An excerpt from “the illusionless man” by Allen Wheelis
“Once upon a time there was a man who had no illusions about anything. While still in the crib he had learned that his mother was not always kind; at two he had given up fairies; witches and hobgoblins disappeared from his world at three; at four he knew that rabbits at Easter lay no eggs; and at five on a cold night in December, with a bitter little smile, he said good-bye to Santa Claus. At six when he started school illusions flew from his life like feathers in a windstorm: he discovered that his father was not always brave or even honest, and that presidents are little men, that the Queen of England goes to the bathroom like everybody else, and that his first grade teacher, a pretty round faced young woman with dimples, did not know everything, as he had thought, but thought only of men and did not in fact know much of anything. At eight he could read, and the printed word was a sorcerer at exorcising illusions – only he knew there were no sorcerers. The abyss of hell disappeared into the even larger abyss into which a clear vision was sweeping his beliefs. Happiness was of course a myth; love a fleeting attachment, a dream of enduring selflessness glued onto the instinct of a rabbit. At twelve he dispatched into the night sky his last unheard prayer. As a young man he realized that the most generous act is self-serving, the most disinterested inquiry serves interest; that lies are told by printed words, even by words carved in stone; that art begins with a small “a” like everything else, and that he could not escape the ruin of value by orchestrating a cry of despair into a song of lasting beauty; for beauty passes and deathless art is quite mortal. Of all those people who love illusions he lost more than anyone else, taboo and prescription alike; and as everything became permitted nothing was left worthwhile.”
That is a description of a life that is empty, empty of hope, happiness, joy, and a future.
Find happiness in what you do and in who you are. Seek joy in what you do. Chart a path that is filled with joy and follow it.
What about trust? Trust is something we all need to have exist but how do we earn it, display it and keep it? It seems as if trust is very fragile on one side and very difficult to construct on the other. We give everyone some basic amount of trust and if we desire more than we have to earn that trust. To earn more trust we have to be engaged in doing something, perhaps it is honoring a commitment, delivering on a promise or being reliable. Each time we do those things it is like earning interest on a bank account. We only earn a little and it takes a long time to accumulate a high level of trust.
It also seems that in one instant that trust can be wiped away. What we save can be lost or we can lose far more quickly than we can save it up.
How do you know what your talents are? For much of our lives we haven’t been taught to discover what our talents are. We’ve been pushed through an educational system that does less to identify talents than it does making sure everyone is in a broad sense non-distinct. If you excelled at one subject a lot more than any other your focus wouldn’t be on that one subject it would be on all subjects with about equal intensity due to the framework of the educational system.
What are you curious about? What do you have an appetite for? I’m not talking about watching TV or mindless activities but of things that stir the imagination, that bring about a strong desire to learn, to practice, and to experience.
If you choose a magazine what is the material that makes it worth reading about? What about that topic is intriguing?
Be careful about linking talent with career aspirations. What if your talent isn’t the kind that is desired in job marketplace? Try to separate those issues initially. Seek what drives your interest and passions.
Bringing a talent to life will often lead to joy and happiness. Time will disappear and your focus will increase. The intensity of joy will magnify as you find yourself in the labyrinth of experiencing your talents.
To discover your talents you’ll need to plow the field of experience. The more that you experience the greater your chance is of discovering what truly ignites passion in your heart. It may be doing something as simple as walking through a library scanning the books and looking at the topics that interest you. Are you compelled to know more? Does the topic drive you to want to devour all that there is to know about the subject matter? What images seep into your mind?
Here are some ideas to discover your talents.
1. Plow the field. Churn some new ground.
2. Plant the field. Experience a variety of things, what grows.
3. Nurture the field. Take care of the things that interest you.
4. Weed the field. Remove what doesn’t work so the effort can be placed on what is of interest.
5. Harvest the field. What grows well, what thrives and survives is probably a talent.
Reflection. Review things in the past that were of interest to you. What things have continued with you? What things have you dropped in pursuit of something else? Look at what you have carried with you. Is it a passion of yours?
What are your talents?
It seems that everyone else has a special gift and we are left looking for ours. What is our gift? Where do we have a special skill, talent, ability or way that is uniquely ours that can be used in some wonderful way?
It isn’t that we don’t have a gift or talent; it is more likely that we haven’t exposed our talents or gifts in a way that feels like it can be used for some benefit, either our personal benefit or a larger benefit to the community we live in.
The Kielburger’s from their book “Me to We” write that everyone has a gift in some way but not in every way. Discovering your talent is something you should invest in. Once the talent or gift has been found then there is the work of sharpening and honing that talent so that it can be applied. It is also necessary to cultivate a passion for that gift. It makes no sense to have a talent that could be used but lack the passion to bring life to that talent.
Passion and talents are linked and missing one or the other will only cause frustration. Combine your passion with your talents and then use the combination to make a difference in your life and perhaps in the lives of others.
What is your talent? Is it a passion of yours? Are you using your talents and passions to your best ability?
Paul Loeb wrote this about Rosa Parks journey “suggests that change is the product of deliberate, incremental action, whereby we join together to try to shape a better world. Sometimes our struggles will fail, as did many earlier efforts of Parks, her peers, and her predecessors. Other times they may bear modest fruits. And at times they will trigger a miraculous outpouring of courage and heart – as happened with Park’s arrest and all that followed. For only when we act despite all our uncertainties and doubts do we have the chance to change.” From the real Rosa Parks, http://paulloeb.org/articles/rosaparks.htm
It takes courage to change. It takes a willingness to step out where you have never stepped before. The reminder is “what is the worst that could happen?” The worst thing that would happen is we would learn something. Even when the results are not what we expected that doesn’t mean that there was a failure, all it means is that the learning we gained was different than we predicted. We must take risks and change. We grow when we take risks and we grow when we change our thoughts, our actions and our opinions.
Take the time to change. Be rewarded by the experience. Smile brightly – smile brightly.
I’ve been riding bicycles for years, many years and most of the time I ride into the wind. Today I had a tailwind, a brisk wind at my back that propelled my two wheeler close to the speed limit of 40 mph. It was fun while it lasted and I knew that I would have to face that same wind as my route would bring me into the full brunt of the wind.
In life there are times when we will have a tailwind and things will seem to pass by easily and quickly. It will be fun but that fun won’t last long. The winds will change and we will face the wind that seems to sap us of our strength.
In cycling it is always better to ride with others especially when the wind is in your face. When you ride in a large group you can take shelter behind those in front of you and that saves an enormous amount of energy. It makes the ride much more fun. Riding alone into the wind is draining. There is never a break when you ride into the wind alone.
When you face a headwind don’t face it alone. Find someone who can shelter you from the full force of the wind. Find someone who can share the burden. It will make a difference, it will make the journey enjoyable.
‘The most important three words you can say to yourself. “Yes I can.”’ Denis Waitley
“A man’s life is interesting primarily when he had failed, for it’s a sign that he tried to surpass himself.” — Georges Clemenceau
This brief piece of text is excerpted from “Learning as a way of being” by Peter Vaill, the quoted section is part of another book written by Chittister called “Wisdom distilled from the Daily”, pg. 24, The Rule of St. Benedict,
“Benedict teaches life is a learning process. Western culture and its emphasis on academic degrees, however, has almost smothered this truth. We have made the words ‘graduation’ and ‘education’ almost synonymous. We measure achievement in academic credits. We discount experience, depth, and failure. We believe in action and results and products and profits and youth, so we come to regard the elderly as essentially useless.
But in the end, all of that kind of achievement is nothing but a spiritual wasteland if along the way we have not attached ourselves to the discovery of truth, the cultivation of beauty, and the recognition of the real learnings in life.”
If you believe that things are passing you by perhaps it is time to slow down and reflect on the beauty that surrounds you. Action, results, products and profits are seen as the currency of value when in reality the currency is truth, beauty and joy. Which do you pursue with the most fervor?
Value significance – value your significance in a turbulent world.
“Life is its own journey, presupposes its own change and movement, and one tries to arrest them, at one’s eternal peril.” Vaclav Havel from “Venture to the Interior”
We live in a space, a space that is filled with great hope and in some cases great despair. Despair is an anchor that prevents change. In some places in our lives we need an anchor; in turbulent waters we need an anchor until the rush of water subsides. In this case, the case where the anchor is despair we want to pick it up so that it doesn’t hold us back.
Let’s call the anchor a “take away”. The anchor takes away from our ability to be agile and to react to situations quickly and adroitly. We all have things that hold us back, little anchors, and little pockets of despair. Identify those things that are holding you back today. What are they?
As we pick up each anchor we can start to sense movement, positive movement along a corridor of our choosing. We can walk down a path towards greater hope, greater freedom and greater happiness.
What anchors are holding you back? Are you aware of those anchors? Are you willing to pick them up or let them go?
Polish your soul
When our shoes get dull and dingy we might get a can of shoe polish and update the finish on the exterior of our shoes.
Before we go off to work we put on our shoes. Shoes protect us from the elements and they also reflect part of our values as individuals. We might have fancy shoes, shiny shoes, colorful shoes, or some other kind of footwear and that sends a message. If we are trying to impress people we might find our best shoes, our shiniest shoes and put those on. If we are hiking in the mountains we will put on shoes that are best suited for that task. If we want our shoes to last and make a lasting impression we have to take care of our shoes.
The same is true for our souls. We have to a take care of our souls as well. Our souls reflect who we are. Often we try to hide our true selves from others. We don’t want them to see the dull, scuffed, damaged, dirty or dingy souls. We want them to see the shiny, bright, and polished souls. We may want them to believe in an illusion – that our souls are polished when they aren’t.
How much time out of each day do you take to polish your soul? How do you make sure you are taking care of one of the most important assets you have – your soul?
What is soul polish? Soul polish is time, it is reading, it is meditating, it is reflecting, it is relaxing, it is observing beauty around you, it is acknowledging others, it is strengthening a relationship, it is building character, it is ensuring your integrity is intact, it is being honest with yourself and others, it is helping others, it is serving, it is being kind, it is find joy and beauty in your work and life – and that is just the start of the list. What do you do to polish your soul? Would others say you are polishing your soul? Is your soul worn, scuffed, dingy or in need of some serious repair?
Start thinking about your soul polish today – what can you do?
“Imagine living your life without being afraid to take a risk and to explore life. You are not afraid to lose anything. You are not afraid to be alive in the world, and you are not afraid to die.” Don Miguel Ruiz