“Dave, help me, I’m completely confused!” cried my friend’s son at my front door. I was like an uncle to him.
“Come in Tom, and take a load off.”
I ushered him into my lounge and sat him down on the sofa. I sat opposite in an easy chair. He was disheveled, completely untidy and disordered. He was only thirty years old but he looked much older!
“Now Tom, what’s the problem?”
“Well, I signed up to a meditation class to try to figure my life out and they keep talking about life mantras. I am totally confused,” he said, wringing his hands.
“What are the mantras?”
“They keep repeating them over and over: Individualism is good, Pursue your passion, March to your own drummer, Find yourself, and on and on.”
“Well Tom, these mantras all preach the SELF as the center of life. Lets take them one at a time…”
“Someone told me individualism is bad yet the mantra says it’s good! I’m going crazy,” said Tom, interrupting.
“Okay, take it easy, you’ll give yourself hypertension!”
Tom took a deep breath and waited for my remarks.
“These are people who have doubts about individualism-with its attendant selfishness and divisiveness.”
“But I want to know if individualism is good,” Tom shouted, “I feel naked before the assaults of life.”
“Hey Tom, I like that line. You are naked, there is only you, only yourself against the world.”
Well Dave, do I strive for individualism or not?”
“Yes, I think striving for individualism is a good thing. It has fuelled invention, two revolutions, agricultural and industrial and all the enterprise that has brought the better things in life to us. None of this would have been possible had not people been encouraged to be themselves and create.”
“What about the contention that individualism is selfish?”
“It’s not selfish at all. We develop ourselves to be useful to ourselves and others. Much of what people do benefits others and humanity as a whole.”
“So Dave, we should reflect on what we can do individually to realize our potential and make the world a better place.”
“You’ve got it, Tom.”
“Now, what about this “pursue your passion” mantra?”
“First, you must discover your passion. Mine is creative writing. Following your passion will help you tap into your talents. Your passion will push you to become better in areas that you are strong and then it can be shared with the world.”
“Sounds good,” said Tom, smiling.
“Lastly, they keep banging on about “finding yourself”. Why is this so important?”
“Well, it’s all wound up in the things we’ve been talking about: Individualism, Chart your own course, Pursue your passion. You will be content in your own skin when you know who you are. But it will take some introspection into how you think as opposed to what others think.”
“Well Dave, I feel better now, after our little talk. When I sit down and ask myself questions that only I can answer, I will come to the realization that “I am nobody but MYSELF.”
“I think you’ve got the gist of those mantras now.”
“What should be my mantra now?” said Tom, waiting for a great revelation from me!
“A MAN IS ONLY FULLY EDUCATED WHEN HE LEARNS TO READ HIMSELF!”