During another night of odd dreams I felt at one juncture a sense of alarm. I was not dreaming at the time, and was close to being fully awake. From nowhere I felt a sense of doubt. Even half asleep I knew what it was about.
I have embarked on this risky course of going it alone. There is no certainty, no guarantee that it will be a success. I have known that all along but have put it to one side. It was not something worth considering. Instead I looked ahead, the Nietzschean dictum that “you ought to become who you are” my inspiration.
It was not wrong to doubt though. It was, and I guess is, perfectly understandable. Even as I write this I can feel a small part of that in me. I don’t have a crystal ball, I don’t know how things will turn out. And so on that basis the better part of me says forget it. I can’t wonder what might happen, I can only do all I can to make it not: to be successful. And I that’s what I have been busy with the last few days.
I know in the greater scheme of things – if there is any such thing – that a venture such as mine is worth every bit of risk if honestly pursued. I was reading some Marcus Aurelius in the bathtub (which sounds like an awfully pretentious line) and I came across a passage that summed up much of what I believe about employing myself. He asks the question: “Where you brought into this world simply to feel pleasure, that is, to be acted upon by feelings rather than to act?”
To act or be acted upon: that is the critical question. For me it is a simple answer, but not always an answer that can be easily enacted.
I learned a lot from my father without ever really taking much notice of it. Like osmosis I absorbed it without knowing it. He and I are different people, and there are times when I look back at some of the things he would exhort me to do with a smile on my face. He was strong on the motivational stuff, whereas I, typical of my generation, often thought it was all a bit silly. He was intense, sometimes fierce. Though I can be intense myself sometimes, I am a more laid back person than he. Notwithstanding those differences though I learned. Much of what he said became a part of how I came to conduct my own life. Thinking about it now I can summarise what all he taught me into a small but meaningful phrase: to live life with intent.
“Toward what end am I now making use of my soul?” Marcus Aurelius asks in another of his meditations. That’s the question I am I exploring now, isn’t it, and the question I have explored many times before in these pages (it’s hard to resist quoting another philosopher here regarding the unexamined life…).
Everyone has a different journey, but these questions frame mine. Because of how I was made I have sought meaning in my life, and meaning as I have defined it comes from acting, doing, risking. Meaning comes from inside. You are the things that are important to you. And as you continue on that journey you are further shaped by what resists you, or diverts your course. The learning never ends I have discovered.
And so while much of who I am and what I believe has come from from my father, that raw stone has been sculpted into something that is uniquely me by my experiences. This is where I stand today, at this point in development. More will come, more that I can only wonder at, and just as I don’t know what the future is I cannot be sure of the ultimate me that comes from all of this. And it doesn’t matter. I am me now, that’s what matters.
The me now is taking a risk. It may come off, it may not. I know I will do everything in my power to make it right. The important thing is to be true. That’s something that hasn’t changed in all these years. To be authentic. To live with intent. To be brave and open yourself up to possibility. The learning never stops, and in this last year I have learned a lot.
There is another of Old Marcus’ meditations that is where I feel I want to be as a man, and it this past years experiences that have made this so:
“…Recall to your mind all that you have passed through and all that you have been able to endure; and that the story of your life will soon come to an end, and that your duty will be accomplished. Recall, too, all the beautiful things you have seen and how many pleasures and pains you have seen through, how many honours you have turned away from, and how much unkindness you have repaid with kindness.”