Start is the best and only site of auspiciousness, the only place where everyone has equal reason to hope. Start is the only place where each pair of feet set into the starting blocks is as fleet as any other in the race, the only place where every rocket will deliver its payload to the stars, the only place each preschooler is a genius and each freshman is valedictorian.
Starting is best. There is no defeat in starting. There is no woe or sorrow. There is a limitless vista of victory and valor. The start is the only place on one’s timeline that is not sundered by disappointment. At the start we are each of us lean and lithe, our features fine and fair – our beauty is arresting and total, since it predates the intercession of mirrors and their attendant judgments and unkindness.
At the start, we are limitless in our capacity, we are favored by providence. At the start, we are unhindered by custom, we are unhobbled by misfortune. It is only at the start that our world is swollen with possibility and promise.
At the start, the phrase “he has SO MUCH POTENTIAL” is not a lament, as by an exasperated guidance counselor, but a statement of plain fact.
The start is the only place where universality and harmony are attainable, the only place where we can claim commonality with our fellows, the only site of equality. Up to a certain point, the fetus of a human, and the fetus of a pig, and the fetus of a chicken are nearly indistinguishable from one another – vertebrate tetrapods, curled like fiddleheads. They unfurl, of course, the fetus of the human and the pig and the chicken, and grow into the big-brained bipedal primate that is master of all he surveys, or lunch, as the case may be.
And it is not just that start is thrumming and fulsome with all things bright and beautiful – far from it. The start is engorged with the entire spectrum of possibility, every eventuality of every sort stands beneath its infinite canopy – in the manner of the expanding universe, the start represents everything currently possible, and enlarges to include every possibility not yet conceived. It is no exaggeration to say that the start includes everything within it literally – that every conclusion is foregone, every culmination or consummation – no matter how far off, no matter how involved or improbable, no matter how internecine or circuitous – every ending, every FINISH, has its roots at the start.
There can be no finish – no finish of any kind, ever – without having had a start. Start is the primordial ooze, the enzymatic slop, the genetic material without which there could be no finish.
Think of stories. They do not begin:
“And they lived happily ever after,” or
“And they found, on the handle of the car door … a METAL HOOK!” or
“And then he turned the gun on himself.”
Were stories to lead with their finish, they would be deeply dissatisfying exercises fraught with confusion that would only contribute to our sense of dislocation and misery. Stories would, instead of fostering a sense of kinship as they do now, by their nature make us feel like stupid losers. We’d have no idea what was happening.
Which is what my opponent is attempting tonight. Finish is intent upon making each of you feel like stupid losers with no idea what’s going on. Finish considers you ignorant swine undeserving of any kind of sensible progression. Finish is all massacre and aftermath and rubble.
Start is pudgy, sweet-smelling babies. Finish is placenta. Viscous placenta between blighted rows of corn. On a wind-swept plain. Trailing between the emaciated and blood-streaked legs of a dying Okie, tethering her to the scrawny wad of her stillborn son.
Start is the bloom of a first kiss, dewy and trembling. Finish is robotic missionary sex with your spouse of many years, on sheets gritty with the dander of your failings. Scheduled sex – a chore for which neither of you has any appetite – you avoid eye contact during this dry and joyless grinding.
Start is the tentative shoots of the crocus probing upward to the sun through the winter-hardened earth. Finish is the dying breath of the final Scandinavian botanist tending the world’s last seed bank deep beneath the scorched and sandstorm-blasted hellscape that was once Norway.
Start is sinking one’s teeth into the first bite of a meal lovingly prepared on a sun-dappled porch, surrounded by people you love. Finish is the last drop of acidic and acrid-smelling bulimia-barf, pushed to the back of your closet, in a Nine West shoebox lined with a Forever 21 bag. And you know something? YOU’RE STILL FAT!
Start is the first hour of the first day of your first real job. Finish is being escorted from the building, with your personal effects in a file box.
Start blushes and yearns; it is that place we carry inside us before we were ground down and compromised and leached of our hankering. Remember if you can that pure version of yourself – I’m talking about yourself at your most unafraid. That self you are meant to attain, the one untrammeled by circumstance, unbowed by worry and in no need of solace. I speak now to your strongest self, the hero within you that cannot be struck down; the stalwart and steady-eyed self who remains willing to start even though you know you may not finish.
To this self, your best, most fervent self, your self that aches for discovery and wonder and majesty. It is ONLY in starting that these things are possible. It is my hope that you find for possibility and promise – to do so, you must find for Start. To find in favor of Finish is to concede that your dreams are dead, your aspirations extinguished. I know you to be a dreamer still, and know that you will vote like one.