Journal Entry – August 17th, 2014

Outwardly we are all facades, playing the character we want others to see us as. Yet like the mask the actor wears onstage, the character we play for others hides our true self. We are constantly being dishonest with each other, deceiving one another in order to conform to the (arbitrary) rules and standards of conduct society expects of us. Everyone has an honest self, a character that only they know, a character with deep flaws, anxieties, and desires. Those emotions and qualities, the ones we tuck away deep inside and keep secret from everyone but our closest intimates, are what truly make us human. They transcend the human experience, affecting every individual who’s ever walked this Earth. Yet, if placed into the social environment, someone ignorant of this reality would never come to discover it… for so well hidden we have managed to make our honest selves available for others to see.

I am no different. In fact, I am probably one who hides his true character nearly the most among the people I know. Cody Knipfer has two faces, one familiar to everyone I interact with, and one familiar only to me. Surely this is no doubt different for anyone else, but I have come to recognize and become disgusted with the dishonesty of that reality. How different my life would be, and how differently others may see or feel about me, if they knew my true perceptions, my real desires, my honest anxieties. How different the world would be if I wore my true colors on my chest rather than tucking them to the far back of my wardrobe. Why have I, for my entire life, allowed myself to do so? Is it because I am a product of a society where the uglier, realer side of my being is a taboo? Is it because I am too paralyzed by my fear of how others think or feel about me to become so vulnerable? Is it because I worry that, despite the troubles that plague all of us, I am more troubled than others? It is all three of these factors, plus many others, which have kept me from bringing honesty to my outward character.

But no longer. I am now in a point of transition in my life, my senior year of college. After this, I will leave behind all of the friendships I’ve developed and all the people I’ve come to know in order to enter the real world. The next few years of my life will be a fresh start, a blossoming of sorts. I figure that, if I hope to enter the adult world an honest individual, a person unfettered by social expectations or by social anxieties, then I must begin to bring that person into being. What better time or place to do that is there than now? Except for my closest intimates, I do not expect to see or talk to any of these people ever again. Who cares if the mask I wear is more appealing than the reality underneath? Who cares if I embarrass or humiliate myself by opening up. Who cares how others will feel if my desires, my worries, or my anxieties were revealed to them? One year from now, I will be forever be history to them, and they to me. A few faux pas and stumbles is, in the grand scheme of things, the least of my worries.

How do I set about accomplishing this, though? How do I become my “honest self?” Having lived 21 years hiding the reality of my being away from others, how can I bring it to light? Part of the journey will be through a journal, this journal – a diary of sorts. I have been meaning to write my personal thoughts down for a long time now… like I do with my intellectual pursuits. I *want my personal reality to come through in my writing, so that I may look upon it years from now and see from where I’ve come and how I’ve grown. But I will be making this journal publically available, visitable on my blog. It is out there for the world to see. In a way, I will be wearing my true colors on my chest. It is a first step of many on the road to me becoming, in the eyes of others but most importantly in the eyes of myself, a genuine human being.

Could the things I say in this hurt me or others? Yes. Could they be a cause for humiliation or anxiety? Yes. Yet the things I say which would do that are genuine and real, and come from my true being. Not revealing them, not bringing them to the surface, not coming to acknowledge and accept them, would keep me from accomplishing my goal. I doubt that anyone will ever read this blog, or that those who do will have any relation to the things or people about whom I talk. Nonetheless, those who do read my reality and see themselves as a part of it will at least know that these words are coming from a position of true honesty. I hope that starting from such a place will be more constructive than coming from our default position of dishonesty and masks.

Without further ado, then – my journal.

August 17th, 2014.

Our Height of Power

Apollo-11-US-flag-on-moon-001The Pyramids at Giza, the Great Wall of China, the Colosseum, the Taj Mahal, the Arch de Triumph – these spectacular structures are not only testaments to human creativity, productivity, and ingenuity, but are symbols of a civilization at its height. Great nations accomplish great things, because they are capable of mobilizing the inordinate amounts of resources, manpower, and brainpower required to pull off such feats. Yet only the richest, most prosperous, most secure, most advanced, or most powerful nations are in a position to produce such wonders. Those that have will forever be remembered as humanity’s defining civilizations; the era of their accomplishments as one of humanity’s golden ages.

12 pairs of human footsteps are imprinted on the surface of the Moon. An American flag hangs bravely on its barren terrain, another testament to human creativity, productivity, and ingenuity. The Apollo program which took humans to the Moon was a modern wonder, one which perhaps dwarfs all of the other great accomplishments of mankind. However, unlike those spectacular standing structures, which will eventually crumble to dust, the American footprints on the Moon will remain indefinitely. The knowledge and expertise needed to send humans on a week-long voyage through space to walk upon another world, and to bring them back safely, had no parallels. The Moon landings are perhaps humanity’s proudest achievement.

Neil Armstrong and the Apollo Program can be seen as symbols of our civilization at or approaching its height of power. They represent the apex of American ability. The Moon landings required our country’s largest mobilization of resources since the construction of the intercontinental railroad. Other than World War Two, the Apollo Program was by far our largest mobilization of manpower and brainpower. The organizational, financial, and technical challenges facing the program were so staggering, only the most powerful country on Earth could pull them off. We did.

The Apollo Program, it seems, came at a time when America and Americans cared about being on top. It can at a time when we wanted to make history, to define humanity’s future. It came a time when we thought we could do something extraordinary, something no country had ever done before. It was a time when Americans thought they were at the height of their power, and wanted to demonstrate it. We landed men on the Moon with less technology than can be found in modern-day cell phones. We landed men on the Moon in the midst of violence in Vietnam and violence on college campuses, amongst the Kennedy assassination and Civil Rights struggle. Despite all of the challenges around us, we rose to something greater. The United States of America forever secured a defining position in human history for this accomplishment, the likes of which had never been seen before.

Or ever since. 42 years that have passed since the last human walked atop the Moon. It’s difficult to say that the United States has been on the decline since then. Our economy has only grown since the Moon landings, and is still the strongest in the world. It would take another two decades after our accomplishment until we were the unrivaled global superpower, a position we still hold onto today, even if only tenuously. American engineering, technology, and culture still dominate the world, perhaps even more so than in the 1960s and early 1970s. Yet clearly, something has changed. We are no longer the nation that produced wonders, that accomplished humanity’s greatest feats. If we were, there wouldn’t only be 12 pairs of footsteps on the Moon. We would’ve gone back.

Americans today, it seems, no longer think of themselves as on top… or at least, are no longer acting like it. Where can the willpower that once drove us to think the unthinkable, to do the undoable, be found today? Where is that pride in our ability and our determination to utilize it? Where are those individuals, the likes of John F. Kennedy, Wernher von Braun, and Neil Armstrong, who recognize our privileged position and  are driving forces behind accomplishing something great?

The Egyptians are remembered for the Pyramids, the Qin Chinese for their Great Wall.  These structures mark the height of these civilizations power. They represent their golden age. Thousands of years from now, people will remember the United States for sending the humans to walk on another world for the first time.  Were the 1960s and the early 1970s our height of power? Was that our golden age? Undoubtedly, it was a remarkable period for our country, but it doesn’t have to be the only.  America is still a great country; indeed, it is still the most powerful country in the world. If we find the will, we are still in the position to accomplish even greater things.

It is inevitable that the 12 pairs of footsteps on the Moon will be joined by others. It is inevitable that more flags will fly on the Moon, and that some will fly on the dusty surface of Mars. America – if it truly hasn’t yet reached its height of power, if it hasn’t yet entered its decline, if the Moon landings were only harbingers of things to come -will be the nation to fly it.

Poem # 4: Mistakes

If there is a single thing I’ve learned through studying history,
It is that no human being has achieved infallibility.
Regardless of their genius, all of history’s greats,
Have at some point or another committed huge mistakes.

How many visions of utopia, how many major dreams,
Have fallen by the wayside or fallen through the seams?
They were all achievable, had we been prepared,
But at some point or another, someone must’ve erred.

How many great cultures have crumbled into dust?
How many great nations have seen their gains go bust?
Part of it is surely nature, part of it is surely fate,
But surely part of it was abetted by mistakes.

These lapses in judgement and these misguided calculations,
Have led to some decisions that now define civilization.
How different our world would be if, the future being at stake,
Some leader or another had not made costly mistakes?