The past two days have been both amazing and insane. I feel like I’ve climbed a mountain and been beaten with a stick. Either way, I only wanted time to write to you, my dear friends about a discovery I’ve made. And now I have the time.
As I lay still waiting for the nausea and pain of a tension headache to pass, I reflect on the fact that many of the ‘crises’ put before me on a daily basis are merely exercises in futility. Why? I wonder…and I believe it’s the only way we have left to prove we’re so very, very important. I’m just as guilty of this as anyone else, to be sure! I want to feel important, special, unique, sometimes even better-than…instead of like the hunted rat that I fear I behave like. So how ironic that this moment is usually the moment I’m slapped upside the head with a reminder that I’m part of something bigger—like humanity, a family, a community, a neighborhood, a revolution.
As much as I fear Russia’s President Putin is on the wrong path with his actions, I do believe he had it right when he said “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. … We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”
Of course, that’s assuming we remember that “equal” does not mean “same.”
Equal means that we are each valuable as a being. Same means I am exactly like you. No offense, but part of my quest to be important means I don’t want to be the same as you, or anyone else. I don’t want to be copied either. I want to be me, and I want you to be you. I want to learn from you, and you to be amused by me…or perhaps make you reflect too.
Gentle Penguin, I know you know about me, but I want you to understand what I think makes me different—three secrets that are also key to my value. You already know the first, and possibly second secrets.
First, I’m a hopeless romantic. I really do believe there is wonder, beauty and hope in everything around us, even in the darkest moments. Sure, I complain about them, get angry, whine and cry like a child sometimes. But invariably I start looking for something…anything…to give me a clue that it’s passing. Sometimes it’s a random song on the radio. Sometimes it’s a monarch butterfly flitting by on a cold autumn morning. Sometimes it’s just a beam of sunlight cutting through the dark suffocating clouds. Of course, many people think I’m like a Pollyanna; but let me assure you this propensity toward romance often pisses me off because it seems so silly. Why can’t I just wallow in the depths of despair like some poet or philosopher? Instead, I’m afraid my fairy godmother cursed me at my christening with an undying measure of hope. That seems much less silly…and more romantic.
Romance — A transcendence from the mundane to a perspective of delight, beauty and hope
Second, I really do believe in at least six impossible things before breakfast. Maybe it’s because I have wildly vivid dreams. Maybe it’s because I’ve read too many adventure stories, fairy tales and quests. Maybe it’s because through my hunted rat years I’ve accomplished more, gone farther, done bigger things than I ever thought I could. I’ve had my fair share of rough periods—just like you have, Gentle Penguin. Each of us have suffered great pains and losses, disappointments and frustrations. And I’m sorry to tell you, but it’s important to know that we probably have more to come. But just as Alice slayed the Jabberwocky, and I have overcome my challenges, and you have overcome yours…it is in these very moments that the most amazing pieces of who we are are born. They never come from the easy moments. Your moments are not mine, and mine are not yours, and none of ours are Alice’s. And so we are not the same. But you still matter to me, to your community, to humanity.
Third, I’ve started a new quest, I’ve found my revolution. How can we choose evolution from being the hunted rat? While I run around busily, stressed and tense, I find I do get things done (some of them impossible things). I check off “To Do’s” like nobody’s business–that is my business, quite frankly. But at the end of the day, the week, the month, the year, I often find little to none of it is really important. Or maybe that’s not quite true either. While I might be helping someone else move mountains, I’m earning the money I need to give my daughter the best education I can–which is what’s most important to me. While I help someone else create an event that changes someone’s perspective, I’m also putting money aside for a trip that helps me change my perspective. While I’m driving my daughter to soccer practices and soccer conditioning and soccer dinners and soccer games, I’m helping someone important to me build their confidence to fight a Jabberwocky in the future.
So how do I remember that when I’m coiling and tightening and building another headache?
Well, my headache helped provide the answer. In the midst of my pain, I stretched out my arm and felt the warmth and life creeping back into it. I saw the beauty of the line as it broke the path of the sunshine streaming in my window. And I remembered the feeling of pure energy that lived that part of my body when I was in the arms of a Viennese Waltz. While I tried to find a way to divert my attention so I could relax and let the medicine work, I heard my daughter in the other room singing while she did her homework. I didn’t know the song, but her notes were clear and strong and blended with the wind chimes ringing outside the kitchen window. She wasn’t always on key, but it was beautiful nonetheless and brought both tears of joy and a thrill akin to listening to a full, professional philharmonic playing a beautiful symphony.
Rats miss both the philharmonic and the child’s song, the ballroom waltz and the stretch of an arm. I know we’ve been told before, but hearing and believing are as different as equal and same:
We must believe that humanity is in the moment.
Not the future, nor the past, but right here, right now. I know this may seem impossible as e-mails ding, phones buzz, bosses holler, children cry, dreams beckon, doors close, and the world keeps on spinning. But I believe it is the answer.
Does this mean we stop being responsible? No. There is no humanity in running away from our family, our jobs, our community, our commitments, our life. I admit, I don’t know how to execute this newfound answer, but I believe there is a way to do both. Perhaps we need to uncover the lies society tells us and we have told ourselves about what being important really means. Perhaps we should seek courage to act out of our own wisdom instead of the collective rules of our culture. Perhaps we must continue sharing ideas with others, testing theories and championing change. I don’t know…but that is exactly why I know I am now on a quest.
What about you, Gentle Penguin? What answers, theories and ideas do you have? Will you share them with me?