The Strength That Comes From Being Who You Are
Ours is a world filled with many people trying to be something that they are not. Struggling to fit, to please others, to be something others want them to be, but which they are not, to be something that seems to be rewarded and appreciated, but which is far from the center of who they are. This is not all foolishness, of course, many times it is the desperate impulse to survive that leads people to stray from their center, to live on the edge of their true nature, on the periphery of their soul.
If you have ever seen a contest in judo or wrestling, you see how deadly it is to let yourself be caught off balance, with your feet too close together, or your weight extended too far from your center. In a sudden moment, you may be thrown down to the ground. In the same way, the person who lets himself assume a stance that does not come from his own heart and soul, is made weak by not being who he is. I see a whole world of people off balance, a whole world of people who are not solidly positioned on the earth of their true nature, a whole world of people who lack the strength that comes from being themselves.
This article is especially for you, my friends and soul family members, who have been drawn down paths you cannot bear, in order to try to live. Taken away from the center of who you are, which is where your strength comes from, you are punished in alien places, forced to fight battles far from your soul’s stronghold; and the idea that you are weak grows and grows within you, as you suffer defeat after defeat.
This article is meant to resurrect your belief in yourself. You are like eagles, made to swim with fish. You are the least talented of the fish, the weakest of the swimmers. Realize, my dear friends, before you let the shadow of failure, and the misery of feeling out of place, erode your last trace of pride and competence, that it is not you, it is the water! You are out of your element. You belong in the sky, gliding with open wings above the earth. Of course you will always lose, and you will always be last, when you try to be a fish.
In the same way, a giant may be made to feel incompetent when he is unable to fit through a tiny door, the door through which all the others pass.
My friends, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to remain close to the center of your soul in life, even though - and I know this well - the whole world’s force is trying to pull you away from it, to take you away from your power, so that it can use you and control you.
In the realm of nature, this is very evident. Konrad Lorenz, in his very fascinating and controversial book, On Aggression, describes the force that comes from "being close to home." He notes how, for many creatures which have set territorial boundaries, their power to fight increases in proportion to their proximity to the center of their territory. He writes that the strength that a creature derives from being close to this center, or "headquarters" as he sometimes refers to it, "is so great that it compensates for all differences ever to be found in adult, sexually mature animals of a species. If we know the territorial centers of two conflicting animals, such as two garden redstarts or two aquarium sticklebacks, all other things being equal, we can predict, from the place of the encounter, which one will win: the one that is nearer home." Lorenz goes on to write: "When the loser flees, the inertia of reaction of both animals leads to that phenomenon which always occurs when a time lag enters into a self-regulating process - to an oscillation. The courage of the fugitive returns as he nears his own headquarters, while that of the pursuer sinks in proportion to the distance covered in enemy territory. Finally the fugitive turns and attacks the former pursuer vigorously and unexpectedly and, as was predictable, he in his turn is beaten and driven away. The whole performance is repeated several times till both fighters come to a standstill at a certain point of balance where they threaten each other without fighting."
Although it is never safe to automatically transfer learning from the animal world to the human world, I am, nonetheless, confident that this observation by Lorenz very much reflects elements of our own condition. Lorenz notes that the fighting power of an animal grows weaker "as the distance from [its] ‘headquarters’ increases" and as "the surroundings become stranger and more intimidating to the animal." I sense a principle very much similar to this at work, as we leave our true selves, our true loves, our true inclinations, our true center, our true inner home, farther and farther behind in the effort to succeed or survive in a society which attempts to steal away all our power and remake us as its tools. Certainly, for those who are already the material which our society "wants" them to be, there is no problem. The materialistically ambitious and the unscrupulous have maximum power, here, they are, indeed, "close to home", close to the source of their strength. But for the sensitive, the different, the artistic, and the spiritual, the situation is quite the opposite. If they cannot find a survival niche that allows them to be themselves, and to make a living by being themselves, then they may be drawn away from their source of power, their inner homeland, by the need to survive, and in so doing, lose the strength they need to win the fight to be different, and to give birth to their difference, which the world needs.
In this vein, I cannot help but think of the proud Native American warrior of the Great Plains - visionary, courageous, spiritual, generous - and how much the white man grew to despise him once he had been taken from his power, which was the earth without bounds; once he had had his hair cut short, and been confined to a little plot of land, and told to be a farmer, to be nothing but a poor imitation of the whites. When this happened, there was a long night of confusion, sickness, drunkenness, quarreling, and despair. And the thieves dared to call this great people lazy, stupid, and good-for-nothing. A battle not to have their hearts blown away forever, like dust carried off by the wind, ensued. It is a tribute to the resilience of native people that they are still here, not only physically, but also in spirit, holding on to a legacy that has been besieged for generations.
Home. Strength comes from being close to one’s inner home, one’s spirit home, one’s heart home. From fighting close to the center of one’s being, not far away in a strange land where one does not belong.
Naturally, this is not to belittle the life-giving talent of adaptation. But adaptation is not the same as self-annihilation. Take the following example:
In days long past, the ancient Romans reached a point in their history where the threat of their great rival, Carthage, forced them to develop a competent navy. The Romans were not accomplished mariners, like the Carthaginians, they were soldiers used to fighting on land. But the necessities of strategy demanded that they overcome their limitations, and establish a credible presence upon the seas. And so the Romans, without changing their essential character and outlook on life and war, proceeded to build a navy that fit their personality, and their skills.
In those days, naval warfare depended heavily upon maneuver. The ships had both sails and oars, handled by banks of rowers. They were also generally equipped with a ram protruding from the front, just beneath the waterline, sometimes tipped with brass or iron. One prime strategy for destroying an enemy ship was to catch it on its flank, ram it hard, rip it open, and then back out to let it flounder and sink. Another strategy was to come up swiftly alongside the enemy ship, pull one’s own oars in, and shear the oars of the enemy ship off as one swept past, crippling its ability to maneuver. Although the ships might contain archers and some light catapults or "missile launchers" (such as the springal, which used a wooden board to spank rows of arrows at an enemy ship), battles were won principally by maneuver. The Romans, however, developed new tactics designed to enable them to fight "land battles on the sea." They filled their ships with well-armed warriors, and approaching the enemy ships, sought to catch onto them with grappling hooks and ropes and draw nearer. The Roman ships often had a drawbridge-like mechanism, fitted with spikes, which they would attempt to bring down and imbed onto the deck of the enemy ship, allowing their warriors to charge across and board it. Then, the Romans would fight as they were accustomed to. "A land battle on the sea." They adapted, yet their adaptation was not something "out of character", not something far removed from the center of their strength. Since they would never be able to be better Carthaginians than the Carthaginians, never be able to best them as seamen, they found a way of bringing who they were into a novel situation, and facing it as Romans.
There is no doubt that adaptation is indispensable as a survival tool, not only in this modern world of ours, but in any world, and any time. But, I repeat: adaptation, as a form of empowering who you are is one thing. "Adaptation" as a capitulation of who you are, is another.
As you can see, this essay is nothing more than a statement. It is a statement of the fact that if you live close to your soul’s home, to the center of who you are, to your inner "headquarters", you will have strength, vitality, the full force of your being with which to face the challenges of your days, and pursue the dreams of your heart. The farther you let the world take you from yourself - the farther from your essence, from your talents, from your nature, that you make your stand - the less likely it is that you will be able to hold your own, or ever transcend mediocrity to manifest your greatness.
Consider this well, and seek ways of returning to your center. Seek ways of fighting your life’s battle in the place, and in the way, that brings out your best, and allows you to utilize your gifts. Stop floundering in a land that is not your own.
I will never forget the words my high school coach said to me one day, many, many years ago, when I was a runner, and got trapped in a "box" while racing around an indoor track. (A "box" refers to a situation in which you get stuck inside a group of runners, usually slower than yourself, who do not give you room to maneuver past them and use your speed.) Seeing me there, like a helpless captive, trapped in the midst of inferior runners, he snarled, "GET OUT OF THERE!" It is something that we may need to say to ourselves many mornings, as we find ourselves repeatedly going into situations that demean us and stifle us.
My friends. Help me to "get out" - help me to find a way back to myself - for so often we are the ones who impede others from being who they truly are (I do it to you, and you do it to me) - and I promise, I will do the same for you!
REFERENCE: On Aggression, by Konrad Lorenz, p. 32-33.
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