In my latest entry for The Huffington Post, I take a look at the American tradition of celebrating our independence from Britain on the Fourth of July. As you can imagine, though I do miss the hot dogs and sparklers, living in Britain now causes me to question much of what I once took for granted as unquestionably true.
Beyond the way one might root for a local sporting team, why might this particular national celebration still matter? I took a look around me for suitable metaphors to characterise the promise of the American spirit, and found one in the very place that I have spent most of my technology career: the start-up company.
Happy (Almost) Fourth of July to my fellow countrymen.
The best man at my wedding was, and is, gay. We met several years before I met my wife. We were both fresh out of college, finding our way in relationships. We would take turns, over espresso drinks, listening to one another’s hopeless crushes, dating mishaps, and heartbreaks. With each new relationship we learned a little more about what we each wanted in a partner, and encouraged each other that we would, one day, find The One — his patient, kind, domestic-minded guy; my smart, quirky, artistic girl. For both of us, finding a partner who wanted kids was important.
As soon as Val and I got married, we started referring to ourselves as a family. After the death of our infant son, my understanding of what marriage and family means changed dramatically. The commitment we made in our wedding ceremony — to love one another unconditionally, as best we can — was held to the fire. Grieving our hopes and dreams as parents tested the definition of “family” as a unit of support. Certainly, we were stronger together than apart — but some days we found ourselves both simply unable to give any more. It was in these times that the greater family — including relatives and friends — buoyed us up. Our commitment to love each other, and to support each other in learning and growing in the midst of adversity, became a new, refined definition of what it means to be married, and to be a family.
After hearing Marvin Bell read last night, I realize my assertion that he could levitate a space ship with his mind was somewhat understated. In fact, some might be downright confused by me comparing him to Yoda: is he green? does he have pointy ears? Not to my knowledge. He does invert syntax to bring pressure and rhythm to language — but, unlike Yoda, in doing so, Marvin remains grammatically correct.
There really are two aspects of Yoda that remind me of Bell. First, Yoda is a master teacher of an unteachable magic called the force. Second, and most importantly, in Episode II (the fifth film ever made) George Lucas gave every Star Wars junkie what they had long craved: the opportunity to see Yoda wield a light saber himself. With blinding alacrity and consummate skill, Yoda shows himself not only as a master teacher, but master practitioner. After Marvin’s poetry reading last night, a fellow student leaned over to me in the darkened theater and whispered, “he’s a genius.” Having spent last semester studying with him, I wanted to whisper back, “well, duh.”