"If we lived in a world driven by empathy, there would be no room for war, poverty, hunger or hate." Nick Coleman envisions a world where more people follow the golden rule.
What is the most memorable moment from your 18th year?
In 1997, when I graduated high-school, my father drove up to Nixa, Missouri from his home in West Plains, Missouri so that he could see me walk down the aisle when I received my diploma. I remember that he looked very uncomfortable, sitting with my mom, step-dad, brother, and sisters, wearing his Member's Only jacket, and bi-focal glasses. My collection of parents asked me what I wanted for a graduation present, and I asked for the gift that I'm sure every other red-blooded American boy asks for at graduation: a filing cabinet. As I sit here in my New York apartment, a lot has changed--multiple failed relationships, career shifts, moves from one state to another... but I still have that filing cabinet. It's a stout, wooden filing cabinet with a brass lock. It's really quite beautiful.
When did you feel like you became an adult?
When I was thirteen years old, I started college at Drury University in Springfield, Missouri. My mother would drive the 30 miles to campus, drop me off, and then find something to do while I was in class. I was so out of place. A child, really, in the middle of all of these college kids. I kept my head down, stayed to myself, and took copious notes. My chemistry professor had an incredibly thick Indian accent, and it was often difficult to understand what he was saying--one example: Methyl, Ethyl, and Isopropyl Alcohol... when he lectured on the chemical differences, I could see everyone in class turning their heads, silently asking one another "did you catch any of that?" That day, after class, everyone gathered in the lobby of the building to compare notes. I was waiting for my mom, by myself, when one of the other students hollered over, "hey Doogie, did you understand what he was saying?" I pulled out my notebook, sat with the other students, and between all of us hashed out what we needed to know for the test. Being included in that group, and actually contributing, made me feel like such a grownup.
What is the most important rule you follow?
The most important rule I follow is "Treat others the way you want to be treated". There really isn't a more important rule, in my mind. Obviously, I fall short of that rule from time-to-time, but I do strive for that as a guiding principle in my life.
What is the worst rule you’ve broken?
I have an anti-authoritarian streak in me, so this question is hard to answer. It's hard to believe, but at thirty-nine years of age I've never smoked pot, or sampled any illicit substance of any kind. But that doesn't make me a goody-two-shoes, or a slave to rules and regulations. I've been arrested multiple times, all for the dumbest reasons, and twice by cops I actually knew from working as a D.A.R.E. role model. I can't say the actual worst rule I've broken, for fear of criminal implication, but I will say it was for very altruistic reasons. Probably the most fun I've had breaking rules was as a camp counselor at a Vacation Bible School in rural Missouri. A girl I liked stayed up all night with me, wandering the woods, and we found a cliff overlooking a big valley. In the dark, with the stars and moon as back-light, we watched a squadron of A10 Warthog jets do strafing runs level with our eye-line. For a kid truly alone with a girl for the first time, it was thrilling.
What rule would you love to break, but haven’t?
While I don't think I'll ever actually do it, I would love to base-jump off of a building. When I'm standing at extreme heights, I have a visceral urge to jump... so much that it scares me. I've been skydiving, and it was an amazing experience, but I still have that urge to jump off of buildings, and I don't know a way to resolve it, save jumping. There are people who actually do this, parachuting off of famous landmarks, and I am simultaneously jealous and horrified.
Who’s the biggest rule-breaker you know?
Right now, I think I'm most impressed by the rule-breakers who are standing up for our human and civil rights--the rule-breakers at Standing Rock, the rule-breakers in wheelchairs and on crutches who have protested for healthcare rights in Congress, the rule-breakers who chain themselves to vehicles to prevent the deportation of vulnerable immigrants. When Martin Luther King, Jr. urged acts of peaceful civil disobedience, he knew he was encouraging people to break the rules. And that's a scary thing to do. Anyone who does that, sacrificing their own freedom and sense of safety in order to enact change... that is an amazing rule-breaker.
What rule do you wish more people would follow?
The Golden Rule: "Treat others the way you want to be treated". If we lived in a world driven by empathy, there would be no room for war, poverty, hunger, or hate. It's a simple idea, and one that is very, very hard to live by.