Monday, May 28, 2007

Right Here, Right Now

As my dear friend Saur Kraut has taken a much-deserved vacation, she has asked seven bloggers to fill in for her each day she is gone. I have the distinct honor of (trying) to fill her shoes today (Monday). The other six bloggers chosen to write for the other six days can be found on her blog, “Saurly Yours.” Although I have no idea what I will write about, I am absolutely sure I will write about something. If you please, the rabbit hole is right over here…

I was interviewing a battalion chief from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (formerly known as CDF, now officially called CAL FIRE) yesterday for the annual pre-season fire prevention story to be published in next week’s Colfax Record. After the interview we talked informally about little things such as, oh - life in general. Not its origins or its creation or even its evolution or lack thereof, but more about its purpose - on an individual level.

The battalion chief and I are about the same age. Although we had vastly different experiences growing up, we have similar ideas on “what it’s all about.” Perhaps more accurately, we seem to have the same opinion on what it’s not all about. It’s not about power or prestige or money or influence. True, some of those things do come, but the purpose is not the acquisition of that stuff. Among the commonalities we share at this juncture in our lives is a desire to serve. The idea that we are contributing to our community is foremost in our overall view of the world.

It came as something of a surprise when he told me that in his younger years, he viewed the world much more materialistically than he does today. I had just assumed that fire fighters and others whose career it is to serve in a very physical way (we’re not talking about politicians here) were cut from a different cloth - that they were by nature much more selfless. Apparently selflessness and materialism are not mutually exclusive. Be that as it may, the question we informally pondered was what had changed in our lives to give each of us a more global perspective.

We discounted our age, but not entirely. The vast number of people in their mid-forties who care nothing about anything other than themselves shows that age alone is not the answer. I am pretty sure that my turning point was a near fatal automobile accident almost seven years ago. Combined with other profound, though decidedly less traumatic experiences, my outlook on life changed. Interestingly enough, the battalion chief arrived at similar conclusions through quite different, however, equally profound experiences.

And my career choice - my calling - reflects this paradigmatic shift in perception. The purpose is to be of service to my fellow man. Whether it comes in the form of fighting fires or reporting the news, it’s about what I can do, not what I can get. In the end the material results might be the same, but the intangibles - the satisfaction taken in the process - are priceless. There is no short cut, no way to get there except by making the journey. What will come will come, but the real reward is right here, right now.

8 comments:

Carmi said...

As one who was born into a similar calling, I relate so strongly to every word you've written.

How right you are about age not being the driver: my siblings are only marginally older than I am, yet we are about as opposite as night and day. Their extreme devotion to the religion of materialism stands makes me nauseous.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Looks like I skipped you Mike...I had to do this vereification thingy again...! (Did you hsve to do that over at Michele's??All Day!
Anyway...here I am.)

I would be very interested to know how the Fire Chief made that change...(I am familiar with your life changing accident.my dear)...It is always fascinating to read or hear about what has moved a person to a completely different place in their values, or I should say what they feel is important in life....I agree that the "being of service" is a wonderful wonderful thing, and in fact, I believe there is no higher calling.

Snaggle Tooth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Snaggle Tooth said...

The human ability to learn, change, and adapt due to traumatic and emotional experience is amazing. Equally amazing is how different types of experience can have the same effect on different individuals in viewing life's priorities!

As you know, I believe it's people helping other people, creating the spin which keeps the Earth turning on it's axis.

Of course, there's always some folks who refuse to learn...

Bob-kat said...

I know exactly what you mean. career shift for myself in my late twenties reflected this for me. What casued the sift, I am not sure but the job I do now is definitely of service to my country. Nice post.

michelle said...

I am so happy to be 39 and not counting.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Career shifting is a big step, ever more so that later in our working lives.

Michele sent me here.

The Zombieslayer said...

The vast number of people in their mid-forties who care nothing about anything other than themselves shows that age alone is not the answer.

No. And a lot of folks in their 60s still care about nothing other than themselves. That's something that age doesn't change. A person who is a selfish prick in their 30s will most likely still be one in their 40s, 50s, and 60s.