Saturday-- March 23, 2002—Ground
Zero Plus 193
The Skepticism Of Vigilance
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York City,
Mar. 23--Skeptics rule the world. They always have.
They do not intend to be the power of society, but they are. They
form the mass of society's gravity, its nucleus. The more of
them that huddle in the middle of the atom, pressing tighter and tighter
against one another, the heavier their skepticism becomes, the harder it
is to move them from their Ground Zero.
I might be harsh in using the word
"skepticism" to illustrate a society that doesn't act in its own
behalf--it is society's second nature to be sluggish about change. I
use the word "skepticism" because a skeptic usually hides behind a refusal
to change--is lazy, and would rather stick himself or herself in the rut
of current behavior than force a change in his or her behavior, belief
Change is work; skeptics are naturally
lazy. They expend lots of energy to maintain their laziness,
shaking their heads and saying: "Nope, that's not going to happen to
me!" "Nope, that's not my business!" "Nope, I can't do
anything about it, let someone else handle it--that's why I pay taxes."
"Nope, you show me proof I'm going to be directly affected and then I'll
act, but only after I've reviewed all the evidence and cross-examined all
the witnesses." Or, the worst of all, "That's not my job!"
Skeptics are Complacent people, forcing
themselves to dig their ruts deeper, to toss off individual responsibility
until the threat is so impending that it becomes a gun to their head,
forcing change, rooting them out of their ruts.
I'm one. I know the feeling.
I smoke. I hate smoking. I fear its
consequences. I extol the virtues of not smoking. But I
don't act. My doctor wants me to take a pulmonary test to
scare me into quitting. I keep getting the authorizations for
the test, but not taking them. I tell myself--"I can quit whenever I
want. It's a matter of will power!" I lie to myself.
Every day that goes by, I get one accelerated day closer to a horrible
death from smoking.
Weight is the same thing. I eat
foolishly until my trousers burst. Then I start dieting.
It takes the smoking gun to my head to drive me to diet, to exercise.
I am a skeptic in this arena.
Religiously, I fight accepting dogma.
I am skeptical that any "religion" is the "key" to salvation, the best
road to nirvana. So I stand an arm's length away, not wanting
to accept any particular one, and telling myself I accept them all.
I do not choose any one. It's safer for me to be "skeptical,"
because I am Complacent, not wanting to change old behaviors.
There are many other areas of my life in which I
am a skeptic, so I am not piously throwing rocks at people who are
skeptics from my glass house. I am human. Humans are, by
nature, skeptics--Complacent about changing who they are and what they
believe. They naturally resist change because to shift from
Complacency requires Action, a leap of Faith not all are willing to take.
Action presents risks. Action is dangerous because one might make a
mistake and wish they never had opted for the Action, and instead remained
in the armchair of Complacency, protected by their skepticism.
Vigilance requires Action. It demands
one leap out of the comfort of the armchair of Complacency and salute a
new flag, to take a Pledge of Vigilance, and to don the clothing of a
Sentinel of Vigilance--and, the most difficult of all tasks, to carry
around with them the Shield of Vigilance to ward of Fear, Intimidation and
Complacency with the sword of Courage, Conviction and Action.
It ain't an easy leap.
When you're slumped into the easy chair, a hot
cup of coffee in your paw, watching your favorite television show, body
and mind exhausted from a long day's work, you don't want to think about
much except relaxing, enjoying the mind wash of watching others on the
tube and then crawling in bed to recycle yourself so you can go out and do
the same thing you did the day before, and the day before, and the day
before, and will do the day after, and the day after, and the day after
Skepticism protects our ruts. It guards us
from addressing our boredom, our lack of action. It keeps us hidden
in our hostels of routine, our ruts of regime.
Personally, I love skepticism--until, that is, it
turns on me as my smoking will, or my weight does, or my lack of committed
Yesterday was an example I won't soon forget.
Some days, many of them in fact, I awaken to
write my daily story on Vigilance. I've had so much trouble
getting my website recognized, and so little response to it, that I often
feel I am throwing feathers into the wind, that my words are just whipping
into cyber nothingness--meaningless fodder in a world that cannot see
them, and, doesn't particularly care to.
Wife, Lori, My
My biggest fan is my wife who edits the pages each day.
But, with her, I am singing to the choir. Not that I don't
respect her opinion or comments, but I know she believes as
I, and my words are supposed to have impact, make some change,
create some turmoil in the skeptics, roll the rock of Complacency
from the tomb so the spirits of Vigilance can be resurrected,
and the lost souls can be regenerated, sparked to life, reborn.
At times, I doubt even my own
intentions--am I really on the right track? Is this really
the right path for me? Shouldn't I be doing something
else, like getting a "real job," and making a "real
But yesterday made everything
I'm doing come to fruition. It reinforced and cemented
in heart and soul that I am on the right track, that I mustn't
put the Shield of Vigilance down no matter how heavy it may
seem, no matter how onerous the feeling I have of being a starving
Voice in a cacophony of giants.
The knowledge that I was doing
the right thing came to when I took care of my three-year-old
granddaughter, Sarah, yesterday.
My daughter, her mother, was
finishing her thesis for graduation from Union Theological Seminary
this coming May. My wife had a doctors appointment.
I volunteered to take Sarah to her gym class at Chelsea Pier,
and then elected to take her to Toys R Us and perhaps FAO Swartz
toy store, and then go down and pick up our grandson from school
and have lunch at McDonald's and then go to my apartment until
5p.m. when the kids' mother and father would pick them up.
It was, as Winnie The Poo would
say, a "cold and blustery day." Icy winds
whipped, chilling you to the bone. I wrapped Sarah
up in layers of shirts and vests and jackets and scarves, and
we headed out into the wind and cold--my 270 pound six-foot
four-inch oil tanker body and her 34-pound 3-foot 4-inch frame
Sarah and I have kind of a pact--I
carry her on my shoulders everywhere possible. "G-Pa,
can I ride on your shoulders?" Her request cannot
be denied, especially when she stands in front of you on a windy
sidewalk, back facing you, arm's outstretched in a "T"
waiting for you to scoop her up and put her on your shoulders.
Off we went. We fought
the cold wind enroute to the bus, then Chelsea Pier, and then
afterward, working our way to 42nd Street where Toys R Us has
an incredible indoor Ferris wheel, with the seats from
different children's character themes like Barbie, Toy Story,
Cabbage Patch Kid and Nicklelodian.
Unfortunately, on the way, we
passed by the Hello Dolly Store, an outlet that exclusively
sells Hello Dolly paraphernalia. Sarah ran to a
doll, wrapped her arms around it and said she loved it.
Grandpa's don't check the prices of such items, they just put
it on the sales counter and pull out their worn thin credit
"Ouch," I said as the
clerk told me it was $34, a collector's item, Hello Kitty with
a Grammy Award. "Oh," I replied, "that
makes it so much easier to accept!" She laughed and
I grimaced, but figured the look in Sarah's eyes was worth the
investment--and after all--it was a collector's item!
Perhaps one day it might be worth a fortune!
spent the day riding the Ferris wheel, looking at Barbie toys,
and giant dinosaurs that the store has to awe both children
and parents. Before we knew it, it was time
to go get Matthew, her five-year-old brother. So
we bundled up again and forged our way into the crowded, wind-swept
streets with Hello Kitty, to catch a couple of buses downtown.
Sarah was tired.
Her gym class is exhausting, and going from the cold to warm,
and the excitement of the store, all bore their weight on her.
She fell asleep in my arms.
I held her on the crowded
bus, rocking her. Then we exited one bus to catch another.
I stood in the cold with her limp body secured in my arms, watching
her feet and fingers twitch, wondering why she didn't flinch
when sirened ambulances roared by the bus stop en route to Beth
Israel or Bellevue.
It took a while for the second
bus to come, and her weight was beginning to affect my arms.
I shifted her up onto my shoulder, cradling her bottom in the
crook of my arm, adjusting her head so it wouldn't loll off
my shoulder. She was a lovely little rag doll.
On the bus I held her against
my chest, squeezing in between a herd of junior high school
kids just released from a day of classes. Their Voices
cut loudly into my ears--a kind of screech that I was sure would
awaken Sarah, but didn't.
As we rode downtown, I began
to sense the reason I write every day about Vigilance in a new
light. Sarah had put her entire trust in me as she clung
in her serene somnolence to her G-Pa. I looked
around at the young girls on the bus, wondering if they had
Sentinels of Vigilance standing guard over their Fears, their
Intimidations, their Complacencies.
The warm, innocent body in my
arms squeezed against me, adjusting herself so she could sleep
peacefully, her mind not worrying about the bogeymen of life,
not wondering if she was loved, or cared about, or had people
who helped her understand the bright side of life, its vast
and limitless opportunities.
Climbing off the bus, people
made a path for Sarah and me, something unique on a crowded
New York Bus. Usually, it's every man or woman for
themselves getting on and off the bus. But there was a
respect for the sleeping child in my arms, and the big guy laden
with packages trying to negotiate his way down the aisle and
to the door.
As we walked to Matthew's school
from which poured columns of young children with parents and
guardians, I thought about the importance of the Vigilance Voice.
I thought about how wonderful it was that I believed, even through
my skepticism, that I was on the right track.
As Sarah clutched at shoulders
to keep herself glued to my chest as we weaved our way into
the school, I felt like a giant--a true Sentinel of Vigilance.
I knew at that moment that every parent, grandparent, guardian
and loved one of children, given enough time and enough promotion,
would deeply consider taking the Pledge of Vigilance.
I knew that even if they didn't, if they thought about the responsibility
to commit to Action to protect their children from the Terrorism
of Thought as well as the Terrorism of Fear, Intimidation and
Complacency--that all my work would pay off in some anonymous,
residual way to the benefit of the Sarah's and Matthew's of
Most importantly, I felt right-sized.
I felt good about what I was doing. I felt the strength
of Vigilance transferring from the trust Sarah gave to me to
At that moment I re-vowed the
Pledge of Vigilance to myself.
And, I gave Sarah a big hug of
thanks for reminding me that skepticism can grow to belief.
Go To Mar. 22--The Secret Of Winning
World War IV--The War On Terrorism
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