Friday, February 10, 2012
Living a Life of Passion
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.