(Note: leaving this post unpolished for the principle of it.)
I’ve felt myself contracting lately, pulling back inward and operating more out of the body of fear. That’s neither who I am nor who I want to be anymore and so I need to stop it – and in realizing this received three good messages about vulnerability and remaining open this morning.
I tuned into NASA’s livestream of the unmanned SpaceX launch ten seconds before the vehicle exploded. There were ten seconds of awe and appreciation and pride as the rocket hurtled skywards on my part and then, two minutes after liftoff, it was obscured by an odd cloud. A second later the camera showed debris separating catastrophically, lighting up here and there and falling to the ground. A failure, sure – but a failure in the midst of exploration and greatness. Something made possible by remaining open despite how it exposes plans to millions of variables, millions of fail-states. The pride returned – overwhelming pride in SpaceX for what they’ve worked to achieve and that they’re still working damned hard to do amazing things.
William Gibson began tweeting about guns this morning. In particular the physical agency that such an inexpensive device provides and how hard it is to convince someone to give that up. Immediately I reflected on my own experience as a gun-owner and someone who carried a concealed weapon (licensed) everywhere for years. Gibson was most assuredly right, especially about the perception of increased agency – something I dealt with myself after I stopped carrying and later sold my guns. As I considered it the loss of such a potent force multiplier in hypothetical situations weighed heavily. Once I actually stopped carrying it weighed even further. I found myself out in the world and much more vulnerable without the reassuring weight on my belt behind my right hip.
But the mindset that encourages me to contract is the same one that caused me to carry a gun, and without it I found myself much more open to the world, more vulnerable but also more engaging. Every outing was no longer a series of locations in need of threat assessment before all else. Physical agency perhaps lessened, but social agency and confidence grew.
The last lesson this morning (they all occurred within an hour of each other – this day, it pulled no punches) had me crying. A good friend linked Jon Stewart’s first post 9/11 Daily Show broadcast in which Stewart spoke with such grief and hope that it affected me physically. He presented the place he was at with heartfelt humanity and total vulnerability and it drove home the day’s point.
I’m no longer the type to pull back into myself and armor up. It didn’t serve me well in the past. What serves me more than anything now are sociability, credibility, openness and curiosity. I’m not great at the first three but I am damn sure trying harder.