Life seems to be a search for meaning and an understanding of the daily events that we encounter. More often than not, days pass without revealing any particular insights. In a world filled with confusion and contradiction, sometimes random circumstances can provide a clarity that can transcend time periods filled with uncertainty and pensive bewilderment. Such are the days that provide the patience to endure future spans of inevitable flat lining. If we are fortunate, the revelations that come in these bursts of insight will provide meaning to a previous string of days, weeks, months or even years and make one feel more awake and aware, if not more connected, to the notes that bring harmony to the composition that is our own unique life song.
My moment of insight began at the end of my stay in Vienna. Vienna was the eighth city in my round the world trip, a trip which I took primarily in search of expanded insight and meaning. My intended itinerary would have brought me next to Tokyo, Hong Kong, and then Bangkok. It was the Tuesday before Christmas when I began checking into a flight to Tokyo on Christmas Eve hoping to lose most of Christmas day in the time change. Nothing seemed to cooperate. As I would find a flight that worked, I couldn’t find hotel accommodations to match and visa versa. After spending most of a day on the internet and on the phone without success I decided to look at altering my itinerary. I first looked at going to Hong Kong, then Tokyo, then Bangkok. The only possibility was to stay four days in Hong Kong, four days in Tokyo, then head to Bangkok. This would mean I would need to learn the transportation systems of two huge cities, try to navigate my way through two languages that I couldn’t begin to speak, and do this all in a time frame overlapping the congestion and confusion of two holidays.
I sat in my hotel room and decided I would look at going to Bangkok for ten days; find a self-sufficient hotel and hole up for the span of the holiday season to recharge my batteries which were now worn from nearly two months of travel. I found a hotel and a flight schedule that matched but the hotel reservation couldn’t be finalized and confirmed until the next day. Happy with my success, I booked the flight and went to bed. I woke up early to check for the email confirmation from the hotel only to find no rooms were available. Frustrated and panicked, I quickly looked again and found an alternate hotel that would achieve the same objectives. Finally I had a plan.
I left Vienna on Christmas Eve and arrived in Bangkok early Christmas Day. Although I had failed to make Christmas Day disappear, finding a destination for a full ten day span seemed a reasonable compromise. As I boarded the Thai Airways plane, the flight staff immediately reminded me of the Holiday as they were dressed in festive outfits with lit Santa hats and Christmas bell necklaces. The staff greeted everyone in the traditional Thai greeting which is a clasping of one’s hands together as if to say a prayer followed by the bowing of the head. This was my first experience with the unwavering hospitality of the Thai people. This greeting is carried out religiously throughout Thailand with a sense of sincerity, pride and purpose not witnessed in any other city during my trip.
The flight to Bangkok was about ten hours and while most people decided to sleep after eating, I wasn’t tired and watched three movies. By then it was early morning and completely dark. As the last movie ended I looked out the window to witness an amazingly beautiful and serene sight. We were above the Indian Ocean approximately two thirds of the way to Bangkok. The skies above were completely clear and the stars were bright and below us was a huge glowing blanket of white that looked like the most peaceful fluffy pillow. It was so enthralling that I pulled my blanket over my head and held it against the window to block out the interior light and get the best possible view. It crossed my mind that other passengers or one of the stewardesses might think I was crazy but I didn’t care. I sat under my blanket for at least five minutes just looking out the window. It was unspeakably peaceful and, sadly, my words fail to provide an adequate description. My actions went unnoticed. Now fully relaxed from the breathtaking view, I napped until being awakened by the serving of breakfast. After a quick meal, we landed in Bangkok.
The Thai hospitality continued as we exited the plane. An attendant welcomed me and then personally walked me through customs, the baggage claim, the currency exchange, and finally to my taxi. During the drive, I noticed a large elevated highway overhead that was supported by a single row of columns running down the median of the road. Typical of Bangkok, it was quite hazy. It created an eerie feeling and I found myself wondering if Bangkok was prone to earthquakes. The highway above seemed so imposing and vulnerable. I was tempted to ask my driver but our previous exchanges told me she had a limited understanding of English. I moved on in my head and gazed at the surroundings. I was in my room by 10:00 am. Quite tired, I pulled the drapes and went to bed. I woke up around 3:00, went and had a bite to eat, wandered through the hotel, grabbed a newspaper, then returned to my room.
I read the paper and scanned the local television selections, briefly viewing CNN international. Stiff from the long flight, I decided to relax by soaking in the tub…a rarity for me but it definitely sounded inviting. Soaking in the water, my movements by chance created two wave circles. When they intersected they created the pattern of the stone roads I had marveled at throughout my walking excursions in Europe. An Italian had told me the name of this road design, but I’m unable to recall the name. While still in the tub, I wondered in silence if this particular road design had been created to mimic this pattern of motion…it seemed like a reasonable assumption although one I’ve yet been able to confirm. It kept me amused and entertained while I enjoyed the comfort of the warm water. Once out of the tub, I organized the room, ordered a snack from room service and then went to bed.
I slept soundly and got up the next morning around 10:30. After showering, I turned on the television and saw the news about the earthquake and the tsunami. I rushed to open the drapes and look out the window to see if I could observe any damage in the immediate area. The news indicated that buildings in Bangkok were felt swaying and I questioned if I had slept through any shaking. Everything I could see out my window looked normal. I could see people sitting by the pool so I concluded I was safe. Not far away, the situation would continue to unfold into one of the worst natural disasters in decades.
Being in Thailand during the tragedy was strange and surreal. Life in Bangkok moved on and yet just miles away so many lives had been lost. I was struck by the uncanny timing of my arrival and my weirdly connected thoughts of quakes and waves. I don’t particularly believe in premonitions but sometimes coincidental circumstances can be quite enlightening. I would spend the remainder of my time in Bangkok in the hotel except for a couple short walks. As with 9/11, I was glued to the television and the similar heart wrenching images of photos that had been posted on fences and walls by those in desperate search of missing loved ones. As the days progressed, the news worsened and the stories of loss and devastation mounted.
The Thai Spirit
Meanwhile, I was witnessing the unbelievable will of the Thai people to help, to endure, and to give selflessly instead of being overcome by their own losses. This unrelenting strength seemed so unexpected given the obvious and absolute poverty lived by the majority of the population. One poignant image stands seared in my memory above all others. While walking, I was preparing to cross a service road when I saw an elderly woman on the opposite side of the street. She was pushing a large one wheeled fruit cart constructed similar to a wheelbarrow. My gaze locked on her face as she came across the street and I was paralyzed by my thoughts of her daily existence. She never spoke but her stoic resolve told me she prepared her cart each morning to go out on the streets and make enough money to feed her family and live the life her circumstances allowed. I watched her face contort as she pushed her heavy cart up on the curb but I was most struck by her more certain look of contentment. Her actions were purposeful, her expressions were peaceful, and I was convinced her life was full. I would see many more examples during my stay.
I became familiar with a number of hotel staff members and without fail they would remember me and greet me like a friend at each encounter. I especially remember New Years Eve. I had ventured to the lounge that afternoon while housekeeping attended to the room. While sitting and having a beer, the band was setting up for the evening festivities and the lounge staff was decorating the tables with party favors and balloons. Given my fondness of live music, I was content to watch the band arrange the stage and test the sound system. I didn’t speak to any of the band members although I noticed their glances as they looked around their surroundings. Aside from brief eye contact, we never met or spoke.
I returned to the lounge later that evening to enjoy the New Years activities. Many of the same staff members were working. We waved to each other and their faces broke into warm smiles. They were in a festive mood with deliberate faces of contentment…much like the face of the elderly woman pushing the fruit cart. As the band began to play, I was startled by loud applause…no whistling or yelling, just rapid and loud clapping. I turned to see a group of staff members standing near the bar who had spontaneously burst into thunderous applause to acknowledge the commencement of the night’s musical entertainment. As I watched them applaud, I again saw the sincerity in the actions of the Thai people. All but one song were sung in English, albeit with more than a hint of Thai twisted phonetics. The vocalists, a young woman and man, spoke briefly in broken English between some of the songs and took requests all night. They had numerous notebooks the size of Denver’s yellow pages and it seemed they were able to play virtually every request. Their will to entertain was matched only by their obvious satisfaction in being able to please the audience. Between sets, the band was seated at the table next to mine and I happened to catch the eye of the keyboard player and he immediately smiled and said “you come to show, you here earlier”. I said yes, thanked him, and told him that they were very good. He clasped his hands together and nodded a few times in appreciation. I reciprocated.
As midnight approached a large number of other hotel staff members dressed in formal and festive clothing converged onto the dance floor and began drawing people out of the audience to join them. The manager asked everyone to come to the dance floor for the countdown to midnight. I remained seated near the dance floor hoping to remain unnoticed. I thought I had maintained my obscurity but just before midnight two sets of hands grasped my arms from behind my chair and pulled me to my feet. It was a familiar waitress along with one of the waiters from one of the restaurants. As I stood they asked me in simple yet clear English to join them in the countdown to midnight. It was shockingly sincere and foreign to most experiences in America and Europe. I’m not certain if it was the fact that it was New Years Eve or their kind and gracious demeanor, but I had to fight back tears as we counted down the remaining seconds. Far from home, friends, and family…in the midst of great tragedy…but surrounded by a magical warmth and sincerity made it an unexpected and unforgettable New Years Eve that I will long treasure.
I can recount many more moments whereby I witnessed the sincerity of the Thai people…the students who traveled to Phuket because they spoke other languages and wanted to help foreigners…the stories of Thai people having lost family members but helping tourists find shelter and search for family and friends while not knowing the fate of their own loved ones…the touching interview in the local English language newspaper with the Kings daughter talking about the loss of her autistic son in the tsunami and the utterly soul baring style that captured loss in it’s most real sense by the writer noting each time the interview was stopped as the princess was overcome by her emotions…the quotation in the newspaper of the Prime Minister whereby he explains that his wife has avoided funerals for years but she told him she had to go help with the gathering of bodies…the nonstop donation requests and events on Thai television that without failure demonstrated sincere people presenting supplies or money in ceremonial fashion with huge smiles on their faces filled with the pride one only sees when people knowingly choose to do the right thing for the right reason. It was truly remarkable and remains a testament to the notion that it’s not only possible, but honorable and commendable, to choose good deeds over self-pity and self-indulgence…a testament to the belief that personal peace and contentment can come from giving…and a testament to the fact that in giving, by its very nature, one will receive returns that are both self-fulfilling and self-sustaining. Enough cannot be said about the spirit of the Thai people!
On To Sydney
I left Bangkok and arrived in Sydney on the third of January. I was still ruminating on my time in Thailand…assessing what I could take from the experience. Emotionally drained, I concluded I needed an escape from my thoughts and ventured out for some drinks and music. My hotel was near the heart of Sydney. Nearby was Oxford Street, an area with a number of shops, bars and cafes that cater to a mix of straight and gay clientele. I walked to a bar called the Stonewall Hotel…for reasons no one could really explain to me, bars in Australia are called hotels…the best I can ascertain is it refers to a bar much larger than a pub and results from the influence of the United Kingdom. As I looked around the bar, I had a sense of discomfort. In contrast to Thailand, I couldn’t help but notice how many people presented an affected appearance or an inauthentic and accentuated identity. I wondered in my head if the people I was observing ever allowed the person inside the façade to escape or if that was just too frightening and vulnerable. It was a familiar thought but perhaps the contrast to Thailand made me particularly aware of it that night. I had a couple beers and, feeling disconnected, headed back to the hotel. Once back in my room, I thought about it some more but came to no conclusions. In retrospect, I believe my psyche was unable to so suddenly maneuver the contrast thereby adding to my unease.
Over the next couple of nights I remained in my small but comfortable hotel room. In hindsight, I believe even the hotel was contributing to my malaise. The hotel was characterized by Conde Nast Traveller Magazine as one of the coolest hotels in the world. As I’ve thought back about the hotel, I’ve tried to understand the concept of “coolest” but I have been unable to comprehend or conclude what criteria would or should be included in making such a conclusion. I’ve wondered how the “coolest” place should look and what kind of judges might award such designations. In my mind I’ve asked myself how much extra should people be willing to pay for ‘coolness’ and how would anyone make that kind of determination. Is coolness an amenity? I’ll try to answer that a little later.
In the meantime, I watched three movies on the World Movie Channel, a channel in Australia that exclusively plays foreign films. I don’t recall having such a channel in the states. Perhaps I’ve never noticed one since I tend to avoid the chore of subtitled films. Regardless, I was glued to the hotel television like a chain smoker to a fresh pack of cigarettes after a long smokeless flight. Contradictions were apparently my companion for this portion of my trip. I’ve concluded that being on the road in a number of foreign countries apparently has a way of breaking barriers and obstacles that one wouldn’t anticipate. In some strange way there was symmetry to my watching foreign language films while on a trip around the world trip in search of meaning, however at that moment it escaped my awareness. After watching the last of three movies, I lay on the floor and wept uncertain tears.
The last movie was an Italian and German collaboration called Solino. It was about an Italian family that moves to Germany after the Second World War to open an Italian restaurant. They have two young sons and when a movie producer comes to town to make a film about Nazi Germany, the youngest son becomes impassioned with filmmaking. I won’t rehash the film but suffice it to say I liked it a lot as it had all the components of a good movie…suffering, passion, steadfastness, humor, deception, betrayal, compassion, forgiveness, redemption, acknowledgment, acceptance…all the elements of life conveniently bundled into a compressed snapshot of time that in reality would take years of searching and struggling to understand. Movies are perhaps like recipes. Unlike the uncertainty of daily living, they take many familiar life ingredients and in roughly two hours bake this unbelievably complex yet comprehensible story that can be followed and experienced in safety from conception to consumption. They are thus the ordered pictures and words of the stories that comprise the chapters of the characters lives. We’re likely drawn to them for the comfort and consistency this neat and tidy formula provides. It seems to me that perhaps in life we’re all trying to produce, direct, and act out the movie that is our own story…all the while trying to know and understand the ending before it arrives.
By that Friday I decided to go back out for some music and drinks as I was still feeling unsettled but I needed to step away from my thoughts. After a beer and probably an hour of muddled observations, I went to the bathroom (which has a significance I will later explain) and then to the bar to order another beer. In watching the crowd, my reflections were the same ones I noticed on my prior visit and I began to question if I really wanted to stay but I did as I was determined to push on in the hopes of breaking the logjam in my head. While waiting in line to purchase my beer, I began thinking about what its like to be waiting ones turn to make a purchase or to check out when there isn’t any formal line that can be determined. Everyone’s been in this predicament and knows how it feels when someone is waited on out of turn or maneuvers their way into being in front of you after you’ve been waiting much longer. I usually try to notice if anyone might have been waiting ahead of me since I don’t want to do to another what I dislike being done to me (is that a commandment?). If I find a bartender or clerk beginning to wait on me out of turn, I usually try to defer them to the person who was there before me. As I approached the counter, there was a guy to my right who had been there before I got to the counter. He was standing in the right area to order a drink and it was clear he was there for that reason. The bartender walked past him and asked what I wanted to drink. I pointed to the other guy and said “that guy was here first”. The bartender looked a little surprised. The other guy, who was watching what was happening, and I’m sure frustrated at being overlooked, saw me point to him and a huge smile came across his face and he mouthed the words thank you while nodding his head in appreciation. Almost immediately, my mind was released from its paralysis. All of a sudden my thoughts jelled and I was filled with a sense of awareness and resolve. I finally understood. I had a pen with me for such moments of enlightenment and as soon as the bartender returned and took my order I asked him for a couple extra napkins. With a huge smile on my face I began to write down a number of notes. I quickly transferred my thoughts to two napkins and then went to the dance floor alone, which I’ve come to enjoy, upon hearing a good song. I danced for the better part of the evening awash with the relief that comes with long awaited insight.
Returning to my trip to the bathroom, all the pieces begin to fall into place. There is a phenomenon in men’s restrooms that has always made me laugh. It’s especially noticeable to me in gay bars but I’ve found it’s true anywhere you find crowded men’s restrooms. A surprising number of men are unwilling to use an open urinal and will therefore defer to others while waiting longer for a private toilet stall (in gay bars some of these men will just wait in line for the women’s restroom). In so doing, I'm often told to go ahead of the person in front of me. I’ve always found it strange but I’ve never stopped to explore what it meant. As I thought about it, I realized that many of the people who deferred to another in the bathroom line were also the same ones who never deferred to anyone in line at the bar…regardless of who might have been in front of them. I wanted to understand why. When the two events merged in my head at the bar, it triggered a waterfall of connections and understandings.
Here’s what I concluded and wrote on my two napkins. Our world is nothing more than the collective choices of the people we encounter in an existence we rarely control. Simply stated, right choices make a right world; wrong choices make a wrong world. Anyone can make what appear to be right choices…but awareness is required to make the right choices for the right reason. Doing so allows the individual to live a deliberate life. The bathroom example demonstrates people making the right choice but not for the right reason in the same way the line at the bar demonstrates people making the wrong choice for the wrong reason. Both are deliberate but neither is properly motivated. At the same time, when someone does something right, regardless of the reason, motivation, or intention, there is the possibility of real benefit. Acts of courtesy and kindness almost always bring smiles and often disarm indifference. They can promote the awareness of our common struggle and enable empathy to surface and self interest to subside. But unless acts of empathy are conscious and deliberate, chaos and inconsistency flourish and deliberate living is derailed in the rush for a better place in the line of life.
My moment of understanding brought me back to some of my other thoughts. In recalling my earlier visit to this gay bar, it struck me that our common struggle for acceptance into the larger social structure should make the gay bar a much more cohesive and considerate environment. Nonetheless, the behaviors people exhibit in order to elevate their often fragile self-esteem’s are troubling as well as destructive to the very people who have the most capacity to exhibit understanding. This behavior often involves labeling or the delineation of differences that are then used to degrade or denigrate. While there is beauty and benefit in our differences, our true uniqueness is an internal reality and not an external creation and yet this is often overlooked. Valid connections come from the reality within and not through external contrivances or manipulations. This brings me back to another point. Trying to be seen as the hippest guy or girl is not unlike wanting to be known as the coolest hotel in the world. It’s an intangible notion that cannot be sustained unless one is content to remodel the visual self like they do the aged and dated décor of yesterday’s coolest hotel. In this construct, the individual then needs to spend untold capital to promote a renovated yet superficial identity in a world where only a limited number of winners can emerge. This may suffice in the hotel business but is this how we want our lives to exist? How can this be a reasonable choice? Is our existence the equivalent of an inanimate object measured by some magazines coolness criteria? We can’t all be the first served or the hippest or coolest. The latest and greatest merry-go-round still only turns in circles…it goes nowhere. It’s comparable to a pyramid scheme run amuck such that everyone thinks they need to be Britney Spears to be acceptable. Striving for excellence is noble. However, when the drive for excellence becomes a necessary, narrowly defined, and scripted path for the achievement of self-worth and validation at all costs, the pursuit of excellence has become an obsession for a feigned and false identity.
Conclusions At Home
Since my return to the US, I have been thinking a lot about the notion of equality…a word often spoken yet seldom understood or properly measured. The way we measure success, value, and worth has a direct impact on the notion of equality. Equality walks the fine line between celebrating differences and practicing discrimination. The equality template should include the broadest definitions of success, value, and worth and should be predicated upon honoring human dignity. When the measurement of success, value, and worth becomes too narrow, equality diminishes. Worse yet, when individuals succumb to such narrow standards, inequality and a lack of self-worth become endemic and self-perpetuating. If individuals cannot discern their own worth apart from such narrow guidelines, then the individual is not capable of recognizing worth in others beyond these same narrow guidelines. When all is said and done, equality invariably must rely on the individual’s perceptions and choices. The equality we receive is thus directly related to the equality we give.
You can draw a number of parallels between the concept of being coolest, first, best, or number one with the nuclear arms race of the Cold War era. During the Cold War the superpowers couldn’t stop building more, bigger, better bombs to be able to ‘win’. Similarly, many people think they need to be more, to be bigger, and to be better to win. Many of the weapons were nuclear and just as the compression and concentration of molecular material create a weapon of shocking destruction, the singular, myopic and narrow pursuit of being first, best, or number one is equally destructive. Huge amounts of money and energy were spent during the Cold War to create enough bombs to destroy the world numerous times over just as there seems to be no limit to the money, time and effort individuals spend trying to be this narrowly defined notion of first, best, or number one. At their extremes, both are deadly. In the Cold war, people were apt to be literally killed. In this ‘coolest’ construct, people succumb to the fate of the walking dead. The solutions to both dilemmas are metaphorically the same. Ronald Reagan said it best when he so aptly stated, “tear down that wall”. In order to do this, there has to be a way to establish trust. With people, it usually begins when we risk the vulnerability of exposing our true identities and intentions. This can only happens when people value themselves as well as others. I’m convinced, that if pushed, people would admit that what they are really pursuing through their misguided efforts is to be appreciated, acknowledged, and loved. Wrapping paper is used to conceal a gift. Only when the paper is removed can the gift be revealed and received. A room full of unopened pretty packages is nonetheless an empty and lonely room...despite its coolness quotient.
Events like 9/11, the tsunami and Katrina have the potential to help people let down their guard and provoke empathy. Such events are so inescapable that people are forced to ponder and acknowledge the true worth of others as well as confront their own subdued, if not suppressed, fear of mortality. Like the urinal example, these events push people to confront their fear which can then trigger amazing acts of giving and sacrifice. When this happens, people connect. Even though survival and self-preservation are innate to all animals, these tragic situations make people aware of their vast similarities while allowing them to set aside their differences and self interest to act collectively. This doesn’t mean our self-survival instincts are bad or should cease to exist. It does mean we need to redefine success, value, and worth and how we measure each. When the individual’s goal is a narrowly defined objective that only measures worth, value, and success as being coolest, first, best, or number one, people conclude that not winning means they are unacceptable, unlovable, or worthless. People who think like this can rarely offer acceptance, love, and worth to others. When this negative paradigm exists, the awareness needed to promote empathy and make right choices remains suppressed and out of view until the next disaster. Our ability to think past innate, outdated, or faulty constructs is necessary and possible. In reality, we usually dominate our environment because of the collective achievements of numerous people with widely varying abilities. When humanity recognizes the need to expand the measure of success, worth, and value, we will recognize the unlimited potential of diverse individuals cooperating to achieve mutual benefit.
I often ask myself what I think would happen if our planet were threatened by a civilization from another solar system and in answering my question my point is made. Similar to World War II, people would be willing and able to acknowledge and appreciate the many ways each person can contribute to the effort to save the planet. Humanity would band together to save itself and our differences and disagreements would be insignificant. Diminishing or defeating ones neighbor or another country would no longer be our focus. By broadening the definitions of success, value, and winning, the self worth of individuals will grow and hence equality will expand. When equality expands, society’s abilities expand and humanity’s future is assured. As long as our daily objectives are primarily singular, we will continue to only demonstrate our humanity when calamity occurs. Unfortunately, it shouldn’t take a 9/11 attack, a tsunami, a Katrina, or an invasion from outer space to bring the needed cooperation and awareness to the forefront. I concluded my thoughts by realizing that the spirit of the Thai people is built upon a greater awareness, a greater acknowledgment, and a greater affirmation of the individual’s responsibility and ability to choose to act collectively by doing the right thing for the right reason. By doing so, I’m convinced it produces stronger, more centered individuals which makes for a stronger, more resolute, and more cohesive society.
Successful living is ultimately about the symmetry that comes with a consistent and constant spirit. In the simple act of always clasping their hands together and bowing theirs heads, the Thai people prove the power of this point. In the people of Thailand and on the face of an old woman I saw a true demonstration of the conscious and deliberate living of this principle. Perhaps it’s the difference between a flash in the pan and a candle…in life long after the brief bright flash stops…darkness remains…while the candle persists in providing enough light to continue finding one’s way. Life’s events are random and at any time our world may inflict devastation. There is little we can do to change this but when we cultivate and nurture an enduring spirit, both the individual and humanity maintain and prevail in the face of adversity. That which was beauty outside the window of my plane in the early morning hours over the Indian Ocean turned into horror and destruction that killed without regard and yet if our spirit is true and resolute the beauty that I witnessed will persevere and return. Life is a series of waves and earthquakes. Sometimes we are prepared for them, sometimes they take us by complete surprise. Wisdom comes from knowing that more of each is coming. Living is the act of preparing for the next one to arrive and living well is being well prepared. To be well prepared we must be both able and willing to diligently make right choices when confronted by opportunities to make wrong choices. When great power destroys only great spirit overcomes. Each day, not just each disaster, met with the resolve to do what is right will move humanity forward and reaffirm and renew the spirit. The connecting of unwavering spirits will keep us alive, but more importantly, actually living.
One night, nearly three years ago, while out with friends and in a ponderous mood, I wrote down the words “I walked away from myself so I could see who was behind me”. Today I better understand my words. When we step away from ourselves we see the world and ourselves more clearly and awareness grows. What is in all of us, what is beside us, what is in front of us, and what is behind us is the power of the human spirit. Faith in this spirit must never be abandoned. Without fail, the constant and conscious spirit gives deference to humanity and in so doing faith becomes fact and fear and doubt are conquered. Right choices will right the world. Its time we step away from our coolest hotel model…our cardboard caricatures and decide to be true humans…not rarely, not sometimes, not even usually will suffice…we must be vigilant and deliberate “always” humans. When we all do so, we are all sustained. This means we have an obligation to look to see if someone has been waiting ahead of us…this means choosing to wait one's turn...this means consciously choosing to defer to that person because it's the right thing to do. The gift of choice is the essence and the blessing of the human spirit. It has great power. There is nothing stronger. Making right choices is our obligation and our salvation and is the song that soothes the soul. When we live this deliberate existence, we can move land and sea.