Today I want to start with an assumption. You tell me if I’m right or not. When you think about your parents, mother(s), father(s), members of your extended family, family friend and others who are close, do you think about their wealth, if they have any? Do you think about their jobs or business? Do you think about their athletic achievements? You may, but my guess is that all of this is secondary to the way they were with you.
Perhaps you have or had an uncle with big biceps you couldn’t wrap your hands around, or abs so strong you could punch him with all your might. None of that is any fun, if he was not playful with you, and warm with you.
I imagine that you have been frustrated when the adults around you could not be with you because they had to work. Or you had to go to school so one day you too can go to work.
There is a place for all that. Working, learning, being athletic. That’s not my point. My point is that what you remember most dearly about everybody is not of this. It is rather the warmth of their company, their ability to be present when you needed them or want them for no other reason than to be near them.
Many of these people though may set you on a path where success and hard work are rewarded. Yet these are the very things that will make it hard for you to be close to the pope you love. Nothing wrong with success, but let’s not kid ourselves. Success comes from very hard work. And again, nothing wrong with hard work. It’s very rewarding if it is work you want to do.
But I want to remind you what you’ve already observed in your still young life. Your presence is going to be infinitely more important to the people that matter, than any other accomplishment. But very little that is pointed out to you as the road forward in your life asks that you maintain and cultivate your ability to be present with your loved ones. In fact, the very opposite is true. For you, as a man in particular, asking that you’ll have space in your life just to be with beloved people will be held against you.
And at the same time, your presence with your love is the most important thing you can share. And if you have children later, this will be completely clear to you. You really have to stuff feelings away when you go off for the day. And you will do that, and you’ll come back full of love, I have no doubt. I just want you to recognize that ache in your heart when you have to say goodbye to your precious loves. I want you to recognize it, because amidst all of the clammer in our world about the value of hard work and success, you will find too few people reminding you of this: In the end, what you amass is unimportant. The illusion that whoever has the most at the end of the day wins, well, it’s just that, an illusion.
All I am saying is that you already know what is most important in life. I just want you to forget. And don’t be mistaken, most everybody around you will try to make your forget, mostly because your refusal to be lonely while successful reminds them of their own loneliness. Just look at them and decide if there is anything about their lives you truly desire. I have found that for me, most successful people have very little to offer me. And to remember what has served me well when I actively disliked people: There’s nothing in their lives that I want.
At the same time, you can cultivate your ability to be present. You can develop it almost like a skill. Don’t worry about such things as deliberate practice though. It mostly requires that you are aware. And to be aware can be scary, but only if you’ve lost touch with the inner splendour that I spoke about before. If you can keep your attention there, your ability to be present will grow automatically. You won’t have to worry about it. It already lives in you. And every little bit of it you can let come out will be a delight to whoever is around you.
I have to say these things to you because too few others will. When you work or go to school all the emphasis is on what you don’t yet have. Yes, that’s true for work as well. Just think, if it were really true that people were hired for what they bring, for what they have to offer, than why is everybody so anxious all the time? It is exactly because nobody is interested in who they are and what they bring. Work is all about filling a slot, a predetermined slot.
Yes, in some companies they’re going to invite you to give that slot your own twist. But that is all. It is your variation on a theme that others have determined. But you are not invited to set the theme. Nobody will invite you, except the ones who truly love you. They will invite you forth. And if they don’t they are scared, because they worry that they have nothing left inside of themselves, nothing worth sharing. Compassion is a good response, but don’t let them tell you who you are. Their fear is not your friend. It’s not your enemy either. It’s just there and it’s theirs. It has nothing to do with you, and you don’t have to do anything to make others feel that their fear is justified. It’s an illusion they’re scared of, an idea that whatever is good in their lives can only come from outside of them.
And let me be that voice for you that reminds you that what is truly good in your life comes from within you. From that place where you remember your mother’s and/or father’s love.
With all my heart,