irritated by the hours you spent on the telephone on “agri-political” issues.  But I want her and you to know that, as far as I’m concerned, those conversations were much bigger than “issues.”

They were bigger than liberalizing wheat marketing, growing GMO crops, getting a competing grain handling facility into Western Australia, fighting AGW (or ACC or whatever it’s called now!) policies, or working to free ourselves from an unfair levy.

For a short period of time, I was directly exposed to philosophy in motion — a fascinating, entertaining and inspiring fusion of idealism and realism.  I was able to witness you in action, mentally fencing with self-important persons who had no idea of the fatal wounds you were inflicting upon them.  You always left me wanting more.  I could never get enough of your quick wit and clever tongue.

In our conversations, you never hit me over the head in opposition to my ill-conceived notions; you simply inserted one-liners that caused me to pause in my thinking.  I usually would not pause soon enough, and, embarrassingly for me, you had to repeat your little gem more than once…but spaced a respectable distance apart for subtlety.  “It’s not the person that’s the problem.  It’s the system.”  “The Liberals are worse than Labor.”  “Behemoth corporations would not exist within a truly free economy.”

The first time we met, you recommended Terence Kealey’s The Economic Laws of Scientific Research.  Later, you gifted your copy to me.  With your hand-written comments and yellow sticky notes protruding, I consider it one of my few prized possessions.

Your knowledge of, and ability to recall, important authors and works inspired me.  You encouraged me to read Leonard Read’s I, Pencil, Garet Garrett’s Satan’s Bushel and Amity Shlaes’ The Forgotten Man.

You freely quoted (okay, paraphrased!) Von Mises, Hazlitt, Hoppe, Rothbard and Bastiat.  You introduced me to Gary North and led me to appreciate more fully Ron Paul.

You recommended beautiful movies like “Seabiscuit” and “Sunshine.”  We discussed “Dr. Zhivago” and “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Book, movie or article, you took the time to discuss the ideas behind each work and person.

You were the first to educate me on the story behind Helicobacter pylori…and how we could (should!) take heart from those Australian researchers’ struggle to advance truth.

You taught me the true account behind the miracle of Germany’s post-WWII economy, specifically the role of Ropke and Erhard.  That caused me to begin to question all of the history I had been taught, which opened an entire new world of discovery.  Much of that discovery has been painful, as it involved an abandonment of child-like trust and relatively mindless cheerleading.  But I would not trade that discovery for anything.

The world to which you helped lead me is sparsely populated, but rich in depth of character and adherence to truth.  Satisfaction of intellectual purity salves the pain of existence outside the realm of accepted opinion.

The few glimpses I’ve had into your personal life revealed your accepting and generous nature, and included you playing chess with your grandson.  What a wonderful gift to him!

You taught me how to improve my writing (please don’t analyze this one too closely!!) by playing mental chess with my arguments — by thinking ahead, applying logic at every step, working to make my assertions unassailable.  You also taught me that less is more — to use meaningful words and shorter phrases that conveyed ideas more succinctly.

And this brings me full-circle to the beginning of this letter (another writing tactic you always strove for).  We should treat our lives as you did your articles.  Life is fleeting; we should not waste a moment.  We should fill it with depth and beauty, avoid pretense, cut out the junk and focus on what’s really important.

You modeled this to me.  Thank you for being the best mentor and friend possible.  I will be forever grateful and will endeavor to impact upon other people’s lives as you have mine.

I’ll never do that as graciously, as elegantly or as humorously as you did, but that won’t stop me trying.