Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Four Pillars of Harry Coverston

This morning, I was directed to my Linkedin site by a notice that someone had endorsed me for one of the skill categories the site provides. I hadn’t really paid much attention to the site before but upon being given an edit option, I noticed there was a place to provide a summary of one’s life and objectives.

It dawned on me as I read the invitation that I hadn’t really ever done a summary of my life in the context of how my life experiences, values and understandings informed my current career objectives. And so, looking for an excuse to temporarily divert myself from the intense process of preparing for the NEH conference on the Ethics of Global Development for which I depart in just ten days, I decided to respond to the inquiry.

Here’s what resulted:


During my nearly 60 years of my life, four basic pillars have formed the focuses of my attention.

The first has been education, something I consider to be a human right and a necessity for any healthy society. I have spent 17 years in higher education as student and nearly 30 as instructor. I have taught students from elementary age to doctoral students. Teaching informs every aspect of my life including my writing, my preaching and my social media interactions. The United Negro College Fund got it right: “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” I have devoted all of my life to trying to insure that waste does not occur in any child of any age.

My life’s second focus has been on justice, particularly the concerns of the poor and those on the social margins. This is a calling born not out of a condescending notion of charity or a false sense of noblesse oblige but rather out of compassion, an actual suffering with those in any sorrow, sickness, need or trouble. It is a calling strongly informed by my own sufferings in life and the resulting awareness of the pain such suffering entails. This focus on justice is born out of a sense that all being is connected and thus deprivation, denigration and degradation of any member of the body ultimately harms all the members of the body. I strive to see the divine image on the face of every living being, especially those which hide behind distressing disguises of poverty, illness, addictions and crime. And I have devoted much of my adult life both in and outside the courtroom to the struggle for the human dignity of those our world would simply ignore if not throw – or lock - away.

The third of my focuses has been on the natural world, this fragile earth, our island home. Chief Seattle had it right: “The Earth does not belong to us. We belong to the Earth.” I require time in nature to recharge. It is where I experience my connection to all living beings and thus where I feel most alive. I share many hours of my life with the animal companions who grace my life and working in the tropical jungle which surrounds our home. And I am devoted to doing whatever I can protect our planet from the ongoing assault we human animals continue to carry out upon her.

The fourth of my focuses is on spirit, the very foundation of my life. I have always sought to live a life of depth and meaning, a life in which my life energies could be expended for something of true value. Extraverted by nature, I still require time alone for reflection and meditation. I have spent a lifetime calling my fellow human beings to lives which are fully human and assisting them in any manner I can in that process. And I have devoted much of my adult life to my callings as pastor, priest and prophetic voice.

My life now has more days behind me than in front of me. That is a sobering reality. I have spent much of my life living into the expectations and demands of others even as I sought to know, understand and value myself in the process. I do not regret having done so. All lives are extended, ongoing opportunities for learning, growth and development. I am grateful for all of my life’s teachers, for the many lives who have graced my own and for the many lessons they have imparted to me, even those I was reluctant to learn.

Now I seek to use my life’s many lessons and my remaining time and life energies in ways which are true to the four pillars of my existence and will hopefully benefit the world I have always served. And I am keenly aware that I have no time or energies to waste.

Interestingly, when I attempted to paste in the above response, I got this message:  

You have exceeded the maximum length by 1555 character(s).   

(Translation: Cut the crap!)

No doubt. I know I tend to be verbose. And my desire to fully answer the question probably resulted in a lot more information and insight than the average responder typically provides.

Of course, in retrospect, Linkedin is hardly the appropriate forum for this kind of introspection. While I did honestly answer the question, the context of this site demands much more succinct, direct responses and always in the light of the business values which gave birth to it. A highly edited response now appears at the site.

But I found this exercise a good experience in values clarification, a naming of the basic values I hold. It also brought about an awareness of the life journey I’ve made thus far and the many people who have played a role in that journey. 

I suspect this may come in handy as I approach my interview next week for a lecturer position in religious studies on UCF’s regional campus at Valencia College-Osceola.If nothing else, I come into the interview a little more aware of who I am and what I am seeking.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
The Rev. Harry Scott Coverston, J.D., M.Div. Ph.D.
Member, Florida Bar (inactive status)
Priest, Episcopal Church (Dio. of El Camino Real, CA)
Lecturer: Humanities, Religion, Philosophy of Law
University of Central Florida, Orlando

 If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding.
Most things of value do not lend themselves to production in sound bytes.


Antoinette said...

Interesting how there are often common threads that tie together our life experiences. Your life has been filled with wonderful and meaningful experiences. Wishing you many more years filled with joy and purpose. I hope the trip goes well.

DM said...

Dr. C,

I read this entry with even greater interest than I had afforded your prior posts; this interest was largely a product of personal curiosity,I must confess. Writing, especially in this sort of context, has to survive despite the competing impulses to make oneself presentable and to be honest, sincere, and effective at communicating something meaningful, and what was particularly appealing about this post was the insight it gave me into a much cherished instructor.

The first virtue you mentioned, teaching, was of particular interest to me in that I have seen it in action. Teaching is humanitarian work. I say it is humanitarian work because, as you know, when one teaches pupils, one doesn't just recite esoteric facts and quiz them on them. Instead, to truly teach, one must civilize, cultivate, and often heal the wounds of the past. One must challenge those preconceived notions(Boy, I've encountered that.) It is a great deed and service you do.