Last month, columnist and author David Brooks wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times titled “The Essential Skills for Being Human.” Among the many interesting concepts he discussed, I want to focus on what he referred to as accompaniment. In music, this word refers to a musical part that supports or partners a solo instrument, voice, or group. In the article about skills for being human, Mr. Brooks refers to them in terms of supporting and helping others shine, but he also references abandoning the efficiency mindset. We often hear, especially in business, that our goal is to be as efficient as possible. In being human, we want to abandon efficiency and just be present and there for whomever we are with.
I was talking with a client who lives in Costa Rica, and I love our conversations because we just enjoy chatting regardless of the topic and we are never rushed. I commented to her that my wife and I would like to walk the Camino de Santiago, the pilgrimage route from the Pyrenees in France to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain.
She told me that she had a better idea. One of her friends and my client, Conchita, founded the Asociacion Mar a Mar to develop El Camino de Costa Rica, a trail from Costa Rica’s Atlantic coast to its Pacific coast. Conchita and her husband moved to Costa Rica at her retirement about 12 years ago with the idea of just enjoying life. As they traveled around Costa Rica, “we were struck by the number of beautiful places no one had ever visited. We were also struck by the contrast between the wealth around the capital and some coastal zones and the poverty in those small villages hidden in valleys and perched on mountains.” To them, having walked El Camino in Spain years before, the solution was obvious.
A group of like-minded individuals set out to design a route through connected rural routes and footpaths. It was very challenging. “At times we faced some dead ends, including ending up on a ledge against a rock wall and a rushing river below.” Then, in March 2020, as they were set to launch, the pandemic arrived and shut them down for a few years. “We did not recover until January 2023. It feels great to see over 600 hikers on the trail each month, their pictures, and feelings of awe at what they see, their joy at what they have accomplished physically and mentally, their appreciation of the “cariño” warm kindness they receive from the rural families, and the happiness of women who post pictures of 20 hikers eating at their makeshift restaurants. I love it when they say, “Hoy, doy gracias por el trabajito"—today I give thanks for a little bit of work.”
Mar a Mar is a non-profit that also supports rural families by providing seed capital and capacity building to help them build and sustain their small family businesses.
I’m grateful for having had that inefficient conversation with my client and good friend, Sylvia, that alerted me to the incredible work being done by Conchita and her colleagues at Mar a Mar and the beautiful Camino de Costa Rica that awaits me one day.
Take care and stay safe.
Emperor of Rome: Ruling the Ancient Roman World by Mary Beard
In her international bestseller SPQR, Mary Beard told the thousand-year story of ancient Rome, from its slightly shabby Iron Age origins to its reign as the undisputed hegemon of the Mediterranean. Now, drawing on more than thirty years of teaching and writing about Roman history, Beard turns to the emperors who ruled the Roman Empire, beginning with Julius Caesar (assassinated 44 BCE) and taking us through the nearly three centuries―and some thirty emperors―that separate him from the boy-king Alexander Severus (assassinated 235 CE).
Yet Emperor of Rome is not your typical chronological account of Roman rulers, one emperor after another: the mad Caligula, the monster Nero, the philosopher Marcus Aurelius. Instead, Beard asks different, often larger and more probing questions: What power did emperors actually have? Was the Roman palace really so bloodstained? What kind of jokes did Augustus tell? And for that matter, what really happened, for example, between the emperor Hadrian and his beloved Antinous? Effortlessly combining the epic with the quotidian, Beard tracks the emperor down at home, at the races, on his travels, even on his way to heaven.