I just finished indulging in a feast of chicken lo mein (sans vegetables) and steamed rice from the local Chinese take-out joint. I reached into the nearly empty brown bag and found precisely what I was looking for: the tasty, crisp, and perpetually enigmatic fortune cookie. After delicately cracking its outer shell in half–causing a schism between the two once-united halves–I removed that small, rectangular piece of paper with a typically-silly or Confucius-esque tidbit on it. However, instead of the norm of giving me a slight chuckle by adding the words “in bed” to the end, this fortune had quite the insightful morsel inscribed upon it. It boldly claimed:
“A harboured ship is indeed safe, but that is not what ships were built for.”
While pondering that fortune, I realised that it carries with it a huge truth: safety doesn’t necessarily coincide with the intended purpose. Contrarily, rarely are the things that matter most in one’s life the easy or safe things to do. If one considers the lives of the majority of the most influential people throughout time–Jesus, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Galileo, Euclid, Karl Marx, Paul Rusesabagina, and many more–one will realise that they all rebelled against the unwritten cultural laws of safety. Many of them died because of their beliefs.
Many people share the beliefs and ideas of these infamous people. What, then, differentiates between the masses who share those beliefs and the heroes like those mentioned above? The difference is action. Even in the times during which one could be punished for one’s beliefs, a person could avoid punishment by simply keeping those beliefs to him or herself. Standing up for what one believes is quite different than merely believing in ideals. I equate that distinction to the one that the fortune cookie so eloquently brought to my attention. If you have strong beliefs–and I would argue that all humans do–then you are a ship. However, unless you act on those beliefs in order to make the world a better place, you are simply staying in port where the waters are calm and inviting. To truly succeed in this life, you must leave the safety net of unmoving bays and docks; you must venture out to the rough oceans of politics, heated discussions, and the possibility of harsh, sometimes unjust criticisms. Stand up for what you believe, even when persecution or prosecution are possible outcomes.
|:| Zach |:|