Friday, February 10, 2012

Living a Life of Passion

A college friend of mine pasted a peace symbol on the top of his mortar board at our graduation. I scoffed to myself at his attempt to borrow the trappings of a previous era to play the intellectual rebel. After all, we graduated on a sunny spring day in the late 1980s in northern Utah. The Vietnam War had ended long ago, and those of us outside of international politics hadn't begun to think about the Gulf War. Even the Cold War had begun its closing scenes. We were middle-class white kids on a college campus not exactly famous for a diverse population. We had little to protest.

I have gained a greater respect for my peace sign friend over the years. He was passionate. He believed firmly in justice. A respected photojournalist, he has spent his career giving form and color to the ideals he used to spout over a bottle of Chianti.  I wonder if I have succeeded as well in my own ideals.

I drew my first breath in Cache Valley, the rather idyllic little valley that also formed the backdrop for my college years (though life took me on a bit of a journey between infancy and freshman year). On the day I was born, far from my Rocky Mountains, the United States bombed Hanoi for the first time, two years after the Americans joined the ground war in Vietnam. Back in the States, Mohammad Ali officially announced that he would not submit to the draft. As he said, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong…No Viet Cong ever called me nigger.” Widespread war and race protests were just around the corner, and Ali’s stand helped feed the growing flames.

About the time I broke out into my first baby smile, my family moved to Eugene, Oregon so that my father could complete his doctorate. He studied romantic poets and drank in the protest movement then thriving on the University of Oregon campus. He, too, has lived a life of passion and ideals. As an educator, he championed the arts and highlighted regional history and culture. Privately, he addresses injustice one wounded soul at a time.

I think of my father's integrity in living according to his vision of the world as it should be. I think of my college friend and his peace sign, of Muhammad Ali and his stand against the war. All three live according to a driving force, and I admire that. To an extent, I tend to measure success by how people use their gifts and their life experiences to benefit others. By that measure, my parents rank among the most successful people I know. By that same measure, I fall short.

Now, having fallen short, I think it's time for me to fix my gaze upward and outward and start climbing.


  1. There are seasons in every life and you have been immersed in the season of serving your family by raising the next generation. Don't forget to give that top billing when it comes to handing out accolades for success. I would venture to guess that most people who do something good for society have a mother who quietly set the example for them. The mothers don't get the fanfare, and that's okay.

    On the other hand, you will still have about as much time to do all the things you want to accomplish after all your children are grown as you have lived up until then. Do the math, I think you'll find I'm right. And you are wiser now than you were the first 20! Bonus!

  2. you're one of the shining stars in my last decade of life. the ripple in any pond you touch simply goes on and on and on. i wish i were like you in many ways. i wish everyone was like you in many ways. ♥

  3. I suspect you're being way too hard on yourself when you say you fall short. I agree with Cathryn that there are seasons in every life. From what I know of your life so far, it's been very full (and passionate), and you are certainly moving in new directions as a writer, among other things, now.