“I wanna dance the tango with chance
I wanna ride on the wire
Cuz nothing gets done with dust in your gun…
I wanna know where children would go
If they never learnt to be cool
Cuz nothing’s achieved when pushed up a sleeve
Till nobody thinks you’re a fool
So goodbye for a while I’m out to learn more
About who I really was before
Yeah I’m going north…”
I find Missy Higgins’ lyrics to be incredibly poignant and insightful. She captures a desperate longing in my own heart. I want to step out and take chances. I don’t want to hide for fear that I’ll look like a fool. I want to discover what I would have looked like had I never learned what it meant to be cool.
Teddy Roosevelt stated, “…The credit belongs to the man in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly…who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who have never known neither victory nor defeat.”
Roosevelt captures the essence of the Hollowmen in T.S. Eliot’s poem of the same name. Eliot describes these hollowmen standing on the shore of the Tulmud river awaiting their fate. In accordance with greek mythology this is their destiny, their place in hell because they did neither right nor wrong. They did nothing. “Between the idea /And the reality /Between the motion /And the act /Falls the Shadow /…This is the way the world ends /Not with a bang but a whimper.” For those that fail to act, and fail to take risks their lives flicker out like a candle. They are forever caught in the shadow between their dreams, their desires and actually acting upon them.
There is a scene in the movie Instinct with Anthony Hopkins and Cuba Gooding Jr. where Hopkins throws open a cage in which a five hundred pound gorilla sits. Gooding gets very nervous and tells Hopkins to shut the cage. He calmly responds, “You see? Even if he can. Not far from here is a fence, and on the other side of that fence is freedom, and he can smell it. He’ll never try to get there,’cause he’s given up. By now he thinks freedom is something he dreamed.”
The cage door is wide open, yet we find ourselves sitting in it. We are victims of learned helplessness and fear of failure.
But what of the adventure? What of the person Roosevelt talks about- win or lose, that person lived. The victory isn’t in our success or failure, it’s in our efforts to live, to fight, to embrace the challenges before us. That is what life is all about.
“The tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he lives.” Albert Schweitzer
*Personal Note: please forgive the use of “man” in these quotes, these men were enlightened, but not in all areas.