You know those moments, big moments, that you’re sure will change the world? I had a brilliant idea to make a collage of some recent big moments – inspirational and devastating events that everyone would recognize and relate with in a profound way. I created downloaded a collection of really powerful images and was so excited that I woke Monica to show her what I was planning to do. Bleary-eyed and a little bit grouchy, she cupped her tea as I explained my idea. Next to an image of the smoking World Trade Center, I was going to paint red X’s through Osama Bin Laden’s eyes to symbolize the death of the second most hated man in recent history (or third, depending on your view of Donald Drumf). Neil Armstrong would be standing next to the US flag on the moon of course, and below him would be a portrait of Lance Armstrong in his bicycle racing uniform, but looking guilty (because he got caught taking performance enhancing drugs). Al Gore would be waving triumphantly as he accepted praise for inventing the internet. I waited for Monica’s nod of approval as I explained that Al Gore was going to look like he was waving at the otherwise engaged mobs that were pushing through a section of the crumbling Berlin Wall. In the center would be a hiker bathed in sunlight while raising his arms in triumph. No nod. No smile. She focused really hard on her tea.
Finally, she asked, “Why do you need to include a picture of a terrorist, Love?” I assumed the look she was giving me was groggy morning-grouchiness rather than concern that she might be learning something about me that she wished she knew before we got married and I explained about the red X’s through the eyes again.
“But why do you want to sketch a terrorist, Love?” she asked again.
Clearly, she wasn’t getting it. I really let my excitement bubble up as I tried to show her that this would be a profound collage. A little bit disturbing, sure, but that made it even better. It was more like real life, with the really amazing and the really horrible all mixed together and blended into one image. She was still calling me Love so it wasn’t a fight. Yet.
“So basically, you want to sketch a picture of a bicycle guy, a waving guy, a moon guy, a smoking tower and a crumbling wall,” she said, “And the hiker in the middle isn’t even you!”
“But he was someone I hiked with,” I reminded her, “and I took the picture!”
I was rethinking my plans to make her an omelet for breakfast to make up for waking her so early, when she sighed into her tea and asked me why I wanted to do this in the first place.
“You know I’m getting ready to hike the Appalachian Trail. It’s a big deal, at least for me. Feels like I’m on the cusp of one of those Big Moments.”
She was fully awake now and had her supportive face firmly in place. “OK Love. Fine. That sounds great,” she said. “Maybe you can take it down a few notches though?”
I didn’t have to think long to remember quite a few other world-changing big moments in recent history. Apparently, my next round of selections wasn’t nearly as offensive (or Monica was just ready to move on). I still feel that the 6-month hike I’m preparing for is a big deal, but I will (grudgingly) admit that it may not register globally on the same scale as the big moments that made my final cut. A lot of other people have chosen to hike the Appalachian Trail in order to work through their messed up lives, so I can’t claim that I had made a revolutionary Al-Gore-invented-the-internet level discovery. I can already envision the overwhelming sense of accomplishment that I will feel upon reaching Mt. Katahdin after hiking 2,183 miles, but I doubt it will trigger the same wave of inspiration for the next generation of youngsters that followed the Broncos’ SuperBowl victory. Sure, scrambling through the mountain ranges of the East Coast will be filled with exciting and magical moments, but it would border on blasphemy to imply equality with the resurrection of the Star Wars saga. There will undoubtedly be a seemingly endless series of highs (and lows); however, the highest point on the Trail is Clingman’s Dome at around 6,500 feet, less than half the elevation of most respectable Colorado peaks. Based on my research Googling, most hikers learn valuable and practical life lessons, but I might need to lower my expectations a bit if I hope that this adventure will have the same impact as the introduction of the iPhone. And I know that attempting to hike the entire Appalachian Trail is crazy, and reckless, and probably even a little bit dangerous, but I think most of us can agree that it’s nothing compared to electing a president that thinks killing the families of terrorists would be a sound addition to our foreign policy.
You can probably think of more important/relevant/less offensive big moments that you would have included if you were creating your own collage (and I’d love to laugh hear about them). Nonetheless, completing this project has convinced me that the world can change in a moment, but just as important, some moments can change you.