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Russell’s Sunday Sermon: Writing Your Own Story


Russell’s Sunday Sermon: Writing Your Own Story

Are the Sunday Sermons supposed to relate tales of growth and development? Are they meant to regale the reader with stories of counterculture resilience? Perhaps they should imbue the audience with some type of metaphysical, philosophical message earned with my own blood, sweat and tears that I may spare you the pain and suffering?

Here, don’t make the same mistakes that I’ve made. Be better than I’ve been to myself. Learn from my stupidity. My life has provided volumes and encyclopedias of that, to be sure. I’ve always learned the best from errors and mistakes. It does not escape my attention that I tend to gravitate toward occupations where error can result in death and destruction.

This has always terrified me.

I learn the best from my screwups, yet I keep ending up in professions where mistakes are not acceptable due to the geometric magnitude resultant from even the smallest slip-up.

Loading the incorrect targeting data means we could engage in thermonuclear war with the wrong country. That would be a bad day at the office… (There are verifications in place to ensure this doesn’t happen, but it could necessitate a job hunt, which would suck personally, if not internationally) Dosing too much insulin or fentanyl could kill a person (or just about anything I do at my current job).

I’ve seen it firsthand. Thankfully not due to my actions, but I’ve seen it.

But we cannot allow the possibility of bad outcomes to prevent action on our part. There are many, many dozens (hundreds? Thousands?) of motivational sayings to this effect.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Jack Handy

Only those who risk going too far, discover how far one can go. T.S. Eliot

100% of the shots you don’t take, don’t go in. Wayne Gretzky

Et cetera, et cetera.

During a base-wide exercise at Vandenberg AFB, my squadron had to supply an officer to play along with a simulated deployed encampment. There were guns, fake ammo, tents and gas masks. All of the fun stuff. During an ambush, this hyperactive, been-deployed-too-many-times security forces staff sergeant said, “what do you do when you’re taking fire?” When he was met with silence he provided his own answer – “ANYTHING! When you are being shot at, the worst thing you can do is nothing. Start shooting in their general direction. Hell, they won’t know if you’re coming anywhere close, but it’ll force them to think about it and that will worsen their aim on you.”

Ponder that as a life philosophy for a moment. I’ll step aside.

**Elevator music playing, “Girl From Ipanema”**

The worst thing you can do is nothing. The worst thing you can do is freeze and passively allow the world to happen around you. Never become a spectator in your own life – especially if the world is shooting at you.

In an emergency, at work, in bed (smiley face), or when taking enemy fire – the worst thing you can do is nothing. This is almost universally applicable. Never allow the fear of what might happen to deter you from what needs to be done. You don’t get to freeze. You don’t get to stop and think about the bad things that might happen. If you choose nothing over something, inaction over action, you’ve forfeited your choice and given up the ability to alter the outcome.

If somebody is trying to kill you, return fire. ACT.

If you’re at work, DO SOMETHING.

If you’re sharing a bed with someone you love, GO CRAZY.

If the implications of failing to perform an act, and performing it incorrectly are both death and dismemberment, DO YOUR JOB RIGHT.

You cannot lose if you don’t play, but you cannot win, either. You might hurt your back, but you might not. You may fail, you may fall – but at least you’ll know. How horrible to be your own biggest opponent. The fabrications and tortures of our fear are almost always worse than reality. Nobody knows how to torture you like you do. The horrors of your own imagination will twist you into the earth far more readily than the lions and tigers and bears (oh my!) of the real world. The boogey man in that dark alley is actually the boogey man in your mind.

After I made a spectator of myself at the Rimrock Ruckus, watching my friends and loved ones enjoying themselves in the fray of competition, I waxed poetic about standing on the sideline and watching the battle. I’m sure I included Teddy Roosevelt’s quote about the man in the arena. That seems like something I’d do.

I resolved, promised and proclaimed that I wouldn’t leave myself with the hollow feeling of spectating when I could be playing, so long as the decision is under my control and a choice I’m able to make. I’ll be on two different Crossfit teams this fall, at two different competitions. We’ve been running races all over the place. All of these things are just for fun, but they damned sure beat sitting on the couch. The unsuccessful attempt feels infinitely more rewarding than standing idly by, spectating.

Fuck the spectator. Fuck their experience. Fuck that passive voyerism.

Join the game. Fight the fight. Step onto the field. Return fire.

Don’t just stand there watching.

The reality is there aren’t many fights I’m going to win anymore, and the Crossfit team with me on their roster probably isn’t going to win, either, but at least I’m returning fire. The team that beats me will have to duck and cover, they’ll have to stop and think. They’ll have to react.

This isn’t a gimmee because I decided to beat myself. I’m not going to be my own greatest opponent. It’s Team Me, and you may beat me, though you’ll have to earn it. I’ll be returning fire. I’ll be fighting. I’ll be inside the ropes, getting bloody. You never know when I may get lucky with an erratically-thrown shot in the heat of the battle.

This has been your dose of wisdom for the week. Consider yourself imbued and blessed. But don’t sit there reading my drivel, go out and write your own stories. Act. Engage. Return fire. Don’t like and share, create your own truths.

**This blog has not been approved for weak-minded idiots**

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