On Photographs, History & Story

History presents itself with an air of inevitability.  As though the great heroes and heroines knew that their day of testing was upon them and knew the strength they needed to muster to conquer the trials at hand.  We like our history clean and tidy.  We like good and evil, right and wrong, hero and villain.  It makes a good movie, a good book and good story told by grandfathers around dinner tables to wide-eyed children. 

It is not real.

What’s more unsettling is not the fact that history is messier than we would like to admit.  Truthful and honest people all know that to be the case.  One must choose to willfully ignore bountiful evidence to believe that real life ties itself up into storybook endings (or beginnings, or middles).  No, what is more unsettling is that many of our so-called heroes were often unaware of the history they were making.  They did not awake one morning, with destiny on their lips and conquer the day.  They got up and lived their life, oftentimes asleep to the reality that history would paint for them.  They made choices, many of them seemingly insignificant at the time that joined a chorus of hundreds and thousands of unknowing moments to bring about something wholly new.

I guess my point in thinking about this is two-fold.  The first that we are culturally inclined to shout from the rooftops (or facebook wall) about this event or that moment which is bound to be of earthshattering importance.  We clamor to be heard above the din, calling others to action for if time is wasted, we surely will lose.  We are prone to live our lives waiting for our moment to hold hands with destiny.  I guess I would argue not that destiny isn’t searching for partners, but that instead you are shaping destiny by how you live each day.  Choosing kindness, selflessness and compassion will shape the world around you in uncountable ways.  Do not confuse urgency for destiny.  Be you, it is that which will change the world.

My second thought refers to the quote at the beginning of this post.  I often wonder how I can look at the lives of my parents, and grandparents, and many others around me and see such a clear and unbroken narrative; when within my own life all I see is twists, turns, inconstancies, and shortcomings.  Perhaps, that is just my lot in life.  Or perhaps I have fallen into the trap of believing that everyone’s life moves forward with a sense of manifest destiny, when in reality - life is about the journey.  It is easy to live within one’s self, losing sight of the fact that we all struggle through insecurities and heartaches, failures and broken dreams.  I wonder, as I often do, what story I am telling my children.  Am I telling them a story through photographs and a carefully curated social media footprint that leads them to believe that life is easy and without pain?  Or am I welcoming them into authenticity, which does not hide from the struggle, but embraces it as a significant part of the journey?  I want to tell an honest story and I want my children to be unafraid to fail.  As Donald Miller says, “Great stories move through fear.”  May we tell stories free from fear, ones that are honest, and ones that are true.  May we embrace the destiny that comes from simply being who we are meant to be.