I grew up on a farm in south-central Minnesota as part of a conservative, Roman Catholic family. Due to what I can only assume to be a combination of genetic luck and positive influences at home and school, I became a pretty smart-ish (and handsome and humble!) dude. On the other hand, I was also pretty narrow-minded.

I went to a small school in a small town. It wasn’t really my fault, but I had no understanding of the world beyond the City of New Ulm. My family never went on vacation. My world ended at Duluth to the north, Sioux Falls to the west, Clear Lake, Iowa to the south, and the lakes of northern Wisconsin to the east. Later, I attended St. John’s University, another small school in another small town.

My horizons were so close I could reach out and touch them. I was smart, but I was ignorant. Three people changed that. This is my appreciation.


Maranda showed me to appreciate art.

College had shown me that there was a world out there that I neither knew nor understood. Maranda blew those doors wide open. She leant me a book entitled The Mission of Art. The book was written by Alex Grey, whose work you might know from several of the metal band Tool’s album covers.

That book showed me, believe it or not from its title, that art is more than just a drawing or a painting or a sculpture. It is more than aesthetic. It has a purpose. It has meaning and value beyond the sum of its parts. It is an integral part of our society and should be valued.

Art should make us think. It should inspire. It should make us FEEL. A quote from the television show “Caprica” expresses it best: “Find the things in life that make you cry. It’s what makes us human.”

Because of Maranda and her book, art makes me feel. My world is infinitely more beautiful today than it was a decade ago.

Maranda taught me to appreciate what I did not already know. Without her, nothing that happened later would have been possible.


Troy showed me to appreciate the world.

I grew up in a tiny world. Ultimately, you can only be as smart as where you’ve been. If you’ve never been out of town, you can only be the smartest person in town. If you’ve traveled across the United States, you can be the smartest person in the country, etc.

Troy taught me the value of seeing the world. He’s been all around the globe and he is the smartest person I know. It is not an accident that those two things go together.

From Troy, I learned that there was a world that I hadn’t seen, didn’t know, and didn’t understand. He knew enough to know he doesn’t know anything. (I’ll give you a moment to read that a second time. Sorry) He taught me humility.

Also, I might still be working on that one…

Troy taught me how to be the learner I wanted to be. Without him, I would not be as passionate a learner as I am today. Without him, I would be stagnant. Stagnancy is worse than death.


Erik taught me to appreciate nature.

I grew up on a farm, so I was in tune with nature to the extent that I castrated pigs on my birthday. This is, of course, to say that I was far more in tune with nature than I would have wished. I knew nature, but not its beauty.

When I visited Erik in Colorado, it was more of a social call than anything else. Despite my expectations, it turned into a life-changing event. I had seen the fields. I had seen the lakes. I had seen Lake Superior. But I had never been in awe of nature.

I was awestruck by the power and majesty of the Rocky Mountains. I was awestruck by the Western sunset. Later, I was awestruck by the alien landscape of the Badlands.

Erik taught me how art and the world come together. Without him, I would not understand that the world is art, and through art, we can see and understand the world.


Maranda, Troy, and Erik are the three most important non-familial influences in my intellectual development. If we go to bed the same person who woke up, that day was a failure. I understand that now, thanks to them.

When we die, we leave relatively little behind. Some money perhaps. Some property. Some debt. Some regret. That is not our legacy. Our legacy is how we change the earth. How we change our nation. How we change other people.

Maranda, Troy, Erik, your legacies, at least in the last way, are secure.

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