The Change I’d Like to be in 2016, or, I’ve Seen this Movie and Everyone Dies
I woke up on January 1st, grabbed a cup of coffee and stepped out onto my porch to have my morning cigarette. The grass was still green here in the Pacific Northwest, the sky was cloudy, the air heavy with dew...everything looked exactly the same as it had the day before.
Yet it’s new, my friends. Our lives have been ruled by time for as long as time itself. Our social constructs dictate that on December 31 the old year drags its weary bones into the darkness to die, and a new one is born, its first cries sounding remarkably like fireworks and enthusiastic versions of “Auld Lang Syne”.
“I’m going on a diet. I’m going to start working out at the gym. I’m going to start doing this, or start doing that…” Brand new things for a brand new year. Yet that old year, that sad sack of happiness and misery, good times and bad times, that year we thought would never end, didn’t quite go quietly into the night, now did it?
Because you can still hear it. Sure, usually it’s drowned out by the sound of CNN, or the stair-stepper at the gym, or the music playing in your car on your way to your job, at which you’re going to work twice as hard and get that raise….the New Year’s cries are louder, but if you sit still for just a moment you can still hear the whisper of centuries in your bones, in your soul:
"Don’t want to go out as an untold story; rather go out in a blaze of glory." -- The Strutz
It brings some unease with it, does it not? Even now, you would rather be reading something that makes you laugh, or stats for your favorite sports team, or current celebrity gossip, or anything that makes us forget we have millenia written in our DNA. Anything that keeps us from feeling the need to answer that call. Anything to keep us content.
"Lo there do I see my father; Lo there do I see my mother and my sisters and my brothers; Lo there do I see the line of my people, back to the beginning. Lo, they do call me, they bid me take my place among them, in the halls of Valhalla, where the brave may live forever." -- The Thirteenth Warrior
Are you seeing a common theme here? It runs deep in the veins of our (not just our culture) but our beings. From the time our ancestors first poked their heads out of their caves, from the first burnt fingers on the first fire, from the first Wooly Mammoth hunt...our species has programed a need, a desire, even a thirst for adventure.
This manifests in many different ways. Why else would someone jump out of a perfectly good airplane? Why else would someone risk their lives to climb a mountain, just to come back down? Why take that first step on the moon?
Why do young men and women go off to war?
Scientists, soldiers, archaeologists, treasure hunters, mountain climbers, firefighters, inventors, astrologists, musicians, and any other category you can think of, there are many motivations there: serve science, serve their country, feed the family, drive a nice car...but under it all flows this river of desire. The desire to discover something no one else has found, to go where no one has gone before, to do more than we’ve done already. The desire to not go quietly into the night, but to leave behind a legacy, a story, even a legend. To not be forgotten.
“And what he greatly thought, he nobly dared.” -- Homer
“Life is either a great adventure or nothing.” -- Hellen Keller
“It is in the compelling zest of high adventure and of victory, and in creative action, that man finds his supreme joys.” -- Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Every battle fought, every struggle undertaken, whether against nature, or crime, or social injustice, or against other men, at it’s heart lies this thing, this river that runs through humanity, this pressing need to be more than we are right now.
This...this is where change is born.
“I have a dream…” -- Martin Luther King
“Shotgun!” -- Rosa Parks
Crude humor to say the least, I know, but my point is this: There is a struggle waiting for every human, a line in the sand that must be drawn. Each person has their mountain, and the importance is not on what that mountain is, but on whether you find and climb it. Your concern is not whether the mountain is big or small, or whether others are climbing it as well. You need only to reach the summit, plant your flag at the top, and gaze out over the years, stretched out like plains below, knowing that you have come further, and accomplished more than ever before.
The world is a much smaller place, dear reader, than it was when I began exploring it 38 years ago. I can read the thoughts of any Twitter user across the world mere seconds after their typing. I have friends on social media from Countries and Nations I’ve never been to, yet I get to share in their lives, their successes and failures, their happiness and heartbreaks. I am constantly bombarded by late-breaking stories of scientific achievements, acts of kindness and heroism, acts of terrorism and travesty, new inventions, police shootings, riots, courage and cowardice, crime and compassion, and not just from my local area, but from around the planet.
We are now exposed to the depths of the human race like never before. All of its goodness, its badness, and its ugliness. Yes the world is now smaller, and that means that everything is closer than it used to appear
“Am I my brother’s keeper?” -- Cain
I will leave you with this my friends, for I fear I am losing you quickly: We can now see humanities mountains of struggle across the world, not just in our own backyard. My question is: what part of that history is your name going to be written in? What summit will you stand upon? What songs will be sung of you long after you’ve gone? It’s easy to get lost in the petty cares of our day-to-day, but you have such potential, so much power, as an individual, as a voice…
Speak up! This is where it begins. In your heart, out of your mouth, into the world. Now, as never before we have the opportunity to show the world what we want it to be. To begin to fashion it in our own collective image. It has to start with someone...why should that someone not be you?
I will write more at another time, zeroing in on some of the fights that are worth fighting, on some of the stories worth telling, some of the glory worth earning, but for now I leave you with all the love you deserve, you amazing, awful, successful failures that we are. Give me the gift I deserve in return: your voice. Tell me what you think. Cast your opinions into the wind and let them blow where they may. I promise, some will land on willing ears.
I believe in being awesome. Believe in yourself. I believe in you.