I have a shameful confession to make. This is difficult for me but here goes.
Regular readers of this commentary will know that my daily routine is to hike the 3-mile roundtrip from the Angeles Forest fire station on Angeles Crest Highway to the first overlook, an elevation gain of around 600 feet, starting as a rule at about 6 am.
I’ve been doing these hikes for years, whenever I’m not traveling, usually five days a week, with similar hikes in other places at weekends, summer and winter alike. I’m 89 and secretly quite proud to be so active, though I try not to show it.
But what I haven’t told anyone outside my family until now is that when I come home and have breakfast I generally go back to bed!
“Why, you damn’d old fraud,” I hear you say. “You’ve had us thinking you were some kind of Spartan tumbling out of bed on dark, wet, windy mornings, and instead you’re just a damn’d old puffball.” I admit it all. Sorry, folks, I should have told you before.
But wait a minute before you string me up. Twenty years ago your disillusion would have been justified.
But the wonder of the modern age is that I don’t jump back under those comforting covers to go back to sleep. Instead, I open my laptop and I’m in touch with the world.
Sitting up I can manage the charity my wife and I founded, the Nicholas Green Foundation, which saves lives by campaigning for organ donation. I normally work at it every day and almost always, with a few breaks, from morning till after dinner.
The shortage of donated organs is worldwide and so are communications about it. If I wake up in the wee small hours, as we ancients are apt to do, my trusty computer is within reach, showing if the morning papers in Europe have the latest on a baby who received a new heart or some other story where a life hangs in the balance. At 8:30 a.m., when I’ve finished breakfast, it’s already 3:30 in the afternoon there and the usual backlog of emails will have accumulated from there and the East Coast. Recently I gave some speeches and media interviews in Korea, which is a hideous 16 hours ahead of us.
Before computers, a letter to Europe would take 10 days, the reply another 10 days.
And often the reply would open a new question like: “Can we do it the first week of December instead of the second?” Another three weeks would pass till that was resolved.
If the subject was urgent, you could telephone, but international calls were expensive, agonizingly so if there was a delay in contacting the right person.
When to call presented its own problems. At 8 a.m. on the West Coast your European contact has almost certainly gone for the day and if he returns your call when he comes back into the office at 9 a.m. the next morning, the telephone has you jumping out of bed at midnight.
Now, warm and cozy, I can sip tea, make the proposal, counterproposal and resolution in a few minutes and the only challenge is not to overturn the cup.
What an amazing increase in productivity. So great, in fact, that after a quick lunch I don’t feel the slightest guilt in going back to bed for an hour’s siesta.
If the thought that all this is a little too sybaritic even crosses my mind, I remember that Winston Churchill often made crucial decisions about Britain’s war effort while propped up on his pillow. And sometimes with a glass of brandy in hand.
If a little weakness like going back to bed after a morning hike can win a war, can anyone object?