Saturday, November 3, 2012

Empowerment Is...

After talking late into the night on the phone with Jaques Derrida, one thing became very, very clear to me: "Stand By Me" is an amazing song to sing with your wife while organizing a massive cardboard-box full of papers, letters, drawings by your four-year-old, contracts, scribbled love notes on torn sheets of paper that also contain: grocery lists and various truck sketches.

The thing is: you get to the bottom of that cardboard box. And you've realize that two years of life have afforded tiny moments that contain so much inexplicable joy in their complete normality you would burst if you tried to pretend they were pretzel sticks (in order to stick them in your ears).

When Derrida finally had to go, I did what anyone in my situation would do: I called the towering great, Ms. Harper Lee. She'd know what to make of the tiny moments. She'd know--yes she would--what to make of the fact that the cracks of the past two years have afforded the greatest heights. She'd know--Ms. Lee! Ms. Lee! She would!--what to make of the fact that the absolute highest elation came in the absolute most common moments.

Ms. Lee listened. "Yes," she said, eventually.

Eventually, all things come to that yes, too. Eventually, the cracks that remind us where the boundaries of our dreams belong--well, they open up and if we stand (securely) and look over their edges, we see opportunity rather than dissolution.

It was three in the morning, but those cracks-cum-canyons had gotten me riveted. I knew what I had to do. I picked up the Magic Jack phone which my mother-in-law had so kindly sent our way, overseas, so that Jen and I could make calls back to the states.

Even though I hesitated, the hesitation didn't linger longer than a hesitant moment. Then, the hesitation fled (after hesitating, briefly) and my momentum and determination returned. I pushed the secret digits of the secret number that had been secretly sent to me from a secret, unnamed source.

"Hello?" President Barack Obama intoned.

"It's time," I said, knowing full well that the secret which had covertly connected us in this moment in time would indescribably decipher itself and make the purpose of the Magic Jack phone call clear.

It did.

"Empowerment is finding that the cracks aren't terrifying; they're merely invitations, Lukester," the president said, his voice cracking with that subtle kind of confidence that only comes when you've walked down the canyons of your own life.

Hanging up the phone (non-hesitantly), Jen and I looked at one another. "I Got You Babe" by Sonny and Cher blared, and we sang along. But while we sang along, we also stared into the bottom of that cardboard box. Scattered around us everywhere in the room lay the normal mementos of everyday life for us--To Do Lists with items like Freeze or Use Cabbage and Herbs, and Princesses Tyler had colored in, and letters from friends, and love notes scribbled (yes) on grocery-list halves.

And while we sang, Jen and I silently sent this sentence backwards and forwards between us: empowerment is letting the cracks sometimes pull us apart enough so that we're no longer afraid of the canyons we encounter. 

We tried singing that sentence to the rhythm of "Stand By Me" and "I Got You Babe" but the syllable-count didn't quite match up. The next time I chat with Derrida, Lee, or Obama, I'll get some advice on what to do about that dilemma.

Until then, some deferred wisdom from them--albeit via me--to you: empowerment isn't seeking to evade the cracks of normality that fill life. Empowerment is relishing the normal moments so much that they become the stuff of dreams.