Thursday, June 21, 2012

F. Scott and James

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.” 
 F. Scott Fitzgerald

Amazing little quote, heh?

I referenced inner vs outer travel the other day.  My summer this year is not so much about outer travel but a whole lot about inner travel.  I am, oddly for me, being somewhat okay with the value of doing nothing.  I am being curious, watching dreams and words, colors and thoughts.  Fascinating when you can take the time to do it.

The most recent issue of The Sun magazine carried a tribute to psychologist James Hillman.   He died last year at the age of 85 but only after a life rich in observation and thought and filled with depth and connection.  In 1959, Mr. Hillman was made the director of studies at the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich.   Hillman was a critic of mainstream psychology and took aim at some of the assumptions behind standard psychotherapies.  He argued that the best way to understand the human mind lay not in standard psychological or medical constructs but rather through myth and  imagination.   He wrote that psychology has become reduced to "a trivialized, banal, egocentric pursuit, rather than an exploration of the mysteries of human nature."  His work wove together philosophy, religion, and the arts as well as the webs cast by Freud and Jung.

I am intrigued with his belief that each individual has a purpose or calling in life.  Hillman believed that this purpose revealed itself in childhood.  The purpose or the calling is not so much about "doing" as it is about "being",  The way I interpret that is that children are who they are and, instead of trying to change them or make them into someone different, we need simply to be curious about them and let them unfold in their own way (which might not agree with the plans we have for them).  As adults, I think sometimes we have forgotten the child who lives within us.  To what was it that the child was drawn?  What captivated her days and her imagination?  Rediscovering the answers to those sorts of questions might open doors that may have been closed long ago when something else (like responsibility) entered the room.

Back to F. Scott Fitzgerald and his words above,  I like that he says it's never too late to be who you are.  You can change or you can stay the same.  I like Hillman's notion that so much of who is you comes with you to the planet.  And then you need to make the best of it and live a life you are proud of.

How about that for a big order?  Live a life you are proud of.  Not a perfect life but a life you are proud of.  What do you think?  Too much to ask?


  1. Well, I don't know. If I were not proud of my life, I doubt it would bug me, because you gotta do what you gotta do, but I do not have an argument with you. It's all well and good to believe that a life's purpose is revealed in childhood, but I experienced childhood, without any such revelations, so I guess I will let others carry the banner.

  2. Life isn't a well planned map, is it? But just like our best family vacation that involved a serious car break down and being stranded (and dependent on the kindness of strangers), it is all about how we deal with the upsets! I've done a broken car as a kid and it was horrible and everyone was scared and crying, and I've done it as an adult, where we treated it like an adventure and made some great memories. Not a perfect trip, but one I'm darn proud of!

  3. You posed a thought provoking question.
    Personally, I think it would be difficult for me to define what "living a life I was proud" of means.
    I think if I lived to be old, say the age my mom lived to be, 86 and one half years, I would have to assume that if I could recall each moment of each of the over thirty-one
    thousand days of my life, I could probably come up with a day or two(hundred) that I would like to do over.
    At this point in my life I would (and do) spend (waste) too much time wishing and regretting.I think instead of pursuing “the big order” of living a life I was proud of, I would probably find peace if I could live the rest of my life by easing up on myself, just a little.

    1. I'm all for that - the easing up on yourself part -- and I could easily come up with a day or a bunch of days that I would like a do over for -- Even with that acknowledgment, I am still thinking I have, so far, lived a life of which I can be proud. ABSOLUTELY it has not been perfect but overall? My choices have been compassionate and responsible and I am glad for that.

    2. Consciously choosing to be compassionate and responsible when making decisions is something to be very proud of. I understand what you mean.
      You have steered me in another direction. Thanks for that.

  4. I can see what Hillman says. I'm good with it, in fact. I knew so much more when I was a kid, say before I went to school, which I despised. My best times were during the first five years of my life, with special focus on being out in nature, simply being,and enjoying. I think I'm pretty much the same guy I was back then, just got overrun with responsibilities and stuff that wasn't as important as I thought at the time. I'm with F.Scott: we can still make a change anywhere along the way, and should do so, if we're not happy with our current lives. Thanks for your thoughtful post!

    1. I think it is cool that you know what you were like in those early years. I imagine I was similar - a happy explorer - and, you are right, responsibilities and adult life intrude. Time to step backwards in time.

  5. I'm three issues behind on The Sun. They're all stacked up on my nightstand right now. This makes me want to get caught up.

    I'm fascinated by the concept of a "calling"--I sort of see it as a basic nature that we are better off trying to discover and honor rather than trying to fit more tightly into some societal construct of who or how we should be.

    Living a life we can be proud of is probably a pretty tall order, but the pursuit is the point, I think. Getting better at being true to that inner child is maybe the best we can hope for.

  6. I get behind on The Sun too - that's one thing I do in the summer - that and The Atlantic..... those two require focus and more than ten minutes to read well.

    Every so often, I know I am doing and being who I really am -- it doesn't happen very often but some of the inner work from the past year is starting to see fruition. It makes me want more. I wish I could see that five year old that I once was. and , I guess, still have somewhere inside - she doesn't make herself visible much - yet.