Bobby’s World – Heroes – Coach Taylor

I present to you Bobby’s World, monthly musings from the one and only Hubby!  A few months ago he introduced us to his Hero series. Check it out here is you want a little refresher.


“Are you talking about him, again?

The unexpected question instantly stopped my intense conversation. I was immediately flooded with a sense of guilt and shame, but I felt a surge of pride rise above it. I looked at my co-conspirator, whose eyes were looking down at his shoes. I puffed out my chest and responded to Megan’s question with a classic, “Yeah? What’s the big deal?”

My middle school retort was returned with a mighty one-liner, “I just don’t get it… he’s not even real.”

What a blow. I was staggering from her profound point of truth, coming to terms with the fact that she was right while simultaneously reaching for something quick to respond with. I settled for a weak parting shot; a soft, emotionally-charged, “Well… he’s real to me,” and I walked away before Megan could throw another sick burn at me.

First, let me say that this story is probably highly inaccurate, as it is told from my perspective which is often relived and retold in a highly embellished and romanticized fashion. Nonetheless, this is how I remember Megan calling me out for constantly talking about one of my most beloved heroes. Yes, I admit he is not real, but as stated earlier, “He’s real to me.”

And I am not alone in my admiration (or in my belief/hope in his actual existence) for this next hero. Here are the words of a few of my close friends in their description of the legendary Coach Eric Taylor.

“…he wants good things for other people. That’s not usually sincere, but it is with him…”

“…the way he puts others above himself…”

“…he’s a man of character. He holds fast and stands up for his principles even when it’s going to cost him or it’s uncomfortable… He’s not perfect, but the things he says and does show his compassion for others… I want to be a man like that…”

“Coach Taylor has the immeasurable talent of being able to make even the lowliest of football players feel like the biggest asset to the team… and the ability to look into the eye of the struggle and say, ‘I will come out on the other side a stronger and better person,’… He isn’t afraid to fight for what he believes in.”

With references like that, you don’t need a resume.

Coach Eric Taylor is the central character on NBC’s beloved series Friday Night Lights. For those of you who have not yet revelled in the glory of that which is FNL, go to Netflix right now and watch the pilot episode. Straight shekinah glory. If you don’t have the time, you can watch the trailer here, but I strongly recommend you make time to watch the first episode. I’ll see you in forty-five minutes.

The story of FNL focuses on the small town of Dillon, Texas and its high school football team in all its glory. For better or worse, the town revolves around football, making gods out of its players and a place of worship out of its high school stadium. The series is full of characters who are consistently faced by their own demons; escaping generational cycles of uneducation, fatherly abandonment, the allure of significance and success in sports, physical tragedies, romantic infidelity, questions of identity and feeling lost, and the seemingly unquenchable desire to flee the small town of Dillon. Amidst this small town bubble of conflict, chaos and football, Coach Eric Taylor steps in. He is the proverbial rock of his family, team and community at large.

For me, Coach Taylor is so mythic, so legendary, that it is almost impossible to describe what makes him who he is. Anyone who has watched FNL before knows exactly what I am talking about. I beg your forgiveness for my feeble attempt at trying to describe “Coach.”

Coach Taylor is the hard-nosed coach figure that seems to be of a bygone era. He has no problem setting a fire under his players with some well peppered “motivational” talk. (You can check out some of his most powerful quotes here) He’ll let you know when you’ve messed up, and you’ll be better for it. His standards are high, and if they’re not met… well, there’s always next season. And by standards, I mean physical as well as moral. Character and integrity are not an afterthought of his athletes, they are an uncompromising expectation. Even with the immense pressure of having to win games in order to keep his job, Coach continues to cultivate an unwavering ethos of total excellence that lifts up everyone around him. And for many of the young men that play for him, that is just the kind of man that they need in their lives.

Coach is a father to many fatherless boys, both physically abandoned and emotionally neglected. The Art of Manliness perhaps said it best;

Coach Taylor loved to win football games. But watching the young players he coached mature and develop into good, strong men gave him even more satisfaction. Coach Taylor knew that many of his young players looked to him not only as a coach, but also as a mentor and father figure. Eric Taylor didn’t ask for that role, but he took it on because he understood that the greatest thing a man can do is leave behind a legacy of manliness by nurturing and fathering young men into manhood. (Brett and Kate McKay)

For some, Coach offered space on the couch when they had nowhere else to live. For others it was playing table tennis late into the night or throwing a football around out in the street. And for others still, it ranged from intense conversations calling them to step into their manhood or reverent silence as he stood next to them through their darkest moments. Any growth that these young men underwent is partially owed to the molding and shaping effect that Coach Taylor had in their lives. In fact, Tami Taylor (Coach’s’ wife) speaks this truth to him when she says, “You are a teacher first, and you are a molder of men.”

Speaking of which, one of the great successes of FNL is that I cannot talk about Coach Taylor without talking about his powerhouse wife, Tami Taylor. The guidance counselor at Dillon High and right arm to Coach, Tami is strong, passionate and focused. She keeps Coach in line and keeps him balanced in the decisions that he makes. Having two strong personalities in a marriage definitely makes for some very raw conflict between the Taylors, but both Eric and Tami are deeply committed to the marriage that they have. It is so refreshing to see marriage lifted up, realistically depicted and not bashed. It’s sad but it was almost shocking to see something so incredibly normal; a marriage of between a man and a woman who, though each flawed, have strengths in their own right and love each other deeply. For me, Coach Taylor represents a man committed to building a good marriage, even when it is not easy.

Consistently throughout the show, Coach Taylor is faced with situations that require him to dig deep and fall back on what he has committed himself too. He doesn’t always get it right, but more often than not, Coach Taylor is a man who refuses to abandon what he holds as deep convictions. His principles rise to the surface when pressured by the media, the school district and individuals of influence in the town and on the team. Ironically, Coach Taylor suffers some stretches of low public approval during his time as head coach of the Dillon Panthers. Often his decisions are second guessed and exploited by those that seek to cause him difficulty or get him fired. But popularity is not what he’s concerned with; it’s the integrity by which he coaches and the example he sets for others. In perhaps what is the greatest FNL quote, Coach Taylor says “Every man at some point in his life is gonna lose a battle. He’s gonna fight and he’s gonna lose. But what makes him a man, is that in the midst of that battle he does not lose himself.” Coach Taylor certainly lost many-a-battle, but he refused to lose himself. Resolving to live by one’s convictions regardless of the outcome or by what others’ think or by what is popular is in high demand these days, and one of the greatest lessons that Coach Taylor has taught me.

Though I hate to admit it, Coach Taylor is not real. But writing this post had me thinking about some real life coaches and mentors that helped me become the man I am today. The influence of others in my life has been immeasurable, and the following people are only the tip of the iceberg with regard to who has helped to mold me. Here are to the real Coach Taylors of my life.

Coach Larry Strothers – The first real Little League coach I ever had. I played for him on nine separate teams over the course of my time playing baseball. He taught me that being great at anything had to begin with doing what is right, playing with class, integrity and sportsmanship.

Coach John DeJager – My JV baseball coach in high school. No way around it; our team worshiped this mountain of a man. He taught me what it really meant to be part of a team, part of something bigger than yourself and to lay down your self interests for others.

Mr. Sean Cosgrove – USI & AP Government teacher in High School. He’s the reason why I became a history teacher. He taught me to be a free-thinker, to love the Constitution, to care about people, and to live passionately for something is in this life.

Dr. Stephen Bennett – My Old Testament professor at Nyack. He was foundational for my faith, helping to pull me closer to Jesus when I was far away. His Monday morning five-minute sermons did more for me than he will ever know.

Tim Binkele – Pastor of The River and my mentor for the last three years. Tim has helped me process an incredible amount of change and has continued to patiently listen and speak life into areas of my life that need it. He’s the kind of guy I want to be someday.

Nic Lines – Church planter moving from the UK to NYC. One of the most incredibly intentional people I know, Nic has taken precious time to speak prophetically into my life and to call out the good in me through great conversations and practical exercises. A genuine, life-giving friend who lifts up everyone around him.

In the final episode of FNL, one of my favorite extended scenes (I’ve watched it close to 300 times, no joke, ask Meg), occurs when Coach Taylor squats down next to one of the key players on his team. He looks him in the eyes and says, “You may never know how proud I am of you.” The player responds, meaning every word, “You changed my life Coach.” Those words were not only the admission of one young man in Dillon, Texas whose life was steered away from violence and delinquency. For many viewers, we would say the same thing. I can honestly say that Coach Taylor makes me want to be a better man. He has offered me an image of a loving husband, a strong mentor and a good man. He has caused me to want to live my life with clear eyes and with a full heart, so that I might never lose.

And so, though I may have never played a single game for Coach Taylor and never will, I can and will always say from the bottom of my heart, in honor of the “Kingmaker” and epic hero to tens of thousands…

Texas Forever.

*Note* This blog post was produced while listening to the Friday Night Lights soundtrack. I suggest reading this post while listening to the soundtrack, or a playlist compilation by Explosions in the Sky, who contributed heavily to the soundtrack.

*Note* Here is an easter egg I came across for FNL fans everywhere. Enjoy! 

*Next Hero* Born of German immigrants, this steadfast and humble athlete would earn himself the nickname “The Iron Horse”  

Photo by Sandro Schuh on Unsplash

Bobby’s World: Heroes – CS Lewis

I present to you Bobby’s World, monthly musings from the one and only Hubby!  Its been a while, but a few months ago he introduced us to his Hero series. Check it out here is you want a little refresher.


 

The Apostle to the Skeptics

If there was one person I could meet up with and have an hour long conversation over a cup of coffee, it would be C.S. Lewis.

Now, let me be clear. Lewis would be drinking tea, not coffee. His habit for smoking a pipe would be frowned upon by whatever local coffeeshop I suggested, and we would be thrown out. And he would probably reject the invitation of going out in the first place, unless it was to The Eagle and Child pub for a strong pint, poetry recitations and some story-telling.

If you have never heard of the great C.S. Lewis, you’re not alone. The Montclair Library has not heard of him either. However, you may be more familiar with his most popular mainstream piece of children’s literature, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe which is part of the larger fantasy series known as The Chronicles of Narnia.

I’m actually kind of glad that I don’t have the opportunity to meet Mr. Lewis, because I would lose my mind and probably fall apart in front of him, providing him with ample writing material for a small, foolish character in his next book (which upon second thought would be awesome). Think Leslie Knope meeting Joe Biden… then cube it. I have this guy’s poster in my classroom, his headshot reigns on both my school Google account and classroom Twitter account, I consistently Google search “cs lewis reenactments near me” and I have a pair of Narnia-character patterned pajamas. (Ok, I don’t actually have those pajamas, but only because they don’t exist… yet. I am not above that).

So how in the world am I going to sufficiently explain my admiration for a hero of such personal magnitude? The short answer: I’m not, because I can’t. But regardless, my hope is that you walk away knowing a bit more about me by knowing a bit more about Lewis, and that you learn a bit more about yourself.

Clive Staples Lewis was born in Ireland at the turn of the 20th century. Called “plain Jack” by his friends, Lewis was anything but ordinary, with his wild imagination and tall tales that he and his brother created in their childhood. His mother died when he was ten years old, and actually became an emotional source for his agnosticism and later atheism. His father shipped him off to England to receive a proper education through various boarding schools, and therefore we remember Lewis as being “English” when in actuality he was “Irish” and identified himself as such. He would never forgive his father for shipping him off to foreign England after his mother’s death, and their relationship would be somewhat estranged up to his father’s passing.

Lewis excelled in school and eventually landed himself a scholarship to Oxford, but was soon conscripted into the British army during WWI. He would be wounded on the frontline, which would lead to depression and homesickness, and Lewis would soon be discharged and sent back to Oxford. There, he flexed his intellectual muscle in philosophy, Greek and Latin literature, ancient history and general English. Noticeably gifted, he was hired in an adjunct role for a year at Oxford, and then offered a full-time position the following year. He would teach English Literature for the next 29 years as an Oxford Fellow and Tutor.

During his early years at Oxford, C. S. Lewis would develop friendships that would alter his life, namely J. R. R. Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. A devout Catholic, Tolkien would play a vital role in leading Lewis to becoming a Christian and developing an intellectually strong faith. Lewis would also enjoy the friendship and support of a literary circle known as the Inklings. A collective of fantasy authors, the Inklings would gather at the local pub every Tuesday to recite old poetry and read their own original work for collegial constructive criticism. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to have been surrounded by the likes of Lewis, Tolkien, Owen Barfield and Charles Williams, as they discussed ideas, told stories and debated concepts as a group of friends.

Lewis’ teaching career provided him the time and financial support to engage in his love of writing and storytelling. Though best known for his The Chronicles of Narnia series, which are a lot of fun and worth reading, Lewis cranked out a slew of strong works over the course of his life. Some of these include:

  • Screwtape Letters – A fictional story that centers around the one-sided conversation of an elder demon attempting to guide his demon nephew in how to lead a young man’s soul to damnation.

 

  • The Great Divorce – A fictional story about a busload of citizens from Hell who get to experience Heaven, and are quite surprised and sometimes upset by what they find.
  • The Space Trilogy – A powerful, Sci-Fi adventure tale makes the reader ask questions about mankind and human nature from the outside perspective from inhabitants of other planets.
  • Mere Christianity – Originally written for BBC radio broadcasts during WWII, these talks were converted into a book that discusses why Christianity makes sense and offers easy to understand apologetics for the skeptic to consider.

 

Perhaps one of Lewis’ shortest works, A Grief Observed, was one of his greatest triumphs. Originally released under a pseudonym, Lewis recorded his experiences and internal turmoil in the aftermath of his wife’s death. They had been married for roughly four years late in Lewis’ life, and her death came as quite a blow to Lewis. A Grief Observed chronicles his grief, his wrestling with God, and his process of coming to terms with his own selfishness and emotional needs. Ironically, some of Lewis’ friends suggested the book to him as a way of processing his loss, not knowing it was he who had written it.

Lewis lived a full life, and it came to an end on November 22, 1963, the same day of the Kennedy assassination. (Interesting fact though, Lewis was technically declared dead earlier that July when he passed into a coma on a hospital bed. He awoke to the surprise of his doctors, checked himself out and enjoyed some beers later that evening with friends).  

 

So why is this dead author my hero?

More than any other author I’ve read, I’ve always felt like C. S. Lewis “got me,” as if he knew me and was writing to me personally. It’s just something about his approach to writing that is so attractive and seems to connect with me. His logical arguments are presented through such palatable means: fairy tales, fictional stories and some of the most incredible analogies that make perfect sense. In fact, one of my favorite things about Lewis is that he has an extraordinary ability to take something complex and confusing, and explain it in such simple and clear terms. That has to be the teacher in Lewis, and our shared profession also probably makes me like him all the more.

I’m a bit embarrassed to say this, but if I am honest, I’m in awe of his intelligence and its influence on his faith. For better or worse, I’ve always been swayed and won over by the intelligentsia in the room, and C. S. Lewis takes the day. The man was brilliant, and he left a legacy that has supported a strong, reasonable faith. Nicknamed “the Apostle to the Skeptics,” he appeals to the common sense and reason of those who doubt or oppose God’s existence, and offers incredible insight and logic as to why they should reconsider their views, as he did. For a Christian, intuitive-thinker (NT) as myself, Lewis writes with a bold and powerful intellect, and ultimately champions a faith that is strong, reasonable and right. It was once said best…

“Lewis, perhaps more than any other twentieth century writer, forced those who listened to him and read his works to come to terms with their own philosophical presuppositions.”

But C. S. Lewis does not only appeal to the mind, but to the heart as well. At the end of the day, the strongest reason why Lewis is my hero is because whenever I read any of his works, it makes me want to love God more. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at Barnes & Noble reading one of his books and I have to put it down and say to Megan, “This guy makes me want to follow Jesus more closely.” Without fail, when I read Lewis, I am moved to love God more deeply, pray more often and live with greater awareness of eternity. Do you have a friend who, when you’re done hanging out with them, makes you want to be a better person or go achieve something great? For me, that is C. S. Lewis, and even reading just a quote of his has the effect of pushing me closer to Jesus Christ.

Speaking of quotes, Lewis is king. I would suggest perusing over here… at your own leisure just to see what I’m talking about. The guy sure can spit a strong one-liner. If you like what you see, I would recommend following some of his fan-based Twitter personalities.

Another suggested link that I stumbled across is a Youtube channel that is devoted to adding time-lapsed sketch art to readings of some of C. S. Lewis’ works. “CS Lewis Doodle is the title of the Youtube channel and it is incredibly helpful to see someone supplement Lewis’ words with engaging artwork. Nerd moment… I like to take my lunch break everyday at school by watching one of the videos while I eat. They’re short enough (10-15 minutes) that I can handle one or two as a great way to have a thinking, reflective and restful lunch. If you’re a Lewisian disciple, you need to check it out. If you’re not there yet, you need to check it out.

As I was thinking how to close this out, I felt it would be appropriate to quickly list and briefly highlight some other heroes of mine that I look up to for similar reasons as Lewis. Maybe you’ll be interested to check them out as well, or maybe you already look up to them!

  • J. R. R. Tolkien – Pioneer of medieval high-fantasy, Tolkien gifted the world with another world: Middle Earth. His works The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and a host of others really laid a great deal of foundation for the fantasy world. Game of Thrones owes him a nod of appreciation.
  • G. K. Chesterton – Famous Christian apologist and jack-of-all-trades with regard to academia, Chesterton gave the world his powerful work Orthodoxy and was the second voice that shaped Lewis, (Tolkien being the first). If you read Lewis, know that Lewis read Chesterton. (He was specifically shaped by The Everlasting Man).
  • Andrew Wilson – Teaching pastor at King’s Church in London. Introduced to me by a very close friend (to who I am eternally grateful!), Andrew Wilson essentially shaped and formed a great deal of my theology over the last three years through his sermons and writings on a blog that he contributes to; www.thinktheology.co.uk. Ridiculously bright, strong in reasoning, cordial in disagreement. And the only time I met him, he complimented Megan’s glasses. What a guy.
  • Jon Tyson – Lead pastor of Trinity Grace Church in NYC, the Australian native theologian and pastor is a recent addition to bright, humble, Christian thinkers that I look up to. He’s included here because of his genuine love of people and deep, nuanced thoughts on how to reach a city and a nation with God’s love. I’d recommend listening to his story at http://citycollective.org/podcast .

Who are your heroes? Who do you look up to? If you could sit down for a conversation with one person, who would it be? What do you think your choice says about you?

 

It is good to have heroes, and perhaps C. S. Lewis said it best when he wrote, “Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.”

 

*Next Hero Hint… This hero of mine married his high school sweetheart, currently resides in Philadelphia, and earned the nickname “The Kingmaker.”

Photo by Florian Klauer on Unsplash

Bobby’s World : Heroes



I present to you Bobby’s World, monthly musings from the one and only Hubby!  


A few weeks ago, a fellow teacher and I were talking about our upcoming field trip to Washington DC and inevitably got on the topic of Arlington cemetery, which led to further conversation on the D-Day invasion during WWII.

We were talking about what it must have been like to have been a soldier on that stormy morning of June 6th 1944. Perhaps you had volunteered after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Or maybe you had been drafted later as a replacement, as the death tolls rose higher and higher. Regardless of how you got there, you were crammed into a boat with other young men who were all asked by their country, future and present, to answer the highest call of citizenship; to defend their country and their freedom.

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The other teacher and I thought out loud, “What must have been going through their minds?” As the low rumble of the Higgins’ landing-craft motors churned through the high waters, I can imagine their hearts and minds trying to cope, sort and make sense of the barrage of emotions that were being thrown against them. Memories of home and loved ones far away, dreams of the lives they’d live if they returned home, silent prayers uttered to God above; all the while fear of death lingering in their thoughts and being stifled as deep down as possible. I’m sure many of them accepted what seemed to be the inevitable, and stared into the dark waters thinking of nothing at all.

And that fear of the “inevitable” was well warranted. The first wave at Omaha beach would endure a staggering 50% casualty rate, according to more conservative historians. Imagine for a moment, your life determined by the probability of flipping a coin.

It was in these young hands that our future hung in the balance. Many in their early twenties, and a few probably eighteen years old. What weight, what responsibility pressed upon that American youth who were asked to sacrifice their world for ours. Known as the “greatest generation,” it was not as much that they earned that title as it was simply who they were all along and displayed true greatness under such incredible pressure.

(One of my favorite post-rock songs written on behalf of the Greatest Generation. Instrumental.)

These men were heroes. They fulfilled Hemingway’s definition of courage as being “grace under pressure.” And such grace must be strong if it is to compel men forward across a half-mile of open beach under the hail storm of endless enemy fire.

This Memorial Day, I encourage you to remember those who have fallen on behalf of our nation, across our nation’s history and around the world. Personally, I like to close my eyes and think about the places that they went and the conditions that they faced. The frozen ground of Valley Forge and the rolling hills of Gettysburg. The fields of the Somme and the jungles of Vietnam. The forests surrounding Bastogne and the deserts of Iraq. The Chosin Reservoir of Korea, where my deceased neighbor Frank watched his entire platoon disappear in minutes. A small, unnamed village in Afghanistan where 1st Lt. Daren M. Hidalgo, my mentor and company captain at West Point, would pay “the last full measure of devotion.”

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This post is kicking off a series for my future monthly posts, appropriately titled “Hero Series.” Through these posts, I will be highlighting some personal heroes of mine (some real, some fictional) and calling out their character traits that I hope to model in my own life. While it is my hope that you may be introduced to some new heroes and to hear some interesting stories about the lives of some personal heroes of mine, the goal is that you would be inspired to think about your heroes and what it is about them that make you look up to them.

Who your heroes are says a great deal about you. It shows what impresses you, what you hold in high esteem, what you value and who you strive to be. I look forward to sharing my heroes with you over the next few months, and I hope you do the same with me.

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*Hero #1 Hint* My next post will focus on a person who was called “Plain Jack” growing up, Irish by birth, middle name was Staples, and died on the same day as the John F. Kennedy assassination. (No googling for the answer!)

Photo Credit

Bobby’s World: Let The Critic Come

I present to you (the officially nostalgically titled) Bobby’s World, monthly musings from the one and only Hubby!  


 

I love a good speech. Always have.

 

I can remember as a young boy (probably too young at the time), my brother and I watching Braveheart, pounding our chests and jumping up and down while reciting word-for-word the William Wallace “Freedom!” speech. If I’m being honest… I still do this.

 

Whether it’s fictional like Coach Taylor’s multitude of locker room pep talks on Friday Night Lights or Youtube playlists of presidential speeches, I am a sucker for being inspired by the spoken word that is wrapped with emotion and backed by passion. In a moment of complete vulnerability, I occasionally workout to hour-long montages of inspirational speeches from movies, motivational speakers and an Arnold Schwarzenegger commencement speech, all backed by absolutely terrible, yet wonderful, dramatic trailer music. I am unashamed.

 

However, with regard to speeches, I do have a personal all-time favorite. Today it is commonly known as “The Man in the Arena.”

 

Orated by President Theodore Roosevelt to an audience in France, this speech was officially titled as “Citizenship in a Republic.” In its entirety, Roosevelt’s speech is quite lengthy, though I do encourage reading it in its original form if you have an obscene amount of time to kill. However, the section of the speech that is most widely recognized today is only about a paragraph in length and deals with the fictitious character known as “the man in the arena.” If you don’t know the excerpt, you should definitely read it here first before continuing.

 

When I read that excerpt, I imagine TR leaning over the podium in France with his towering, bulky frame about to knock it over. He’s bellowing out each line and syllable with purpose and strength over a tired people and a stagnant nation. I can see the fire in his eyes and feel the courage seizing my heart. Here is a man who was once a sickly, asthmatic child who was near-sighted and far from his father’s pride and joy. A man who essentially remade himself, who literally beat his ailments out of his system with calisthenics and old-school lifting techniques. Here was a man who charged up San Juan Hill, who roughed it out West, and who stumbled into becoming one of the strongest presidents that the United States has ever boasted.

 

And here was that man’s advice; that credit belongs to those who live their lives passionately and take active risks regardless of success or failure, as compared to those who sit idly on the side and criticize the shortcomings of others.

 

Yes. Please.

 

But seriously, I’m fired up over here just thinking about what Teddy Roosevelt just said. It’s like he grabs you by the collar of your shirt, pulls you in real close and says, “Go. Be brave. Do something. Stop sitting around out of fear– of what other think of you, of what others say, of what might happen if you fail. Their voices don’t matter. What are you waiting for? Seize the day!”

 

Is there a more timely word for our world today? Doesn’t our culture love to point out “how strong men stumble” and “where the doer of deeds could have done them better?” Twitter and Facebook bristle with vehement opposition to anyone that shares their opinion and shames them into silence. News outlets feed off of the fear and anger of audiences fixated on waiting and watching for their political opponents to fall on their faces. Comedians jest and quip from afar and earn for themselves cheap laughter at the expense of others, all the while holding their hands up in defense, claiming sanctuary under the banners of sarcasm and humor.

 

If you are not convinced, just go watch any video on Youtube and then read the comments.

 

Worse yet, we have collectively found something “cool” about not being passionate. We have lifted up the attitude of ice-cool apathy to everything we happen to come into contact with. No band, movie or tv show can be enjoyed without first pointing at its imperfections. No diner or coffee shop can be praised without first pausing to make clear that the service was slow, the prices too high or the color of the walls just too 2014, (I still have no idea what that even means). “It was alright” is our automated response to whatever our latest experience just was, as if to protect ourselves from the very criticism that we are about to perpetuate.

 

When did this happen? When did we allow ourselves to be ruled by a prevailing paradigm of passionless apathy and “nothing is cool” attitude?

 

I cannot speak for you, but I know that this is not the life I want to live. This is not the rut of thinking that I want to enter. Life should be seized. It should be lived to the fullest everyday. It should be full of heart and passion. It should belong to the living and not the dead, the dying or the luke-warm.

 

I say to let the critic come. Let them come with their notepad and pen, ready to take notes at where we fail and fall short. Let the naysayer shake their head at the lives of action that we choose for ourselves and the mistakes that we make. Let the self-appointed experts, the pundits, the commentators — let them all come and sit outside our arenas and cheer as we fall, as we stumble, as we struggle to get back on our feet. Let all the world come against us and heap insults and criticisms upon our faults, our bad breaks and misfortunes, because at the end of the day we hold this one truth; it is our arena.

 

In the end, no can take from you the fact that you had the courage to climb between the ropes and throw yourself into the ring. You had the drive to start a business when no one else would. You mustered up the courage to have a conversation when others sat in silence. You leaped with faith to a new city when others watched from afar. You stepped forward when others shrunk back. You nailed your colors to the mast when others retreated.

 

This is what I want. To live by the mantra of the Dillon Panthers “Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose.” To echo the words of Robert the Bruce, “I don’t want to lose heart. I want to believe.” To tread ground with Walt Whitman’s pioneers. To carpe diem as was urged by Mr. Keating in Dead Poet’s Society. To “spend my life in a worthy cause” as Teddy Roosevelt proclaimed.

 

What will they say of us when our final chapters finish and our stories come to a close? Will those gathered around for the occassion use words like “timid” or “safe” or “coward.” Or will they tell stories about us with words like “brave” and “passionate” and “conviction.”

 

As for me, I choose the latter, so that I may never be with “those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

 

Let the critic come.