Today is September 22 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often are you a superb meteor compared to a sleepy planet?” Jack London, Émile Zola, and Howard Thurman are three people who navigated the chaos by living their life like a superb meteor. They each made a choice to live a life of action versus inaction. They advocated for one to come alive as opposed to stay asleep. As you go throughout your day remind yourself of this choice between two polar opposite approaches to navigate the chaos.
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.”
French novelist, playwright, and journalist Émile Zola used this strategy and wrote “If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud.” 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.
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.” 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. 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 Thurman was seven years old. After completing eighth grade, Thurman attended the Florida Baptist Academy in Jacksonville. 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?
Would you rather be ashes than dust?
Would you rather your spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than stifled by dry rot?
Would you rather be a superb meteor or a sleepy and permanent planet?
What do you believe the function of man is?
Do you understand the difference between living and existing?
How are you using your time?
If someone asked you ‘what you came into this life to do?’ what would you tell them?
Would you tell them you ‘came to live out loud?’
What makes you come alive?
How often are you doing what makes you come alive?