Sometimes the world does things it’s not supposed to do and we quickly chalk it up to anomolies. Aberations. Freaks of nature.
But why this rush to dismiss as opposed to learn. To marvel. To seek epiphanies from the extraordinary. To draw connections to our own lives.
This synthesis is where true breakthroughs emerge.
One August, early in the month, I went for an evening walk outside my ski home in Vermont and walked headlong into a mini blizzard. The daytime had been in the 80’s, I had been floating on a pristine lake under a gem blue sky, and then only hours later, instant Christmas.
It didn’t last long. But it lasted forever. Because it made me think. It made a lasting impression on me. And I have never forgotten the lesson it taught me nor fully understood what I learned. And I never will fully grasp it. And I believe that is wonderful because I keep thinking about the “wisdom” I gleaned from it and applying what I am able to understand to my life. My life’s work.
I have witnessed extraordinary things. Space ships launched from earth in a fiery crescendo. A total eclipse of the sun. The birth of my children. The death of the typewriter.
But these were more or less expected. That flash of frozen powder on a summer’s day, well that was an event of another kind.
Conventional thinking says that these forces of nature remind us of how small we are in the cosmic scope of things. I believe the opposite is true: they reveal how much elasticity there is in the universe and how big we CAN
It all depends on how we want to absorb and respond to what we learn. Every time someone has an ephiphany that changes the way we do business, it is a snow storm in August. Without these flashes of the unexpected, of the random and courageous movement in new directions, we stagnate.
When I first entered the workforce, women were furniture. I found it insulting and distasteful that every man with a mid-manager title and above, had a woman to pour his coffee and answer his phones. That she might have been infinitely smarter than him seemed to be irrelevant to the social order. Then gradually at first, followed by increasing velocity and intensity, people braver than I said “No more.” In changing the rules of the game, they not only provided equality, they turned the switch on for half of the brains in our nation and allowed our society to take a massive leap forward in collective intelligence.
It all began with a snowstorm in August. One woman would no longer put up with it– and she acted. These jolts to the system, these events that occur out of nowhere, don’t reveal how small we are in the scheme of things. They create bridges to profound and perpetual progress.
When I was in high school, I went to an out of control New Year’s party held at the home of the star quaterback. Somehow, in the midst of the alcholic haze, we all recognized for the FIRST time that something was terribly wrong with our until- then perfect friend.
I don’t recall all of the details, but he’d been struck down by lukemia and less than three months later that group of us that had never witnessed anything tragic before in our lives, held each other as they tossed earth on his coffin
at a cemetery on Long Island.
Each of us were changed by that event. I saw it with my own eyes. I felt it in my heart. We didn’t expect it, we couldn’t shake it and we saw it as a clarion call to be better than we were when we were carefree children about to navigate that wide, neon and yet invisible line you cross on the way to the reality
A year later, I was walking across the parking lot of my college on a raw and bleak winter’s day. I was thinking of the funeral. I was wondering how something like that could come out of nowhere and strike with such a vengeance.
And then I made a promise to myself I have always tried to live up to:
“I will never allow myself to be ordinary.”
Others will judge if I have succeeded. What I do know is that I have been changed, driven, excited, exhilerated and grown by the snowstorms of August that have rolled through my wonderful life.