T'was the night of the first polar vortex storm in NYC, and as the icy wind enveloped my janky apartment in Queens, I had the honor of being asked to jump on the “Shackleton Loves Me” ship. I gleefully and gratefully hopped aboard to tell this magnificent story of relentless optimism, written, directed and produced by heroic icons of our theatrical craft. It was literally 7 degrees fahrenheit outside and it was maybe a balmy 34 inside my apartment. The icy wind was slipping effortlessly through the gargantuan cracks around my crooked windows. As the house plants and I hid in the pantry, every few minutes a strange ice refracted lightning flash would envelope the apartment. I thought, “This is fucking perfect.” So I took a walk. I bundled up and began a trek to the East River, through the “Frankenstorm” polar vortex. I mean, when would I ever get another opportunity to do hands on polar-like research so close to home? As I traversed the barren ice laden wasteland of Queens I tried to place myself in Shackleton’s shoes. (They are some awesome shoes!) As the lethal-cold gail force winds were burning my eye juices, as the frozen filthy snow piles were blowing oil covered ice grits into my stinging nostrils, as my feet began to feel the scathing pavement’s frost sink in (and I’d only walked three blocks,) I knew I had found crazy actor research gold… sense memory heaven!
I heard Ernest’s robust voice in my well chilled head: “Keep smiling even though it feels like your face will fall off! Keep a spring in your step when your feet say, ‘Fuck off dumb-ass!’ Keep moving ahead towards your arbitrary goal despite the fact that everything in your keen corporeal nature says, 'Turn the fuck around and get back in the pantry with your houseplants!’ And when all the other voices in your head join in like a Bonnie Tyler choir singing 'turn around’… Don’t turn around! Trust that your positivity and optimism can transcend biological imperative, trust that you can do more than ever imagined, trust that if you press on, with an unrelenting optimism that borders on insanity you will be rewarded with the fruits of rising above your own self imposed limitations. For truly, the only way one can survive the unsurvivable is by KNOWING we can. Knowing beyond the shadow of a doubt that we will survive the impossible, we shall.”
I smilingly tromped on through the arctic tempest and when I reached the God forsaken wasteland of the East River, imagining it as Antarctica, I knew I would be the only brave (stupid?) soul out in the inclement, indecent cold. But alas, much to my surprise a jogger came jogging by (fucking New Yorkers) and yelled to me through the hurricane like wind: “Perseverance!" Yes, I thought, Shackleton is with us, telling us to all to persevere. Persevere through the waves of cynical fear that our culture has become accustomed to… Through the storm of bad news… Through the raging winds of polarization and division… Through the rocky shorelines of social justice, global community, economic inequality… Persevere so we may land on the shore of harmony, equality, liberty and happiness. Know without doubt that we will land on that shore where we all get along and quell these crippling conflicts. Yes, the Bonnie Tyler choir may be singing: "I need a hero,” but what if - just what if each of us were that hero? Each one of us with optimism, perseverance and trust can safely land our own makeshift lifeboats on the shores of collective peace.
One hundred years after Shackleton survived the most harrowing, violent, impossible conditions known to the human race, we can ride his tsunami of inspiration to rise above our own self imposed limitations and arrive at an almost miraculous understanding. This is what crossed my mind as I stared out over the river on that cold and fortuitous night. Call it naive, call it insane, call it unrealistic, call it what you will, but the truth is, anything is possible if we can know beyond the shadow of a doubt.