Monday, December 22, 2008

Our Access To Resources And Our Desire to Leave Something Behind

I really got into that John Adams series after reading the book by David McCullough. One of the things I remember most vividly was a journey he had taken from Cambridge to Philadelphia. A distance I am well aware of being from the East Coast and bordering the New England states. By car it might take you 6 hours depending on traffic. By our standards and tolerance of patience, many consider that to be a bit of a trek. It took John Adams 12 days by horseback......12 friggin days of nothing but counting the minutes...gauging the distance he'd traveled by map and a few wooden road signs. Stallion tachometers weren't invented yet. This type of stagnation baffles me as to the extent by which this man still achieved things. Not just John Adams, but any man representative of that time. They were well read to the point of fully stacked libraries within their homes. They took four full weeks just to get across the Atlantic, and another month to get back. I get annoyed if a website doesn't load in two seconds. How on earth did these men cement such acclaim without telephones, email and airplanes?

Sometimes I wonder to myself what is the meaning of life. I've drawn several conclusions after much thought, and at one point the answer I'd given myself was to leave something behind. To make my mark on the world no matter how great or tiny. Besides for a long drawn out explanation of life's end goal, I got to thinking about the accomplishments or marks of mortals, with a great many more barriers than I. A couple of John Adams' greatest achievements in the eyes of the public were the hand he had in drafting the Constitution, the establishment of our independence from the United Kingdom, and becoming the President of the United States....including a son that followed soon behind. These things are the dreams of many. Though lofty, flighted aspirations these days........back then they might have been considered a natural progression of leadership and a newly created vacant position that needed filling. For myself, I worry I'll never make my mark, and I contemplate whether that's due to my desire to juggle several life goals in the hopes that one or two come through, rather than dedicating oneself to a specific task or specialty for years on end which might lead to the highest professional mastery and a rank deemed worthy of respect and awe. On the flip side, said dedication to ones work instills fear in me of the men who have come before us, institutionalized in their repetition and alienated from their original motivations toward personal achievement, having accepted their monotony as a necessary evil leading to the greater good of others.

Take this example for instance.....If I was a miner, spending 22 years of my life 1 mile below the earth's surface, honing my craft and becoming the best damn miner I could be....would that earn me the mark I'd have wanted to leave behind? Well I guess that'd be a personal opinion or ones relegation to the individual's episodes outside his line of work such as.....was he a great father? Did he support his family as best he could at all times gravest? Did he ever give back to the community? I mean, these are all things one could consider, and ones I actually hold much more important to the success of a human being than the accomplishments of ones work, however the argument is about making ones mark. Was John Adams' making those marks through his textbooked stories recited in history class? Did he look at those titles or speeches he'd made as his life's work? Some might disregard his work altogether when considering his life. How was he as a father, did he fail? Maybe with one son.....or in some people's minds, maybe every day that he chose his work over his family he had failed from sun up to sundown. In my mind the troubling yet exciting combination is how a man can achieve national acclaim with so little time and resources.....and with what I or my peers have today, why we can't do one better? Are we doing one better without knowing it? Maybe we've already begun stepping down that path without knowing it. Was this man thinking he was wasting time when spending full seasons farming and laying seed, or hours upon hours behind the pages of books? Did he think that any of it would ever make him the President? I honestly doubt he'd ever expected it until he saw it presented as an option. Am I holding a man's full long life up to a light and expecting to match its success without working for it? Quite possibly... I would like to think it's more than just patience...maybe we haven't sacrificed yet...maybe the children, wives or homes we'll bed haven't yet become our motivation to strive for better. And once we become so determined and adamant that we're men worth a damn, there'll be no stopping us and any step we take will be a stride toward the greater good. What is "better" anyway? More education? Longer hours? Perfecting ones craft? Raising our kids with enough time to make it to all their events?

I think what this raging contemplation of the inept, confused and discontent.....this purgatory of purpose and clouded forecast on ones horizon of dreams.... is a struggle with what makes someone happy in their own rite. What they'll be most proud of in their final moments. Not whether I succeed in making my mark because I'll really never know if I keep looking forward. I think working as hard as I can towards what makes the ones I love around me happy, will actually become the mark itself...not a title, or national beacon exposed to the many, but for those it's solely meant, in the hours I press its meaning.

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