Posted by: Brad Stanford | August 31, 2009

We Choose To Do These Things Because They Are Hard

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.” – John F. Kennedy, Rice University, Houston, Texas, September 12, 1962

I think of these words often. I was thinking of them today as I brush hogged another 500 square feet of field tonight. Understand that this particular brush hogging machine is borrowed, and the battery is dead so it has to be jump-started. If it died in the field, I’d have to drive a vehicle out to it and start it again. And it’s heavy. It’s self-propelled, but you still have to turn corners and such. It’s not like mowing the .16 acres of the typical suburban house. It’s far more rewarding.

So I was thinking about how we’ve all been programmed to do easier things and depend on technology without any wisdom about balance. As a result we’ve become an overweight, unhealthy, inactive, riskless society. (But hey! Modern medicine can keep you alive in that withered state a lot longer these days! Isn’t that great?!?) As comedian Louis C. K. pointed out on Conan O’Brien’s show, “Everything’s amazing, and nobody’s happy!” He’s so right. That’s because we’re told to sit back, hide out, and play it safe, and that everyone else is trying to keep us from doing that. What a miserable way to live.

Which brings me to another less famous quote: “They died with their boots on. That’s the important thing.” This one is from the movie Secondhand Lions with Michael Caine, Robert Duvall, and Haley Joel Osment. The Sheriff is comforting the main character – Walter – after the death of Walter’s two larger-than life uncles who had raised him from boy to man. It was a sentiment often shared by the uncles. They were afraid of dying bored, lonely, and adventure-less, so they lived life as fully as possible. Dying with your boots on referred to choosing to continue your own adventure and not waste a single second settling for less than awesome.

So as I’m clearing dry brush that is engineered to fly up my nose and into my eyes, using a less-than optimal tool for the job (1.5 acres), and a borrowed, battery-dead one at that, I’m thinking about how hard the work is for my city body, and how much harder it has been for the generations before me. I’m thinking about people asking me, “Why don’t you just get a guy with a tractor to come out and mow for you? And I hear JFK saying, “Look at the payoff of doing something hard.” And I hear Robert Duvall saying, “What…are you a wimp or something? You’ve got a young body a a tool to conquer the territory you’ve been given. Get out there and impress your family, you weenie!”

Then I think about the house. I think about having to work on my software while fixing all this stuff in the house. I think about how much face time my kids need that I can’t give them, but how much their learning by walking this adventure out with me. I think about how if God told me what I was in for, I’d be tempted to give up.

Then I wipe the sweat out of my eyes with a gloved hand, and I turn the brush hog around for another row. Somehow this pushes a button on the iPod in my pocket, skipping the last thirty seconds of Who’s Crying Now, and proceeding on to the next song, Separate Ways. Which is kind of a bummer, because I’m an audio guy, and not completing a song is super rough on my brain. It makes the work that much harder for a suburban replant. But at least it’s Separate Ways and not Wheel In The Sky.

And I smile and I say for me and God to hear, “I choose to do these things because they are hard. I will die with my boots on.”

Did I mention that I’m sleeping better since I moved here?


  1. Brad,
    Your words are poetic!

    Take care,

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