Recently I’ve been re-reading an old college favorite: Adrienne Rich's "Of Woman Born." In it, she writes how unreasonable it is for one person, or even two people, to be entirely responsible for the entire alpha-to-omega existence of a child, or children. What they need is so much more than any one or two people can give them. And then a mother is stressed, too much demand is put on her time and attention, and she turns on her own children and her partner. As Rich says, the mistake of the mother is in thinking that it is the children themselves, or as I like to add, the husband himself, who is to blame for her upset. When, in fact, the upset is a product of external circumstances which are so taken for granted as to be nearly invisible.
Contrary to what I've heard, rather than becoming more conservative in my old age, I am getting re-radicalized. And it makes me nervous. The deeper I get into my new commitments to surfing, reading, writing, thinking and feeling, the more vulnerable and out of my comfort zone I feel. I am always comfortable if I can be logical and “safe,” if I can repeat what someone else has said, regardless of how provocative - and if I can stay detached from what I am saying.
But when I begin to care, really care - as if what I think and say makes a difference - I feel like a target. I remember being in college, caring so much about my ideas, and getting into debates with boys that felt so mean-spirited. Boys I liked - not romantically, but whom I enjoyed – would, I felt, turn against me in debate when I was passionate. Because a passionate me is an easy target for teasing. For them, it would just be an exercise – in legalese or debate – and they would enjoy how worked up I would get and how seriously I would take the discussion and myself. And I would get increasingly frustrated.
Because, in the heat of the moment, I would feel as if I had lost my faculties, as if my gifts had dissipated under a tornado storm of passion. And it's true, passion can turn into righteousness and, often, intelligent, educated people can dismiss the passionate as zealots. So I fear this. That, because I am passionate, the people I most want to impact will not take me “seriously” and will be less likely to listen to me, not more.
And yet, passion is a necessity isn’t it? It is the life force flowing through one. So I will continue to choose it and all the risks that accompany it. When I started surfing, I wanted transformation. But I wanted it to be effortless and beautiful, I wanted it to make me look better not worse. But true transformation is bound to take us to unfamiliar ground that leaves us, at least for a while, confused and at sea. And I can accept that.
Because I do care. And I do want to make the world a better place for all living beings. And I believe it's possible.
So I'll take it - with all the insecurity and doubt that comes with it. Because it's better than the alternative.