I have always loved this poem by T.S Eliot:
“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all
our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know
the place for the first time.”
I loved it before I had any understanding of what it meant. It just drew me in and I felt it was important. I am not saying that today I really know what it means, but a lot of things seem to fit.
I think our life will seem very different when we reach the end and look back. All that we explored, learned, and have done, will change us. We will see the whole of it very differently than we did as we experienced the parts. The beginning and all of the related circumstances of that beginning and what followed will be clear, for the first time.
In the prior post, "Our Life Story Creates our Identity", I talked about the events that shape our "life stories" and how we see them differently, over time. We re-think what happened and draw different conclusions. The stories become connected to each other as we tell about them in a narrative. This story below seems to have stuck with me throughout my life, so far. It has almost always been part of my own "Life Story", when I have told it.
When I was about 11 years old I had the unfortunate experience of being chased home each day after school by a kid who was much bigger than me. One day my mother met me as I was running into the yard. She probably had planned to do this and must have been aware of the fact that I was running hard on arrival at home each day. That day she asked why I was running so hard? I told her this big kid was chasing me. I guess I could have said "I was running to avoid getting pounded". That would have been an honest answer.
We lived by a river and crossing the bridge in front of our house meant that I was home. The next day she was out front waiting for my arrival as I came across the bridge. She stopped me there and when shortly the big kid came across she called him over and announced to us both that the next day we would meet right there in the park across the street from my house and fight. It surprised me? It surprised me, perhaps even more, that my mother was setting this up. In looking back it also surprises me that I didn’t try to get out of it, or worry a lot about it. I just figured that was what I had to do. I had to fight him.
The next day at school word got out. I was asked by some of the kids if I was really going to fight him? I said yes I was. The next day after school the big kid, and a lot of kids from the school, arrived at the park, some even before I arrived. My mother was there. She had all the kids form a big circle in the park. The big kid, his name was Alan, and I went into the circle with fists up ready to start swinging, and mom was the referee. We fought. I danced around with my fists up and tried to land some punches and avoid getting punched. I hit him as hard as I could and did land a few. He wasn't very good at boxing and preferred to just push and shove. He probably felt he had to try and box with the audience. Several times he just pushed me to the ground and then would beat on me. I would hit back even from laying on the ground. Each time this happened my mother had us get up and have us continue boxing. It wasn't a fight I had a chance of winning. Finally, my mother held up his hand and said there you go Alan, you won!
What has always surprised me most then, and ever since looking back, is that I wasn’t scared. I felt like I did the best I could and I didn’t hurt too bad. I lost my fear of failing. Life went on. I did get into a fight or two in later years at school but I'd lost my fear.
When I tell this story, as part of my life story it seems to connect with the future challenges I had in life. I have pondered and rethought a lot about this story. It does seem different with time, but it is still part of the narrative of my overall life story. I have not been afraid of failures and have worked through them. Somehow challenges and changes in my life connects for me in various ways with what happened that day in front of my house. When you get knocked down you get up. You keep fighting and when it is over life goes on.
By the way, a side note. I have always loved boxing. "Watching it", in particular. Muhammad Ali's my favorite. This quote of his has relevance.
"Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even."