I had a specific topic in mind for this Left to Write, but I took too long to sit down and write it out. Consequently, it escaped. One of the struggles I deal with on a daily basis is remaining focused on the task at hand. I used to blame this on the myriad ideas coursing through my mind at all times of the day, and indeed there are far too many rabbit trails and paths to follow them all. But as someone who eats M&M's in color order (orange first, brown last), I strive to apply more discipline to my thought life and prevent important ideas from running away before I can run with them.
That’s part of why I’m here right now. I'm running with an idea. It started with an article about cyber security. Maybe you've read it as well. Recently, Mat Honan, a Senior Writer for Wired Magazine, was hacked . As Honan details in his article (worth the read, by the way), his Gmail account was wiped out, his twitter account was compromised, and his apple devices - iPhone, iPad, and MacBook - were all wiped clean remotely, all his data lost.
To what end? Apparently, his Twitter account was the primary target. Or maybe it was to expose vulnerable security measures for the good of the world (the Hippocratic Oath of ethical hackers everywhere). Honan, after striking up a conversation with his attacker, never really gets a straight answer, but he does get something else. A statement that leapt off the page and arrested my utmost attention, sparking the thoughts leading to this textual sprint:
"‘yea i really am a nice guy idk why i do some of the things i do,’ [the hacker] told [Horan] via AIM."
Sound familiar? I'm really a nice guy, but I don't always do nice things. We assume the best of ourselves. We write off character flaws, poor choices, and bad behavior. We justify our actions because we find ourselves in a difficult situation, facing too much pressure to behave like the "good person" we "normally" are. We explain away these actions by promising, "it's so unlike me."
I tend to think that pressure actually reveals our true nature, rather than forcing us into actions that are "unlike" us. I believe what we do under “normal circumstances” teach us how to behave under stress. In fact, I just watched a YouTube video that condensed several hundred moments from the career of Michael Jordan into a ten-minute mirage of sorts. What struck me most, as I watched in awe, was the striking, almost mechanical similarity of his motions as he swooped in for a dunk or pulled up for a jumper.
Most of these moments were from regular season games, but some mirror Jordan's signature moments from the NBA Playoffs and Finals. So, when Michael Jordan found himself in the high-stakes, high-stress position of trying to win an NBA Championship, he didn’t start throwing punches or acting “unlike” himself. Rather, he behaved very much like himself, taking actions he practiced and trained his body to perform.
Be that as it may, we’re all still plagued by the “idks” (“I Don’t Knows” for those of you my age and older) of life. The apostle Paul called them thorns. Bad actions that taint our witness. Unwise choices that prick our conscience. Distractions that keep us from accomplishing the work set before us. The blue, red, green, and yellow M&M’s that keep us from a handful of orange. Our sinful nature.
It is these thorns we struggle to rid from our flesh, these hurdles we hope to overcome. It is the cross we often bear.
Thank you for your time.