Memory’s Blessed Burden
Some pilots in Top Gun wore polo shirts under their flight suits. “Majesty” was number 33 in his 3rd grade Sunday school chorus book. MC Hammer appeared on Saturday Night Live on the opening weekend of The Addams Family movie. His dad put up a giant cardboard “Guess Who’s 30?” sign in the front yard on July 16, 1986. When playing catch with Jerry, it was easier to catch a raquet ball in the ol’ timey baseball mitt than a baseball. His 3rd grade friend slept during class in the Janet Jackson concert t-shirt he obtained at the concert the night before. Two loser sophomores attempted to intimidate him on the first day of highschool. His name was on the scoreboard at the Toledo Mud Hens game on his birthday. The vomit formed the shape of a baseball diamond in the corner of the stairwell at that same game. (Icks-nay on blue kool-aid.) Pastor Craig teared up at the end of some sermons. Jerry buried fool’s gold so that he could find treasure.
He could remember all these random things and more. Remembering so much was not without a burden. That burden was knowing where the gaps were. The burden was that he knew precisely what he could not remember.
Listening to the sermon, he was uncomfortable. Unable to ward off comparison and criticism, he longed for the memory of just a single sermon Pastor Craig gave. Was it the delivery? The rhythm? The message? He needed something to help him make sense of why today’s sermon sounded so backwards. Hmmmm…errrrrr. Nothing. Ugh!
Then a new thought occurred. Surrounding the gaps in his memory were Pastor Craig’s actions, which by definition were memorable. He remembered them to be authentic and full of integrity. He remembered feeling that the pastor loved him. What exactly did the pastor do to make him feel loved? The pastor aimed an intense focus on him. The kind of focus that is only made possible by living in the moment. Pastor Craig exemplified living in the moment.
At least, that’s how he remembered it.
How Long Until We Learn? 12 Years? 20 Years? Never?
“Does everyone understand?” the professor asked. She just finished explaining a nuance regarding citations in academic writing. “Once more then, common knowledge doesn’t need to be cited, but other than that, it’s best to cite the source of your material. For example, that Pearl Harbor was attacked on December…9th..?” Snickers from the class. “…was it the 9th?” she begged for help.
“7th,” he spoke up. “December 7th.”
“That’s right, thank you. Now you all know that I don’t ‘do’ dates very well,” she joked.
“And that you don’t love your country,” he remarked half-joking, but seeking a status increase in his classmate’s eyes as well.
“Haha. Yes, apparently that too,” she laughed, genuinely appreciating the comment.
His helmet on and secure, he slowly backed the motorcycle out of its parking spot as he prepared to head home from class. Recognizing that a motorcyclist’s every movement is exposed, he concentrated on making his scan for obstacles look as cool as possible.
Finally, he was on the road. Warm air, no seat belt; he was one with the machine. “This will never get old,” he thought to himself. Seeing brake lights in front of him he looked up to see yellow become red. Downshifting, he slowed to a stop. The car in front of him had a sticker that caught his attention. It simply read, “9-11-01.” He couldn’t place the date. Adam and Eve themselves couldn’t describe the shame he felt as he realized his mistake. How many times did it have to happen until he learned that pride comes before the fall? Less than 10 minutes after enjoying a good laugh at the professors expense for not remembering the date Pearl Harbor was attacked, he didn’t recognize a sticker whose purpose was to help us never forget the events of September 11, 2001.
Frustrated he rode the rest of the way home analyzing how this could have happened. Suddenly, an interesting thought: “Wow. It has been 12 years. I wonder how everyone felt in 1953 about Pearl Harbor, compared to how we feel now about 9/11. I always hear about how great the 50s were… Will people in 2073 look back and romanticize this decade too?” It seemed unlikely.
Insecurity. Individuals feel it, nations feel it. In either case, it is a problem that should be stomped out as ferociously as possible. The attack on 9/11 spoke to life’s uncertainty. How long are we going to pretend that this was new information? No living thing is free from a risk of dying. Why are we still insecure?
Given the occasion to ‘get the jump’ on the yearly discussion, I don’t mind taking the first stab. We’re still insecure because we don’t understand where security comes from.
Here’s the situation as I see it: After taking until the mid-1980s to repress Vietnam’s memory, we built a military of overwhelming strength. The end of the 80s saw the end of The Cold War. Less than a few years later, we literally obliterated Iraq’s military during Gulf War One. (Our pilots were shooting down Iraqi pilots before they could retract their landing gear on takeoff.) This victory made it impossible to resist feeling invulnerable.
The trouble, however, was that the “we” that became invulnerable included the greatest generation. By 9/11, “we” no longer included the greatest generation or their experience-based (vs secondhand) knowledge and wisdom. What did they know that would have helped us? What might we have learned from existing with them, rather than reading about them? What information do we need to internalize so we can rid ourselves of the wasting disease called insecurity?
Security comes from within.
It won’t come from Obama. It wouldn’t have come from Romney. It won’t come from Clinton or Christie.
Whether Hippocrates ever intended his paraphrased oath to be applied by everyone is inconsequential. “Do no knowing harm.” That goes for everyone. All the time. Whether at work or at play. In your personal life, in your professional life.
Is life complicated? Yes. Has our government acted honorably all the time? No. Do people capitalize on every opportunity to take advantage of each other? Yes. These questions and answers do not paint a pretty picture. So what. Not one of them has any bearing on the decision you are about to make right now.
The only way to overcome this problem is to stop doing knowing harm. Today. No matter who is telling you, “It’s okay.” Whatever consequence you fear will happen if you disobey, you must risk it. Past mistakes are irrelevant. The rest of the planet is longing for Americans to wisely use the power we hold. You know what I’m talking about. You can’t feign ignorance any longer.
I need your help. The only way to get there is together.
How To Do The Inconceivable.
(If you’re short on time, skip to the bottom for numbered instructions.)
Because it is time, that’s why. Someone needs to grab the bull by the horns and reveal the secret to accomplishing anything. The following few paragraphs are going to give you the tips you need to do anything you can conceive.
In the recent Tom Cruise movie Oblivion, T.C. and his female counterpart are two-weeks away from completing their mission on the ‘remote site’ that is Planet Earth. After the two weeks, they will return to the new human settlement with those who survived the war. Granted, the work they were doing was not in itself particularly difficult or boring. Loneliness seemed to be the biggest negative. And the dream of how life would be like in two weeks’ time kept them going.
How many of us ever thought we’d spend as much time and energy as we have to accomplish so little? How did we do it? Where did we get the strength from? Were we born with it? Even if we were born with it, we must fight the desire to victimize ourselves. Instead, as a group we need to accept total responsibility for our lives.
Where did the strength to put up with a life we never conceived come from? The strength came from believing a lie. The lie that there will be more time in the future. Break down the concept of the future a little and you’ll see why this is a lie. The future has not happened. The present is happening. The future “is not”. The present “is”. What do you gain if when you trade what “is” for what “is not”?
The future will never be. Can you understand this? The future will never “exist.” It will never “be.” That’s it’s definition. If you believe that the future is something that “will be”, then you’re no longer describing the same abstract idea that’s being discussed here, and is commonly labeled “the future.” There is no catching-up. There is no getting ahead. These are impossibilities.
I have been nearly exclusively reading the classics for almost a decade now, and a common theme is best summed up by Jon J. Muth in his children’s book, “The Three Questions”, based on Leo Tolstoy’s ideas. “Remember then that there is only one important time, and that time is now. The most important one is always the one you are with. And the most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side. For these, my dear boy, are the answers to what is most important in this world.”
The choice is always yours. If you want to do the inconceivable follow the instructions below. If you want to exist in reality, stick with living in the present.
Instructions for How to Do The Inconceivable:
Step 1 – Believe that after you’ve accomplished it, you’ll have time to do what you really want.
Step 2 – Understand that there is only one step.