“The tragedy of life is what dies in a man while he lives.” Albert Schweitzer
In a recent interview the iconic singer Tony Bennett made an interesting observation. He said that with the ascendance of megastars like Elvis and the Beatles, performances moved to large auditoriums and outdoor arenas, thus “Singing lost its sense of intimacy” between the singer and his/her audience.
His remark prompted me to wonder–have we lost a personal sense of intimacy with our fellow citizens? In difficult times, especially, we each crave the love of others. And we should, as love received induces gratitude. Yet at times even when our longings are most intense, we need to look inward to the love that has been divinely infused in our life core—our healthy love of self. Self-love allows us to accept mercifully that when we are accosted on life’s path by grief and despair, there is some part of that path we must always walk alone.
In my book, Humanity at Work: Encouraging Spirit, Achievement and Truth to Flourish in the Workplace (Chapel Hill Press 2008), I observe that “In his wonderful book The Heart Aroused: Poetry and Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America (1994), David Whyte claims that to find the path we deserve, ‘We have to leave the path we are now on, even for an instant, and earn the privilege of losing our way.’ At that instant, The Lord will extend a guiding hand. Imagine all the women and men you have come to admire – perhaps they didn’t find their way but instead lost their way . . . to find a way to a higher calling!
Naturalist Henry David Thoreau wrote of “a road less traveled,” his call to arms to live fully as an individual, not aping conventional ways of making do. So as we travel the first road, the one more traveled, be aware and vigilant, wait in hope for that speck of time when your perception of the world shifts slightly. At that point in time and space, we are momentarily aware that our lives don’t fit snugly upon life’s pieced out, traditional quilt.
In that instant, we see that we may be honest to ourselves only if we are freer, more open and adventurous, yet more untried and untested—even hazardous—life traveling the second road. Don’t people say that beyond the shoulder of either road “It’s a jungle out there”? What to do?
My advice is this–crave all the love and support you can earn and garner from others, and give to them in return, but don’t despair that there is some part of the journey where self-love must sustain you. Partly, we do have to go it alone for the sake of earning character and strength along the road less traveled. How else can we fully know our self?
My friends, has there ever been an adventure where the explorer confronts the wilderness as a totally solitary challenge? Even in solitary times, necessarily solitary times for our growth as individuals, the Spirit is with us in the thicket, and in the thick and thin of it.