1983. September. Freshman year at Northwestern. Although I joined a residential college at Northwestern University, rather than a fraternity, I still remember heading to the rush parties. My dorm room was in the fraternity quad, so the music was going to keep me awake anyway… may as well dance… well, I guess you would have to say I moved around a lot. David Bowie danced. I simply enjoyed his music so much that my heart, mind and body were moved to motion.
David Bowie’s “Heroes” had been written together with Brian Eno several years earlier in 1977. The song to which I once danced on the shores of Lake Michigan at Northwestern was the backdrop to a post I wrote almost a year ago. “I Have Been Provoked | Part Two” was infused by Peter Gabriel’s cover of this song at Verona in 2010. It is an incredibly moving performance of a wonderfully powerful song. I enter 2016 in a very different mental space than I did a year ago. My beautiful bride of almost 25 years had passed away in October of 2014 after a courageous and noble on and off 11-year battle with breast cancer. I was dealing with a rush of emotions, and I entered 2015 choosing to be provoked, rather than angry.
This past week I wrote a post as part of The Love of My Life series that defined where I am personally as we enter 2016. I have been mulling over a parallel piece for my professional work. David’s passing today, especially from cancer, sparks this newest installation of I Have Been Provoked. As I noted in “I Have Been Provoked | Oh, The Places You’ll Go” last summer on Maureen and my 25th wedding anniversary, which I still celebrated, when I get past Part 2, I realize that the theme has staying power, so I begin to title the newer posts. Oh, The Places You’ll Go had a decidedly Dr. Seuss theme to it. Today’s is about Heroes, because as David once sang, “we only need to be heroes, just for this one day.” Today, I write listening to Blackstar, his new album released just days ago.
In my personal post this past week at The Love of My Life, “Transitions | 2016 and The Trail Ahead,” I used the theme of being at a trailhead at the start of the new year and being on a journey without a map. Love is not a destination. Love is a part of our journey, and the same love that I continue to share with and for Maureen has always infused my work on CLOUD – Consortium for Local Ownership and Use of Data. As I noted in my TED talk at TEDxAustin in 2011, “Reweaving the Fabric of the Internet to Transform Humanity,” it was our journey to MD Anderson Cancer Center due to the recurrence of Maureen’s cancer that is at the heart of CLOUD. This post is not about the what of CLOUD but the why. The best way to understand the scope of CLOUD is to watch that talk at TEDxAustin, something I did just now. A little over a minute into my talk, I address my Maureen from the stage… it moves me to tears now. Then, as now, she is the love of my life. She is the why of CLOUD. I hate cancer, and I have been provoked.
For the past 2 years, my wife’s battle has taken me away from the mission of CLOUD. 2014 was spent grappling with Maureen’s breast cancer as it metastasized, and 2015 was spent recovering as a family from her passing in October of 2014. Her love continues in this world, not just with me, but our 3 children, Taylor, Kyla and Katelyn. 2016 brings me back to the mission to reweave the fabric of the Internet, to the work of CLOUD, to being provoked. The challenge with our information systems today is that they are like chemotherapy. They work, sort of, but they have side effects. Those side effects can be seen with privacy, security, identity and data. Although the work of CLOUD will span all information, I have been provoked and am driven by this single solitary purpose:
“I have been provoked because I’ve watched cancer in the faces of too many people in too many waiting rooms at too many oncologists at too many cancer centers.”
It is time to hit the trail. Join us.