Guelph author and entrepreneur Bob Desautels has some choice words for his fellow Baby Boomers and draws wisdom from a diverse selection of ancient and modern voices in his latest collection of essays, Rummagings of a Lapsed Boomer.
“I have been collecting quotations since I was a teenager so, I use them as a jump-off point for each essay,” said Desautels. “There are about 50 essays that represent the sum total of all the knowledge I’ve acquired during my 70 years on the planet.”
He feels he has earned the right after seven decades to take creative liberty with, at least, one word in the book’s title.
“I came up with the word ‘rummagings’, which I explain in the introduction,” he said. “Rummaging is searching, and I am always looking for good quotations. A lot of my friends know that, and they often send me something that is interesting.”
Desautels has a degree in philosophy from the University of Guelph and several philosophers are quoted in the book such as Socrates, who said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.”
It is fitting advice for someone writing such a retrospective book, but Desautels said he draws much of his personal philosophy from the teachings of the pre-Socratic, Greek philosopher Zeno of Citium, who founded the School of Stoicism.
“I consider myself a stoic,” said Desautels. “Stoics believe that you can control your emotions. If something bad happens to you, a stoic would say that you can control the reaction. I talk about stoicism quite a bit in the book.”
The book follows Desautels’ journey as a student, teacher, golf pro, writer, activist, entrepreneur, husband, father, grandfather and all things in between and is filled with time-tested observations as well as a collection of personal photos that document a life of adventure and progress.
One photo featuring a freshly inked tattoo of a monarch butterfly on his left shoulder, illustrates Desautels’ eclectic perspective in living colour.
“I did it to surprise my kids,” he said. “I believe in metamorphosis, that you can change. So, I thought there is nothing more symbolic than a monarch butterfly.”
Desautels will be discussing and reading excerpts from Rummagings of a Lapsed Boomer during a book launch event at the Bookshelf, on Quebec Street, Sunday at 7 p.m.
“I’m going to read the very first essay,” he said. “It starts with a quote from the Moody Blues and Justin Hayward, who said, 'There is none so blind than those who will not see.'"
It sets the tone for a sober analysis of, what Desautels’ considers a wasted opportunity by his generation.
“The Boomers were a failed generation,” he said. “We had so much promise in the 60s with Woodstock and the flower children but never did anything lasting. We all turned into the Me Generation. Now, most of the Boomers I know are more interested in their stock portfolios, yoga classes and their BMWs.”
Desautels has demonstrated through his own success as an entrepreneur, a founding member of the Green Party and a pioneer of the local food movement, that progress doesn’t have to come at the expense of community and the environment.
“I am an entrepreneur and I have a whole section on entrepreneurship, which will be interesting to some people who want to go into business,” he said. “I use a quote in here by a famous management guru in the (United) States, who said, ‘An entrepreneur is more interested in expressing themselves than making money.’ I believe in selling local products. I think it’s really important. I am sort of stubborn about that. When I set up the Wooly with all the craft beers, it just took off like lightning. I did the same thing at Borealis and Miijidaa and now at Park Eatery”
One of the essays is introduced with a quote from the 19th Century Indigenous leader Chief Seattle, who famously said, “We don’t inherit the earth. We borrow it from our children.”
Hope and advice for future generations are recurring themes throughout the essays and are messages expressed in the subtitle of the book, “An old man’s reflections and lessons learned for a younger generation.”
“It’s a labour of love really,” he said. “I dedicate the book to my grandchildren – Ava, Daisy and Harvey. They changed my life a lot and I love spending as much time as I can with them. They are so innocent and they are usually very optimistic too. Nothing bothers them that much.”
He even co-authored a book with his granddaughter Ava called The Girl Who Loved Cheese.
Family has always been at the centre of Desautels personal and business ventures. His son Court has taken over as president of the Neighbourhood Group of Companies, he started in 1991 and his daughter Emily was manager of the Wooly Pub for many years.
Desautels and his wife, Sue, recently returned from a river tour of the wine region in Bordeaux, France with editorial staff of the Globe and Mail and have many more adventures planned.
“I’m in my 70th year,” he said. “I will be 70 in November and Sue and I are going to Greece and Turkey for our 50th anniversary next year. I am a lucky man.”
For more info about Desautels and Rummagings of a Lapsed Boomer visit www.bobdesautels.com