Is there any other kind?
Today I overheard two defiant manifestos that I wanted to share. I was out running errands in my car today, and I have no air conditioning in my car, so of course my windows were quite down on this hot and steamy beach day on Cape Cod.
Traffic being a bit dense, I also spent a fair bit of time stopped in traffic, waiting at one bottleneck or another for my turn to drive on through.
This sort of thing places you within bizzarre and random proximity to people on the side of the road, which, depending on the location of the bottleneck and your place in it, might be someody’s home, business, or neighborhood playground.
Overheard Manifesto One
I slowly passed by an elderly man walking down the side of a very busy road, waving a white-and-red cane in front of him, clearly visually impaired. As I pulled up closer to him, I could hear him say in a loud voice They told me not to walk alone — on a busy road, they said! — but I wouldn’t listen! HA! (This is verbatim, I swear.)
I found this to be remarkably heartening to hear. Man was going OUT, and you couldn’t STOP HIM.
And I adored the fact that he was self-narrating his own adventure, telling himself his own story as it happened.
Overheard Manifesto Two
I was stopped briefly in front of a garden center near my home, where I saw a man gesturing emphatically to a woman standing a few feet away from him. It actually looked a little threatening, until I heard what he was saying so insistently: I will be bald in five years, and what little hair I have left will be gray!
What you need to understand is how proud — yes, even defiant — he was of this fact. He knew his fate, and he embraced it. He dared you to argue with it.
Two meaningless vignettes from daily life, right? Well, we read into things what we want to, don’t we?
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about self-determination and personal freedom, especially the freedom to take risks, to risk looking foolish, to risk people saying I told you so.
So much of my life has been a struggle between the competing desires for security and for freedom — the need for safety tugging at my need for personal agency, and vice versa.
These two meaningless vignettes reminded me that a certain amount of defiance is required if we’re going to shout down those voices that tell us It’ll never work and You’ll look silly and You might get hurt. Sometimes those voices come from other people, and sometimes they come from inside our own heads. (Check out what Jeremy Meyers wrote recently about silencing those voices — it’s right there with what I’ve been thinking.)
It takes a healthy amount of defiance to declare yourself, to insist on defining yourself on your own terms, and measuring success according to your own measuring stick. Say it loud.