2013 was a year of significant remembrances. Recognizing the 50th anniversaries of the March on Washington and the assassination of President Kennedy, along with Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address 150 years ago, stirs up memories as well as strong emotions.
One of the reasons these events speak to our hearts is the fact that the central figures involved with them used words to inspire us. Martin Luther King asked us to dream and join him on the mountaintop. Kennedy promised us the moon and asked what we could do for our country. And finally, Lincoln honored the fallen by evoking our nations basic ideals. Words matter.
Great leaders produce visions. They help us through trying times by inspiration. They encourage us to do great things through courage and conviction. Their words speak to our angels. Their words touch our souls. Because they do so, we remember them forever. The messages they convey are timeless and will speak to others years from now. At a time of mass communication where have the words gone? At a time when we need them most where are those who will inspire?
We all know of the foibles King, Kennedy and Lincoln had. In fact, we live in an era of debunking, where the weaknesses these (and other) leaders owned carry more weight than their accomplishments. For certain, those weaknesses have to be factored in. Not only do they possess them – we all do. But, instead of looking at the contradictions, could we not extoll their efforts to aspire despite powerful limitations?
In many ways we all engage in heuristics. Sometimes our pop logic, gut feelings and sense of perpetual motion lead us to success. Other times, well not so. Great leaders, like those spoken of previously, also engage in heuristics. However, their choices are guided by principals that lead us to a better place. Again, they have their weaknesses, but somehow they find a way to receive and convey messages that speak to hope, love, brotherhood, peace, courage and justice.
I often wonder if there are those speaking such words today but we are unable to hear or decipher them. We receive so much information from so many voices, that at times it can be quite confusing. In addition, our faith in leaders has reached an all-time low. Is it because of them? Perhaps. Is it because of us? Maybe. Could it possibly be a dynamic where both are in play? Have we become so cynical that words are now considered jingoistic or trite clichés? Sounds like we need to learn to believe and dream again.
Everyone knows George Washington did not cut down his father’s cherry tree. We also understand that Davy Crockett was not exactly a Walt Disney character. American culture is replete with folks whose deeds have become mythological. While the historical accuracy of some of their deeds may be in question, the greater truth they speak to is not. Honesty and Courage in the case(s) of Washington and Davy Crockett are evoked. Is there really anything wrong with myths if they lead us to greater understanding?
While Washington and Crockett’s real deeds speak for themselves – their legends go a step beyond. In many ways it is like Star Wars and Obi-Wan Kenobi. He became even bigger and more powerful after his death. Perhaps we need to revisit our old myths as well as be amenable to creating new ones. This may sound silly or perhaps far too simple. We are living in an information age where stuff like myths, legends and beliefs can be explained away. But, aren’t there differences between information, knowledge and wisdom? One speaks to the readily available, another to usage and the last to knowing where, when and how (if ever) to use what one has learned. Are we stuck in an era that places standardization ahead of knowledge and wisdom? Look at how we educate kids today with great emphasis on standardization. All of this leads me to wonder whether or not we have gotten too sophisticated for our own good.
I am writing this piece a few hours after going to see the second installment of the Hunger Games. While I have ambivalent feelings about the movie (it will make hundreds of millions as it depicts the rich elite pounding on the poor) there is much that resonates. In short, it speaks to power, excess, prejudice and the distance between the rich and the rest of us. It started me thinking – is democracy being confused with capitalism? How have we allowed ourselves to become so jaded? It is too easy to blame the 1 percent when most of us sit back and watch. I am hoping that we can still value trust, friendship, hope and fairness. Is there more to life than money, test scores and the immediate?
The way I see it we could use some more dreamers and believers. In fact, in my opinion, wisdom contains dreams and beliefs, for information alone leads to the perfunctory. The holiday season is all about belief. Whatever your religion or belief set, this time of year calls for a sense of spirit, as well as an acknowledgement of our fellow man.
There is an unspoken power in all of this. Call it love. Call it whatever you might desire. Most of us long for something to believe in. I really believe folks still want to be touched spiritually. Some have just forgotten how.
Nations without dreams will soon flounder. Individuals and families without dreams suffer as well. In fact, most companies and teams create dreams and visions which they aspire to. Now is a time to create new stories. Now is a time to expand upon our myths and legends in order to bring others into the American Dream. The words are waiting to be spoken and heard. All that is needed is for us to dream and believe. I will leave you with a wish.
A Season's Wish
There are words waiting to be spoken.
There are ears longing to hear.
There are minds searching for enlightenment.
There are hearts desiring good cheer.
There are souls wishing happiness.
There are those praying for peace.
If we all can join together
Our brotherhood will increase.
Merry Christmas. Enjoy the season and do not be afraid to risk believing. Let’s all hope that the 50th anniversary of today will be considered one worthy of fond memories.