What follows is a post to my MBA/Technology Management class on why I might be late getting a paper handed in on Cultural Values and Ethics:
It's past midnight now. Almost one AM.
I will be on the Freedom Train today. In my mind, I already am.
So if I get this paper done late, it's because my personal, organizational, and cultural values say it's far more important to commemorate the 59th Anniversary of the original Freedom Train than to get this paper turned in immediamente. I want to do this ride this year in preparation for the 60th Anniversary next year. It will be part of a creative project that I'm working on in conjunction with a New York City photographer, if all goes according to plan.
"Flowers in the Cracks."
Ideally, it will begin as a photo-essay project, socio-political, visual and poetic, on the renewal of the spirit, tying together such disparate elements as the Holy Grail, the Declaration of Independence, the United Nations, 9/11 and Iraq. In this case, you can fairly say it's the renewal of the Spirit of '76.
I will be carrying printed-out copies of the documents on the original Freedom Train from 1947, along with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights passed in that same year.
I'll see if I can get this paper done according to the curriculum standards by midnight, but I'm still trying to get back up to speed after being gone most of the week for my grandmother's funeral. I also have my professional position to attend to.
I don't need 900-1,050 words to write such a paper. Nor APA format. Nor Microsoft Word.
All of that is illusion. Artificial schematic "requirements" that we can either opt in to, conform with, and use to limit oneself and one's expression. Or not, if we so choose differently. Pardon me a moment, and I mean no disrespect to the class, the instructor, nor the APA, the University of Phoenix or the Microsoft Corporation, but in the spirit of true freedom, I'm going to color outside the lines. Using every color of the spectrum at my disposal.
I'm going to be on that Freedom Train tomorrow!
I'm going to get a good night's sleep too.
If I can get this paper done when I get back, adhering as best as I can to the required format and content, I'll do the best paper I can given the time left in the day.
I'm not trying to get excused from school work, especially on culture and ethics.
Instead, I'm going to be walking the walk. Talking the talk. No theory. Action. Praxis.
I hope to be amongst our culture and expressing my ethics with the rest of the San Francsico Bay Area. Or at least as many of us that care to show up. Out of universal charity and fraternity, I promised a homeless man, Winston, I'd see him tomorrow and shake his hand if I could find him at the Caltrain station. Even if I cannot find him and never see him again, I'm going to be there for him. I promised a lot of people I'd be riding that Freedom Train up to the city. I promised my pastor and my God.
I'm going to be there for them. Even if I get hit by a car on the way to the train station, or if the train crashes, I'm going to be there. Even if I miss the train due to the fate of space and time, I'll try to catch the next. In whatever afterlife I find, I'll ask where the train station is. I'll be on that train. You might call me a bit obsessed, but I'd simply call this commitment to the principles of the day.
Other people are getting shot at, stabbed, and bombed for the sake of freedom. Some people are being executed rather than ever find a shred of human dignity granted to them out of kindness, regard for equality and fraternal love for all humankind. For their sake, for only a few hours, I will get out of my apartment, give up my normally rather ordinary, sedentary, isolated lifestyle, and I will walk with humble steps as a witness in compassionate solidarity to their suffering, their struggle, and their achievements. To celebrate Jana's life, and the life of all those of her nation and all nations that lived through, suffered or died due to madness and hatred, I will ride that train. This was why I had started my own non-profit some years back — Celebrate History. For the demise of that organization, I will also be on the train in glad rememberance of what we had done when we had the chance, and to celebrate the history of the Freedom Train and all it stands for.
And not just for the past. I will ride for the presently extremely impoverished and homeless who haunt the train stations of our nation, and the poor around the world, who are often in such a state not because of their inherent unworthiness, but because of the often mercurial nature of politics, the fear and hatred of xenophobia, economics, ironic chance and pure malice.
It is also the celebration of my sister, who is busy planning and working to get the NYC MTA rebuilt after 9/11, to get back to normalcy and peak efficiency for the people of my home town, New York City, and all the people of all the mass-transit systems in the world. Such a symbol of unity with mass transit is also vitally important to me as the gas prices rise to $3.00 a gallon, and as we lose touch with our neighbors in an isolated car-driven world.
I'll also be riding that train in honor of my grandfather, and my grandmother, and for many others you will read about in an essay I will point out below.
You can call it my own pilgrimage, my hajj, my Selma, and the worship of so many heroes who have lived and died, and who continue to work uncelebrated today, from the deep south to the South Bronx to South San Francisco to South Africa and South America, and everywhere in between from south pole to north pole.
If you are wondering, no. I have not ridden this train before. This will be my first time aboard. By fate or fortune's hand I might not ever do it again. We can never truly know what the future will hold, or what this might lead to in my life or in the lives of others who find out about this event and what it may mean for them.
For various personal and private reasons, today's going to be a special day for me. I don't want to miss it.
If you want to hear more why I'm playing "hookie" from school on a day when every other school I know of is closed, you can read my essay:
I Think I Hear My Freedom Train — Do You?
There's my cultural values. There's my personal ethics. There's the organization of individuals I will be standing with.
Let me ask: What will you stand for and do tomorrow?
Whatever it is, love it with all your heart and might.
Onwards to adventure!