Today is September 22 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “are you a superb meteor or a sleep planet?” People who navigate the chaos like Jack London work hard at living their life like a superb meteor. London was an American novelist, journalist, and social activist in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
A pioneer in the then-burgeoning world of commercial magazine fiction, he was one of the first fiction writers to obtain worldwide celebrity and a large fortune from his fiction alone, including science fiction. Some of his most famous works include The Call of the Wild and White Fang, both set in the Klondike Gold Rush. Commenting on his choice in life London proclaimed:
“I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”
London viewed his life as a pile of ashes resulting from a superb meteor that exploded and presented to the universe a magnificent glow. This theme of being a superb meteor can be found in the backstories of many people who navigated the chaos of life. For example, French novelist, playwright, and journalist Émile Zola wrote “If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud.” Moreover, African-American author Howard Thurman wrote “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
When he was seven Zola’s father passed away leaving the young child and his mother to survive on a meager pension. In 1858, the Zolas moved to Paris, where Émile's childhood friend Paul Cézanne soon joined him. Zola started to write in the romantic style. His widowed mother had planned a law career for Émile, but he failed his Baccalauréat examination twice.
Before his breakthrough as a writer, Zola worked as a clerk in a shipping firm and then in the sales department for a publisher (Hachette). He also wrote literary and art reviews for newspapers. As a political journalist, Zola did not hide his dislike of Napoleon III, who had successfully run for the office of president under the constitution of the French Second Republic, only to misuse this position as a springboard for the coup d'état that made him emperor. Zola would eventually be the best-known practitioner of the literary school of naturalism, and an important contributor to the development of theatrical naturalism. Zola was nominated for the first and second Nobel Prize in Literature in 1901 and 1902.
As a prominent religious figure, Thurman played a leading role in many social justice movements and organizations of the twentieth century. Thurman's theology of radical nonviolence influenced and shaped a generation of civil rights activists, and he was a key mentor to leaders within the movement, including Martin Luther King, Jr.
Howard Thurman was born in 1899 in Florida and spent most of his childhood in Daytona, Florida, where his family lived in Waycross, one of Daytona's three all-black communities. He was profoundly influenced by his maternal grandmother, Nancy Ambrose, who had been enslaved on a plantation in Madison County, Florida. Nancy Ambrose and Thurman's mother, Alice, were members of Mount Bethel Baptist Church in Waycross and were women of deep Christian faith.
Thurman's father, Saul Thurman, died of pneumonia when Howard Thurman was seven years old. After completing eighth grade, Thurman attended the Florida Baptist Academy in Jacksonville. One hundred miles from Daytona, it was one of only three high schools for African Americans in Florida at the time. Thurman would eventually go on to serve as dean of Rankin Chapel at Howard University from 1932 to 1944 and as dean of Marsh Chapel at Boston University from 1953 to 1965.
Jack London, Émile Zola, and Howard Thurman each understood the value of living like a superb meteor as opposed to a sleepy planet. They made personal and professional choices to ensure the lived out loud. How often do you?