Anyone else miss Gary Larson?
Has there been another artist who so successfully captured the wonky, haphazard choices, actions and dilemmas of creatures (including and especially the human beast) with such direct, honest hilarity?
This gem of Gary's from the early '80s has more to say now than it did when it was created. The choices are clear, nothing is hidden or restricted except inasmuch as it will take courage and a willingness to experiment and take a risk (the ultimate risk, as Larson has it for these legged-fish) in order to evolve.
In order to evolve, one must act.
Evolution lies in deciding not just to act, but to do so in a visible and integrity-driven manner in an environment laden with choices -- some good and many bad. These choices and our decision to choose can bring about the type of evolution that human beings are uniquely capable of enacting. We won't be intentionally growing gills, feathers or wings, but rather steering with our actions the very culture in which we breathe and the planet on which we are destined to act out this drama.
As I begin to gain perspective on this past year, I realize that I am much closer to where Larson's fish swim than standing victoriously above the prized baseball. I have met and been inspired by an amazing group of men and women in various fields -- including organic agriculture, energy conservation, healthcare strategy, and social justice -- and have written, spoke and advocated on behalf of their experiments. These are bold and brave souls who, even when they fail, command the utmost respect. But bravery alone will not get us from the sea to the ball if only a few are doing the experimenting.
I've learned during the course of this amazingly unpredictable year that the act of writing, speaking and advocating is useless without action. This action must be taken not only by me but also by those who have felt the pull of the same type of energy. We must be careful to not settle for ideas and networks of support. While important, what is the use of networking without actual work? Only by acting and engaging with these men and women have I been able to separate what works from what doesn't and figure out my path.
So I am conducting experiments every day. I've come to think of my life as a test lab in some ways. Maybe veteran-led hydroponic organic agriculture becomes a highly valuable job creator. Maybe the Veteran Job Corps led by retired USMC Maj. General Mel Spiese becomes a catalyst for better job training. Maybe my friend Liz Perez, Navy veteran and survivor of the USS Cole attack, figures out the formula for a solar power and wind energy grid that makes it a reality for America.
These are ongoing experiments and I am honored and excited to be in and around this culture as I continue to explore my own options and goals. Having recent travelled back to the eastern US after some much-needed sun-infused California-style living, I've noticed that summer is a good time to experiment and test out new ideas. In four-seasons climates, we prize the season for more free time, longer days and great weather. In southern California, I think they are prone to testing out more ideas and theories because summer is basically a year-round endeavor.
Geographical philosophy aside, I'm learning more and more every day about what it takes to lead and live in a grand experiment.
Perhaps to the chagrin of my great friends in the medical and research fields, I'm not tied completely to the idea of experimentation in the manner found in our beloved scientific method. This would require the results to be replicable and quantifiable. As I have learned by watching men and women strive to create and sustain life on a farm over the past several months, I know that some successes and failures can and will remain part of the Great Mystery even as we act and react to their effects on us.
What is more important is that we eschew the practices of secrecy, lies, and restricted choices to embrace visibility, integrity, and choice. And this is important for things as simple as gardening -- a truly radical act -- and as complicated as getting money out of politics -- something I'd like to see become as popular and doable as gardening.
Action matters. Experimenting matters. Integrity, visibility, and freedom of choice matter. I'm looking forward to continuing this work -- the most important of my life, I believe -- and hope you are out there exploring, experimenting, creating and evolving each day.