One of my mentors in college was an orphan who grew up to be a man everyone respected.
On a shelf in his office was a brick from the orphanage he lived in – he went to save one when they tore the building down. He'd touch it each morning as he walked into the office, a way to remember he was taken care of so he’d be pushed to take care of others.
One afternoon we were talking about films and stories (in his 20’s, he sold a screenplay that was made into a film with Jane Fonda) and he told me about a time he and a friend hopped a freight train to go west. He tried to cover his ass by saying, Now I'm not advising you do this, railways were a lot safer back then – but after that was out of the way, he told me about the ride. About the world moving by outside the boxcar: the watercolor forests bleeding together and the streaking lights of small towns lining darkness as wild wind rushed into the moving compartment.
I forget exactly how far he traveled or for how long, but I'll never forget the flare in his eyes when he remembered the risk he took. He then told me there are only so many young risks we have available to us (Then he re-warned me about the danger of railroads).
I’ve observed how easy it is to pull away from risk – to let the world spin in spite of us as we pace forward with no presence of the fastbreath which always seems to accompany something frightening.
I think, every once in a while, we're obligated to find a way to couple ourselves to a railcar and dusty our feet in the track ballast as we join the forward moving things of the world. I think we’re supposed board something new with blood humming in our veins like steam discharging through the blastpipe – to live a few days uncomfortably on the planks of a box car listening to the grinding of moving weight.
Often, it’s the fear of beginning that stops us. We get tied up in the mechanics of commencing something new and buckle under fear and choose to do absolutely nothing.
It is possible to begin something difficult, I believe. Many times, we try to emulate those who have the innate ability to start – to initiate. But I think it's easier to press forward when we force ourselves into a risk. When we commit to an idea already in motion – a movement underway.
Or, perhaps we set it underway ourselves –
some early morning, maybe we refuse to perform the proper servicing, don't check the gauges and don't calibrate. We just pull the lever and go – knowing we'll figure it out as the speed increases.
Because we must.
Sometimes action only comes from blind risk and the choice to move forward.
The quality of life increases so as to mirror the frequency of risks taken.