This quote from my fellow countryman, Oscar Wilde, is my antidote to all the exhortations I see, like ‘be the best version of yourself’ and ‘you are special’.
An acorn can only turn into an oak tree. Not a unicorn or a hemp plant. We are all truly unique and, as a wise man I knew used to put it, we are each a part of a jigsaw puzzle which cannot be replaced by another part. Uniqueness is not about being ‘special’. It’s about being truly you.
I was chatting to a friend of mine recently on the phone about what I call our soul’s purpose. He remarked that he felt that his purpose was to create a place, a garden where the plants would flourish. Where the bees and butterflies were drawn to the blooms. And the birds could gather their sustenance for their long flight to warmer climes. He spoke of how they would assemble, the house martins and the swallows, on the power lines that stretch across the landscape near his house. Ready for their trek to the Sahara.
Such can be our calling.
We cannot all be famous. And the pressure to perform, to be successful or the ‘best version of ourselves’ (that phrase even pains me to write) may end up killing that which is so precious – our true uniqueness, the desires of our hearts and the whisperings of our souls.
The manufacturing of an image, the endless selfies and the onslaught of information about how we can improve this, alter that, often only serve to make us more insecure, less gentle towards ourselves, and ever more relentless in our judgement.
There is no end to the road to perfection. It leads into a wasteland. And our lives are gone.
In our early years we are ‘growing down’. We are learning what our parents, our society, the bigger world wants from us. We learn to survive and adapt. We learn what we need to do to get approval. We lose some part of ourselves in that process.
Then we start ‘growing up’ finding out who we are when all the layers of conditioning are peeled gently off. We start to examine how we are unfree because parts of our energies are caught up in pain. And we may rediscover joy. We are learning what our SOUL requires of us.
The path of soul is mysterious. It cannot be plotted and planned. It unfolds and reveals itself when approached with compassion and curiosity. The path may make itself known through strange attractions, fascinations and often through crises of one kind or another. I envision it shaped as a spiral. So our calling may to be a good neighbour, a loving parent, a climate protester.
A large part of my path of soul is assisting others in finding theirs. And that brings me great joy.