Don’t be a Spectator! Act Now!
Written by Shawn Funk
I have a friend that I go fishing with every summer. A few years ago, on our way to the river, we stopped at a gas station to grab a few snacks. When we got back to the truck, he unwrapped a pizza sub and started devouring it. I asked him if he liked pizza subs (I didn’t) because its all he ever bought, a smirk crossed his face before he articulated a hard “No!” I had to laugh. Why would he buy the pizza sub if he knew it was crap? He told me that he didn’t want to risk trying something new because it could be even worse. He said, “at least I know what I am getting.” We laughed hard, then we went and caught a few nice sturgeons on the South Saskatchewan River.
This incident is memorable because it highlights a tendency to accept cold comfort over a chance at something better. This scenario plays out throughout our lives repeatedly. How many of us have stayed in dead end jobs or abusive relationships for no other reason but the assumption that what you have is better than what you could have? How many of us do the same things over and again, knowing that those things will not bring us closer to our goals. We continue to buy the pizza sub long after it has given us any sort of satisfaction. Our behaviours become habit. We no longer think about the pizza sub, we buy it automatically. It becomes routine. At this point, we become spectators. We watch ourselves do the things that we know we are going to do. Our bodies on automatic, we observe, and are rarely surprised by what happens, failing to actively participate in our own lives.
If you fail to act, you will be acted on.
I found myself in a bit of a situation after graduating university. I had no meaningful employment, COVID restrictions were everywhere, and I was very bored; my life had slowed to a crawl, nothing was happening anywhere. I started to let my boring routine dominate my life, and it took hold of me as I had adapted to it; I could feel the cold comfort radiating from the monthly paycheck. How could I leave now, you never know what could be out there? After some time, I got some encouragement from my mother, as we all do sometimes, and I started to scrape away the hard crust that was forming around my tepid lifestyle. The longer one waits to break that crust, the harder it is to break. I realized that I had made the same mistake as my fishing friend, but on a much grander scale. A pizza sub is one thing, but living life is quite another. I was on a passive track, a pawn in a scheme, a mere cog, and I wasn’t pursuing any of my life goals.
Did you exchange cold comfort for change?
If this question sounds familiar, it should be. It comes from the Pink Floyd song called “Wish You Were Here.” Later in the song, Roger Waters asks, “did you exchange a walk on part in the war, for a lead role in a cage?” When asked during an interview about the lyrics to the song, Roger Waters had this to say, “It’s to encourage myself not to accept a lead role in a cage, but to go on demanding of myself that I keep auditioning for the walk-on part in the war, ‘cause thats where I want to be” (O’Gorman, 2022). The lyrics implore us to act with courage. To live the life that we deserve to live. He suggests that courageous acts will eliminate the cold comfort we uncritically accept for a chance at something far greater. The song suggests that we must face the unknown, despite fear. Courage, is thus, not defined by the absence of fear; it is quite the opposite. Courage is defined by one’s recognition of fear and their willingness to stare it in the face. There is no such thing as the fearless; we are all terrified, but the courageous can overcome their fears by acting against them. Change is scary. Do you have the courage to overcome it? Yes, you do!
Have the courage to become who you are!
If you believe that everything around us is in a state of flux, it follows that nothing is ever complete, that all things are fluid, forever changing, in a state of becoming. Such a belief liberates one from the cold static that contains our being. Becoming is creative. Nietzsche argues that we “want to become those we are—human beings who are new, unique, incomparable, who give themselves laws, who create themselves” (Nietzsche & Kaufmann, 1974 p. 266). In essence, he is suggesting that we must have the courage to recreate ourselves against the weight of the conventions that corral our thoughts to fully realize our potential. All great thinkers have something in common. They all encourage us to think for ourselves; to question conventional thought, and they implore us to follow the fire that resides in us all before it is extinguished. Have the courage to become who you are!
Nietzsche, F. W., & Kaufmann, W. (1974). The gay science: With a prelude in rhymes and an appendix of song. Vintage Books.
O’Gorman, M. (2022, July 31). Why Pink Floyd’s wish you were here is their saddest song. Radio X. Retrieved January 23, 2023, from https://www.radiox.co.uk/artists/pink-floyd/why-pink-floyds-wish-you-were-here-saddest-song/#:~:text=The%20song%20is%20about%20Syd,thanks%20to%20heavy%20drug%20use.