I was driving between Dongara and Geraldton in the Midwest and from the highway at 110km/hr I glanced at the pasture on my left. Among a large flock of sheep, I saw a lamb aglow in the setting sun. I could not pull over fast enough. It was several hundred metres away but I was able to zoom in. I didn’t see the bird until I uploaded the picture to the bigger computer screen. At that time I thought some encounters are serendipitous. I’ve come to believe all encounters have the same impact if we see them as such.
There have been many people who have come into my life and continue to do so on a daily basis. Sometimes, they give me more than I give them. In the end, life looks after the score sheet. One person is worth remembering today.
I was an undergraduate student. It was a busy time with work, study and children. I had a major essay due and submission deadline was looming. I worked through the night. As was my style, I always had more references than I needed. I always wanted to read wider and present a better argument. After all, that is what is expected of a student who aimed for a place in the postgraduate program. I never lost sight of that goal. I came across an article about a man who wrote about his life and experiences of the mental health system in the US. He came from a well established family in New York and although he had a successful business he yearned for something else. He became a vegan and started looking more closely at the tenets of different religions to find meaning. The shift in this New Yorker was unsettling for his parents. They committed him to be evaluated by mental health professionals. He ended up undergoing the most draconian ‘therapy’ for years. It should have destroyed his spirit. He came out, a warrior.
I did not sleep that night. I could not. I noticed his contact address was not affiliated with any university even though the article was in a peer reviewed journal. I called international directory and got his phone number. I had to talk to him. It was 4 am in Perth. The children were asleep. The home was silent except for the sound of my breathing. I dialled his number. It did not ring but went to his “hello” immediately. I fumbled for words as I tried to tell him who I was and why I called. He listened patiently. We spoke for over an hour. It was the start of a wonderful friendship.
My friend taught me about love, tolerance and understanding. Although he never married or had children, he valued all of those things. He helped me value what was in my life and more importantly, what wasn’t in my life at that time. He introduced me to the work of Joseph Campbell (among others) and it helped me let go of what I wanted and accept what I had. What I had was an opportunity. I had the opportunity to educate myself. So I did.
He also taught me outrage was an appropriate response when people, governments, situations cross the line of human dignity. Yes, outrage! The quote of Edmund Burke “The only good thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” was one that guided my spirit every day. Yes, outrage is a necessary part of change. I completed my postgraduate degree in a controversial area of study. Outrage, fuelled me. Years later I met my friend face to face. He was in the audience when I presented the findings of my thesis. I realised in that moment, there is no better feeling, than an audience of one.
There is a difference between outrage and anger. Anger destroys the spirit. Outrage is a change agent.
I want to live in a world that is outraged.
Until next time
a dawn bird