Perspective is Everything

In his novel, East of Eden, John Steinbeck wrote: “The Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not’.” This may be the only time you find an Irishman citing Hebrew. I don’t know. But I do know the wisdom and the existential accuracy of that word: timshel.

For all we know, this time, this era of the coronavirus pandemic, may come to be known as The Age of Timshel. There’s no way to be certain of that, either. But we can be certain — we must be certain — that what we make of this time, what we choose to do with and during this time, is ours to determine. Along with self-faith, imagination, resourcefulness, and creativity, and what we mayest not is a matter of perspective.


Mark O'Brien
Mark O'Brien
I’m a business owner. My company — O’Brien Communications Group (OCG) — is a B2B brand-management and marketing-communication firm that helps companies position their brands effectively and persuasively in industries as diverse as: Insurance, Financial Services, Senior Living, Manufacturing, Construction, and Nonprofit. We do our work so well that seven of the companies (brands) we’ve represented have been acquired by other companies. OCG is different because our business model is different. We don’t bill by the hour or the project. We don’t bill by time or materials. We don’t mark anything up. We don’t take media commissions. We pass through every expense incurred on behalf of our clients at net. We scope the work, price the work, put beginning and end dates on our engagements, and charge flat, consistent fees every month for the terms of the engagements. I’m also a writer by calling and an Irish storyteller by nature. In addition to writing posts for my company’s blog, I’m a frequent publisher on LinkedIn and Medium. And I’ve published three books for children, numerous short stories, and other works, all of which are available on Amazon under my full name, Mark Nelson O’Brien.

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  1. Mark — A wonderful, timely share.


    I’m with Aaron on this one: let’s all carry big push brooms this coming November.

    My share along these lines is the powerful book by Ben and Roz Zander, THE ART OF POSSIBILITY. Get the audio version. I can paraphrase the major spine of the book: “The walls that prevent my success are inside of me, not outside.” I picked up that brilliant phrase somewhere, but I can’t remember where.

    Thanks, Mark.

    • Thank you, Jeff. I have a feeling our political leanings are different. But we completely agree on the need for The Big Brooms. I can’t help but think how much different and better the country would be if we returned to single terms in the House and the Senate as the Founders intended.

      And I, too, agree the Zanders are correct. I’ve added their book to my Amazon wish list.

      As always, I’m much obliged for your comments.

    • Our leanings may be different, but maybe not that different. Mine have more to do with personalities than pure ideology.

      I am with you on term limits. It would put a big dent in the whole lobby industry.

    • Agreed, Jeff.

      As for term limits, clean slates every two years (House) or six (Senate) would, indeed, dent the lobby industry. They’d also ensure degrees of objectivity, integrity, and actual representation of our wishes that have been long since lost.

    • There it is, JoAnna.

      It puts me in mind of the parable of the shepherd boy from Thus Spoke Zarathustra:

      A young shepherd did I see, writhing, choking, quivering, with distorted countenance, and with a heavy black serpent hanging out of his mouth.

      Had I ever seen so much loathing and pale horror on one countenance? He had perhaps gone to sleep, then had the serpent crawled into his throat — there had it bitten itself fast.

      My hand pulled at the serpent, and pulled — in vain! I failed to pull the serpent out of his throat. Then there cried out of me: “Bite!Bite its head off! Bite!” So cried it out of me; my horror, my hatred, my loathing, my pity, all my good and my bad cried with one voice out of me …

      The shepherd however bit as my cry had admonished him; he bit with a strong bite! Far away did he spit the head of the serpent — and sprang up.

      No longer shepherd, no longer man — a transfigured being, a light-surrounded being, that laughed! Never on earth laughed a man as he laughed …

      Thus spoke Zarathustra.

    • It’s entirely up to us, Darlene. That’s the challenge and the opportunity. I hope a majority of us are up to both.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    • Thank you, Melissa. It dawns on me more clearly every day that this one is ours to make. Using our time to work on what’s “in here” is much more worthwhile than trying in any way to control what’s going on “out there”.

      Keep your chin up. And thank you for being here.

  2. Great video Mark. I love the East of Eden reference, one of my all-time favorites. It’s been years since I read it, but Steinbeck always had a gift for capturing the marrow of humanity. They created an East of Eden miniseries in the late 1970s with Lloyd Bridges, it was incredible and authentic. If you can ever find it, it’s worth a watch… As for Timshel in the age of Covid, I think the masses are ready for anything. I think the boneheads in Washington need to start listening. They need to do their damn jobs or simply step aside, because the wave is going to sweep all them all out of their comfortable hiding little spots. Change is coming, and they may not have anything to do with it…

    • Thank you, Aaron. I only recently got around to reading The Grapes of Wrath. And people say I’m slow. 😉

      When I contemplate the very real opportunity we have here to put the Republic back on track, it scares the shit out of me because I’m afraid we might not do it or even recognize this golden moment. Unless Big Brother manages to shut down the Internet (which would cause its own revolt), I think its power to democratize has the potential to unite us in a way we haven’t been united since … oh, I don’t know … say 1787 or so.

      Here’s hoping. And thank you for weighing in.