In this time, at this place, I will be defined
“What we do in life will echo in eternity.”
Maximus (in Gladiator)
There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
“The future is an inﬁnite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”
This is about not being silent & a moment in which I believe I, and many others, will be defined. This topic has been on my mind for a while but I hadn’t figured out how to talk about it without being apocalyptic or overly dramatic. I know it has been on my mind since Trump entered into our lives <when is the last time you had a conversation where he wasn’t mentioned?> and lately I have found myself placing tags on my posts like “enlightened reading” or “enlightened thinking” or “enlightened politics” or … well … I guess I have been thinking about enlightened a lot. But this doesn’t feel like an ‘enlightened issue.’
And then I had lunch with a good friend the other day and out of the blue he says “this feels like one of those times when years from now people will be asking you what you were doing … or not doing.”
This does feel like “a moment in the tide in the affairs of man.”
This does feel like a moment in which people will define themselves. It does certainly feel like a time of angst.
An ‘apocalypse’? Certainly not.
Unrest and uneasiness and uncertainty? Absolutely yes.
And, frankly, in times like these it is tempting to sit back maybe, to be harsh, be lazy and fall back on our opinions and “what we believe” and mumble to ourselves, maybe bitch with our friends or just remain silent. But this seems to be more a time … uhm … no … this is “a time” more than ever to be defined.
Look around if you don’t believe me.
You can see it, if you look hard enough, that a shitload of people feel the same thing. You may get confused in thinking it is “whining democrats because they lost” or “establishment people afraid of losing their gravy train” or even simply “people afraid of change.” It’s more than, and less than, that. It’s the tide in the affairs of man.
And, yes, we can blame Trump for this defining moment time. But he is less relevant in this tide than you may think. He is simply riding the tide … and we are the many drops of water within the tide … the ebbs and flows and crests and furrows are ours to build and destroy.
Take note of what is happening. People feel this is a defining moment.
I don’t care if it is Hannity who has attached himself to Trump to rise and fall with the man himself <and not an ideology>. He is all in.
I don’t care if it is Meryl Streep who has attached herself to celebrity moral authority. She is all in.
I don’t care if it is the millions who walked in a women’s march without any real reason other than it felt like they should. They want to be all in <on something>.
I don’t care if it is someone who fills out petitions and sends $5 to whatever organization possible. That person is all in on something.
I don’t care if it is a white nationalist who now attaches their feelings to real words said in public or statement clothing. That person is all in.
I don’t care if it is someone who has their senators on speed dial and calls them every morning during their commute to just leave a message with whatever is on their mind. That person is all in.
I don’t care if it is someone who attaches themselves to ‘deplorable’ without really knowing what embracing deplorable really means other than it permits them to make a statement. That person is all in.
I don’t care if it is someone like me … someone who hasn’t given a rat’s ass about politics up until now … who now writes pieces, posts almost every day and emails writings & thoughts to different people … from Mark Cuban to John Lewis to John Kasich … The National Review to The Guardian to CNN … hoping that someone somewhere will affect this tide of affairs of man. I am all in.
People are choosing sides, and places, to be “all in.” That is what I mean when I say I tend to believe we all feel the tide of affairs shifting. As we feel this ‘tide’ a range of emotions surges — some excited riding the tide and many many others desperately, and helplessly, feeling like they are fighting a tide they don’t like or do not understand <and this where we see some angry people … as they feel helpless struggling in this tide of affairs>.
This is a defining moment.
I think we all know that this moment is different. In the past, maybe without truly consciously thinking about it, we recognize most moments actually create their definition … because, for the most part, they are all about creating something from nothing. That is different than this moment.
In this moment, in this time and place, something is happening of which we have to create … well … nothing. There is so much actually existing & around us that we are only being asked to shape it. And, in doing this shaping, we are actually building something a little different within the moments we elect to stand up and define ourselves … well … building “us” … okay … maybe it is building “me or I.”
This moment is different because it demands that we take a whole bunch of seemingly meaningless little moments … almost unrecognizable … that have got us to where we are attitudinally, intellectually and physically … and stop and speak out in some way that will be meaningful to us for the rest of our lives.
And. In this moment … I would suggest that this is not the time to define yourself by standing against something but rather standing up & for something. This is not the moment to be “anti” something but rather “pro” something. ‘Anti’ suggests you can turn, or stem, the tide of affairs when the reality of ‘affairs of men’ would most likely suggest a tide is a tide and affairs will be affairs and by being ‘pro’ it may be possible to show which harbor the tide should enter. Don’t define by what you are against … define by what you are for.
That said. I could suggest that for many of us this is a “now or never” time.
“Sometimes there is no next time, no time-outs, no second chances; sometimes it’s now or never.”
In the general tide of affairs of men there often seems to be unending line of second chances standing outside your door.
And then, in the tide there comes a time when you look outside one morning and all those second chances are gone to Starbucks. Just gone. And you are alone.
And you can’t play the next time card or ask the next second chance to come on in. or say … uhm … can you wait a minute? <until one of the second chances comes back from the bathroom>
Nope. It’s now or never. Life is looking right at people, right at you & me, and saying … ‘okay, what’s your call?’
And this is actually your judgment call and no one else’s. This is your defining moment and your decision. Life is not going to help you out on this one … Life isn’t going to lean in and whisper in your ear … “hey, just so you know, this is one of those no time out, no second chance, no next time moments.”
That is my job today. My job today is to tell you what I believe is the truth … that while Life is typically extremely generous in giving time outs and second chances … this feels like a ‘now or never moment’.
… “attack everything in life with a mix of extraordinary genius and naive incompetence, and it was often difficult to tell which was which.”
Yeah. It’s exciting but also a daunting feeling. Because while you may actually have done a gazillion things in your Life to prepare yourself for this ‘now or never moment’ … I seriously doubt anyone feels competent for this moment. It is slightly daunting to think this is a ‘now or never’ moment which will live with us for years to come.
On top of uncertainty or excitement or helplessness or a feeling of freedom to do & say what you have always wanted to do & say you are being asked to choose how you want to be defined.
The kind of thought that makes us think about choices and what we elect to do because, well, what we do echoes in eternity. The Gladiator quote was perfect. It suggests that the way we live, and what we choose to do, not only affects our present but also determines our eternity. He suggests what we do in the present will affect not who we are and what will happen but also our future … beyond death.
He suggests that you … well … matter.
That your thoughts matter.
That your choices matter.
That your actions matter.
And not only within this moment but in the moments which end up in eternity.
Your life matters. What you do is up to you, but your life matters to the degree that you choose it to matter. Life means something … especially if you defiantly define who and what you are.
Defiance is a choice. And, I would remind everyone, that choice defines destiny … not chance.
If you are defiant, and push back, you are more likely to control the destiny of your definition and how you will be defined. And that is what today’s world feel like. a moment to be defined. A moment to be defiant with regard to who you are, what you believe and what you stand for.
It feels like you cannot be silent and you have to choose.
Now. I purposefully have tied “I will be defined” with an attitude — one of defiance. I do so because of … well … Trump.
He has far too often been called a ‘disruptor.’ In businesses a disruptor is not one who creates & encourages chaos but rather one who ‘overturns conventional wisdom’ to take what exists and reshape it into a new way of doing things. A true disruptor envisions what can be <let’s call this ‘a plan’> and dismantles only that which encumbers in the here & now to enable the “what will be.” In the business world Trump is more often called ‘an agent of chaos.’
He is one of those managers who cannot tell the difference between chaos & doing — they are of equal in his mind. He holds up doing as proof of his value. A true disruptor holds up ‘what can be’ as proof of value. Calling him a disruptor is an insult to the true disruptors.
This means, even more than ever, those who choose to stand in this time & place and define themselves will have to be defiant. Defiance is standing still, standing strong, speaking out amidst chaos.
This will not be about the one, or ones, who speak the loudest but the ones who speak the smartest and steadfastly.
This will be about the ones who defiantly stand in the face of chaos and stubbornly defend what they believe and what is right. And, in doing so, the country will be defined by who and what we coalesce around. The fragments <which are what some people will call “divisions”> will cluster until the cluster of that which is the country itself has spoken and defined itself. As a country … it is false to suggest we are divided … we are fragmented. There is a huge difference between those two thoughts. And it is actually within that difference in which Hope for something better resides.
Yes. In this time, at this place, I do believe this country will be defined. And it will be defined by those who not just endure the moment, the tide of affairs of man, but rather the ones who stand up and say “this is how we will endure.”
You may be angry, you may feel helpless, you may feel excited … but whatever you feel it is because you are caught up in a unique tide in the affairs of man … and you will be defined not because you endured but rather by how you endured.
My friend was right. This is a “moment.” We will look back in time at this ‘moment’ and you will be defined by what you did do … or didn’t do.
As for me? I have made my decision. In this time, at this place, I will be defined.