Exhibit B: Abject Terror
What does it take to go against the world you've known up to this point? What does it take to commit your signature in black ink to a treasonous document? What does it take to risk your life on a principle and belief?
Every year I wake up on the 4th of July with these questions on my mind, and then I go watch fireworks and eat hot dogs and forget them until the next year. This Independence Day, however, I found myself remembering John Adams (NERD ALERT!), a longtime crush of IMS for his sincere passion and gruff humanity.
Here are several reasons Adams' conviction rings true to me even after the muffling of 200-odd years:
- He appreciates the full scope and magnitude of this decision. It's not a lark, but a real, serious endeavor. And Adams knows the repercussions aren't his alone to bear, but his children's as well.
- He recognizes the conflict will cost dearly in human lives and suffering. He is not blinded by glory or promise.
- He acknowledges his opponents, particularly John Dickinson of Pennsylvania. Adams knows his personal view is not universal, and he does not force it on others in the room.
- Nor does he sanitize or temper his belief to satisfy popular opinion. Instead, Adams stands in a room of his peers and says out loud, "All that I have, all that I am, and all that I hope in this life I am now ready to stake upon it. While I live, let me have a country -- a free country."
Eww. Itchy. If I have no immediate answer, does that mean I have no convictions? And even if I do answer in the relative anonymity of a blog post, would I have the courage to back it up when the army was at my door?
Either way, I have the liberty to even ask myself this question on my terms and answer with my beliefs because I live in a country secured by others' convictions, others' fears, and others' hopes. That's a powerful legacy, and I feel called to contribute to it, even if I'm not yet sure how.
Here again I look to Adams' words for support: "Where he foresees apocalypse, I see hope." I want to say this of myself -- which led to this prayer.
Prayer #171: Fear of Conviction
God who suffers no doubt, except at our hands:
Do we develop convictions to bulwark against our fears? Or do our fears cement convictions?
Do our future hopes give us purpose for the present? Or do present beliefs beget self-fulfilling prophecies?
Is it even worthwhile to question which chicken leads to what egg, or which virtuous or vicious cycle is in play?
Because whether we start from fear, or from hope, or from conviction, we soon discover the three are inextricable -- all bedrock layers that eventually form our principles.
Foment this perpetual rebellion in our cores, and let the values that best serve You rise to guide us.