Saturday, February 15, 2014

'My Coolest Internet Experience,' or 'People Can Be Remarkably Kind'


Check out my Web site EricThomasWeber.org and "Like" my Facebook author page. I'm also on Twitter @erictweber, LinkedIn, & Academia.edu. For some reason, I now have a Pinterest page too (maybe I'll get better at it sometime...).

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I've always been somewhat optimistic. There are limits to what we can control, which we need to be stoic about, but positive thinking makes a difference within those limits. When we see daily reports about crimes or read books and watch television shows about crooks and drug dealers, it's no surprise that some folks come to feel cynical about people. I'm happy to report that this week I've had my coolest Internet experience ever, which confirmed my feeling that people can be profoundly kind.

With all of the silly and crazy Internet tools we have available (see the absurd variety hereabove), we can spend a lot of time spreading the word about issues we care about or projects we're working on, while none of our individual tweets or posts seem to be particularly effectual. I'll write about the several interesting opportunities and connections I've made through these channels in some other post, but I have to say something here about an amazing experience I've had this week.

Thumbnail photo of the cover of 'Democracy and Leadership,' bearing Ashley Cecil's painting, "Politician at a Podium."
My 2013 book, Democracy and Leadership: On Pragmatism and Virtue, came out with a publisher that permitted me to pick and design the cover, from a few possible form templates. The talented Ashley Cecil's beautiful painting is on the cover, as you may already know (it's on right here). To spread the word about the book, I posted on these various Internet channels, including on a new Facebook Author page -- why not?

I have friends with nearly 1,000 "likes" on their author pages, which is great. It's a way of reaching lots of friends and interested audiences when you've got something you feel needs to be said. My own page today has a modest 247 "likes," but I'm just getting started.

As I was spreading the word about the release of the book and creating the Facebook page, Ashley Cecil posted an announcement about the release of the book on her Web site. Some of Ashley's fans and art collectors connected with my Facebook page. That's how I came into contact with John Rogers, an attorney and art collector from Glasgow, Kentucky. It turns out that John was the art collector who had bought Ashley's painting.

Obviously John and I have sympathetic taste, because when I was looking for cover art -- and I searched quite a bit -- I knew instantly that this was the painting I wanted for the cover, if I could make it work out. John asked me how I had come across the painting. Though I had looked through various databases of art (paintings and photographs), starting with works in the public domain, I eventually stumbled across Ashley's painting by wading deep through search term results that I found on Images.Google.com.

While it's fun to connect with an art collector with sympathetic taste, the story gets better. John wrote me (via Facebook message) to say that he thought that I should have the painting.

I couldn't believe it.

Art collectors sometimes invest in works that they hope to sell later for a profit. For me, the painting has great sentimental value, because it's the beautiful first artwork that I've been able to select for a book cover. In addition, the book was 4 years in the making and was a lot of hard work, so the artwork is seriously meaningful to me.

At the same time, my university has granted me a sabbatical to write my next book. You can either accept full-pay for one semester, or you can take the same funds divided over the course of a full year. More than a year ago, I discussed this with my wonderful wife Annie (yesterday was Valentine's Day, I should note), and she agreed that time is the hardest thing to come by. So, we trimmed expenses, saved up for about a year, and now we've made it so that I can take this full year to write. It also means that I can't get into art collection... Certainly not for a while, anyway.

I didn't see John's generosity coming. And remember, I'm one of the optimists out there.

Three days after John's message, the painting arrived -- on Valentine's Day, no less. Here it is on our kitchen table:

This is a large photo of Ashley Cecil's original painting, "Politician at a Podium."

The painting is 8" by 10" and is going to go up in my office at work. It is not only the artwork that an artist first gave me permission to use on a book cover. It is also the first such work that I also now own. I'm still somewhat in disbelief about John's magnanimity. I believe that people are largely very good and sympathetic with others when not conditioned otherwise in some way. That doesn't capture just how friendly and giving people can be, though.

Therefore, this blogpost -- and a copy of Democracy and Leadership soon to be in the mail -- is dedicated to John Rogers of Glasgow, Kentucky, for showing me just how remarkably kind people can be, especially to a stranger several states away. Thank you so much, John, for your generous gift, and thanks to Ashley for creating this piece and allowing me to use it for the book.

I can't thank you enough, John.
All the best,

Eric

Democracy and Leadership is available on Amazon here and also with a 30% discount if you buy directly from the publisher's Web site, with the code on this flyer.

Visit EricThomasWeber.org.

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