Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler


2nd thoughts

Radical Converts part 1


Radical Coltrane

For my money, the Radical Convert is where the action is. These include people like Che Guevara, St. Augustine, Tom Cruise, Chairman Mao, Ghandi, and John Coltrane. All of these people could point to a day or even a moment when everything changed, each one saw the light and knelt down on their own personal road to Damascus. Recovering from that blinding insight meant changing themselves and everyone and everything around them at almost any cost. If their will, determination, and commitment don’t scare you just a little then you aren’t paying attention or you’re one of them.

Radical Converts speed past caring if they seem fools to the rest of us. They dwell in some sort of perfect personal knowledge and everything around them must conform. It may or may not be a ‘moral’ world they wish to create, but create it they will.

Your typical Radical Convert will go over like an ill-trained leg humping dog at most parties, but she’ll be a blast on a road trip – if your idea of a blast includes witnessing profound declamations on matters crucial through mundane while watching the feathers of all within earshot ruffle. They’re like little conflict generators and frankly that can be a helluvalot of fun if you can keep your sense of humor.

  • Take a PETA activist to the 4H pavilion at your local county fair and watch the feathers ruffle (pun intended)
  • Take a seminary student to Denny’s Vegas and egg him or her on to preach ‘the word’ from the top of one of the tables
  • Surprise your Marxist buddy with a trip to the New York Stock Exchange or your free marketeer stock broker pal with a sustainable development retreat weekend

It’s not just the believer you want to throw into these situations, but the guy you’re pretty sure won’t ever stop having to convince himself that that thing that happened when he converted, that special wonderful mountaintop feeling, is actually something really important and true. I’m always a bit suspicious that fired up radical converts are protesting too much, but that’s the delight of testing them and putting them in situations that test more than you ever could.

Seriously though, tweaking the noses of the converted is something too easy, like upsetting the sincerest person you know. I want to know what the heck makes them tick. What gears turn when they confront the things/habits/people that their new belief tells them must be removed from their life or even the lives of all those around them? Just how did Ghandi manage to stand tall in the face of the British Empire at the gates of the Salt mines? What made Che give up on medicine and start shooting anti-revolutionary forces? How did jumping on a couch on national TV seem like the best way to get a point across for Tom Cruise? Augustine basically unraveled an empire because of his new found faith. It’s pretty well documented that Mao starved millions of peasants in order to bring them the revolution. Coltrane made some of the most beautifully original jazz music in the midst of a quest to find a oneness with a single sound – OM.

That’s the power of conversion.

Whenever people tell me that people don’t change, I think of the converts.