The Plague-Ground – Happiness makes up in height for what it lacks in length

When I was half my age, I used to believe that idea from Robert Frost.

Now, I’m more into the “in length” part of life’s cycle.

But I was reminded twice yesterday how the world can change long before it enters us.

I was on the phone with an old friend Dr. Joe MacInnis, and we were talking about what everyone talks about these days.

It’s easy to think Joe has spent most of his 30,000 days and half a billion heartbeats underwater. He was the first person to explore the ocean beneath the North Pole and among the first to dive to the Titanic. He was the medical adviser for James Cameron’s National Geographic science dive seven miles down into the Mariana Trench.

I mentioned to Joe that at noon I was hosting Jared Diamond for our first RamsayTalk Online – and that I wanted to make sure Diamond was up for speaking 45 minutes to a screen. After all, he’s 84.


“Bob, I’m 83.”

With that, our conversation shifted gears entirely. We talked about being old and living in the middle of a huge sadness, about having to avoid other people because you’re old.

He has a theory that the pandemic is changing the rules around leadership. True leaders these days display three qualities: deep empathy, deep eloquence and deep endurance.

Deep empathy is a molecular feeling for the team, the task, the technology and the terrain. “Whether you’re in a submarine or an ER, these people understand themselves and what they need to do. It’s often unspoken and in the tightest spots, unconscious.

Deep eloquence is the ability to persuade others that your version of reality is worth creating. To do this, especially in a crisis, you need to be articulate, brief, humble and clear.

In order to command the moment these days, you have to command the language. Not in the old empire kind of way. But a new kind of command. Think Jacinda Ardern and Andrew Cuomo, not Boris Johnson.

Deep endurance is not just plodding on despite all odds, though that’s part of it. It’s honoring the truth of what you learned to believe and value long ago. And at age 83, you have a very different view of how far that endurance can take you than when you’re 43. So it’s no surprise that Joe is working on a new book, planning to join future National Geographic expeditions, and kayaking for a couple of hours each day just to stay fit.

Joe MacInnis was likely infected with the optimism virus at birth. But you don’t get to 83 without the tragedies and disasters that afflict us all.

He’s sad for the world, and especially for the climate.

But there’s a quality to Joe.

He’s not only still “in the game”.

In many wise and wonderful ways, he is the game.

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26 thoughts on “The Plague-Ground – Happiness makes up in height for what it lacks in length”

  1. Keep ’em coming Bob. Your daily entries have become the Rx to this wretched pandemic. Wonderful conversation between you and Joe. If only I could get to my kayak but my cottage is in New Brunswick and the borders are CLOSED FOR THE SUMMER.

  2. As with almost anything you write, you spark empathy. This time I recalled how making an underwater film in the Gulf of Aqaba, cured me of a fear of water, introduced me to filmmaking, and diving, and to the work of Joe MacInnis, a heroic man, heroic accomplishments.
    Bob, these pieces that you write make getting up in the morning worth the effort. And you were very warmly toasted at a small Zoom gather of women who met at Fogo … Hope you caught the vibe!

  3. Just to say that of all the emails I get daily (even though I have tried to “Marie Kondo” my email lists!!), I look forward to and read yours. Thank you.

  4. Jennifer Laity

    Ah, would that those three deep qualities were criteria for political office, the world would be a better place. All are sadly missing these days below the 49th. They are qualities that our parents and their peers would have taken for granted along with integrity. One can only pray that these days of deep sadness, introspection and reflection bring about positive changes in the characters of our nations and in those who lead us. Thank you Bob and Jean for bringing us all together on a daily basis. Ever the optimist below the 49th.

  5. Bob … thank you for the daily conversation, your empathy, eloquence and endurance. Keep being who you are and doing what you do. Excellent Jared Diamond Interview…

  6. Jamie Laidlaw

    Well, I know Joe and have met Dougie and there is a world of difference between them. Joe is a paragon of virtue.

    1. Ute — I’m glad you liked Jared Diamond as much as I did. He really is a wonderful man. Cheers. Bob

    2. Thanks for your note, Jennifer….Indeed, our parents would have taken all of it for granted, and especially the integrity part. Cheers. Bob

    3. Gail — Indeed, I did feel the vibe, and I’m so glad your life was touched by Joe MacInnis who truly is a hero. Cheers. Bob

    4. Sally — New Brunswick is closed for the summer?! I didn’t know that…….hmmm……there’s got to be a way to connect you with your kayak..

      Cheers and thanks for your notes.

  7. Joe is an extraordinary guy with boundless enthusiasms and unlimited imagination – well, he has those qualities in common with you! Last time we met, he said he was writing another book. I hope that still is a plan.

    1. Indeed, Anna, he is writing another book, but is mum on the subject and title.
      By the way, I mentioned Catherine in today’s blog.

  8. Maris Andersons

    Dear Bob,This was a truly thoughtful article about our times and one of my Hero’s Dr.Joe MacInnes.I understand and agree with your observations.Medicine is my Career,followed closely by The Navy and diving and deep sea Medicine.These fields have instilled a lifetime of Empathy,Eloquence and Endurance.I look for these qualities in our leaders but they are lacking.Best,Maris Andersons

    1. Maris — How good to hear from you! You became a fan of Joe’s much earlier than I did and I assume through diving. Joe really is a wonderful guy, and seems to get better as he gets older. You may also be interested in a blog I wrote earlier last week: https://ramsayinc.com/my-name-is-bob-and-im-a/
      Cheers and thanks for re-connecting.

  9. Madeline Thompson

    Love this post Bob, and that tribute to Joe: he is the game And his age has
    little to do with that, more so his perspective. We’ll be pondering a lot of the
    absolutes from this time for awhile, which means all of us are the game as well.
    Very important we carry that forward.

  10. I’m reminded of that other great Canadian, Keanu Reeves (yes, really) who has gone from being scorned to admired (more than admired? worshiped?) all while doing THE EXACT SAME THING for many years. Doing what you believe is the right thing to do (whether it’s in or out of fashion), being consistent, acting like a “mensh” goes a long way. There is not much better compliment you can pay someone than “they made a difference”.

    1. Michael — Interesting that you mention Keanu Reeves who is now studied 9and not just in a satirical way) in all kinds of film courses.
      As you say, yes, really! When his time is done, I sense there will be a great piling on of praise from what was an indifferent world.
      Cheers. Bob

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