Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Fight or Flight

It was 3:30 in the morning when a group of friends and I stood at a street corner after a night of drinking. Across the street from us were two hostile men shouting expletives at us for no apparent reason. After standing idle to just take in the one main word that they kept referring to us as, I prepared for the worst. I looked to my left and saw that two of the people in my group had gone forward, ignoring the fighting words that were being shouted from across the way. To my right was my friend (a former golden gloves boxer nonetheless) who had evidently received the same feeling in his gut.

What ensued was a slow motion like dream state that seemed hazy in retrospect. I dodged the first several haymakers and allowed my instincts and adrenaline to take down the man in front of me. In an instant he was on the ground while the other two vanished from my periphery.

My hand was pushed on his head as I shoved his skull into the sidewalk. I then took my knee and drove it into his back as to stabilize him so that I could collect my thoughts and plan my next move. For the next minute I maintained pressure while he attempted to flair his arms wildly, hoping to connect with a lucky blow. What I did next, is not what a street fighter would be expected to do. In fact, as the one who had an undeniable upper hand, I showed a side of me that much like the way the fight developed in the first place was unplanned.

I fled.

As I look back at the short exchange that encompasses my lone street fight record, I can’t say that I acted as rough and tough as I would have wanted. Instead I was overcome by an urge to show mercy to the man who wished to fight me.

I raced across the street without looking back, knowing that my ultimate goal was to get home and forget about what had just happened. In the back of my mind, I knew my friend was alright. In fact, my real concern was the poor guy who lacked the judgment and picked a fight with him in the first place. I gave him a quick text just to verify and passed out in my bed.

Over the course of the next afternoon, I played out the events in my head as I remembered them. And while I felt cowardly for taking off and not finishing what I had started, I also felt as though I had ultimately taken the harder way out.

I learned that I had the guts to stick up to these men who challenged our manhood while I stood beside my friend. More importantly though, I learned that there is not the “killer instinct,” of hatred deep inside me that I imagined would come out in the right time and place. I suppose, I owe my parents for my upbringing, my family morals and instilling in me the notion of peace even during the most hectic of moments.

Sometimes we don’t know where we stand on an issue or what we believe until we are confronted with it face to face. As for fighting, I had seen it numerous times on TV, video games and several times as a spectator. Just when I had the opportunity to beat this guy up for being the meathead that he had acted like, something inexplicable took over and made me flee. Whatever the cause of this change in behavior may be, I knew after the next day, that I had no business being there in the first place.

In the middle of the brawl, I just didn’t have it in me. I had no ill feelings towards this guy nor did I want to pummel him and teach him a lesson. If anything, I felt sorry that he had taken his emotions out on me and that he was the one who winded up face first on the sidewalk and embarrassed.

It took the events of a post-Saturday night out with friends and a fight to make me realize that fighting is not in my nature. At least, as far as hurting another human on this earth. Deep down, I often wonder if I really am the pacifist who once attended a peace rally on my college campus and whether I can more easily accept war because I am farther down the kill chain than the grunt with his rifle pointed at an insurgent.

This is not to say that I won’t put up a fight. I’m more than willing to take on the side of good when the cause is just and the threat is real. And with that, I still have similar feelings like singer Tony Bennett who has characterized war as “the worst of human behavior, neither constructive nor intelligent.”

The following morning after the fight, I watched the last lecture by Dr. Randy Pausch on youtube about “achieving his childhood dreams.” I watched in awe as I listened to a man who set out and attained everything that he had ever wanted. Through his lecture, I turned that lens on myself and conversely saw a boy who wasn’t chasing his dreams and instead perhaps running away from them, like he had done the previous night.

I encourage you to spend the best 1 hour and 16 minutes of your week and listen to his lecture. If you’re like me, you will laugh, cheer and undoubtedly cry several times before it’s over. After it’s all said and done, hopefully you will look inside of yourself and ask whether you are where you always wanted to be. If not, I hope you will take the opportunity and advantage of the life that you have been blessed with and fight for every bit of that dream.


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