Monday, December 28

“None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Attribute this one to my stodgy and stubborn refusal to abandon some semblance of a belief in destiny. There; I said it. Now I’d better explain before my claims of rationality are all thrown back in my face.

When I say ‘destiny’, please understand that I don’t mean that we are all somehow fated to be superstars and have profound and world-altering affects on the global zeitgeist. I’m not saying that god is calling all of us to be the next great prophet. I’m not saying that we, each of us, have within us the predestined mandate, or even the opportunity, to be the ‘next great thing’.

I do, however, believe that each human being has a potential and a talent, and that this potential can be developed to what ever degree it can be made manifest by hard work, diligence and good fortune. That it is our opportunity and perhaps even responsibility to chase after it, figure out what it is, and ‘make the most of it’ in whatever time we are given.

I also hold with Emerson that without listening for that whisper, discerning what that whisper is trying to tell us, and then grabbing onto it tenaciously for the rest of our lives, we will never realize whatever potential we hold within us. This may require some sacrifice, maybe a little idealism, perhaps a re-evaluation of priorities, goals, the definition of what is needed to be whole and free in our world, and perhaps even how we define ‘friend’ and ‘family’. But, if we choose to own ourselves first and commit to becoming whatever it is we have within us to become, then it’s worth every drop of sweat we put into it.

I’ve known people who have found this whisper early in their lives, who were encouraged to find it and taught to guard it. Others I have known were drawn to it like a pigeon heading to its home, somehow grasping an intuitive urge to seek an unknown place inside them with a single-mindedness that was undeniable. They are exceptions and, by definition, have become exceptional. If you are one of these, you have my admiration and maybe a little bit of my jealousy, but mostly my admiration.

More often, we get sidetracked in life. The nurture required to encourage that kind of free-thinking truth-seeking, or the innate drive to find that one thing early in our years, is absent. Instead we are encouraged or bullied into seeking safer journeys, more comfortable goals, and often we never, ever get out of that mode. I fall into this category unequivocally except that (I hope) I have finally (better late than never) committed to breaking free of my mistakes and asides and foibles to find the true “me” and, hopefully, a measure of whatever potential I have within in me in close proximity to whatever that ‘true me’ turns out to be.

I’ve been close to this ‘path’ before, in my teens and in my late 20’s, but somehow got sidetracked both times. My bad, but I don’t have much time for self-recriminations these days. I’ve found that they, too, are self-defeating. So I try to learn from my mistakes and press on, listening for the whisper and setting the compass by that weak signal rather than get distracted again.

 Oh god, I can get easily distracted. If you’re a fan of the hilarious and subversive 90’s cartoon ‘The Tick’, you may remember the episode where Tick and Arthur go to Vegas. Within seconds, Tick spots a slot machine, mumbles something about “free money” and is completely hooked, abandoning the mission that brought them there faster than it takes for him to pull a slot token from out of his leotards somewhere. I feel like that sometimes, easily distracted by the idea of comfort rather than money, of the warm embrace of daydreams rather than the cold reality of actually doing what it is I mean to do. It’s one of the major foibles that I consistently have to battle against.

So, with my foibles (or at least some of the major ones) fully known to me, I’ve managed to find the whisper again and, in spite of the climb up to a place where I can hear it being more of a scrambling, two-steps-up, one-step-down kind of dance than not, I intend to stay committed to the whisper from here, ‘here’ being about ten months or so ago, on in. I don’t know what kind of excellence I have within me, but whatever it is, I’m not getting distracted this time. I’ll chase after it until the day I die, and it will be the chase that motivates me, not any kind of self-delusion regarding catching anything.

I’ll enjoy the road this time and try not to stray off of the path, and that’s enough for me.

This, to me, is the definition of success: to not give up, and to persevere in a worthwhile cause with no mind to necessarily complete anything, or to ‘win’ (whatever that means), but only to chase after it, to make the journey the goal and see where it leads.

AFTERWARD: A couple practical notes. One of the most important activities I use to stay on track is a little exercise I call looking in the mirror. You’ll have heard of it, I’m sure. I essentially try to take stock of all of my limitations and weaknesses, not so I can feel bad about myself, but rather so I know what to avoid doing, what parts of my behavior I need to address, recognize, change or avoid in order to be the true me.

I also need to constantly remind myself that it’s the journey, not the destination that matters. I have no delusions that I’ll ever reach enlightenment, but I’ll chase after whatever that is as best I can for as long as I can, and I’ll be happy knowing I’m chasing. I want to be that dog that chases cars, and who gives a fuck if I ever catch one; I’ll deal with that if it ever happens. In the mean time, I’m gonna love the chase…