The VigilanceVoice
Saturday-- May 25, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 256

Standing On The Edge
Of Infinity
Cliff McKenzie
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.  He agreed.
       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 muscles.
       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 place.       
       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 victor?"
      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 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 the Unknown.
      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 I noticed.
       "Acting challenges 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 could happen.
      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 the seedling 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 family.
      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.

G0 TO:  May 24--"The Thinker Of Vigilance"

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