Thursday, February 02, 2017
You Didn't Build That
I didn't catch the whole speech, but I knew what Obama meant when he said, "You didn't build that." I heard different parts of his speech at other times, mostly not in a favorable way. It was Obama after all. But I knew what he meant from the first minute I heard the words. I wasn't going to comment on it, negatively or positively. There was no need. The Left and the Right were already commenting, oftentimes in a nasty manner. The Obama Choir was in full voice shouting down the Tea Party clamor. They didn't need my two cents. After all, what did it matter anyway? I'm one person and very little I say matters even when I want what I say to matter. I am forgettable and indistinguishable from the background noise. My one voice will make no difference. Since I avoid pointless battles, I felt secure in my decision to keep my words and my thoughts to myself.
I was wrong. I was ignorant.
Whether I said the words out loud or not, the very thought and my reluctance to join the clamor did matter. They still matter and not just because I'm writing them down to send out into the cyber void. They always mattered because my thoughts, like my unspoken words, are real. They have weight. They make a difference.
They make ripples.
And here come the shouts and name-calling from the opposition. There is always opposition, except in story books where good triumphs over bad. Those stories where good triumphs also cause ripples when the author thinks about the story, puts the words together, types them onto paper or creates them on a screen and sends them into the virtual world, and every single time someone reads the story and laughs or cries or stops to wonder what it all means. Those first ripples create more ripples and each ripple creates ripples and the ripples keep spreading out and out -- and in and in -- forever.
Nothing goes on forever you say. You probably believe in forever after and eternity and the vastness of God or Allah or whatever name you give to the Infinite All the created everything. That created you and even me. Everything goes on forever.
That is what Obama was saying . . . badly . . . but he did say it. Nothing you create is yours alone. It is the result of everyone who helped you make your vision a reality, from your parents to your teachers to your friends and community to your banker, the workers, and the men and women who helped make your creation a reality. It doesn't stop there. The ripples keep going to the people who advertise your work by talking about it, by putting together a marketing campaign, and by continuing to raise awareness of your work by keeping the words flowing. Every person who buys or appreciates your work, long after you are dead and gone, create ripples that create ripples that keep creating ripples. Then, long after you are gone someone will find your work dusty and covered with cobwebs or see an newspaper write-up or read about it in a book, hear about it from someone who knew you when you were putting it all together, and so on and so on and so on forever. Whether in memory or in use, that initial thought you believed was yours was a single ripple in an infinite pond, something you built in your dreams others helped you make tangible reality, helped you build that.
Okay, so I used a whole lot more words than Obama, but the message is the same. You had help to build whatever. You did not build that alone.
Nothing we do, even when we think we do nothing, is ever done alone. No, I'm not talking about the people that believe that God (or Allah or Mohamet or Baal or Lucifer or whoever/whatever) is the author of all. He/She/It is not the all. Nor are you or me or some nameless someone down the road out of sight.
A little too religious, holy . . . forgettable for you? You don't go for all that self-righteous, mumbo-jumbo, airy-fairy, New Age crap. Does it make you nervous? Anxious? Frightened? What if . . . ?
Obama wasn't the first to create "You didn't build that." Millions of people did that long before Obama's time came up with the same idea. Obama built on someone else's words, someone else's thoughts, someone else's ideas. He did not build that. He had help -- a lot of help standing on the shoulders of others. The words might have been a political slogan, a lesson to a child, an explanation of so much more than just the words, the teachings of a priest, a leader, a father, a mother, or a friend. All that is happening has happened before, many times before. I'll bet you've heard or read that as well. It's true and here is where it gets uncomfortable for some of you.
We are all connected. We are ripples in the stream of time and consciousness forming, colliding, ricocheting off each other to create more ripples creating more ripples -- forever. Everything we do affects everything else. Describe it in scientific terms, refine it until it can be expressed in an equation as simple as E=mc2. No matter which way it come out every thought, every word, every action, every inaction, everything affects everything else.
From the beautiful and sublime to the frightening and ugly, it's all connected. It's not just you and it's not just me or her or him or them. We are all connected.
In simplest and graphic terms, what ripples you make affect everything and everyone around you. You pick up a dropped spoon or pencil and put it on the table or give it back to the person who dropped it. Ripples. Someone finds the spoon on the table or the pencil dropper smiles and thanks you. Ripples. The spoon dropper in a moment of irritation throws the spoon against the wall or the floor or through an open door and hits the boss when she walks past while the pencil dropper notices the pencil is broken and screams at you for breaking their pencil that they can no longer use because they don't have a sharpener. "It's your fault!" they scream at you, spit spraying your face. Ripples. What you do next will either make things worse or make them better. Ripples.
The ripple effect is the same as the butterfly effect. The only difference is the way the effect is illustrated.
Whether or not I added my voice to the clamor when Obama spoke those words, "You didn't build that!" I created ripples. I affected someone or something even though I kept my words to myself. The thoughts I kept to myself had as much effect as those unspoken words and how much of a ripple I caused is determined by my emotions. I dismissed Obama's words out of hand. It didn't matter. He didn't matter because people would still see and feel the same way because Obama said the words. I didn't care. No matter. I still created ripples. I still had an effect whether I knew it or not. Ignorance is no excuse.
And here is where it gets scary.
All those unspoken thoughts, all those hidden dreams and fantasies, all those secrets you swore to keep to yourself, every random angry thought, all those times you wished someone harm or worse, all those thoughts floating out there in the void you were sure were locked in some hidden corner of your mind are ripples.
Every fish, insect, and species living under the water, no matter how deep, create ripples. You may not see them on the surface, but the ripples are there all the same. So are all those thoughts, secrets, fantasies, and emotions hidden beneath your surface. Think of the ripples created by all that life below the surface of the pond. It doesn't matter how big the pond is, even if the pond is as vast as the seven seas or the world's oceans, there are ripples from all the sea life from the deepest depths to the sea life close to the surface where their movements are not visible to the eye, your eye. Ripples.
Yes, that butterfly in Brazil can create a tornado in Texas -- and here's the kicker -- as long as the butterfly in Kathmandu doesn't get in the way.
No matter what Obama intended when he spoke those words, "You didn't build it!" that is not sound byte remains. What remains is Obama taking away the pride someone feels when their dream becomes a reality. Obama trampled on their dreams, turned an accomplishment to nothing more than trash that will end up in a landfill. My silence, my unwillingness to speak, my ignorance changed the effect those words could have had. My choice to refuse to add my words and my voice to the clamor made a difference. My ignorance is no excuse. I knew what Obama meant and said nothing.
This butterfly in Colorado contributed to the forced that made something meant to be positive, to be inclusive, into a weapon and a joke.
That is all. Disperse.