You hear a lot about management training and this suggests (on the slenderest hard evidence) that management is trainable.
I certainly do not want to beat a dead rattlesnake, but the firing of the rattlesnake's friend from the Interior Department is a pretty example of management as everyone knows it.
The fired fellow (recently rehired wahen all hell broke out on his behalf from those of use who like rattlesnakes better than Cabinet secretaries) was said to be outstanding in his job of protecting endangered creatures. He urged a restaurant to stop serving snakes -- Cabinet secretaries, you notice, always eat at snake restaurants -- and got fired. There is still some questions which yo-yo at Interior fired him.
Anyway, it is usually a mistake to fire an "outstanding" worker summarily for minor lapses which are the result of zeal.
True, if you get some fellow in an organization who works eagerly it is bound to be disruptive.
But the way you get rid of him, so things gan get back to normal, is to promote him high enough that he no longer has any connection with the field he is expert in. He will then prove as useless any anybody else and harmony will be restored.
Any manager who does not understand that has to business on a management team.
Recently I spent an afternoon viewing management training films out in Rockville. BNA Communications (Bureau of National Affairs filmmakers) has 200 training movies to show managers how to acquire the basic brains they would probably have if they were not managers.
A fine film on insubordination showed that (exactly as in the Interior management incompetence) usually the trouble comes from some impetuous nitwit -- whether a foreman or a chief of staff -- who has not thought 19 hours ahead.
I saw other dandy films, all of them unarguable with, and all of them making the same point: Management consists less in "managing" than in being sensible, just, wholesome, courteous, kind and with an IQ of at least 88.
The true problem of management is the difficulty of finding enough people with those qualifications to staff the company. I am not sure how much good it does to know what the trouble is if -- once you know -- there is nothing that can be done about it.
You take nurses, sculptors, salesman, priests -- people with actual skills and passions, they gravitate to jobs that use those skills. You are left with a lot of people who must become either hewers of wood or managers, and your basic crisis is that the basic barrel from which managers must necessarily be drawn is pretty watery and (as a baffled drund once said when given a glass of water) not likely to sell.
Recently I had a gorgeous lunch at the Library of Congress to hear the fine balladeer, Richard Dyer Bennett, discuss his work of reading the Robert Fitzgerald translation of Homer's Odyssey. He has learned to manage Homer. And how? By thinking of that great work more than of himself.
He said he wanted a harp to hold, while reciting,that he could twang from time to time to mark a transition in the tale.
Between the Cyclops and the Sirens, say, you would have a trum of vibrating strings so people don't get confused.
He's had three harps, none of which was suitable, he said. Either they were too heavy to hold for an hour or had some other defect.
He was dining at the Sheraton Carlton (he went on) where he was that enchanting harp lady they've got and, behold, she made suggestions for the right kind of Homeric harp -- not too heavy and now the man is on his way with a new harp-maker who may solve his problem.
The Carlton is, very likely, the obvious place to turn for the hot poop on harps and other gracious remnants still surviving in the world. The manager over there, Rose Narva, has set the clock back 50 years and spent no telling how many millions to do it.
They have dinner with shades, an orchestra you can talk over, Tournedos Rossini, soup served from silver tureens, place plates, lemons stuffed with lemon ice and so on.
If I wanted to show somebody what a fine hotel used to be like, in the days when hotels were fine, I'd take them to the Carlton (and hope they would pay the bill).
What was once one of the town's cruddy luncheon rooms in the basement has been turned into a smart disco (membership required). When I was guest of the Narvas there I saw an ambassador, the son of a big Hollywood actor, a cousin of Sadat's, a black judge, a noted dermatologist, a young barber -- a real cross section bounding up and down on the floor beneath the decibels and flashing lights.
To make real changes in an organization must be one of the most awful, or glorious, challenges of management.
I thought of that when I had the honor to meet the archbishop of Canterbury a few days ago. The Episcopal Church has revised its prayer book and I asked the archbishop (who is spiritual head of the Anglican Church of which the Episcopal Church is a branch) how far you dared go in revising old forms of speech to suit the street people (or whoever it is the new prayer book is supposed to suit.).
Don't you have to weigh that advantage against the divisive bickering that such changes bring?
His Grace said (and it was news to a writer, of course) that language changes though centuriess, cannot be kept sterile, stagnant, pure. Updating and revision will always be with us.
He did not think I gathered, the dissension or divisiveness amounted to much. A few conservative, perhaps.
The church, needless to say, likess the high argument that its business is the kingdom of God, and it is not, after all (they tend to go on) an enclave of beauty in an ugly world, nor a club of poetry fans, nor an assemblage of refined persons with better taste than the great unwashed.
No argument. Even if there were an arugment, I at least would no aruge with the archbishop of Canterbury, before whom I feel not only more sinful than usual but also rather illiterate.
So it is not a question of arguing about changed language in that prayer book which, along with the 1611 Bible, S&M (Shakespeare and Milton), Caucer, Bunyan, and Donne are the only firm rocks of this language. It's not a question of change but of ruin. Not a question of update, but of desecration. Not of management but of insanity.
And there is an analogy, if not an argument:
The plays of Shakespeare, a century or so after his death, were seen to be old-fashioned, and in many ways clumsy and coarse, marred with instances of gracelessness or worse. So they were improved and everybody thought that was fine.
To read those improvements today is to marvel at the folly of the jobbernowls who tampered with his vese.
The world has returned to the poetry as Shakespeare wrote it -- vulgar, stilted, illogical, clumsy though he be.
It took a while for the world to notice that Shakespeare at his worst hums better than the pipping pipers trying to tune him up.
The bishobs might reflect on the experience of improving Shakespeare, and the contempt with which those would-be improvers are now held by all.
It's odd to mention sin, of course, but what's the right word for the act of diminishing or defacing monuments of the soul? If Whatrzisname, the one that does soup cans, were hired by the Vatican to fix up the Sistine ceiling, the result would be more relevant to us today, right?
Is relevance so big a thing that everything must yield to it?
Hardly. If that were true, we'd only have midwives and undertakers in the world, for not much is relevant except birth and death.
But humans are the ultimately irrelevant animals, surging up without warning into magnificence and leaving behind them heroic records, heroic works.
The business of life is to celebrate great things, not to waste time growling at nitwits who know no better than to mess up Shakespeare or The Book of Common Prayer. For my part, I forgive them heartily, knowing that the role of some is to grunt and nothing more.
But it still hurts, you know, if you like lively stuff, to see the sparkling lights out out of a dandy book, only to be replaced by the phlegm of amateurs.
It used to read:
Defend, O Lord, this thy child with thy heavenly grace, that he may continue thine forever . . . .
If one may say so, there are extremely few idiots now sitting around on their rumps who can improve on such language.
But since every taffy salesman in the church is free to try nowadays, here's a little effort of my own to add to the Litany if they still have a Litany:
From abominations of peacocks trying to sing and from the work of apes let loose on cellos, and from every graceless fool who turns glory into glop, Good Lord Deliver Us.
And from those dreadful fired, where they ought rightly burn forever, for their insolence and hard hearts, good Lord deliver (maybe) them. And NOTE: The prayer for the deliverance of prayer-book revisers is utterly optional.