The great Soviet political philosopher, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, thought he had sufficiently assessed the human condition when he wrote, "Every man always has handy a dozen glib little reasons why he is right not to sacrifice himself." Had Solzhenitsyn met some of my friends, he would see how right he was.
In my formative years, my bags were empty when I sat out to discover the world, and myself.. They were equally void of packed excuses the day I gained my first career, my ex-wife, my days in college, my relations with my parents, my children, my teachers, my co-workers, and the list can go on.
I had long before buried what excuses I may have had for not following whatever was my calling. I embraced so deeply that the road never forked; the adventure was straight and clear. Indeed, by emptying my bag of excuses, the load only lightened. Other people I knew thought they knew me better than I did, but I knew me pretty well.
Sometimes I laugh at the retelling of the day my legend was born. Somewhere around 1966-67, the burdens of college life became so overpowering that I did what most college students do - I took a nap . . . in class. And, as my colleagues poured a lifetime of experience into the day's lecture, I passed from mere napping to deep, robust slumber; the kind of sleep that relieved my body of its duty to remember that I was seated at a desk and not prone in bed. The crash that followed left students stunned and me in a howling stupor. I learned to laugh a lot. And I learned to laugh at myself a lot since those days.
Following a High School reunion a few years ago, some of my pals, all men in my own state of decay, recalled stories. "There was Wes's overzealous attempt to gasoline-fortify a campfire, which left him with a comical set of prickly eyebrows and hairless arms." We laughed at the comedy that was the conversion of my pickup bed into a mobile swimming pool. I'm more amused at how me and my buddies were able to splash around town without drawing the attention of police.
Every day was an adventure in my world. But don't misunderstand - I'm no oaf. I believe myself to be an imaginative writer, an intelligent debater, and a lover of people. That's what I would expect most parents would hope for their offspring. I want see it in my own daughters when they find adventure in the routine of everyday life. I want to see it in my friends, those out there in cyber land and those around me in person. I try to traverse the mundane by elevating the importance of those around me. All people matter to me - all colors, religions, backgrounds, creeds and dispositions. I love the beautiful and the ugly alike. The friendly and the cranky both get my attention. I try to befriend the kind and the embittered with the same vigor. They all matter. None are up for vote. None are on the auction block of significance.
The burden that one's life might end before becoming acquainted with the majesties of the universe is the vivid backdrop to my life. It is a tapestry woven into the fabric of my being. More precisely, it is the water that quenchs my parched thirst. My adventures and my life are indistinguishable. I was me at school, football games, work and home and just knocking around. Who I am is more than a Sunday wardrobe or cultural garb.
It was a choice that became my calling, a calling that became my choice.
I see my friends still looking for who they are, recluseing themselves into tiny capsules of self loathing and tiny closets of self absorbtion by avoidng the real world as it exist, and their own lives as they exist. When I first met me many years ago, on a trip to meet myself and my future. I seemed quiet and a little nervous. That would all change. I did what I ask all my friends, known and unknown to do: ask good questions, probing questions about the world and what it is. Change your thoughts about yourself. I find you quite kind and affable. I liked you all from the beginning, you might even like yourself, if you give yourself a chance.
You cannot fathom then the profound impact that one change might have on your self awareness adventure.
I'm grateful to many. I'm grateful that the student became the teacher, the teacher became the student. You have something to share, share it.
The great Soviet philosopher was close - all men do carry bags. And such baggage packs excuses for most.
Become full of caring, compassion and adventure. Here's the real tragedy, the nugget that causes me to pause the longest:
Just five minutes alone with yourself and you will find the poor, vicious, misdirected person you think you are and the person you really are..... can become best friends. The two of you will laugh at your quirky charm and be captivated by your honest compassion. Don't be your own assassin by shortchangeing your own life in ways you probably will never know.
Be glad to spend five more minutes with yourself, laughing with yourself and laughing at yourself.
On my own
1 week ago