The Phoenix

The Phoenix - looking back on life to see where we have come from... looking forward
to see where it's going...

After waking from a dream in which I was passing through Los Angeles, visiting old friends and heading south to Phoenix, I read in a dream dictionary that the Phoenix represented:

"immortality and renewal. It may also mean that your past continues to haunt you."

I am at an interesting crossroad right now. I could sit down and write a book; a book - blending adventure and insight. But I won't do that. Not just now anyway. I will let it gestate...let it flower as it is meant to. Not push it. I never feel more creative than when I am writing. Expression is
like a smile – it’s a crooked line which gets a lot of thing straight. You must be careful with it though
words can heal but words can also wound.

I am still inwardly torn by a woman - my ex-wife who continues to haunt me. I never knew that the wounds of emotion and feeling went so deep. It's been years since the break up. I move on. I renew. I reach for the stars... but the past has not finished with me yet. I let her go as best I can. But she clings on to me - not her, but the ghost of her. And I say 'adieu, goodbye, fare thee well.' I guess healing is not something we design - it has its own rhythm - and we must learn to flow with it as best we can. When you are at a crossroads - you tend to re-evaluate. You look over your values and you bring more order into your life, by way of simplifying things. Such is the biology of clarity.

I have lived a broad life. I believe in greatness. I believe in transformation. As such, I don't think heroes can help us if we follow them. But, if, in some way, we draw inspiration from then, then they certainly have direct value to us. Imitation is death. A living, inspired example is always the most potent teacher - and a great being's example resonates for all time.

I have not been impressed by many people. I have been impressed by certain qualities in certain people. Generosity. Honesty. Courage. Selflessness. As Shakespeare says, everyone has a part to play. But greatness is rare. The people I am inspired by are people whom I would say have really lived. Abraham Lincoln is one of those men for me. He discovered something extraordinary within him.

He formed his cabinet, not just from his friends, but he also elected his opponents and his sworn enemies. He chose men that he felt could do the best job for the country and give him the widest range of advice and criticism. A fine example of wisdom applied to a goal. Who has the balls to do such a thing today?

"Every man is said to have his own peculiar ambition," he wrote in his first political address. "I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed by my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem."

What values and motives we hold dear make us into the people we are. Life is very short and choosing is not fair. If I could really choose - I would take a lifetime to dedicate to dance. Another to devote to music. Another to be a poet all my days. Another I would give to compassionate causes and meditation. Another to explore yoga and prayer into its brightest depths (perhaps the previous mentioned life is much the same). Another to study science and economics - to find ways to make a fairer world. Another to study the wonders of herbal medicine. Another to plummet into Sanskrit. Another to fathom the steamy law of sexuality. Another to sketch my beloved (whatever guise my beloved may choose to take) and this marvelous earth. Another to study the laws of physics and mathematics - just to be blown away at the wonder and symmetry of it all! Another to be a leader of men. But then, I have one life. And choices only lead to confusion. Without decisive action, we are blind.

I long for my spirit guide to materialize and turn to me and say: "Nathan, you are fast becoming the man you were born to be." Alas, most of us have to put our best foot forward and try our best to do the right thing in the circumstances we find ourselves in. I do believe though, that we all have
lofty destinies but that very few ever really live up to them.

If I were to choose an epitaph to live up to - it could be "He was a man for whom the term "impossible" did not apply" or "He struggled and persisted and eventually found that which ends all searching - not death, but love. He became an extension of humility and strength; of compassion and wisdom." I think the best epitaph for many of us is: "He had a dream." When you want the is best to not be discouraged by aiming to high and falling short. Laugh off your mistakes and try to never stray from the actuality of things. Equally, never put yourself down.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could have the opportunity to pick our epitaphs at birth and then live a life which really measured up to them?! But then we would probably be crippled under the weight of expectation they would impose upon us! Either that or bad parenting (that being said, it is never wise to blame our parents for anything).

No, I am sure it is better to mold our lives and values as we move through them. Perfection is over-rated. Failure and imperfection makes living so meaningful; without the contrast of black, white is so pale. Our shortcomings make success something to be highly prized. Success is usually lost on those who win first time around. Such is the testament of experience. True learning gives way to the transcendent mystery of transformation.

Perhaps Keats put it best. The line on his tombstone in Rome reads: "Here Lies One Whose Name was writ in Water." He knew that our passage through life is fleeting; that it is not something we should get attached to – no matter how beautiful and alluring it might sometimes seem. He knew he was somehow not of this world.

So what is uttermost? What is important? Perhaps, for you there is a love - a child or a husband, a mother or a prisoner - who means more than life itself to you. I suspect we are many people inside. And each aspect of our personality holds different things dear.

So what is it we must give our lives to? I think it was Buddha who said that desire breeds all the miseries of the world. William Blake gave a hint, in the poem below, about how to lessen our suffering:

He who Binds Himself to a Joy
Does the winged life destroy
He who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in Eternity's sunrise

If you can be free of attachment to pleasure - then you can really love and “live with joy midst the sorrows of the world” (Joseph Campbell). What we all need is clarity. Clarity about who we really are. How best to use our time and energies. How best to forgive. How best to act. How best to look at people and events. In the end that one is the crux of things isn't it? Life amounts to how we perceive things. Can you look and go to the root of matters through your act of looking? Now that would be a blessing!

Abraham Lincoln had impeccable timing. His genius lay in his ability to maintain a detached distance from events. This allowed him to understand the wider meaning of things. He then tried to put that meaning into words at the right time to affect his audience. This is a gift that all true
politicians, poets and mystics share. Lincoln married this gift with an innate humility.

Once, before his assassination in April 1865, he turned to his old friend Leonard Swett and said, "I may not have made as great a president as some other men, but I believe I have kept . . . discordant elements together as well as anyone could."

As a new year commences and I return to my beloved India - refreshed and inspired by a break with family in Europe – I find myself searching for those values which I hold dearest. I was reflecting yesterday on my journey: on the old friends I met, on what people do with their lives. And a
crushing realization came upon me. Life is so short. And sadly, we tend to get washed downstream by the overwhelming force of events and by the bulky weight of our conditioned and unquestioned personality.

Only, a rugged and defiant few are able to become the masters of their own minds. Most of us live and die as slaves to our senses and our desires. We are lost in a storm of unfinished choices. And so it goes until we die. It's a great waste of potential. That's the larger story.

So many people die spent, lost and frightened. But it need not be that way. It just happens that we make such terrible choices. A decisive man is a rarity. His vigor is not wilted by choices. It is a gift for all mankind when such a man to comes to maturity. He does not have to be a Lincoln. He can be a total unknown; an anonymous woodcutter, a washroom attendant, a man of small means and large heart. Nevertheless, his actions will be stamped with an eternal significance.

Determination is essential to living. Discrimination is essential to living wisely. You and I are really not that different, however old you might be...however busy or stagnant you are – however wise you may be, however foolish I might be. In a few years or a few decades you will die. But, ask
yourself, will you ever live?

Few have lived a life as fully as Abraham Lincoln did. To this day, comedians generally avoid jokes about Lincoln because audiences do not usually appreciate them. When you are that serious about life, when your love for humanity is that deep - who will laugh at you? True nobility ushers in a silent dignity and a reverence that cannot be touched. It's an odd irony as Lincoln was a very witty man. Indeed, it was humor that saved him in his darkest moments. And he had plenty of dark moments. Pain is inevitable when you love that much.

When intelligence marries mastery of body and mind with love for your fellow men...then you are someone for whom priorities are clear...Whatever your chosen field may be, you are likely to be a passionate loner, a healer and leader all in one. Such men and women are often the most troubled, yet when they overcome their troubles, they may spark a fire from which we all can draw inspiration; a fire which stokes the will to live and the courage in us all. Abraham Lincoln was such a man. Socrates was such a man. Jean d'Arc was such a woman. Human beings who figured out how to live decisively. Human beings who were no longer bound by choices. Beings who proclaimed their highest destiny.

What will it take for you to warm the hearts of people you will never meet? This is the question that hounds me. Not because I seek to be remembered, but I do seek to give all of myself...because, though I know very little, I know one thing for sure: living begins when you find what it is that is yours to give. I will leave the last word to Spike:

2B or not 2B by Spike Milligan

When I was small and five, I found a pencil sharpener alive!
He lay in lonely grasses, Looking for work.
I brought a pencil for him, He ate and ate until all that was
Left was a pile of wood dust. It was the happiest pencil sharpener
I ever had.

Happy New Year. May it be a decisive one for you. May you find the perfect pencil to make your pencil sharpener happy (to some ears it might sound a little rude - but it isn't meant to be! :)).



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Mind is the closest thing to our Reality...Be careful how you use it. Businessman, yogi, teacher, addicted to laughing...