Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Stick Kick

Last weekend at the beach, I watched a child run up to a stick propped up in the sand and knock it over. Someone had taken the time to drag this large piece of driftwood up on to a flat part of the shore and stand it upright. It stood nearly six feet and would have taken two hands to lift it into that position. Now this six or seven year old, his family trudging ahead of him trying to find a place to sit, kicked it over with one swift kick, smiled over his work and then hopped ahead to catch up with his family as they planted their coolers and towels in the sand.Why in the world did he do that? I wondered out loud. 
As I sat in my beach chair, my brain immediately went to the easy answers:
Because he is a boy and he has to do something with all that testosterone. (Farrah Feminist)
Because he is a spoiled brat.  Probably allowed to do whatever he wants. (Sarah Cynical)
Because just like the rest of us, he has a fallen nature. (Sarah Cynical's older sister, Susie, who went to seminary.)
Because he can. (Rachel Realist)
I wasn't sure which answer I wanted to go with, but I was leaning toward Farrah's response.Then later on that week I heard something on the radio about why people cut themselves, you know people who drag a razor blade or other sharp object along their skin, making themselves bleed for no apparent reason, the ones we will typically call "cutters"?
The psychologist said because it helps them feel ALIVE.
The pain tells me I exist. 
I have control over this red line I am etching into my skin.
I am really here. See? Look at my arms.  
I bleed, therefore I am.
And I thought of that little boy on the beach.
And the graffiti taggers.
And the gangsters.
And the American Idol contestants.
And the obnoxious folks at work.
And me.
We all just want to matter.
We want our lives to count for something.
We want to show our strength, our vitality, our ability- even if it means we have to kick, scrape, tag, or be destructive...
To know we are alive.
Because we feel like in those moments, we can take just a little bit of the power back from what feels like fate.
We can assert our existence. Tell mother nature to back off. Play god.
Why is it so important to feel alive -to feel like our life matters? Why is there so much shooting, tagging, cutting, yelling, blogging, building, creating and stick-kicking going on?
Because we were created with a purpose. We DO matter. We just don't always know why or to who. So we flail about in our desperation to be loved and needed and to make our mark and sometimes, we get a little desperate and we hurt ourselves or others.
OK, so maybe that just sounds like psychobabble. Or way too simple. But I really believe it. I see it all around me and I feel it inside me as well.
That is why LEGACY is so powerful. People want to do something that is going to last, something that will matter past today. They want to create a piece of art that will be admired for generations.They want their name on a building. They want a foundation named after them. They want their music to be relevant to their great grand-children's grand children. They want to be in the history books. That's why we have Hall of Fames, Walk of Fames, Wax Museums, and Guinness World Record Books to record the tallest man that ever lived and the most hot-dogs eaten in one sitting. Who cares?
We do.
And so when I saw that little boy kick the stick - destroy someone else's work, even though there was really no harm in it, it made me a tad upset. Someone took the time to set that stick up, to make it look like a tree without leaves growing out of the sand. Junior had no appreciation for how cool that thing looked. He just wanted it gone. He asserted what little power he had in his toddler leg and took it out with one kick. His smile said, "I did that. Mom may have made me clean my room this morning, but gosh darn it, look what control I have over my own leg, my own life, that big, tall stick. I'm alive! I matter!" (OK, so he didn't exactly think that. If he had he would be in the Children's Hall of Fame for "Most Precociously Philosophical Boy Under Ten.") I wanted to chalk up his kick solely to testosterone or bad behavior, but now, I see it differently. 
I imagine this little boy is going to do a lot of things to try and "matter"--to carve out his own little space in the world. He is going to look to others for approval. He's going to want someone to notice that he has great eyes, or athletic ability, artistic talent or strength, and he is going to assert it over and over until someone does. If no one notices when he kicks the stick, he might try something else. Like disappearing. Not literally, but disappearing into his room, his own world, through a book or a bottle of alcohol,or maybe he'll try standing out - making a name for himself with the taggers or the bangers or maybe the college bound Ivy Leaguers, politicians or religious folks -- something, anyone - because he wants to know that he is not just one more person taking up space on this already overcrowded planet. He wants to know that even though there are many, many footprints in the sand on this beach, that his lead right up to this giant stick propped up in the sand and it was his foot, his tiny, but mighty foot that sent this stick back to the ground where it belonged.

I did that! He will flex his bicep.
I do matter! He will jab his thumb into his chest.
I am alive! He will throw his arms up into the air.

And God will respond: 
Yes, you do, my son. 
You do matter. 
I made you, therefore you matter. 
And I have something very important for you to do:
Tell others they matter.
Tell them they are loved.Tell them they don't have to kick over a stick for me to notice them. I made them. I know them. I love them.
Tell them that all that talent, energy, and compulsion to do something that matters is natural. Perfectly natural. In fact, I put it there. Yes, the Creator created creators. I want you to do things that matter. I want you to build, to draw, to paint, to write, to lift, move, grow, run, lead, teach, laugh loudly and love passionately. I put all that desire to matter, to thrive, inside you because you will need it. You will need it as you go out into the world, as you move through it, in order to accomplish what I have put you here to do. You will need it to inspire others. To love others. To lead others to me so they, too, can understand why they are here, why they are alive.
Yes, you are alive. You matter.
Now put the stick back you little brat.

-Hope A. Horner, 2013
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