May 25, 2002—Ground
Zero Plus 256
Standing On The Edge
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York City, May 25-- Yesterday afternoon
I interviewed an actor. He told me about the Edge
of Infinity and that he wasn't afraid of standing on the
edge of life and peering into the Unknown. According to
him, the Unknown was the Known. He called it infinity--or
the future--and claimed it held the secret of Hope and the essence
of life's beauty. The Unknown, he said, was womb of all life's
beauties yet unlived.
I hadn't expected
that response from an actor. Or the impact it had on me.
I never asked his
name or age, even though I guessed I was twice as old as he.
The age answer seemed irrelevant as we talked. The shell he
wore bearing youthful, vibrant skin and bone seemed secondary
to the ancient wisdoms issuing from his mouth. Vigilance,
I was to learn from him, comes from standing on the Edge of
Infinity and embracing the Unknown.
That was news to me.
I met the young man
at Starbucks in New York's East Village quite by accident.
Earlier in the day, I charged my two laptop batteries for a
long writing stint. (no outlets on the Starbucks patio).
I felt a driving force urging me to get back to the creative
story telling, writing fiction rather than solely facts and
opinions on Terrorism versus Vigilance. I vowed
to write until my batteries were exhausted.
Starbucks was jammed. People
lazed in the warmth of a Friday's summer's eve. After standing
for nearly a half hour, I noted a spot at an occupied
table. A young man sat busily writing in a notebook.
I asked if I might share a portion of his table.
I set up my computer and
casually asked if he was a writer. "No," he
replied, "I'm an actor. I'm working on some monologues."
At first I didn't pursue
a conversation as I was eager to pound out some fiction that
had been brewing in me since September 11th. During the
past nine months my writing has focused on Terrorism and Vigilance.
I wanted to get back to fiction, where I could escape the reality
of facts and create images and illusions that tested my creative
I began to pound the keyboard,
but quickly found it difficult to keep my writing engines in
high gear. I struggled for the right words, the proper
images, the most effective characterizations. Writing
fiction rather than fact requires a mindset. It demands
thrusting yourself into an amorphous world where you lose your
own identity and take on the shapes and figures of human existence
around you, slipping in and out of various the characters' skins
you create and folding their viewpoints toward one destination,
one climactic point that makes all the puzzle pieces fall into
Stumped, I decided some
conversation might get the words flowing, I decided to prime
the pump by interviewing the actor. If he agreed, I would
find out how he handled Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.
Actors live with the Terror of being rejected daily, so the
diversion, I thought, would not be time wasted.
He agreed to a brief interview,
emphasizing he had had an appointment in a few minutes
I rushed into a series of questions digging into his inner motivations
and his ability to deal with a world of personal rejection and
Terror and how he kept his head above water.
"Why do you act?
Are you afraid? How do you climb into another's
shoes? What drives you to keep suffering the rejection?
What is the beauty of acting? How do you handle
the Terror of competition? How do you deal with
self doubts? What do you see when you look at other people?
How do you keep your balance on the edge of daily defeat and
I machine-gunned the questions.
He told me he wasn't afraid... that he wasn't Terrorized by
acting. He said acting was like standing on the
edge of the Unknown, peering into the darkness of things he
had never done before and finding the beauty of discovery.
"I'm just not afraid,"
he said. "I embrace the Unknown.
I know it holds the adventure of life. The Known
was once the Unknown to me. I learned how to pass
through it to find new things, exciting things in the Unknown.
I learned to test myself as a human being by exploring things
I hadn't done before...so I stand on the edge of the Known versus
the Unknown...and I look into the Unknown as though it were
infinity...full of infinite possibilities I never realized before....full
of growth and learning...the edge for me is a well of knowledge...a
learning experience....a place where I evolve as a human being."
I sat back and took a deep
breath. The young man was half my age yet twice as wise.
I had forgotten about the Edge of Vigilance. I had
forgotten that life is about exploring the Unknown. I
too was once fearless of the Unknown. As he spoke reverently
about the Edge of Infinity--describing it as a treasure chest
filled with jewels of knowledge, rich with precious new experiences,
and undaunted by the reality of the present--I felt the faint
recollection of my youthful love of the Unknown, of my ability
once to stand on the edge.
In Vietnam I was fearless.
I didn't believe there was a bullet with my name on it, and
stood in the hail of enemy fire as though I were a ghost, unable
to be shot. Later, I walked the razor's edge in
all my dealings with the world. I fearlessly contacted
the world's leaders--presidents, former presidents, Buckminster
Fuller, Bob Hope, Johnny Cash--and brought them to the people
I served to inform and entertain them. People were amazed
at my skill to attract the giants. But to me, they
were just people, and I was on a mission of defying the improbable.
I dreamed of changing
the way business was conducted, and my dreams came true as I
helped to launch a revolution in American business.
I was afraid of no one or nothing back then.
When someone said it couldn't be done, I made it happen.
I lived on the Edge of Infinity...I saw the unlimited possibilities
of what I could do if I were faithful to seeing the beauty within
I even fought a bull in Spain,
sure it wouldn't rip me with its horns. I rushed
into harm's way and challenged it with faith and belief that
impossible was probable, that the incredible was credible.
But along the way of time and circumstance in my business and
personal life as well, I forgot about the Edge.
Complacency swallowed me as it did Noah. Unaware of my
retreat over time, I realized during the conversation I had
shied from the Edge of Infinity, inching my way to safer
grounds, assuming the world would protect me, or, perhaps more
accurately, I had simply tired from the effort it took
to muster the Courage to stand alone on the Edge.
The actor washed my buried
Complacency on shore. I felt it. I saw it loom up
as he spoke of his fearlessness, his ability to embrace the
shadows of the future.
I felt naked as I listened;
his words stripped me of my Complacent armor. I
burrowed my questions deeper into him, trying to ferret out
some hint of Fear, Intimidation, or Complacency, trying
to unearth some hesitation or reservations he might be hiding
from me. But there were none. At least, none
me to be real," he said, glancing at his watch.
"Reality for me isn't where I've been, but where I'm going.
I hold the adventure of life up to the Unknown and I don't have
any Fear. I want to leap off the edge. I want
to rush into the Unknown. We're all here to learn,
to explore. Life isn't worth much without challenging
yourself, is it?"
The question was an arrow.
It found its mark deep within me. It hurt at first.
I realized I hadn't been exploring the Unknown, but rather had
chosen the Known. I was the child on the merry-go-round
who preferred to sit on a horse away from the edge, distancing
myself from those braver souls who leaned out and tried to capture
the brass ring while I watched safely from the center.
The actor had to leave.
I thanked him for sharing with me. Then I turned back
to my computer screen.
He had injected me with awareness
I was Complacent. He reminded me that having the Courage
to take risks made the difference between life's beauty and
happiness and its ugliness and sadness. Living in
the present was stepping into cement and letting it harden.
The present was history. It was the safe zone.
But infinity, ah, infinity--the Edge of Possibility--was endless.
It had no gravity. It didn't trap one into thinking about
what might not happen, but rather fueled one to believe what
His message reminded me that
when I ask someone to take the Pledge of Vigilance, I am asking
them to stand at the Edge of Infinity and look Terrorism in
the eyes. I'm asking my readers to remove
themselves from a state of Complacency where they are safe and
secure to enter the realm of the Unknown. I am asking
them to step off the edge of "security" into a world
that is insecure.
I thought about that choice.
It might be easy for me to write about Vigilance, to promote
it, but, do I really live it? Do I face the infinite
possibilities of what I do, or, do I find myself getting angry,
depressed, confused, complacent that what I am doing isn't working
as I had hoped it would?
I began to realize a person facing
the Pledge of Vigilance doesn't just haphazardly vow to protect
his or her children from Terrorism's harm. He or
she must stand on the Edge and look into Infinity's Eye.
Each one must see the future through the darkness of his
or her Complacency. That isn't an easy task when
one believes he or she is doing the best possible job already.
And, in my case, being blind to my own Complacency doesn't help.
It is hard for anyone to proclaim,
"I can be better at what I do if I am willing to pay the
price," because the price of being better is standing on
the Edge--it is the willingness one vows to himself or herself
to leap into the Unknown. The price one risks by
leaping is being defeated, or not meeting one's expectations
and feeling like a "loser" rather than a "winner."
To move ahead after failing to
meet one's expectations, one must climb up the cliff again and
stand on the Edge of Infinity yet another time, and, once again,
fearlessly face Infinity's Eye. That requires much effort.
In my own case, when I was younger,
there wasn't a choice in the matter. It was "do or
die." People who thought I was courageous and
bold and powerful in my convictions perhaps didn't realize that
I never really looked into Fear's face, or studied Intimidation's
Hall of Losers, or considered for a moment that hesitation was
of Complacency. Those came later after many leaps
off the Edge, after many climbs back up to its precipice--each
one becoming harder and harder.
The actor reminded me how age
or experience can cripple one's willingness to stand on the
Edge of Infinity. His words also reminded me how
much effort it took anyone to stand on the Edge of Vigilance
and chose it over Complacency. A parent driven by the demands
of reality to work hard and supply the family with food and
shelter and the comforts of life has little time to question
or challenge the degree of Vigilance he or she provides the
Then there is the question of
time: How much can a person afford to stand on the Edge
of Infinity and embrace Vigilance?
I don't want to answer that question.
But I do want to pose it.
I cannot be responsible for what
another does or their priorities--only what I do and the truth
of my feelings.
My message today is to urge my
readers to stand on the Edge of Infinity and look at the infinite
possibilities of being more Vigilant in all your actions and
deeds and thoughts. Whether you take a minute or an hour
to achieve this look, take it. I took my look by
accident and saw myself in a new light. You may too.
I ask this because I know that
Terrorism also stands on the Edge of Infinity. I know
that a small band of crazed people with a passionate mission
to destroy the confidence, the security, and the happiness of
countless millions see infinite possibilities for their acts
of Terrorism on the Edge of Infinity I know they
are driven by their ambition to hobble modern civilization and
drive its people into caves of Intimidation and Fear,
or to freeze them into states of Complacency.
The madness of flying airplanes
into buildings, or the current threat of blowing up subways
and trains, or the insidious threat of a dirty nuclear bomb
being exploded in the midst of innocent people, is the result
of Terrorism's ability to stand on the Edge and see infinite
possibilities they will be successful.
If our enemy stands on the Edge
of Infinity perhaps we should too.
And rather than seeing Fear,
Intimidation or Complacency, maybe we should look for the Courage,
Conviction and Right Action to counter Terrorism's poisons.
I'm going to do my best to stand
on the Edge. And, if you wish, you can join me.
Just bring along your Pledge of Vigilance. It will
help us both see the infinite possibilities of peace in a world
of turmoil not just for us, but for our children, and their
children's children's children.
TO: May 24--"The Thinker Of Vigilance"