Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Edward J. Snowden: The 365-Day Man

[Part of the series: 2013 = 1984?]

"Now that he had recognized himself as a dead man it became important to stay alive as long as possible." (George Orwell, 1984, p. 25)

How many of us would willingly trade places with Edward J. Snowden?

He has a 365-day lease on life now that Russia has granted him temporary asylum. The clock is ticking.

The fact is, of course that all of us are in the same boat: our days are numbered. The difference is that most of us prefer to divert our eyes and act as if we will live forever. How differently would we spend our days if we stopped to think that our days aren't going to just stretch on indefinitely?

I place Snowden and Bradley Manning in the company of the small number of people who have had the courage to face the limitation on their days, and have acted accordingly.

In 1984, Orwell talked of the paradox of someone realizing that he was a marked man, and only then truly beginning to live.

By losing control of his life, did Edward J. Snowden ultimately gain it?

The Gospels are full of provocations to confront this paradox: people are forever saving up and guarding against a future that is never going to come, while throwing away the present that they do have. ("You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?" Luke 12:20)

There is no question that, by far, the most obvious path for Edward J. Snowden would have been to keep working away on his contracting assignments, socking money away in the bank, and planning for an early retirement. Wouldn't it have been sufficient to keep going through the motions, wait for someone else to reveal the extent of government spying, and then join the chorus of approbation from a safe distance?

Instead, he took the leap. And maybe -- just maybe -- the world will start to change as a result.

So . . . what would you do . . . if you had 365 days to truly live?

(More thoughts on 1984 here . . . .)

(1984 page references are to the 2009 Plume paperback edition.)

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