The soft edges of the world have devastated the call to greatness that all humans feel.
When I was young I used to dream of being somewhere during a terrorist attack or a robbery, just to have the opportunity to attempt something heroic.
I have a particularly vivid memory of a vision from my youth. A vision of a terrorist attack at the Boot Ranch Target near where I grew up.
When you first enter the Target, past the carts and check-outs, there is a set of three shelves that have the clearance crap — think Christmas decorations in March and bags of dollar store toys. I envisioned being pinned down there by an active shooter. One row to my right, I see my mother pinned as well. I notice the terrorist in the mirror that security uses to see who walks in. The terrorist is walking along, his face covered by a black balaclava, yelling something in between a religious cry to violence and a nihilist painful manifesto.
I see him walking and realize he isn’t watching his back. I decide that I can save the world, so I run toward him and tackle him with all my might. His black shotgun clatters to the ground and slides away. After planting a punch square on his nose, I run to the shotgun, cock it, and blow him away.
I turn toward the rest of the store and yell to the terrorists,“I’ve killed one of you own and I’m coming for you next!” Holding the shotgun in one hand I violently cock it and go hunting for the rest.
Today, I’m reading Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut. In the middle of the book, a barber is cutting the Shah’s hair. The barber launches into a rant about the world and how people misunderstand barbers. He says, “There’s nothing for them to do but sit there and kind of hope for a big fire where maybe they can run into a burning building in front of everybody and run out with a baby in their arms”.
Have you ever felt like that barber? As if there is nothing left to conquer, no one to defeat, no secrets of the universe left to find. This is because people are threatened by someone who upsets the delicate balance of our society. There is no shortage of epic quests that need to be undertaken, but we’ve lost the stomach for it.
It used to be noble to lay it all on the line for something bigger than yourself. How many people died exploring the new world when it was rediscovered? Yet today, we can’t stand the idea of losing a single person in the pursuit of conquering the stars. Now, that is difficult for people to grapple with. People imagine losing themselves, or worse, their children. They think, “What would that do to my poor mother, it would devastate her beyond repair.” In the past, that sacrifice would be devastating but at least, for the rest of her life, she would be able to say that her son contributed to good in the world. That he brought glory to God and Country trying to better the world for everyone alive.
- Pondathan Lakeoff
Thanks again to my editor Zahr Gould