The VigilanceVoice
Saturday-- March 23, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 193

The Skepticism Of Vigilance
Cliff McKenzie
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 systems.
       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 that day.
      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 spirituality.
      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 Biggest Fan

        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 living?"
      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 in tow.
     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 card.   
      "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!
       We 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 the world.
      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 protect her.
      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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