- Selva Lawler
#12 - A Giant's Strength
The mystical experience is truly ineffable. As I was once told, the mission of the initiated is to describe the ineffable. Who wants in on that mission?
I highlight to our groups that following a mystical experience, it feels like you need a Shakespeare, a Morrison, an Angelou, a Garcia Marquez, a Tolstoy, an Austen, or a Whitman to even remotely describe it.
I always name Shakespeare first. Even though I mean to mix up the order of those iconic writers, I concede that there’s some conscious/subconscious/unconscious part of me that defaults to listing The Bard first. Is it because of his genius in writing Romeo & Juliet? King Lear? A Midsummer Night’s Dream? All of those works all sublime, but I’m shamefaced to admit that it may be the Macbeth, “To be or not to be,” shoutout in the academic decathlon in Billy Madison that seals the deal for yours truly. 😂😂Here's that scene, in all its glory.
To be or not to be. To do or not to do. To serve or not to serve. All pertinent questions. All worth asking. All worth pondering.
We are empowered with that choice. Like Ethan Hunt in every Mission Impossible movie, we are tasked with a mission…should we choose to accept it. In Mission Impossible - Fallout, the villain, Solomon Lane, notably inquires of Ethan, “Your mission, should you choose to accept it. I wonder, Ethan, did you ever choose not to?”
Ethan runs on an operating system where he knows no other way. It’s why he is invincible, indestructible, and has somehow transcended what it means to be a human. I, on the other hand, feel that there are times when I choose not to accept it.
I deeply admire people that put out sincerity, authenticity, and vulnerability. People like Aubrey Marcus. People like my high school friend Kirstin, a mental health advocate and eating disorder survivor that promotes health, confidence, and positive self-image.
The opportunity to share and show vulnerability is incredibly important and extremely, extremely neglected in modern society. Our social media era is defined by an exceeding amount of narcissism. There’s a huge tendency to crop the most perfect image of ourselves and announce to the world how we’re totally “killing it” in every facet of our lives. I’m as guilty of doing this as anyone, so I have absolutely zero right to be egoic or judgmental about any of that. However, it's all the more critical - indeed necessary - to honor people who put out authenticity, vulnerability, truth, love, and value, and heed a calling far beyond themselves.
I’d be disingenuous if I always paint a picture of my life with rose-colored glasses. I am generally speaking a very positive person, but truth be told, there are difficulties that I perpetually face and I'm not immune to negative thought patterns.
What are some of the things currently raining on my parade? Much of it relates to my living situation - or more notably, my own attitude (which needs improvement) about my living situation - when I’m not at the Sanctuary or traveling in South America (both of which are amazing, for the record). Living in an area so far behind technologically that I yearn for the days of 1999 AOL dial-up speed has its challenges. Iquitos is also a place where people do not have what my (admittedly biased, in a Santa Monica image) definition of what an active lifestyle entails.
Hardly the most oppressive conditions that humanity has ever endured, you might say, and you’re exactly right. I realize how ridiculously good I have it when those are my complaints. One of our last SpiritQuest participants told me that he had an insight during one of his ceremonies that negative thoughts proved to be both figuratively and literally vomitous. It's why in Judaism gossip and slander are considered such serious sins. The Talmud dictates that "Evil gossip kills three: the one who says it, the one who listens, and the subject of the gossip."
In continuing to be transparent, returning to SpiritQuest is like a magical elixir and power booster. It’s like an avatar in a video game that drinks a potion and shoots back to 100% health. Where else can you meet some of the most fascinating and courageous people that humanity has to offer and see them level up? Among the lessons I learned at the Jedi Training Academy with this sensational last group included:
Which wolf am I feeding?
“Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far”
Seizing on that “Aha!” moment
“If you build it, they will come”
Shed that skin of self-doubt
When there are no words, a heartfelt hug is always on the menu
Extreme enthusiasm? Check!
“I literally became a f*#*%& tiger!” **
** I reckon you had to be there for that one to make sense.
Malvalio in Twelfth Night suggests that, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em."
I would respectfully add one more definition of greatness to that mix. When a person achieves greatness by continually demonstrating goodness, they have done a far more rare and significant thing. People like my parents have been, for me, models for that their entire lives. I constantly marvel about their tower of decency, compassion, love, understanding, and passion and zest for life, and take copious notes as I strive to match that in my own life.
I sometimes confuse strength, or the ability to impose one’s will on others, with greatness. They are not interchangeable. As Isabella in Measure for Measure proclaims:
“O! it is excellent To have a giant's strength, but it is tyrannous To use it like a giant."
The truth is, we are all giants. But what kind of giants? I find when I wield that gargantuan power and am self-centered about it, or only think about myself, it’s exhausting. It’s usually about really trivial things, or catastrophe scenarios in the future that are exceedingly unlikely to unfold. When I act like that, I’m like the giants of lore that tyrannically plow through villages, indiscriminately destroying homes, eating human beings for shits and giggles, and generally stomping around and making a hissy fit like a two-year-old who desperately needs but stubbornly refuses to take a nap. Those giants are slain easily enough, and eventually crumple to the Earth in a Shakespearean fall.
But as Isabella suggests, we can have a giant’s strength and not use it like a giant. We can be like the friendly giant in Roald Dahl’s The BFG. The Big Friendly Giant's mission is to collect and distribute good dreams to children all around the world. Our acts of service are how we achieve our highest bliss. By way of illustration, when I find that I’m working out and only think about myself, I find that I’m leaking oil and running on fumes in no time. When I think about how I can do things to help others, or doing things for the greatest good of all, that’s clean, renewable energy. That’s when it feels like I have the heart of a lion, or a f*#*%& tiger. Running that extra mile or banging out those additional 15 extra pushups when I would otherwise quit feels like easy work. That’s when it feels like the universe and everything in it is conspiring to support me.
What’s my medicine to serve? To quote Michael Pollan, perhaps it's “coming out of the closet,” more to talk about my message. Ultimately, it's selfish of me to not more transparently divulge these incredibly helpful tools that I’ve used to level up considerably. Writing more. Reaching out to family, friends, and loved ones more. Being more of service. None of that feels like work. I highly enjoy it.
And that fuels me to reach my own definition of greatness. Is that Mission Accomplished? Far from it.
One of our recent participants messaged me and told me that he was having trouble reconciling the idea of having an intention because he always equates that with a specific goal or a finite end. I told him that I don’t always agree. For instance, I have an intention to be the best version of myself that I can be. Is that a goal? I suppose it could be, in the sense in that it's something that I strive for. But if it is a goal it's a goal I'll never be able to totally reach, as I'll never be perfect and there's never going to be an "end" point in which I'm going to be completely satisfied and think, "Oh yeah, I totally nailed it!" But if I trust the process behind that mission, and trust myself, I can still maintain that intention and strive to be that best version of myself each and every day. Or strive to be kinder to myself if I slip up and have a bad day.
It’s the striving that is what's most significant. As Gandhi wrote, infinite striving to be the best is not only a person’s duty; it is its own reward. Everything else is in God's hands. The most admirable humans I know have a reach that exceeds their grasp. There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow humans, Hemingway reminds us, and true nobility is being superior to your former self.
What our own mission looks like manifests in a myriad of ways. There are many different paths. If the path and the mission have heart, it is worth walking and worth doing. That mission is not only not impossible, it is highly achievable. With our own brilliance and bravado, we can continue to put our own signature on this grand adventure of life and make our mark in our own indelible ways.
Thank you for all of your positive notes and support! They truly fuel my fire. 🔥🔥🔥
I wish you good fortune in your mission(s) to come. Now cue the Avengers music. 😁🦸🏾♀️🦸🏼♂️
Much love, -Parker