Monday, October 25, 2010

The Lantern Bearer: A Tribute To Paul Wellstone

Oiginally published 10/29/2002
A Lantern Bearer's light went out this weekend.

And the world grew darker.

We react to the infinite realities the world holds in a straightforward way. We simplify it by choosing, consciously or not, which reality we care to embrace. But whichever illusion we choose can also constrain us and too often turns into a shadow that we dare not challenge.

How do people react to you when you leave a room? Do they laugh at you? Some might. Of course, some might admire you. And some won't like you and some will and some won't give you a second thought, one way or the other. Which illusion do you subscribe to? And how does that shadow world modify what you say or do before you leave the room? Illusions like that are everywhere. And are so all-encompassing as to be invisible, like water to a fish.

And then comes a Lantern Bearer, who holds up their light to the shadows and walks through them and takes us along. They remind us that we created these shadows, and that we can dispel them. We just have to pick up our lanterns, hold them out in front of us, and walk bravely forward.

Think your idea can never work? That's just a shadow - hold up your light and walk through it.

Think that which you care about cannot be achieved? That's just a shadow - hold up your light and walk through it.

Think you are alone in your passion? That's just a shadow - hold up your light and walk through it.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. The world has room for you, your energy, and your passion. Indeed, it desperately needs it.


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A Lantern Bearer's light went out this weekend.

And the world grew darker.

Paul Wellstone's death left sizeable holes in our world in many ways. An election, uncompleted. A Senate, undecided. A movement, leaderless. A family, parentless.

But the largest hole might be spiritual. For a slice of my generation, he wasn't just someone who championed their political philosophy, but someone who reminded them of the joy and strength that flows from acting in a fundamentally moral way.

"I lost my Kennedy." one friend told his wife this weekend.

His believers flocked to the Twins Cities and followed him to Washington. They participated in a system that they otherwise might have disdained. And they watched him challenge the shadows.

Think an outsider can't change the system? That's just a shadow - hold up your light and walk through it.

Think voting your conscience will alienate you from the decision makers? That's just a shadow - hold up your light and walk through it.

Think a good man can't hold onto his convictions when clothed with the trappings of power? That's just a shadow - hold up your light and walk through it.

And then the believers started picking up their own lanterns.

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A Lantern Bearer's light went out this weekend.

And it happened the way it always seems to with lantern bearers. Suddenly. Tragically. Too damn early.

And, of course, the world grew darker.

When a bright light is suddenly taken away, isn't that always when things are darkest? But that, too, is an illusion. Time passes, the eyes adjust, and one starts seeing the other sources of light.

Because this Lantern Bearer's light has spread throughout this generation. Some lantern bearers are trying to change how politics works. Some are ushering underprivileged kids into college. And if you look around, you'll find hundreds more have raised their own lanterns, found their own path, and chased their own shadows.

Is it still too dark? Sure. So maybe it's time you picked up your lantern.

Think your voice won't be heard? That's just a shadow - hold up your light and walk through it.

Think you're powerless? That's just a shadow - hold up your light and walk through it.

Think YOU can't make a difference? That's just a shadow - hold up your light and walk through it.

A Lantern Bearer's light went out this weekend.

And a thousand more Lantern Bearers strode forward.
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I attended Carleton College when Paul Wellstone was there, and even had a class with him. I skew considerably further right from him on the political spectrum, but I always respected him, and I always voted for him out of that respect. But mostly I respected his impact on my friends' lives. On the anniversary of his death, I'm rerunning this story was for them. Back to Twins tomorrow.

3 comments:

TT said...

Thanks Geek. You aren't "kinda sad, really" ...

Brian said...

It makes me sad to think of the impact he could have had... Would things be better in our country if he had lived?

I think so.

Jack Steal said...

John,

I am a staunch conservative and disagreed with pretty much everything Paul Wellstone said and did. However, it was a very sad day when him and his wife died so tragically in a plane crash. Nice article!!