Thursday, November 29, 2012

Dear Stephen Colbert

Dear Stephen Colbert,

I wonder, sometimes, what it must be like to be you. I envy your amazing skill, shake my head in awe that you pull it off, night after night. I imagine the behind-the-scenes scampering that must go into producing a high-calibre show in 24 hours, and hit those bang-on lines fast enough for prime time. I wonder how much of that daily stress you own yourself, how much is done for you. I’m intensely curious.

But even more, I wonder what it’s like to live a double life. To be a husband and father, not-quite-normal but wealthy-normal, and to be Stephen Colbert, cult icon, voice of reason and showman for millions of people each day. It makes my paltry contributions to consciousness-raising seem small, I’ll tell you. But at what cost? And is it worth it?

I hear you, lately, putting those questions out there. You’ve got the payment, you don’t owe anyone anything. It’s hard work, being a voice, changing the world one day at a time. What if it is killing your spirit? What if you’re caught up in a tornado of your own making, trapped in a Jeckyll/Hyde nightmare that reality twists from your dreams? If I were you, I might be wondering if it isn’t time to shut that whole thing down.

From those to whom much is given, more is expected. If you grew up Catholic, as did I, you understand that the balance of the universe depends on your choices, every day, to keep your soul clean. Even if, like me, you eschewed religion and even god, you would know this is true like gravity is true, regardless of belief. We are responsible by simple virtue of being alive, awake and privileged. We owe.

You may wonder what it’s like to stay in stealth mode, and I can tell you it has its own frustrations and challenges, ones I daily imagine the easy bulldozer of celebrity would clear away tout de suite. But it’s calm here, as long as I don’t worry about missed opportunities and impending bankruptcy. I do my work every day, surprising anyone who meets my eyes, throwing little pebbles to crack the armor on the stubbornly restricted. I resist judgment and encourage care. I rail against injustice and simple, selfish viewpoints.

I write my little stories, dream my giant dreams, and love my family and myself with all the energy I save up from denying the world more of my time. I take pictures and paint pictures, listen to people and make their stories real by mixing them together. It’s a good life. But my count is low. I won’t settle all my soul debt in this lifetime with one-at-a-time piecemeal approach like this. Your debt may be bigger, but your count is stellar, your influence great. I envy that.

All this to say, what you do next can change everything. You can take this cusp we’re on and help us ride the rim. Thank you for putting out in the world each day. What you share, create, question and push matters.

Best wishes,