Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History was awesome. Given that Sears filed for Chapter 11 today, I’ll start with some perspective from 1976.
America is remarkably dynamic. Humans constantly create narratives about things and how they work. Suddenly, popular books are appearing, such as Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, that challenge the relevance of our narratives.
There is so much to reflect on when reading a book like Fantasyland or Sapiens. Pondering the meaning of life is an endless human pastime.
It’s particularly interesting in the context of the growth and development of a country, which in and of itself is a temporary construct, just like everything else.
I’ve always loved reading fantasy. And, after reading Fantasyland, I realize I’ve been living in it also.
While I’m reading very little current news right now, I am reading a lot of American history. I’m in a Civil Rights phase that started with Devil in the Grove. I’m sure some of my recent work with Defy Ventures had caused me to dig in deeper into this segment of American history. I know that my reaction to the recent election is reinforcing this.
I was born in December 1965 so the Voting Rights Act had already passed. While I was born in Arkansas I grew up in Dallas, Texas so I was somewhat disconnected from the dynamics of race in the deep south and instead got to experience a different dimension of it since there is generally a Texas version of most things.
I’ve always been confused by the labels Hispanic and Latino and, after living in Boston from 1983 – 1994 and getting a dose of a totally different version of race dynamics than I’d had in Dallas, I realized my upbringing in fashionable far North Dallas was a comfortably privileged one.
Reading a book like March in 2016 helps me realize how far we’ve come as a country, but at the same time reminds me how much more we can and need to do.
I’m glad I get to live in the United States of America.
I started reading the Declaration of Independence every year on America’s birthday a while ago and just read it again. The famous line that always gives me chills when I read it is:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
I believe that all men and women are created equal, but it took our country until 1920 to acknowledge this for women. And then it took until 1964, the year before I was born, to outlaw discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. And same-sex marriage became the law of the land in 2015. It took a while, but we have, and continue to make, progress as a country, and a species.
As we enter what most expect will be a very contentious, hostile, and nasty election cycle, I encourage everyone to remember that ultimately we are all on the same team. I think one of the brilliant parts of our democracy is how resilient it is. We are each allowed to have our own beliefs and, as long as we follow the rule of law, we can express them however we’d like. This is a unique characteristic of the best democracies and one I value tremendously.
I expect that over the next 40 years it’s going to get more, rather than less, complicated. We are currently in the middle of a confusing debate around gender identification which was presented in an easy to consume way in the New York Times Magazine article over the weekend titled The Humiliating Practice of Sex-Testing Female Athletes. We are beginning to talk about the idea of enhanced humans, and whether they should have the same rights as the un-enhanced. And, our fears of the coming AI Apocalypse are making headlines on a periodic basis.
I’d like to believe that in America, we’ll continue to be at the forefront of human society as we work through these issues. We have been since 1776 and I hope that continues at least until 2076. Happy birthday America.
Over the weekend I read Running on Empty: An Ultramarathoner’s Story of Love, Loss, and a Record-Setting Run Across America written by Marshall Ulrich. Ulrich is one of the most amazing ultra-distance runners in the history of man and turns out to be a great story teller as well. I founding his book to be riveting and subsequently downloaded the movie about the run across America that he did called Running America 08.
The movie was dynamite. The run across America took place between September 2008 and finished (coincidentally) on November 4th, 2008. There were three stories woven together in the movie: (1) Marshall’s success effort to run across America, (2) Charlie Engle’s unsuccessful effort, and (3) a backdrop of interviews with American’s all across the country during the time of the run.
In Marshall’s book, there was plenty of discussion about the original partnership between Marshall and Charlie which led to the join effort to run across America in world record time. However, Charlie stopped a third of the way through due to injuries and some drama ensued, which wasn’t covered in the movie but was reasonably well explained in the book. All of this just added to the remarkable feat of accomplishment by Marshall Ulrich.
I’ve been running a lot in Europe this summer and am starting to feel another level of base building. My friend, and CEO of SendGrid Jim Franklin did the Leadville 100 this weekend and another friend just asked if I want to do a 50 miler with her in the spring of 2012. I’m also thinking about spending a month running the Colorado Trail next summer. First up however are four marathons in September and October.
I love running and reading about amazing running accomplishments. It’s even more inspiring to realize that I’m not washed up at 45 as many of the great ultra-runners are cranking well into their 50’s and 60’s.