What is change? Fighting for civil rights? Reclaiming one’s Native American culture? Buying a new car? A career?
As one gets older it gradually becomes apparent that change is less of a state of mind and more of a spectrum that encompasses the broad unfolding of one’s life here on planet earth. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the earth is in trouble, that things need to change. The million-dollar question is how do we as individuals affect the world around us in a way that actually matters.
Maybe the problem lies in the fact that it’s a million-dollar question. As a teenager, the idea of change sounds easy, because rebellion is an idea rather than a reality. Smoke, drink, have lots of sex, skip Political Science 101 for a day at the lake with your young beautiful friends. The problem with new idealistic eyes is that they haven’t yet seen the consequences of living in our current reality. Live long enough and eventually we all see unplanned pregnancies, STD’s, alcoholism, a fast-paced economy that’s fast replacing all of us with technology, age deteriorating livelihood. Reality makes life much harder to change.
As a rodeo cowboy in college a majority of the young cowboys I met only rode bucking animals because of some misplaced ideal of rebellion. Most of them were trying to get out of abusive homes, working in the oilfield, or simply trying to win the jackpot to pay child support. Unfortunately, none of us saw the outcome of our stupidity: death, broken necks, blood, tears, pain, medical bills. Ultimately the majority of us wound up right back where we started, only now bearing scars, and scars don’t signal anything except defeat. The world keeps spinning regardless. Thus change becomes more and more elusive as new eyes begin to age. Settling for reality by simply accepting one’s place in a pre-established social hierarchy ruled by Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Trump is just easier. Vast overpopulation and drones have made us all expendable, except the select few owning fast food and fracking corporations.
I’ll never forget my college years. College was one of the best parts of my life and not because a paper diploma magically elevated me to a state of being that was far above my less financially fortunate peers. Rather it allowed my new eyes to see the world for what it really was, teaching me the most important lesson of my life. That lesson was that earth is a big terrifying place that gobbles up people on a daily basis without so much as even shedding a tear. My professors taught me that as adults our greatest gift is that we are able to do whatever we want with our lives. Anyone can join an anti-Wall Street protest in Manhattan that blocks bridges and Subway stations that keep college kids like myself from making it to 9 a.m. drama class at the Union Square campus—or just as easily anyone can go to work in the oilfield shoveling out Frack sand tanks to pay for tuition like I did.
Perhaps you are beginning to see how arbitrary life is in an uncaring world that desperately needs change. I soaked up sociology and political science like a sponge, I was a master of debate with a grade point average of 4.0 but in the end, I realized that winning arguments can still lose debates like my buddy that dropped out of college to move to Denver to claim his sexual identity that later ended badly. You can use facts, yell, discuss, whatever, and still be unable to change another person’s mind. The only thing that college did for me that Denver didn’t do for my buddy was that my professors cared enough about my future to always help me get back up on my feet when I fell.
Mortality is the Achilles Heel of change. I think that’s why liberals are losing. Sure we had Obama, but we also had Sitting Bull at one point in history too. Great men whose life efforts were destroyed by single elections, which makes the idea of change a million-dollar question. Change doesn’t pay anything. You won’t make a million dollars fighting for change. So how can anyone afford to answer it? Truly loving someone doesn’t reward you in the same way that having sex to advance your career does; just like saving the environment doesn’t reward you in the same way that destroying it can. Our reality is ruled by social perception and dinging bells on Wall Street.
The only other reality to ever have existed was the Native American world, where nature provided an alternative, but mass extinction and logging have swept that away leaving us with an out-of-control economic empire. How do you fight for a reality was losing before you were even born? How do you champion as cause that has already been so badly defeated that it isn’t even strong enough to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office? How do you fight climate change when you need fossil fuel and iPhones to survive? Both of which are polluting our planet at rates not seen in millions of years.
The million-dollar question sucks, because its answer still eludes us. As I get older that answer becomes less apparent and more obscured as I watch young people at Trump rallies chanting with euphoric new eyes or as I see hate crimes against the LGBT community rise instead of decrease and witness friends give up. Just like a bucking horse the world has once again left me face down on the ground in agonizing pain that makes me want to never get up again.
Then for some unknown reason I get up for the hundred millionth time and fall in love with an amazing man who has given me the greatest most fulfilling years of my life—and I use my Outdoor Leadership Education skills to teach kids with new eyes how to ride horses and see the treasure of nature. Suddenly I see the world anew with the same eyes of my old liberal college professors, and just like them I too have realize that change may simply be reminding others just how incredibly wonderful life is. Perhaps the liberal affects the world by reminding the future why it’s worth saving, because the day that our species once again learns to care is the day that we shall see change.