I have changed the world on many occasions, more often than not unintentionally and not very positively. But there have been times when I got it right, and those epehemeral instances can be strung together to constitute my personal sense of grace, my private redemption. I realized today talking to some young dreamers in my office that they too will change the world, but probably not the way they will intend to, but most likely in positive ways. I am not a big fan of the butterfly effect, or other whimsical six degree of separation serenades to the synchronicity of synecdotal gestures. The world got bigger and bigger for me for a long time before it returned, small and far less significant. My world now is a fictive variation of individual thoughts, kinesics, and impulsive communions with people thinking they are flowing in a coordinated, cohesive lebenswelt leading somewhere where sense and intent finally culminate in a crescendo of identity and purpose. My identity and purpose are reified and consummated a hundred times a day in the simple acts I learned as a child, once I washed and freed them from my education from books and pithy mentors. Simple acts, simple declarations against the continuity of time and contiguity of decorum and the calculated inculcation of those wiser and ultimately more cynical than I.
I acquired this sense of a brief and terse recurring universes from the two women above, although it took me a long time to put it together. For a while, I held them as contradictions, even writing a letter to the editor of the Chicago Sun Times to the effect. I contrasted their lives and deaths, equating the difference to a fundamental divide in the American psyche of benevolence - Where most of us have the lottery kind of kindness, fantasizing about winning a large sum of money then making grand gestures of philanthropy, instead of an unyielding series of small mercies practiced over a lifetime. I was alluding to Princess Diana's charity work after having been born into affluence and subsequently launched into influence, and Mother Teresa's humble succession of hugs and comfort. As usual though, I was wrong.
I look back now at Diana's grace and demeanor, and I realize that was the manifestation of her humanity, not some sort of penance for prosperity. I think she understood the sanctity of the moment, that the instant shared between two people no matter the disparity of station or providence, was a lifetime in and of itself, and the concentrated love and reverence passed between was genuine and eternally refreshed in the forgiveness of another juxtaposition. I didn't see that then, but I do now.
I played basketball today with a friend in the school gym. We invited two students to play with us who were shooting baskets as well. One was very small and told me he would like to but that he was visually impaired and we probably wouldn't want him. I told him nonsense and invited him over and to be on my team. We played hard and Mike (he was a 20 year old student majoring in video game development I think) did his best to keep up. He was almost totally blind, but could see shapes. He guarded his opponent voraciously, and when he went after a ball or tried to dribble it, he usually lost his balance, spun around almost comically and fell down. Each time he crashed, we both laughed, and he would scramble to his feet to continue his pursuit of the ball and his adversary. We didn't win but we did ok. And each time I made a basket or he got a rebound, we would bump fists just like two NBA superstars. For forty five minutes, we changed each other's worlds moment by moment, tumble by tumble, basket by basket, laugh by laugh, rebound by rebound, smile by smile.
There it is, the culmination of my career, my life, in a basketball game today, a tutoring session next week, a chance encounter in the check out line of the cafeteria next month, or a small argument over the best kanafa in Jordan next January. So yes the projects and presentations and awards are nice, but the prospect of ten thousand more instances of grace excite the heck out of me, truly.