You Don't Live In A Vacuum 

by ET1(SW) David D. Hambleton  03NOV99


In a vacuum what happens to one object will not necessarily affect the object next to it.  In a vacuum, you can yell your fool head off and never tickle somebody else's eardrums, let alone offend them by being too loud.  In a vacuum, a bomb can explode and cause no damage to its surroundings.


Whatever Chief is saying about the new rules is obviously part of The Plot to destroy my social life, or at least my sole means of personal gratification since being stranded here in this desolate duty station.  I can be a dweeb and listen to Chief, or be cool.  I'll be cool.  I'll mince a few words, forget a few minor details, and continue on with my program for success.  Chief never did like me and this is obviously a personal attack, thinly veiled by a blanket statement trying to prohibit everybody from doing my favorite behavior.  He would never have my best interests in mind.  He is a Chief, after all, and a moralist to boot. He wants everyone to be brainwashed just like he is. 

What does he know?  He's over thirty-five for crying out loud!  He can't be in touch with reality.  I'll pretend to get with the program, but what I do in my own time is my own business.


The things you say and do affect the people around you.  The way you live your life, even your character traits, are significant to you and sometimes to people around you.  You have an effect on people every day, by acts of commission and by acts of omission.  Things you do, things you say, and even things you express unconsciously, effect how you and people around you feel, how effective and efficient you and they are, and how conscientious you are with your next decision.  Like tossing a pebble in a pond, what you cause sends waves of effects

to the ends of your world.  Unlike the pond, waves in humanity are

three dimensional and can amplify into killer Tsunamis without the slightest intention on your part.


Are you one of the people with a clue?  Is it your job to sleuth out those who are here to louse up the party your life has become?  Have you become aware that there are officious people (most probably your boss, your parents, or somebody's clergy) who have their noses in your business constantly, telling you what you should or shouldn't do?  Who is your boss to tell you how much to drink, what not to read at work, what to do at work, what time to get up, what time to get to bed?   Who said your mentor is so much better at life than you are that she should be editorializing on your affairs?  After all, life would be so much better without any caring, beneficent advice, wouldn't it?


Why should we listen to someone who is old and married, or couldn't get anyone to marry them - or to stay married to them - or whatever?  Why should we listen to someone who is so senior in rank or position that they can't possibly relate to how difficult it is to be a (fill in your title here).


Gotta live my own life, make my own mistakes, have my own bad experiences to make the sweet times meaningful.  Right!  BOOM!!!  The bombs we explode destroy not only us, but other people too.  We do not live in a vacuum.  The first Postal Clerk who opened up on his co-workers with an AK-47 probably had no idea he was setting a fashion trend that would brand an industry.  He was probably somewhat an original thinker.  He probably never considered that so many more people would suffer because of lunatic sheep following his lead in ballistic stress-relief.  He didn't live in a vacuum.


I do things my way!  CRASH!!!  Who cares about the people I'll run over on my way!  If they are in my way, it is their own fault.


Those things you say and do and feel are largely a result of habits you have developed.  You can change a lot about yourself just by determining to say the positive, do the kind or thoughtful thing, or not jump off sarcastic or derogatory given half a chance.  What happens to you is not your biggest problem.  What you do with it is.  That is the important thing.  It will change the way you feel about yourself, which effects how you deal with the next issue - and so on.


What comes in comes in.  Everybody's got to live in the sunshine and the rain.  Some people let rain get them down.  Others see it as an opportunity to go splash gleefully in a puddle and feel mud squish gloriously between their toes.  How you react to rain showers

next year will be in part driven by how you teach yourself to relate with rain this year.  Rain brings life-giving water.  Rain cleans the air and the streets.  Rain makes cool designs running off the hood of my waxed car.  Look for the positive - live for the positive.


How is your will?  You have an effect on the world around you.  What do you will?  Will you have a positive effect on your environment?  What will you do with your lot in life?  Your will is your own.  You don't have to give your will away to submit to the organization.  On the contrary, if you remain anchored by the order of the organization you are then free to express yourself and be heard by and beyond that organization.  A battle banner stands out from its pole proudly.  It is useful for ordering movement, calling reinforcements, and informing commanders of the status of a troop.  If the lanyard is cut, the banner folds and becomes useless, wafting through space for a brief moment, then becoming trudged into the mud or wrapped around a tree, serving to encourage the enemy.  Your will is like the banner.  Anchor your will to the organization, then use it to work for the good of the organization, not against it.


If you feel that the organization needs to change, be a positive agent for that change.  In the fourth century B.C., Lao Tse, the philosopher most often associated with being Buddha, said that you cannot change the Tau (way of things) from without.  You must be within the Tau in order to have any effect on it.  He was talking about Buddhism, but the admonition carries to our organization.  Get on board and use the established mechanisms to make things better for those who come after you.  It is what we are here to do.


Having joined the organization, we would benefit personally and corporately by serving with honor - living up to our oaths to do our best.  Realizing that we do not live in a vacuum is the first step to doing this.  Living up to our potential is our duty.  Using our wills to effect change in a positive manner is our responsibility.  How many people came before us and sacrificed, even ultimately, so that we can have the pleasure of belonging to the greatest Navy in the world?  How can we do anything but our part in keeping the spirit of pride and professionalism alive? 


Will you be remembered as a sarcastic goon who tears things down, or someone who made things better?  We don't live in a vacuum.