Where were you four years ago today and where will you be in another four? Four years ago today, I can't tell you what was happening. I know. I just can't express it. Am I in a better place? In some respects, perhaps, but mostly, no--not really. Where will I be, then, four years from now? Well, that will be 2016. I'll be turning 45. I hope. I was about to say that I can't even imagine where I'll be, but that's not entirely true. I can imagine. Good. And bad.
Where will my family be? My friends? I don't know. It's like looking into a fog. Because, four years ago today, I imagined I'd be in a very different place. I imagined I'd be there with people who are no longer alive. I imagined so many things. And in looking backward, it's hard to see that so much happened that I could not imagine, believe...or even want. Looking ahead four years, what I want seems less relevant. It makes me believe that in the last four years, I have gotten old. Not older. But old.
I'm jaded now. It took 40 years, but it's happened. And I'm sorry for it. Sun Tzu would be proud. Prouder still if I took that change and used it to get the upper hand on my enemies. I love people who claim to have no enemies. Those deluded souls believe their own lies. I don't lie--not because I don't want to--but because I'm not very good at it. Terrible, in fact.
Sometimes though, I use hope to attempt to lie to myself. Yes, that means there's underlying fear. My humanity makes me vulnerable. Fear is to be expected. But courage isn't. And to my own detriment, I never fail in acting with a courageous heart. A good thing? Sun Tzu would disagree.
In the next four years, no matter what happens to my mind, my body, or my very life--I know I can accomplish at least one thing amidst the fog of the future: Continue to live as courageously as possible. I sometimes think cowardice would be easier. And it would be. So would apathy. But I can't pull it off. Any of it. I'm too honest.
Because of my honesty, I'm persecuted. A simple thorn can disable a lion. Honesty and courage do not success make. If you're honest, Sun Tzu disciples call you a liar--always turn the tables on your enemy before they can recognize you are not a friend. If you're courageous, Sun Tzu would recommend your enemy put that to the test. Will you pass the test? Of course you will. But the point of the test is to weaken you, not kill you. Weaken you to lessen your strength--your conviction. That is the real moment of victory. Once a lion is humbled, he will never roar as loudly again. There may be future battles, but the war is essentially over.
Your enemies are lucky, whoever they are--because while they devour from beneath you--life takes bites out of you from other angles.
It's a conundrum. Like the parent-child relationship. Doomed to be imperfect. Destined to lead to grief. And while you can't change your fate, you can change what you do in between. I can change what I do in between. Med school? Law school? Astrophysics? Or, the Great American Novel?
You can probably guess my first choice: The novel. A thinly veiled "fiction," but all writers write what they know. And so, I ask my enemies, who certainly read this blog as good disciples of Sun Tzu: What is it that I know?
Ah. Here's where the lion bites back.
The thorn will always hurt, but the skin will heal over it. The lion will learn to walk again.
There's now 20 minutes left in this last hour that will not repeat for another four years. What is important isn't where you are or where you are going. That sounds ludicrous, doesn't it? But it's entirely true. Getting ahead in human terms is a weak definition of evolution. What truly matters between today and the next February 29th is that, no matter what happens, you take the leap.
Leap! Keep your courage in your right hand, your heart in your left. Let honesty light on your tongue and nest there. Because in four years time, regardless of what you expected, if you leap--every, single day--you will not have any true regrets. Know why? Because Sun Tzu never actually fought in the Battle of Boju. He trained a harem, not soldiers. And do you know how? By bullying unarmed women, killing those who didn't comply. How noble.
Don't be like Sun Tzu. Leap. Leap into the next four years and measure their value by how much you value yourself, your integrity. For we are nothing without our integrity. Those without it may seem to be getting ahead--like Sun Tzu--but material gains are artificial. Your soul, however, isn't.
There is a choice. And when you make it, I hope you choose to LEAP.