Last fall on the day following the election of Donald Trump as president, Mark woke up in a hotel that didn’t have power in some of the rooms. The night before, he went to his room with his room key and flicked on the light switch. Nothing.
The hotel, an odd little place on the side of Old U.S. 22 in Shartlesville, PA, placed their room key envelopes fastened together with an elastic and sitting in an old coffee can. Mark merely had to go back to the front desk and pick another room key.
Sitting along what had once been a major east/west corridor, the interstate usurped this road’s importance. Like many similar roadways that once were important overland routes for travelers dating from the time of covered wagons up through the earliest days of Happy Motoring in America, most have fallen into disuse like much in a nation built around planned obsolescence. Mom and Pop lodging matching the place where Mark spent the night last fall struggle to remain solvent. Perhaps the owners had simply taken a page from the austerity playbook, implementing measures like asking guests to forgo electricity. Mark also noted that there were signs indicating to boil the water prior to drinking.
On his blog, following the election of the worst candidate we’ve ever called president (thus far), he made a connection between the new POTUS and what MAGA might actually mean when he wrote, “I hope the motel where I stayed isn’t an omen for the future of America. Some of the rooms didn’t have power and you couldn’t drink the water.”
His previous day’s video ended with usually upbeat Mark showing wear and tear, as well as feeling discouraged, and moved by the emotional communication he was receiving from friends and other activist colleagues. Some of it might have been simply their projection of fear, anger, and legitimate concern about what Trump’s America might mean for women, blacks, immigrants, gender-nonconforming people, and everyone else who isn’t a white male. Mark was keenly aware of this and of his own privilege as a white man in our country.
But in imitable Mark fashion, he rallies the morning after. While he began the day a bit down, it didn’t take him long to experience an upshift in his attitude. He begins ticking off ways we can all impact the planet positively. This allows him to locate the energy source we all knew and loved—he was back as Mark being Mark!
We see Mark talking about how giving up meat is the single most effective way that we can lessen our impact on the planet: this is one of the reasons why I stopped eating meat and dairy the week prior to Mark beginning his walk. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I’m also thankful that Mark knew I’d become plant-based. We got to share some great conversations over the 100 days of his walk about this new way of living.
He gets really “geeked” when a guy that doesn’t believe in climate change hands him $1 to fight climate change.
Mark mentions talking with “my mom.” I love the look on his face when he calls her, “my mom.” There is this obvious affection and pride in the way he says it. You see it on his face. He loved his mom so much. I’m guessing because she didn’t “wreck” him, he was able to be open and treat females with the respect that they deserve. A white male who wasn’t an abuser of women—that’s a big deal! The current president is a serial abuser. And yet, Americans wonder why we continue to have mass shootings by angry white men? C’mon—use the brain you were born with for something other than a storehouse for sports, porn objectifying women, or hatred of others who are different than you.
How many of you felt something each time you watched one of Mark’s videos or read his blog posts? I know I did. His life mattered. It’s why I keep on keeping on, despite being overwhelmed by the sadness and loss associated with him being gone.
In the days and weeks following his death, I heard from so many people sharing how Mark had touched their lives. Some of those very same people now seem to have disappeared. I guess they’ve gone back to wallowing in the muck that he was trying to pry them free from with his daily practice of putting feet down on the pavement, while offering up his own example as something worthy of striving towards. These weren’t empty words or platitudes, people.
Watching his life lived out via videos one year from when they were made offers a different space to see new things and think differently about some of what he was saying and doing. He was a poet and an artist. His walk was a performance and meditation worthy of attending each and every day.
Mark ends his day-after-the-election video offering wisdom far greater than most 33-year-olds would be capable of sharing with viewers. It’s still out there to emulate. His message continues to speak to the time we’re living in. A time when the deeply disturbing “eye for an eye” hatred, heavily armed, continues wreaking havoc on communities and gatherings.
If there’s one way you could honor Mark and make his death have some meaning, it’s to internalize his words and begin applying them in your own daily interactions.
“We are all machines built to create love, compassion, and kindness in the world. If you don’t feel like you have any of those things inside of you, maybe you need a tune-up. I know a good place to get a tune-up. It’s called hanging out with good people, and having fun, and being kind and compassionate towards them until you love them. If you feel like you can’t do that, well, maybe hang out with a dog. And be kind and compassionate to that dog until you love that dog. And then, once you love a dog, then all you ‘gotta do is pretend all the humans around you are dogs. And then you treat all them with compassion and kindness until you love all them. Once you get to that point, you’re a human!! Built to create kindness and compassion in the world.”