A clenched power fist, Tom? On the holidays?? Are we at a Rage Against the Machine show, ready to start an Occupy San Diego protest? Didn’t your mom ever tell you ‘no politics at the dinner table?’ Ok, guilty as charged — but if you’ll indulge me off the bat, I promise that somewhere here lies the makings of what more learned men might call ‘a point’.
Shoot, I’m losing my audience already…(why did I have that red bull and vodka and shot of espresso before I started typing??). Ok, I need a quote….ahh, a rabbit out of a hat; this one ought to do just fine:
But he who dedicates himself to the duration of his life, to the house he builds, to the dignity of mankind, dedicates himself to the earth and reaps from it the harvest that sows its seed and sustains the world again and again.
(Boom — now I’ve got my game face on). The beautiful and quite apt words above are from Albert Camus’ appropriately titled essay, ‘The Rebel’. In that work, and in much of his life’s thinking, Camus dedicated himself to the overarching proposition that, despite man’s sometimes befuddling existence, and the often cumbersome predicaments put in his place, there is only one option at the end of the day: to rebel. You might rightly ask: Rebel against what, and for what purpose? Camus had his own litany of responses, both political and metaphysical in nature, but the takeaway of it is that in spite of much of the pain, frustration, and loss that living provides for us, this life simultaneously provides us the ability to rebel against those bumps in the road in order that all that is beautiful, sublime, and ineffable around us might again be revealed. It is a constant process, politically, socially, and personally, but by rebelling against those conditions that bring us tribulation, we can nonetheless reassert our humanity — and as an extension — know love.
Hence, the symbol above. Of course, like all symbols, it has been used widely and appropriated for sometimes divergent purposes. But in the examples that spring to my mind, the common thread of the clenched fist is the proposition that life means something: In 1968 the symbol was of two Black Americans on the podium of the Olympics, after winning gold and silver respectively, giving solidarity to their brothers and sisters denied full equality at home; in Serbia a decade ago the symbol was for the Resistance party, a group united in their attachment to nonviolence as an alternative to the barbarism of dictator Slobodan Milosevic; and in 2011, the symbol was taken up by many youths of the Arab world in their struggle for freedom and dignity after decades of neither.
I must admit an aspect of humility here. In none of the cases mentioned above was I ever directly affected by the trials at hand. But by dint of my own humanity and desire for what is good and just, I’ve felt it my duty to express my solidarity — to rebel.
So too is it in the case of our brother Tyler, who embodies, in all of its life-affirming manifestations, the call of the rebel. I watch the battle from afar, and can rightly claim no understanding of the experience per se, but as he moves — the only way that we positively can: forward — I am in turn moved to offer what humble solidarity there is of me to give, the kind which, as Tyler shows us, has the ability to change our world.
To come full circle, I leave with Mr. Camus again. In another great work of his, he re-imagined the Greek myth of Sisyphus. In the original tale, the King Sisyphus is punished by the gods for his sins by being forced for eternity to role a boulder up a hill — a task which invariably fails, occasioning the rock to roll down the hill…again, again, and again. But as Camus reminds us, therein lies the optimistic and beautiful take on the myth:
I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds one’s burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates… and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth…is neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night-filled mountain, in itself forms a world.
And so it is, in spite of the common struggle of individuals, we nonetheless have within us the ability, evidenced by Tyler and others, to stay calm and carry on, and in the process form the bonds of family and friendship which grant us that good stuff trifecta: faith, hope, and love, the greatest of which we all know.