I’ve said it on DGCW before and I’ll say it until my voice is hoarse:
“Here’s to the Crazy Ones…”
For Anooj, and any other courageous hope-filled, love-focused, solutions-oriented people out there.
When you’re a hammer everything looks like a nail, but that’s not a good reason to continue to pound down anything in the vicinity. Consider what needs to be raised up as well. Consider our powers, our victories, our possibilities; ask yourself just what you’re contributing, what kind of story you’re telling, and what kind you want to be telling. […]
There are so many ways to imagine this mindset — or maybe its many mindsets with many origins — in which so many are mired. Perhaps one version devolves from academic debate, which at its best is a constructive, collaborative building of an argument through testing and challenge, but at its worst represents the habitual tearing down of everything, and encourages a subculture of sourness that couldn’t be less productive.
Can you imagine how far the Civil Rights Movement would have gotten, had it been run entirely by complainers for whom nothing was ever good enough? To hell with integrating the Montgomery public transit system when the problem was so much larger!
Picture Gandhi’s salt marchers bitching all the way to the sea, or the Zapatistas, if Subcomandante Marcos was merely the master kvetcher of the Lacandon jungle, or an Aung San Suu Kyi who conducted herself like a caustic American pundit. Why did the Egyptian revolutionary who told me about being tortured repeatedly seem so much less bitter than many of those I run into here who have never suffered such harm?
There is idealism somewhere under this pile of bile, the pernicious idealism that wants the world to be perfect and is disgruntled that it isn’t—and that it never will be. That’s why the perfect is the enemy of the good. Because, really, people, part of how we are going to thrive in this imperfect moment is through élan, esprit de corps, fierce hope, and generous hearts.
– Rebecca Solnit,
“Rain on Our Parade: A Letter to My Dismal Allies”
And yet, here we were, on the first floor, full of hope that makes us giddy and new promises we intend to keep. I expected to dread being in this building where so much fell apart, but I found myself grateful for the reminder. If we can’t remember the wrong turns, we’re bound to get lost again.
In recent years, the two weeks surrounding & including Christmas and New Year’s has also brought with it a chance for me to hole up & hibernate in the quiet outer-ring suburb of Cleveland in which my parents reside. I spend days on end changing from one set of pajamas (if I’m motivated enough to change in the first place) and only travel as far as the distance between one soft surface– my cozy bed– and one of the couches sprinkled throughout their house.
This is my favorite time of the year because I find myself relaxing like I forget to any other season. I give myself permission (I mean, more than usual…) to amputate my phone from my side and leave it unattended for hours on end. And, thanks to our #26books endeavor that took over 2011, I have made it my own holiday tradition to hit the pavement hard and try to tackle as many books as possible to add on to my year’s reading list & page count.
The above selection came to me while I am in the midst of 2 other books that I can’t power through all at once (though I’m enjoying them! I swear!) via a gift from a thoughtful and loving colleague at a very (eerily) fitting time (let’s just leave it at this– Thursdays of 2012, I’ll be glad when we part ways for good). The book is Life Happens, written by lifelong Clevelander & fascinating/brilliant journalist Connie Schultz. I have had the privilege of meeting Ms. Schultz in my short time as a young professional and her book lets her opinionated, fiery, you-go-girl self shine through 1,000 times brighter than the conference lecture setup of my in-person encounter.
Connie has some phenomenal prose woven into just the first 57 pages of her book (as far as I’ve gotten this afternoon), but for some reason this one attached itself to me like a barnacle to a pirate ship. Ends of years always bring about a reflective mood for where we’ve traveled and what we’ve experienced that trip around the sun, but I think it’s good to take the Jesuit’s “Examen” approach and make sure we’re asking what went well AND what didn’t so we can use that as a space to breathe more life into during upcoming months.
There certainly isn’t anything wrong with taking an uncharted path or making a right turn when perhaps we should’ve made a left, but they’re all things that, in the end, add to the total mileage of our lives so we should learn to be grateful for even the most devastating heartbreaks or professional blunders or misspeaks or bad calculations. Getting lost isn’t the element to be ashamed of; it’s blocking out those experiences so fully that we forget which turns were wrong to begin with. Besides, you might’ve just been going a different way on the right road all along…
And, in the meantime, a little Mark Baldwin to help all of us embrace a little more fully the times we read the map wrong in the next 365 days:
You’re on the right road if you’re happy when you’re lost.
It’s your life — but only if you make it so. The standards by which you live must be your own standards, your own values, your own convictions in regard to what is right and wrong, what is true and false, what is important and what is trivial. When you adopt the standards and the values of someone else or a community or a pressure group, you surrender your own integrity. You become, to the extent of your surrender, less of a human being.
Perhaps consider this a supplement to being “careful whose advice you buy, but…patient with those who supply it,” a la Baz Luhrmann/Mary Schmich (c. 1999).
I almost got physically ill as I heard the first news reports of an elementary school shooting in Newtown, CT today. I am 2 degrees of separation from it in multiple ways, so I cannot even begin to imagine what folks in the town– and now, frightened parents everywhere– are feeling.
I also cannot imagine what the two people who wielded guns as they trespassed on the grounds of an elementary school, gunned down administrators in the office, and then went on a tyrade all over the school to kill dozens of others were feeling. Why did they do that, and how on earth are we as a society continually (though inadvertently and not with intention) justifying to people that it is ok to use our own personal anger or hurt or fear or frustration to fuel acts of terror, hate, and absolute aggression against anyone around us? They are victims too, because something in our M.O. as a core country is doing too much to promote such problem-“solving” and doing FAR too little to reach out to people teetering “on the edge” of loneliness, anger, mental illness, or any other psychological black hole experienced by humankind.
The fact that an overwhelming majority of the direct victims (wounded, dead, and traumatized) are children– the essence of innocence and potential– is wordlessly tragic. I am mourning and disgusted and my body is feeling those things. But I think it’s time for us to look at this on a deeper level– are we LESS upset and disturbed when it is another population of folks lying dead, wounded, or terrified in a situation like this? For me, this discussion should be ending up at this tenet: it’s not ok, no matter the demographics of the targeted group. EVER. Period. End of discussion.
With that in mind, I close with this article published in the wake of the Aurora shooting less than 5 (FIVE!!!!!!) months ago, titled, “Politicizing Tragedy and the Aurora Theater Shooting.”* I’ll save the majority of my soapbox speech for another day, but I want to know when we decide that enough people have experienced moments like this so we can put our idealized political stances on gun control aside and talk about REAL, practical, ground-level adjustments that need to be made. I’m tired of knowing who is for/against gun control, because I want representation in my government who will place the lives of people above the principles & platforms they are expected to spew across news networks & websites.
Politics are an inevitable part of a collective national trauma, which, for better or for worse, is how America treats incidents like this one. It’s not only appropriate to ask how we got here—it would be irresponsible not to..Trying to avoid politics trivializes politics, which is the means by which we make collective decisions as a society. A discussion about policies that could prevent future tragedies like this couldn’t be more appropriate.
*I’d also like to point out that this is the SECOND public shooting this week, the first happening 3 days ago at a mall near Portland, Oregon. The. Second. This. Week. HELLO?!?
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UPDATE: Alex Koppelman of The New Yorker published this piece in response to today’s tragedy. Different day, new author, separate occurrence…same conclusion. Says Koppelman:
This is the way that we deal with such incidents in the U.S.—we acknowledge them; we are, briefly, shocked by them; then we term it impolite to discuss their implications, and to argue about them. At some point, we will have to stop putting it off, stop pretending that doing so is the proper, respectful thing. It’s not either. It’s cowardice.
A thought to remember on this random December day (and hopefully find a way to bring a life a little in your routine). Cheers to you, Tuesday folk of the world.
We forget the people who make us the kind of people who can have that kind of success. You must invest in those relationships while you’re here if you want them to go on ultimately when you’re gone.