"What come you here to do?
To learn to subdue my passions and improve myself in Freemasonry."
Sometime in the early '90s I met and interviewed Richard A. Pick. That's right. A result of parents who had either a cruel sense of humor or perhaps were a bit naive, his name was Dick Pick. He was and, still is, although he died in 1994, one of my technology heroes. Back in the mid-60s, the government funded his efforts to develop a comprehensive programming/database system, which he called Generalized Information Retrieval Language System (GIRLS) – Dick's parents weren't the only ones with a sense of humor.
At the time of the interview the Pick System, as it came to be known, was a hot rival to Unix. In fact, in one article, Time Magazine observed, "If Dick Pick had worked at AT&T, there would be no Unix." Unless you have no knowledge of technology or live on the backside of the moon, you probably know Unix won that war. Regardless, Pick ran with his system and built an impressive company which, for a while, was an important force in the IT industry.
After the interview, I attended a dinner and sat in nerd-vana along with a roomful of other geeks and listened to my IT idol give a scriptless, rambling speech. His technical expertise outweighed his speaking abilities. Nevertheless, he had a lot of good things to say, so I flew home, wrote an article and… if I do say so myself… turned the interview and his sow's ear of a speech into a silk purse, publishing it in a local tech journal.
Days later, I got a call from Pickworld Magazine wanting to reprint the piece. The magazine was the national journal for all-things Pick. They offered no money for it, but I figured it was good exposure and gave them permission. When the next edition of the magazine arrived, I opened it with great anticipation looking for my masterpiece – and there it was, word for word, presented as Dick Pick's own column, with nary a mention of me! My brain exploded.
Our corporate attorney was a good friend of mine. I marched straight to his office and ranted about the offense I had suffered. He explained the ins and outs of plagiarism and cautioned me this was more of an ethical than a legal matter. In the end, he advised me there wasn't much I could do except protest. Still, I wanted blood. Blood, the attorney couldn't give me, but he had some good advice. My wise friend looked at me across his desk, leaned forward, and said, "Steve, learn to choose your battles."
Choosing our battles has a lot in common with subduing our passions, doesn't it? We hear that admonition in every Lodge meeting; but subduing our passions does not mean letting people walk all over us. "Improve myself in Freemasonry" follows for a reason. It implies we should approach conflict not just as adults, but as compassionate, understanding Brothers. It tells us to think before we act and choose our battles, knowing when to act, when to back off, and not go for blood.
It's easier said than done. Learning to subdue your passions is a journey whose destination is a moving target. I recently shared with a Brother an issue I just can't let go of. That thing had cropped up in an incident unrelated to him, and instead of going completely off the rails, I discussed the matter with him. I basically used him as a therapist. That's the great thing about our Brothers. We know when we ask they will keep things in confidence. Talking things through really helps. You don't need a therapist, you need a Brother who will listen or a friend who advises you to choose your battles. As a bonus, discussions like that sometimes lead to plans for dealing with tough issues; that's exactly what happened in this case.
As for that little episode with the magazine, I phoned Dick Pick and got his personal assurance that he was unaware of the magazine's actions. He actually made the magazine apologize and print a correction. That helped. But after all these years of hearing it in Lodge, I'm still working on subduing my passions. I'm not good at it. Maybe that's why, almost thirty years later, my library shelf still contains a copy of my original article, that edition of Pickworld, and the magazine's letter of apology.