What is the difference between that that you can touch and that that you cannot? The tangible and the intangible; that which is physically elusive?
The fact that you can touch one and not the other?
Such is a promise, and such is commitment.
Have I ever touched a promise, you ask? I have felt it. Lingering. I have had to check its existence and validity with each passing moment that questions me if I can take the next step. Like a nervous pat on the wallet pocket. I have no control over a promise. Yours or mine; once given, it no more remains our own. For those that are promised, they look to the promise-giver for its fulfilment. It’s nature, because of the transaction, is tangible. It becomes physical, the moment it is transacted. The moment that it is physical, it is easy to break. And, because it is physical it becomes a burden, often to the giver. The moment it is transacted, it becomes a shove-it-in-your-face tool, held in the hand, waved in the face.
Commitment is as ethereal as can be. Lacking any physical form, it isn’t ever transacted. It is never given: it is taken (without giving anything in return). Taken up. It cannot be asked for. If you ask, then you are asking for a promise – you are asking for something lesser, something that you want to feel. Most people have seen commitment. They even make a show of it, they say – look how committed he is, or she is. I have never seen it. I have never felt it like I would feel the clasp of a promise. I have experienced commitment, however. I have known it.
A promise can break with time, circumstances, environments and geography. In the end it doesn’t matter whether it was intended or not. A commitment doesn’t die with the death of the committed person. Like blogs, like memories, it lives on.
I think of commercial software and I think of open-source software. I think of a promise and I think of commitment.
Commitment shines through by its own nature, its own personality and characteristics. Promises are slaves to change. Changes in society, in personal lives, in geography, in shifting loyalties, in money – more or less – and in the lack of a belief system. Promises always carry an inherent burden of imposition within, somehow. They aren’t free of necessity.
I think of a mercenary and I think of a freedom-fighter (a real one, not the self-styled we see in the contemporary world). I think of a promise and I think of commitment.
It isn’t, however, always easy to distinguish between the two. Some promises have the ability to disguise themselves as commitment. They have the ability to fool you into believing, yet, if you ask a single question of it, you will know. Assurances, aren’t a Commitment characteristic. Commitment just is. It answers to no one except the self.
I often think of Frodo. Was it his commitment to end all that was evil in this world, or was it his promise to Gandalf?
Commitment is as subtle and inconspicuous as promises are obtrusive and lacerating, because promises need constant attention and audit (are you there? won’t leave me will you?) to ensure their existence. Uttering the word of commitment is the opposite of being.
Like hope and belief.
Promises have a shelf-life. The expiry date isn’t generally printed, but know that they will expire after a while. Commitment however doesn’t have a shelf-life. In fact, it isn’t found on the shelf. Don’t look for it in a store; don’t ask for commitment.