Measured Extravagance

04 February 2002 - 2:41 p.m.

From Alchera, a "weekly challenge":

Everyone knows who Martin Luther King is, right? And everyone knows who ol' Abe Lincoln is, correct? These are people who have touched, specifically, our country. I want you to assume a position where you do something groundbreaking that people will never forget. Tell us what you've done, what goes through your mind knowing that your action(s) has made a mark in history. But, most importantly tell us why YOU felt the need to do what you did. [Note: it has to be realistic, and tell us how you pulled off whatever you did]

When I first received this assignment, I immediately hit "delete" - because the most realistic answer is that I'm not a groundbreaker. I'm not interested in becoming a icon or a heroine. I don't accept the kinds of responsibilities that would put me into the history books -- you won't find me running for office or spearheading an IPO.

I am also utterly cynical about the nature and value of fame. "...something groundbreaking that people will never forget"? Oh, please. Who do you know who can name the inventors of the refrigerator, the birth-control pill, or the microwave oven? (Me neither.) The names of the composers and scribes of some of the most beautiful manuscripts still in existence? All vanished.

All that said - it does matter to me to make a difference - though, to be precise, it seems to me more a matter of being present when I should be rather than an active striving to change someone's life. I don't especially enjoy telling people what to do or think - but I'm thrilled when something I've said provides inspiration or entertainment or solace. I've received unsolicited thanks from friends over the past two months for being "nonjudgmental" and/or kind and/or just plain available: heaven knows I've been censorious and cruel and absent time and time again, so I shan't let any of this go to my head, but it warms me nonetheless, this knowing that I have sometimes said the right thing, and on occasion set my not inconsiderable ego aside long enough to comfort by listening. And part of my faith is believing that perhaps these little differences that are mine to make -- a song, a show, a small handmade book -- these matter even though they will not be remembered. That these little things are part of the love and the support that shape the larger accomplishments.

And, mulling over these things, I wrote a response of sorts after all:

I will not be the face on the stamp or the monument.
I am neither the gun nor the glitter.
I do not seek to caress the Armageddon button.
I shall not command with sceptres or mitres or acres.

But I am the hand that will sketch the face.
I am the halo, the pillow, the harmony.
I have been the link that trembles but does not fail.
I will be the fuel, the current steady and clear.

    - pld

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