Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Joy and Not Sorrow

Written by: on February 23, 2022

I cannot help but feel deep sadness as I finish The Map That Changed the World by Simon Winchester. Written as a historical review of the geological accomplishments of the late William Smith who, in 1815, created the world’s first geological map. This map “heralded the beginnings of a whole new science…. [and] laid the groundwork for the making of great fortunes – in oil, in iron, in coal, and in other countries in diamonds, tin, platinum, and silver … by explorers who used such maps.”[1] Smith’s accomplishment truly transformed the way of science, leading to several significant developments that eventually led to the discoveries of Charles Darwin and new ways for humans to understand and engage the world.[2] Yet, despite his great advancement, Smith’s grave is said to be “topped by a massive block of sandstone, now so corroded that if there was any inscription, it is quite illegible.”[3] A nearly forgotten name.

Perhaps I should celebrate Smith’s great victory in creating the map that changed the world, but sorrow is what I feel. Unsettled by his accomplishments, Smith was driven to pursue even more extraordinary feats, but these hopes never came to pass. Instead, “he was becoming out-of-date… [and] becoming a dinosaur himself in all but name.”[4] Looked over and significantly undervalued, just as soon as fame had come, so did it dissipate. Smith’s contribution to the world had been offered, and soon his own life would be snuffed out. It was not until 1865 that Smith was finally granted the credit due to his name, long after his death.

I’m not sure what I think about this real-life plot. Perhaps this is the lot for the heroes of our times, the leaders that emerge in times of crisis. Campbell describes the hero as

the man or woman who has been able to battle past his personal and local historical limitations to the generally valid, normally human forms. Such a one’s visions, ideas, and inspirations come pristine from the primary springs of human life and thought. Hence they are eloquent, not of the present, disintegrating society and psyche, but of the unquenched source through which society is reborn.[5]

I can’t help but wonder: how much more could these heroes have accomplished had their lives not been cut short? Winchester’s narrative touches a nerve in my soul regarding my place of leadership. Deep sadness and lament in part because of the story of William Smith and his tragic end, but also as I consider my contribution to the organization I now lead. Has my “map” already been created? Has my best contribution been given? Is it time for me to stand aside for the next leader to offer their most significant contribution to the work of CLDI? I pray that I may become a self-differentiated leader by His good grace, not seeking my own fame and accomplishments, but His. For it is in this path of seeking the Kingdom that joy, and not sorrow, may be found.

[1] Simon Winchester, The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology, 1st ed. (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2001), xviii.

[2] Ibid., 7–8.

[3] Ibid., 300.

[4] Ibid., 293.

[5] Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 3rd ed., Bollingen series XVII (Novato, Calif: New World Library, 2008), 14.

About the Author


Eric Basye

Disciple, husband, and father, committed to seeking shalom.

16 responses to “Joy and Not Sorrow”

  1. mm Roy Gruber says:

    Eric, I really appreciate your takeaway from this week’s reading. I also respect your honest questions about your role and your willingness to evaluate your place in the organization. I have wrestled with those thoughts in recent years and I do have a sense of my timing to change roles. In my opinion, it’s a sign of good leadership to ask those questions. It doesn’t mean the answer automatically means it’s time to change. I have also seen leaders who have passed their effectiveness but continued in their role. That is a very sad situation. Have you thought about how you will determine when the time comes, if at all, to change your role?

  2. Kayli Hillebrand says:

    Eric: Your post makes me think of so many (especially in the realm of art or science) that were not known or value attributed to their works until after their lives ended. Parts of me always wonder how they would have been impacted if they had been recognized for their contributions in real time. Would it have impacted their work negatively? Empowered them towards greater contributions? Would they have become distracted by the recognition to a point where what they made/produced would not have come to be had it not been for the anonymity? Not sure of the answers, but just more questions to ponder…

  3. mm Troy Rappold says:

    I felt the same about Smith’s unrecognized legacy during his lifetime. It made me think that in Heaven there will be people who accomplished great things for the kingdom but went relatively unnoticed during their lifetimes. How many Augustines, St. Francis of Assisis, Mother Teresas will there be in eternity whose names history books never recorded or credited? “The first will be last and the last…..” This will be true in many cases but not all. But at least we get to learn about Smith’s brilliance and perseverance, take his example, and add it to our life and to the days have left to live for the kingdom.

  4. Elmarie Parker says:

    Eric, thank you for your thoughtful reflection on Smith’s life journey and the questions it raises for your own leadership journey. Am I hearing correctly that you recognize in yourself a struggle with the need for recognition/fame and that self-differentiation is a strategy for confronting that in yourself?

    • mm Eric Basye says:

      Elmarie: Actually, that is not what I intended to communicate. First off, I was in a bit of a melancholy state when I wrote that post (funny enough, I had just watched 1883, which was quite sad!). Not to say I don’t struggle with the longing to be acknowledged, but on a whole, I would that that is not my struggle. My struggle lies in knowing when do you know your contribution as a leader has been made and it is time to move on? That is the tension I have/am living in right now.

      • Elmarie Parker says:

        Thank you, Eric, for your clarifying reply!

        As you sit with your discernment question (is it time to move on), what role does self-differentiation, mentioned in your post, play?

        • mm Eric Basye says:

          That is a good question. My gut response: the self-differentiated leader knows when to stay and when to move on. For me, that is what I am wading through, seeking to discern what the Lord has in store.

  5. mm Nicole Richardson says:

    Eric, I appreciate how your experience with 1883 impacted your blog writing. It reveals the truth that experience shapes our engagements beyond them…it is one of the aspects of how our worldviews can change.

    I too was struck by the comment of Winchester about Smith becoming a dinosaur…like the fossils Smith found in order to date the layers. But there is also something to say that Smith did have enough of a “body” left to fossilize 🙂

    You wrote, “Has my best contribution been given? Is it time for me to stand aside for the next leader to offer their most significant contribution to the work of CLDI?” ….Great thoughts to ponder….How might Poole and Friedman begin to help you shape your own answers to these questions? How would the “new” Eric apply his transforming worldview to these questions?

    • mm Eric Basye says:

      Poole… get away to the mountains! Ha! Actually, that place of being alone and quiet is in the woods for me.

      Friedman, to be self-differentiated. I DO sense that I am approaching a season of change, but truth be told, I have thought that for some time. However, as a self-differentiated leader, it is to know myself, and step outside of my organization (they would NOT want me to leave), and make the decision that I sense is best for the organization (and me). Lets see where that goes!

      How about you? How did you process and decide on a big change?

  6. mm Denise Johnson says:

    Eric, I could feel you conflicting emotions in this post.
    I seem to remember you mentioning before that you are contemplating the end of your tenure at your current position. I wonder if your personal reflection essay gave you any insight. The other question that rises is this a time to explore the revelation of a “fourth dimension” that isn’t visible at the moment? Loyalty and no quit mentality often put me in a position that I err on the side of staying too long.
    I understand the struggle. I am with you in it.

    • mm Eric Basye says:

      Great question. Yes, that was a helpful exercise and I did enjoy writing it. From that essay, I would say that I do have a more clear sense of what that “4th dimension” might be. If I had to take a stab at it, I would say it is to use my skills as a leader to help equip other leaders, whether that means I am in a different role, consulting, or something entirely different. We will see!

  7. mm Henry Gwani says:

    Eric you raise a significant point on the life of every leader: the fact that our contributions could easily be disregarded by our constituencies. Thankfully, although you obviously love CLDI and the community she serves, your employer is actually the Lord and He will never forget your labor of love. Perhaps actively appreciating leaders that have gone ahead of us can help revive a rewarding remembrance of our heroes and inspire greater motivation to continually give our best in service to God and community.

    • mm Eric Basye says:

      That is a good word. The Audience of One.

      Thanks for the good reminder, Henri. Equally, just as the Lord is my employer, so I must also remember that should I leave, He has the right person in mind to fill my role. That is comforting as well.

  8. mm Mary Kamau says:

    Eric, I like your emotional attachment to the story of Smith that made you feel sorrowful, I so much identify with you in feeling sorrowful for the likes of Smith. My service to the poor of the poorest in society has revealed to me the many injustices that are visited on the disenfranchised of this world, and I feel all the more persuaded to continue seeking justice for the poor and needy. What do you think is the role of Christian leaders in addressing the injustices that are visited on the disenfranchised of our society?

    • mm Eric Basye says:

      Great question! It is my opinion that it is PARAMOUNT that the Church (Christian leaders) seek to address the injustices of this world. Reading through the prophets, they were used of the Lord to rebuke what I call the “two i’s” – injustice and idolatry. I also believe it is an opportunity to demonstrate the beauty of the gospel by engaging the ‘least of these.’

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