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by Mike Masterson | September 11, 2021 at 3:30 a.m.

Ever pause amid the endless stream of days, weeks and months that fly past like March breezes to ask why you are even here? Why are we conscious for a brief period?

What, if anything, does your spirit stand for in your one known lifetime and, if nothing, why not? I ask myself such questions all the time.

Are we born to eat, sleep, acquire material possessions (that eventually wind up in landfills and junkyards), worry, reproduce and pleasure ourselves, or do we exist for far more enduring and significant purposes that define the essence of who we are?

By my way of thinking, we each have an indeterminate number of hours in this world. If we achieve very little of consequence, if anything, then, as a matter of intellectual honesty, we also should peer into the mirror and ask, "Why was I here? Was I too frightened or intimidated of others to step up and speak out for what I believed in?"

They say fear is the greatest debilitator of humankind. We manifest unrealistic fears, or fret over so many things that never come to pass. We fear the ridicule of others, of being harmed by others, or maimed in an accident, or you name it.

The list of everything we find to fear is almost endless, perhaps the biggest of which is dying.

Yet I contend that, after 74 years here, the easiest part of our fragile awareness is the act of losing it--of dying. The hard part lies in day-to-day living and overcoming the endless challenges and damage to our physical and inner selves.

Imagine what life today would be like had Lincoln been afraid to stand up for the rights of Black for fear of being killed. How would Gandhi have left his enduring legacy by living in similar fear? How about George Washington, or the ill-fated courageous crew of the Challenger? The list is lengthy of those who came before who chose to stand firm for their beliefs in benefiting others and our society rather than succumbing to fear.

I once read a related bit of wisdom that said the road to greatness in this troubled world is paved by those willing to step forward for what they believed in without fearing their inevitable demise.

That calls to mind all the young men and women who risk their lives in military service to selflessly ensure our survival as a nation.

Two current examples popped up in our paper recently. Both appeared in the same news item, datelined Kenya.

The first was of conservationist and environmentalist Joannah Stutchbury's sustained efforts to preserve the Kiambu Forest. She was found shot to death in July, ostensibly for her heartfelt beliefs and efforts to preserve and enhance the natural magnificence of those woodlands.

The other was Esmond Bradley Martin, an American conservationist based in Kenya who fought diligently over his years among us to end the slaughter of elephants for the money gained from their ivory, as well as the horns of rhinos. He was stabbed to death in his home in 2018.

These people--along with and so many of our servicemen and women slain or maimed in combat--devoted themselves to selflessly serving. But what they left behind should be enough to reassure us all that it's vastly preferable to cast fear aside and strive during our lifetime to practice those things and reflect the qualities we believe are worthy of our support, even to include surrendering our lives if necessary to promote and ensure them.

Reflections on reunion

I happened across a column written as editor of the Hot Springs Sentinel-Record in July 1975 following the 10th reunion of the Harrison High School Class of 1965.

Though I moved from Harrison with my family before graduation to earn my diploma at Highland High School in Albuquerque, I have always attended Harrison class reunions since I was born in the town and had many friendships here that have endured.

Many who came of age during this era might appreciate this lead-in from 46 years ago, as if they were written yesterday.

Class of 1965, A Decade Gone:

"The red brick school and adjoining gymnasium sat in summer's abandonment as we passed in the faint light of mid-evening. Although the decade since graduation day had brought growth to the northern town of Harrison, there remained an abundance of landmarks that sent fond memories scurrying for dominance.

"It was back before the days of nearby Dogpatch, back when the open wound of JFK's assassination still oozed and ran among us, back when Vietnam was being fanned from a fire into an engulfing furnace; it was then the class of 1965 wished each other well and crept from beneath the security blanket that had covered us during four comfortable years.

"The 10-year reunion was to be a time of renewed friendship, eight fleeting hours to relive the now seemingly antiquated rituals of sock hops, cruising, the Twist, drug store sodas, double dates, pinball machines and syrupy love ballads from the Bobbies Vinton and Vee."

Today, after practicing my craft across six states, I've come full circle to live in my birthplace in the company of lifelong friends who shared that 10-year reunion.

There's something especially rewarding to be able to still be breathing among those with similar memories of youthful exploits and teachers long departed.

Maintaining familiar relationships across decades that seemingly pass in the flash of a firefly's tail only enriches life's experience. Meanwhile, what once was our springtime becomes the onset of winter, and we question how it could possibly have passed so quickly.

No CRT for Sanders

Good for Sarah Sanders. The announced gubernatorial candidate with a father who handled that responsibility well is beginning to campaign statewide in a bid for the state's top job even though two Razorback football seasons precede the election.

Sanders made it clear in a recent news release that Arkansas "must stop the far-left plan to push critical race theory in our schools," adding that as governor she would "won't ever let it happen." Good for her.

As a Christian and mother, Sanders explained: "Let me be clear: Our public schools should never indoctrinate our kids with the lie that America is a racist and evil country. I am proud to say this is the greatest country on Earth, but that's the exact opposite of what CRT says. It's nothing but a radical leftist philosophy that will further tear us apart, not bring us together. ... I hope you'll join me now to take a stand against critical race theory.

Sanders also wrote, "My opponents will do everything in their power to destroy me, but I will not apologize for who I am or who I am fighting for. I am fighting for you ... I will not retreat, I will not surrender, and I will not bow to the radical left."

I suspect those words are shared by most Arkansans over this absurd approach to indoctrinating our children into believing they are either "oppressors" or "oppressed" based on their skin color. I call it dangerous nonsense designed to hoodwink our children into accepting far-left propaganda rather than actually educating them.

So props to Sanders for speaking her mind yet again (one of her attributes) and calling out this calculated social engineering scheme that places one's skin shade above acceptance and inclusion based on the content of their character, which the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. advocated so strongly.

Dr. King clearly cared enough to place common sense and the well-being of our entire nation far above self-serving political party ambitions and power plays by radical ideologies.

Now go out into the world and treat everyone you meet exactly like you want them to treat you.

Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at

Print Headline: Why do we live?


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