A Speck in the Distance


 When my mother met my new girlfriend, Wendy, she exclaimed, “Your life will never be dull with her!” 

 How right she was, for there has there been a dull moment, and she continues to impress, after thirty eight years of marriage. 

 Not long ago, Wendy dazzled me by becoming a long distance runner. Being quite the athlete myself - as I have always imagined - including five years as a high impact Aerobics instructor, I decided while on vacation in Maui to join my wife for a long run along the beach. 

 It quickly became evident, that I, who thought I was in such great shape, wasn’t. For there was no way I could keep up. Gasping for breath, I was barely able to say: "Keep going. Don’t wait for me."

 So she continued on, leaving me behind on the sand, where I felt like a beached whale. 

 But I wasn't going to hold the woman back - she who was born to run.

 I have never subscribed to the idea anyway of someone holding herself back so that nobody will feel like a loser and everyone can participate equally in the shared mediocrity. 

 My feeling is, that if you’re behind, you’re behind. And if you’re a loser, you’re a loser. Everybody doesn’t have to win. And not every one deserves a prize. 

 No, if you’ve got the gift, the talent, and the aspiration, you go, and go hard and do me a favour by leaving me behind. 

 Allow me to be the unfit straggler that I am. It gives me the chance to contemplate the pathetic shape I’m in. Realizing my sorry condition, it’s then up to me to determine to do something about it, or not. 

 So I'm not going to hold you back because I feel threatened by your success. No way! You take off, run hard, and don’t look back! 

 Thus set free on the beach that day, my wife, the inspired runner, in no time at all, became a speck in the distance.

 That image of her getting smaller and smaller until vanishing in the distance has stayed with me and has been a source of inspiration. I happen to love it that she was able to do that!

 For I never wanted to be married to a slug who would merely follow along behind me. I have rather liked the idea of her taking off in her way, and I in mine, each of us existing as the other’s greatest fan and cheerleader. 

 Married to such a creature as Wendy, I have never, thankfully, had to struggle to bring some poor thing along because of an absence of desire or determination. Rather the question has been whether I can keep up, and if not, at least not to stand in the way. 

 Thus as she left me behind on the beach run, as pathetic as I felt, I honestly was thinking: “Take off, dear one, in your gloriously pink vibrams running shoes, in your cutesy little outfit, while listening to a lecture from the Teaching Company. I’m proud of you!

 Early in our marriage, I bought a book for my wife about women finding their vocation. It was called Particular Passions. I have always wanted my wife to find her passion and to live her dream - to become, if at all possible, some kind of speck in the distance by achieving something, and to be thereby, an inspiration for others.

 That sense of discovering your particular passion, what you’re here for - is such a crucial question.

 Of the “mysteries of human nature,” says psychologist, James Hillman, one of the greatest is “the question of character and destiny.” (a Scott London interview) 

 Hillman, author of The Soul’s Code, proposes that “our calling in life is inborn.” Who you are meant to be is written into your nature. It’s your mission to uncover that, and to bring it forth.

 It’s a divine imperative. There has only ever been one you, and there will never be another. So find you, and be you! 

 Hillman states that just as the oak’s destiny is contained in the tiny acorn, your destiny is coded seed-like into the very nature of your being. He calls it the ”acorn theory."

 Hillman rages against those psychologies where the focus has been predominately about people “analyzing their pasts, their childhoods, their memories, and their parents,” while ignoring who and what they were born to be.

 His conclusion, upon surveying the evidence, is that all of the probing analysis has not accomplished anything! It’s the title of one of his books: We’ve had a hundred years of psychotherapy - and the world’s getting worse.

 Hillman is angry at the debilitating cosmology behind the psychology, the view largley accepted by the scientific community that we are all but the products of blind, impersonal forces and therefore merely accidents or flukes of the universe.

 Based on that view, “There is no reason for anyone to be here or do anything.”

 In contrast to that view, Hillman thinks that we should bring back Plato’s idea that you come into the world with a destiny. 

 The role of a parent, says Hillman, is to recognize his child’s particular destiny. To that end, he suggests that a parent stop saying: “This is My child,” and instead ask: “Who is this child, who happens to be mine?

 In particular, Hillman states that the role of the parent is to keep an eye open for specific instances when the child's destiny shows itself, as for instance, if he is offering up resistance to school for some reason or has an obsession with one thing or another. 

 He wants the parent to take note of strange or ununusal behaviour. Behind it there may be clues pointing to a particular destiny. Particular symptons, recurring repeatedly “may be the most important part of the kid.” 

 Hillman is full of great advise for parenting. "The very worst atmosphere for a 6 year old," says James Hillman, "is one in which there are no expectations whatsoever. The child who grows up in an atmosphere of acceptance and tolerance, grows up in a vacuum."

 He is therefore completely against placid environments where the effort is made to smooth the child out to make him nice, that is, socially acceptable - which in effect "stifles and consumes his life and spirit."

 The child’s uniqueness can be consumed by a parent who passively says: “Whatever you do is alright and I’m sure you’ll succeed”.

 Hillman calls this kind of attitude “a statement of disinterest.” The parent is  saying: ‘I really have no dreams for you at all.’ 

 A good parent, in contrast, states Hillman, should have some dream about her child’s future. Good parents have a vision of their child’s potential.

 Perhaps for instance, you’ve got a young Winston Churchill in the crib. Will the parent see it or not?

 “You’re a certain person,” says Hillman, “and that person begins to appear early in your life."

 So when Churchill, for example, was a schoolboy, he had a lot of trouble with language and didn’t speak well.  

 This boy who had trouble with words, writing and speech would one day win the Noble prize for literature and would be instrumental in saving the Western world through his well chosen words in radio speeches.

 Hillman suggests that Churchill struggled with words - could not speak easily - because he had an overwhelming sense of the power of words.

 Something in him knew that his future would be about words. Something in him knew what he would become. In his early teens he simply was not ready for the weight of that knowledge. “It was too much to carry!”

 The story is told of a fifteen year old girl who prepared to dance at an amateur show. Friends and family gathered to see her debut. However, when the spotlight shone upon her, she found that she couldn’t move. She was frozen to the spot.  

 The girl then crossed the stage and whispered something to the Master of Ceremonies. The MC then addressed the crowd to announce that there had been a change in the program. “Ella," he said, “is not going to dance for us - she’s going to sing!”  

 Ella Fitzgerald, who had never before sung in public, sang her heart out and brought the house down.

 James Hillman, in The Soul’s Code, explains that Ella Fitzgerald could not dance on that occasion, because she wasn’t meant to. 

 She was born to sing, not to dance.

 It is for each of us to discover. What were born to be and do?

Sweet Dreams, Karunesh