I've been doing some research lately about the "radical lawyer" and civil rights activist William Kunstler. He was a charismatic guy known for his controversial clients like Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, The Chicago 7 and Jack Rubey. I came across a great excerpt from his autobiography and also a clip of him giving a speech at a 1995 college graduation. Something he said in both of these struck me and I wanted to share it with you.
He was talking about the moments in his life when he had to decide whether or not to take on an unpopular cause or client. Then he mentioned Michelangelo's statue of David. He shared that he kept a picture of this particular statue of David near his desk in his law office. He explained how it is the only representation in art of David BEFORE he kills Goliath. All the rest - the paintings and Donatello's bronze statue - show David standing with the severed head of Goliath, AFTER he has already defeated the giant.
Kunstler said, "Michelangelo is saying, across these four centuries, that every person's life has a moment when you're thinking of doing something that will jeopardize yourself. And if you don't do it, no one will be the wiser that you even thought of it. So, it's easy to get out of it. And that's what David is doing right there. He's got the rock in the right hand, the sling over the left shoulder, and he's saying, "Do I dare, do I dare?"
"It is a moment that occurs often in my life. Every time I decide to take on a Larry Davis or a Yusef Salaam, I make a choice. While I'm hardly comparing myself to David, my choice is whether to take on the giant or to let it slide. No one will know. When I choose, I choose what I believe is the right thing, despite the odds against it. Over the years, my David moments have come more frequently. Do I dare? Do I dare? I usually do when I can take on the system or when I believe that a certain defendant won't get a fair trial... I hope many of you, or at least a significant few, will dare when the time comes, if it hasn't come already."
The next day after reading this, I had a conversation with my sweetie, Chris. He told me that he'd just experienced something similar the night before driving home late from a gig. There was a car in front of him that kept swerving into the break down lane and then across the double yellow lines. At first he thought they might be drifting because they were texting while driving - but the driving got much worse.
At that point - he had to make a decision. Do I call the cops and report a suspected drunk driver or just ignore it and go about my business? It didn't take him long to choose. After a mile, he called 911 and told them what he was witnessing.
The next day he got a thank you call from the police station. They'd found the driver, pulled them over and arrested them. Not only were they dangerously drunk and under the influence of drugs but they'd also had their baby in the car with them!
I read somewhere that - "Heroes, even humble ones, are ordinary people who overcome their fear to perform an act that is later regarded as heroic or courageous."
We are all going to have moments in our life (some big and some small) when we see something going on - at the grocery store, in someone's yard, in our community or even the larger world - that we know in our hearts isn't right. The question is - what are you going to do about it?
The Universe is giving us an opportunity to make a difference. A chance to gently intervene or boldly stand up for what we believe in. To speak up for those who have no voice. To right a wrong, to say no to a bully, to protect the Earth, to call the authorities about suspected domestic violence, an abused animal or neglected children.
These moments will not always offer easy choices. And they're not always going to be popular decisions. But when the time comes and you bear witness to a prejudice, an injustice or some other act of violence or cruelty - I hope that many of you, or at least a significant few, will dare.
When I first saw this I totally cracked up! I just adored little cartoon Tim, his red balloons and his spunky attitude.
Now, don't get me wrong - of course, we all want to be loved. Love is our true nature. But what I'm talking about here is not wasting your time and energy wanting to be liked by everyone.
If you keep looking outside of yourself for validation, if you keep wanting everyone to like you, understand you or celebrate you, you're going to be disappointed.
Somebody once told me that about 15% of people are just not going to like you. Maybe it's your Boston accent? Maybe you didn't invite them to a party back in junior high? Maybe there's something about you that makes them feel annoyed, jealous, angry, or whatever. Maybe they're kind of nuts? But at some point, the revelation comes - no matter what you say or do: They. Just. Don't. Like. You.
It took me a long time to learn this and accept it - but as I've gotten older and more comfortable in my own skin, this realization has actually become quite freeing to me.
Think about it. If 100% of people think you're the cat's meow - it may mean that you've become a professional people pleaser. Someone whose mastered the art of twisting and torquing yourself into whatever false version of "you" - you hope others will find most palatable. This game is not only super exhausting but also completely soul sucking. So not soothing.
In order to live authentically, you're going to have to be willing to take some risks and play big. In order to answer the call of your heart, you might have to color outside the lines, take the road less travelled and maybe just maybe, not fit in.
In order for you to be who God has intended you to be - to truly serve in the way that YOU were meant to serve, you just might have to write your story, speak your truth, start that project, share your gifts and shine kind of bright. This can cause the side effect of making others uncomfortable - which can lead to you not always being popular.
IF EVERYONE LIKES YOU, YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG.
On the other hand, if everyone has a problem with you - then it's important to check that out too. Slow down, get quiet, get real and take a good look at your thoughts, words and actions. Ask yourself some tough questions about how you interact and communicate with others. Search your heart and see if you're living your life from a place of Love or Fear. Consider this opportunity to get to know yourself a little better a gift.
At the end of the day, if you can take a look in the soul mirror and truly like the person you discover there - then take a glorious moment and rejoice in who you are. Grab yourself a handful of red balloons, accept that fact that not everyone's going to like you and like Tim - set yourself free!
CAN I GET AN AMEN?!
Sri Ramakrishna tells a great story about a venomous snake to illustrate my point about forbearance, nonviolence and inner strength.
One day, a poisonous snake that was terrorizing a small village was paid a visit by a holy man. The sage asked the snake to no longer attack or bite the local villagers. He said, "Please leave them alone."
The snake promised to be good and vowed that he would not bite or harm anyone. He became so passive and non-violent that he did nothing at all to defend himself when a group of young cowherds picked him up and started bashing him on the ground nearly killing him.
Later, when the holy man returned and saw the pitiable condition that the snake was in - he scolded the snake! He said, "What a shame. You don't know how to protect yourself. I asked you not to bite, but I did not forbid you to hiss! Why didn't you scare them away by hissing?"
My meditation teacher Easwaran says it like this, "We should alert our minds to be calm, to be compassionate, and if necessary, to face opposition firmly but tenderly." In other words, Don't Bite - But Hiss!
It's important to remember the difference between being kind and being a doormat. If someone is trying to walk all over you - don't lay down to make it easier for them. It does not help them or you to yield to their crappy behavior. Sometimes the most loving thing you can say to someone is "no".
We can learn to "hiss" calmly and with detachment. Inside we can be full of compassion but we must learn to stand firm and say no!
DO NO HARM (BUT TAKE NO SHIT).