Tag Archives: fearless

Adversity

My youngest daughter gave me a LARGE PRINT (appreciated!) book of David Foster Wallace essays titled, “Both Flesh and Not.” She knows that I may have developed a reader crush on Wallace. Among other admirable qualities, Wallace’s conventional knowledge is astounding, but his unconventional approach is stunning. For instance, one of the essays included in the book is composed entirely of bullet points. Twenty-five pages’ worth of bullet points (well, LARGE PRINT, so maybe two pages, but still).

So if the imitation/flattery cliché is true, then consider the following as feeble-yet-genuine praise.

• Adversity: Simple definition: “a difficult situation or condition.”
• Synonyms: misfortune; mishap; tragedy.
• First known use: 13th century.
• Probability that you (and me, but I’m writing here, so you) will encounter adversity: 100%.
• Leading responses to adversity: Popularly (and boring-ly), fight or flight. More descriptively, nausea; all versions of weeping, from softly into a dark pillow to convulsive wailing; bitterness; rage; blaming, from self to upbringing to society to presidents/candidates to God to karma to your stupid ex-whatever; prayer; tubs of ice cream; throwing things; liquid courage; television binge; a life of crime; join the circus.
• Approximate amount of fun in any of these responses at least by the next day: Zero. (Except possibly the circus, which depends so much on your new job description.)
• Common themes from an “adversity” search on Google Images: Mountains; tightropes; Martin Luther King, Jr., loneliness.
• Strangest return item from an “adversity” search on Amazon: Adversity Board Game.
• Opening line of product description for Adversity Board Game: “Become the greatest advertising mogul the world has ever seen!” (Oh, it is AD-versity. Clever.)
• Most fun line of opening customer description of Ad-versity Board Game: “We tried this game both while drinking and while sober, and both times it sort of stank.”
• Why I’m thinking/writing about adversity: Life, lately. Some personal, some observational, from many corners of life.
• What to do when the tendency to criticize how others handle adversity rears its ugly head: Slip on their moccasins. (Figuratively of course, although a literal situation is conceivable, like if maybe someone gets bad news from the doctor and runs screaming on to a sizzling hot highway, and if you’re barefoot and their moccasins are right there anyway… This all seems highly unlikely.)
• How I want to handle inevitable adversity: With love; head on; with courage and strength; at peace.
• Probability that I will do so: Unknown, but greatly increased with resolve, preparation, practice, and reflection.

Scene (or, Seen) at a Stoplight

Favela

He couldn’t have been more than ten years old. It was our last night in Rio, and we had just begun one final terrifying taxi ride to Santa Teresa when I saw him. We were stopped at a light just off Copacabana Beach with the typical zillion cars zigged and zagged together in automotive contortion and this young boy weaved in between to wash windshields. He wielded a spray bottle and a brush and used his shirt for a towel—a typical Friday night it seemed for this ten-year-old. He took pride in his work with great attention to detail, finished and collected the change from the disembodied arm of the driver and glided with a swagger between the bumpers to the shoulder of the road exactly on cue as the light turned from Flamengo red to Brazilian green.

He made a strong impression on me, although I suspect the dirty little kid from the favela would prefer R$5 than an essay from an American about an impression he made in the span of a traffic signal.

I am officially a lawyer and live in a land and work at a school that celebrates and promotes the rule of law. I am not ashamed of this in the least. And I do not prefer to live in a world where ten-year-old boys have to work in the middle of a dangerous road in a dangerous city for loose change on a Friday night for God knows what purpose. Hopefully it was for his personal needs, although that alone would be tragic.

And yet . . .

That ten-year-old boy appeared in that brief scene to be more of a man than I am right now what with my petty fears and complaints and indulgences. I cannot say that I wanted to exchange places with him in that instant, but I did consider that I might hope to be like him when I grow up.

Fearless.
Industrious.
Skilled.
Swagger.
No excuses and no complaints.

I hope people will look through those spotless windshields and see that incredible kid.