Soft Touch of Inspiration

This has been a strange year for me and my family. It has been a year full of peaks and valleys that really are hard to fathom because I’m person that is always struggling to put things into a “context.” If you’re like me, then you might also call this search for context “destiny” or “meaning.” I don’t deny that I often wonder if there is a bigger picture or destiny in which we belong. And yes, I understand that sometimes these ideas place me into a minority of people that waste time searching for meaning in places which often have nothing to give back except more questions than answers. But I also believe that I’m a part of a minority that can’t help it. I have come to believe that I must have always been built that way – to have an insatiable thirst for needing to know if there’s a grand story that might one day answer questions like why am I here and, ultimately, what part do I play in being here? The past twelve months have been rough. They have been so rough and full of so many peaks and valleys that its hard to make a list of everything without wondering what it all means and why everything played out the way it did. It has been both the best and worst twelve months of my life. It was a year that began with me having conversations with just about every rock hero past and present and dreaming about the endless possibilities of my career as a writer. It was also a year that ended on a lifetime low with me painting apartment buildings at 12 dollars an hour. It was humbling. Especially when you consider that I went from living a dream and riding a wave of enthusiasm and hope for an awesome future to nearly losing my faith entirely as I scraped debris and dry rot off buildings. My body ached and my heart cursed my predicament. My hands, once used to type my thoughts, were now calloused and writhing with pain in the joints of every finger. Until today, I had not typed a single article since last October. The well had gone dry. I had nothing left to say. To say that my faith was nearly gone would be an understatement. I downright declared out loud that there was no God. After all, how can a “God” allow suffering? Sometimes when our lives are peppered with disappointment we can only see the bad and none of the good that is a part of our circumstances. We can’t help it. Sometimes it’s just our nature to want to feel sorry for ourselves and come to absolute and maybe even absurd conclusions. And that was what I wanted to do too. That was what I was doing. That is, until I started paying attention to the story of Jeremy Lin unfold recently. For those that haven’t been paying attention, Jeremy Lin is the first Chinese American born player to play in the NBA. In short he was overlooked by most colleges before he played for Harvard where he was a standout point guard. Despite this he went undrafted by the pros before gaining an opportunity to play for the Golden State Warriors. He got very little playing time for the Warriors before the team eventually cut him rather than pay him his contract. He was finally picked up by the Houston Rockets, who also saw little promise and after a brief stint in Houston was cut by the Rockets as well rather than pick up his Warriors contract. Jeremy was eventually picked by the New York Knicks, who also saw little promise and sent him down to the development league. That’s where the story could have ended. Jeremy Lin, even at this point, could have shrugged and given in to defeat, but he didn’t. Not many stories about perseverance end in defeat. Just when things were their most bleak for the injury ridden Knicks, Jeremy Lin was brought back up from his brief development league stay to ride the bench as a third option at point guard. It was only after every other option was exhausted and the struggling Knicks were running out of healthy and/or viable options at point guard that Jeremy was thrown to the wolves, so to speak, as a starter. If he failed, at least they could cut him before the date they had to pay him what was owed on his original contract. He could have failed, yet again and finished this season unsigned and unpaid. Instead, he ended up shining during his opportunity and scoring twenty or more points during his first three games as an NBA starter. It’s a film waiting to be made and a film that nobody would want to see because it’s so unbelievable and we all know how little Hollywood cares about Asians in cinema. But it’s also a story that isn’t over yet. Even if the story ended here, it’s enough for me to remain inspired. Because in October I was living my dream too. In October I was talking to a member of Dream Theater (the biggest prog metal bands in the world) only to spend the rest of my winter as a painter. I spent the entire winter wanting to quit, to run away, to give up my entire life because I felt like a failure. If that was my destiny and how my story was supposed to play out, I’m not sure I would have blamed myself for quitting because it just felt like everything I had spent my life trying to accomplish led me to where I was as a painter. I was down. But as long as I’m breathing that can’t be the end. That’s not how most stories of perseverance are supposed to end. So at the moment I can only be grateful for those that prove the impossible is possible. For this I have to thank Jeremy Lin for just being alive and just playing his heart out. It’s during the bad times that we most need to be inspired. We need to hold onto something that give us hope. We need to be inspired to stay the course, to keep on believing, and to keep on trying. Because no matter how awful things get, if we remember that everything is temporary, we can remind ourselves that things can and do get better. I began with the idea about how I wonder if I am a part of a larger picture. If I am, I also realize that this is a vague, as well as, strange thing to wonder about because most skeptics will immediately discount the big picture as something that is undefinable or meaningless. Because in order to understand the context of destiny or the big picture it implies that there might be higher powers in control. When I think about my life I can’t help but believe that I need to be inspired as much as I need to remain diligent. Because you never know what tomorrow may bring. If I need to be reminded of anything it’s also that we can’t live in the past as much as we should never rest in the accomplishments of our past either. If Jeremy Lin’s story teaches me nothing else it’s that anything is possible. If you watch his YouTube videos, it’s something that he reminds his fans to remember. All things are possible. I am reminded of this as I think about the past twelve months. If I can sink, I can also rise. So if you are a part of the school of thought, that rejects higher powers, because that might suggest that there might be something (or maybe even some deity) in control of the larger picture. I just think about the story of Jeremy Lin and wonder if there might be something to it. Because if there is meaning that can be found in our trials and tribulations then I might be someone who believes that the second school of thought (the one of hope) might suggest that meaning can be extrapolated from everything. This might mean that everything that is written or ever will be written about ourselves might have already been predetermined and what we are actually doing in this life is just riding out the script so to speak. If this is the case, then the possibility of destiny might exist because we all have a complete story already written for us by a grand author (and/or designer) – if that makes sense. The reason to subscribe to part of this idea lies in the possibility we are meant to live out stories because of the possibility alone that our destinies might be bigger than ourselves – that we ourselves might also exist to inspire others. All you have to do is look at the story of Jeremy Lin who, at least for now, is a hero for us all and who symbolizes “possibility.” I like this because we could all use a little hope and inspiration during tough times. Because what grabs our attention isn’t the story about those who were meant to succeed, but what grabs our attention is the story about the person who faces all adversity and claws their way back into the game and makes most the most of their opportunity. Here’s to Jeremy Lin. But more importantly, here’s to all of us believers and nonbelievers alike who live and breathe for the possibility of a better tomorrow.

By Paul Stamat