stepping it up

I’m just going to jump right in tonight. Why do we lower our standards in order to avoid disappointment? This occurred to me over the recent holiday weekend and made the parallel between fireworks displays and our overall standards in life. Am I reaching with this one? Not really. Here we go.

I was in Chicago on July 4th with a friend, anticipating the impending fireworks over Navy Pier with an average amount of enthusiasm (which I can honestly say was more about the cheese we had with us). We had settled our blanket in the park and gotten comfy, only to realize ten minutes later that everyone around us was getting up and scurrying toward the shore- apparently from within the park you couldn’t actually see the fireworks over the tree line. Woops. So if we wanted to “see the show” we had to move. Such lemmings, we are. Part of me wanted to stay put because it didn’t honestly matter if we saw the fireworks or not- either way it was an enjoyable evening, spent with great company, a decent block of cheese, and an amazing view of one of the best cities in the country. (And another part of me earnestly didn’t want to follow the crowd.)

But alas, we got up, so as not to completely devoid our evening of its original purpose, and as we started the relocation process, my friend asked if we needed to hurry so we didn’t miss the show. Honestly, most fireworks displays are mildly similar to one another at best and monochromatic and lopsided at worst. It wasn’t about the fireworks. It became about doing what we were expected to do, with the rest of the general public, like lemmings. Follow follow follow. Even though we weren’t really going to witness anything spectacular, there was a bizarre sense of urgency about the entire situation that didn’t sit well with me.

It was then that I realized that fireworks- like most semi-regular occurrences in life- don’t really need to be that great for people to be content- they just need to happen in the general manner to which they are accustomed. Provide something the masses are expecting, and most of the time, even if it’s not really that impressive, everyone still follows along blithely (“Hey, it’s Independence Day, let’s go see the fireworks, God Bless America…”), without really evaluating whether a) it’s actually enjoyable or b) there’s any added value to their lives derived thereof.

Which is why I think we need to step it up.

Seriously. Should our lives be a series of mediocre fireworks displays and below-average standards? Or do we deserve to be impressed. Blown away. THRILLED that someone, somewhere made an extra effort to do something really special- to carve their own path- and yes, somebody noticed. And maybe, if more people started doing things a little better than they did them yesterday, and improved their own modus operandi, then little by little, we’d all start to come out of the status-quo-induced-laziness-coma that is becoming quite a national epidemic.

When more of the general populous becomes unsatisfied with mediocrity, it pushes everyone to start doing better things, albeit great things, possibly even intriguing, brilliant things. And when you do brilliant things, you attract other intelligent, compelling people. (Seriously, go watch some TED talks if you don’t believe this phenomenon exists). And eventually, by engaging yourself and others in this manner repeatedly, you help build an amazing, vibrant, interesting little slice of the world. And over time, slice by slice, you realize that your life, your circle of friends, your community, and the world around you no longer resemble a “how is this any different than last year” fireworks display.

And doesn’t that sound better?

These are a few of the shots I took in Chicago…didn’t take a bunch, but I liked the texture and color in these. 

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