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In The Before and In The After
Where are you?
I like to dance. I never had a lesson unless you count getting to see Phil Morris ‘69 dance in the juke box room of Phi Tau fraternity house at Dartmouth in 1968, a memory with some shame as I was awarded “Best Dancer” and I knew Phil should have gotten it. That was in The Before.
Now I’m in The After. I hope all of you are in The After. Most of the writers here in substack are in The After. Some lucky few, like Robert (Reich) — a classmate at the aforementioned institution — have always been in The After.
The event that marks the separation between The Before and The After is the finding of one’s courage.
Courage eluded me as a young person. I was solidly in The Before. I confused courage with achievement, with approval, and with saying the right thing to impress. Now I speak the truth as I know it in the moment I am speaking. The What I speak is part of my courage. The other part is The When.
I speak when silence would be easier. I speak when it feels dangerous. I speak when there is risk.
In high school, my English teacher, Barbara Ford, asked us to write an essay on who was the hero of Moby Dick. I knew she wanted us to choose Ahab, the darer. But I didn’t. He was mad. He was obsessed. He was compulsively driven to do what he did. He felt no risk. So there was no courage involved. I actually wanted to argue that the novel has no hero, and that the ending — a catastrophe in which all but one die — is the inevitable outcome when heroes are absent, when not one aboard is in The After. But I was in The Before so I wrote some lame thing about Starbuck, the first mate, putting himself between Ahab and the crew.
Courage is saying and doing what we are afraid to say and do.
So, Phil, wherever you are. Here. Take it.
And Barbara, there were no heroes on that ship.
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