In John Mayer’s latest album there’s a fantastical tune about a man who tinkers in his basement. That’s not the incredible bit. He was building himself a submarine from bits and bobs and finally launched it into the tide to open the hatch days later in Tokyo.
“With the will to work hard and a library card,
He took a homemade, fan blade, one-man submarine ride.”
It’s not true.
The song’s called Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967 and, while no such man crops up in history books, countless men and women have done what this fictional character did in Mr Mayer’s imaginings.
They accomplished the impossible.
“His wife told his kids he was crazy,
And his friends said he’d fail if he tried…”
Success stories spring from those who dare to question the status quo.
I watched a sad documentary recently called The Truth About Child Brides, focusing in particular on the illegal but prolific custom of marrying girls off as young as six in countries like India. The girls, usually married to adult men, fall pregnant at the age when girls here would be starting high school. Their bodies, not yet developed, suddenly have to allow for a developing baby. Many die in childbirth. If they live, many will be incontinent for the rest of their lives due to the damage of labour on a child’s frame.
These girls are little more than possessions.
But there was one who stood up to her family when they arranged for her marriage. She refused. She threatened to report them to the police. She insisted they allow her to finish her education.
“ ‘Cause when you’re done with this world
You know the next is up to you…”
Since she made her stand, there have been no child marriages in that girl’s village and every child, male and female, has had the opportunity to complete their education.
“How does that make you feel, knowing that you are responsible for changing the future of all these girls,” the interviewer asked.
She just smiled, shy yet unmistakably proud.
Too often we believe the lie that the evils of our world are too big to handle.
The US gun laws are too entrenched to change – a lie. Australia did it, so can the US.
Poverty will always be part of life – a lie. World leaders committed to halving extreme poverty by 2015 and we are well on the way to achieving that.
Abortion is a good choice for struggling mothers – a lie. Studies are proving that it is far better for the mother’s health to keep her child (see Priscilla Coleman’s 2011 study). Yet 80,000-100,000 abortions are performed in Australia every year.
These are big problems but change starts with one person.
I know someone else who took a stand. From as young as 13 Jesus was busy questioning the accepted norms. He brought the hierarchy to account, he queried meaningless rituals and he was a voice for children, the poor, the broken and the suffering. Jesus altered world culture in such a way that we are still acknowledging him today.
Like Jesus, we have opportunities every day to swim against the tide of modern evils.
“Now his friends bring him up when they’re drinking
At the bar with his name on the side…”
You may not get a pub named after you like old Walt Grace, but courage is a fertile thing. One courageous act begets another and before we know it there’s an uprising, a movement, a revolution. And history is made.
As printed in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column, Monday January 7, 2013.