A conversation with local author Dennis Mansfield
Author: McCale Ashenbrener
Bitter cold whipped through the cobbled streets of Vienna, Austria on a crisp January eve. Café Central, however, was warm, even humid, as the excited hum of discussion and debate rose and fell with a musical lilt. It was 1913, and for the intellectual community, political dissidents, and anyone on the run, this was the place to be. Local author Dennis Mansfield takes us to this smoke-filled corner of history for a grand thought experiment in his historical science fiction novel To Trust in What We Cannot See. What if Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Trotsky and Tito all pulled up a chair to the same table in this corner café one fateful eve, a real possibility as they were often in this café at the same time. What if those men made different choices to affect the course of history? Mansfield incorporates Brian Greene’s, The Elegant Universe, with Ulysses S. Grant’s Personal Memoirs, to craft this space-time thriller that toys with history, physics and science to examine the power of what change can and will do.
In a time when everything around us seems to be changing at warp speed, from navigating a new socially distant normal to addressing deep systemic inequalities, re-imagining possibilities and exploring change is unavoidable. Dennis Mansfield was inspired, in part, by challenging moments in his own life, “If we have had moments in time when sadness has reigned, what if we could change our attitudes when it looks like it is an absolutely hopeless time.” Much of his life has been spent re-framing difficulties to find the positive path forward.
In 2000 Mansfield ran for the Republican Party’s congressional nomination as a conservative Christian candidate against Butch Otter. Just days before the Republican primary his teenage son Nate was arrested for drug possession, an event that contributed to his loss at the polls and rejection from some in his Christian community. He pivoted and focused his efforts on helping those in jail get their life on track. Together with his wife and many others they built a series of “staffed, safe, and sober homes” to help those transitioning from jail and prison. During this effort his son, at age 27, lost his battle with drug addiction. In the midst of his grief, Mansfield’s literary agent approached Simon and Schuster to publish a book about his experience entitled Beautiful Nate. “It offers valuable insights into what went wrong in a dedicated Christian family and how things might have gone differently—giving parents direction for raising their own children in a troubled world.” It was the first of nine books.
With so many things beyond our control, Mansfield likes to focus on what we do have agency over, our reaction and approach to our own lives. A relentless optimist, Mansfield encourages us that when given the choice, always choose hope. “I love life, I love travel, I love fun. I love keeping an open mind to new things.” These days you can find him on the greenbelt, either biking through the dappled shade on the river’s edge or sitting on his front porch smiling and reveling in the stream of community that rolls past his greenbelt townhouse.
Learn more about his publications, business coaching and podcast “Just Around the Corner” on his website: https://dennismansfield.com/