What do Alfred Tennyson, Helen Keller, and Theodore Roosevelt have in common? They had brilliant minds, terrific communication skills, and something important to tell us. The question is … are we listening? Or do we think they’re talking to someone else?
It may be hard to hear them in the din of so many other voices coming at us. The first voices we hear, of course, are our parents or caregivers. Parents tell us a lot of useful and important things, such as “Eat your broccoli” or “Don’t touch the stove.” But they can also tell us things that may take a lifetime to realize are just plain wrong, such as “All men/women are liars” or “You’ll never amount to anything.”
These complaints are legitimate. People can only teach what they know, and knowledge, or lack thereof, is passed down from generation to generation. We can be greatly helped or hindered by what gets passed down to us.
But getting stuck on what your immediate family did or did not provide for you is a trap that can keep you from discovering your other family: the family of artists and thinkers who have been putting pen to paper, paint to canvas, or voice to song, trying to speak to you since ancient times. You could be missing out on the wonderful advice and support this other family has to offer.
Tennyson, a Victorian poet, is talking to you when he said, “ ’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Let Tennyson whisper this in your ear when you’re grieving the loss of someone dear, or reeling from divorce or breakup.
Getting stuck on what your immediate family did or did not provide for you is a trap that can keep you from discovering your other family: the family of artists and thinkers who have been putting pen to paper, paint to canvas, or voice to song, trying to speak to you since ancient times.
When I’m trying something new, challenging, and a little bit scary, I remember Keller’s wonderful example of courage and fortitude. She knew what she was talking about when she told the rest of us, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” If she could move bravely through her dark and silent world, I can keep moving forward in mine.
Roosevelt’s famous “man in the arena” quote enlightens us to the notion it is more honorable to take risks and try things, whether we succeed or fail, than to sit on the sidelines judging everyone else’s actions: “It is not the critic who counts … the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena … who strives valiantly …”
Not to insult my parents or anything, but these people were smart. Very smart. And well worth listening to.
Even though my parents provided me with a lot of wonderful lessons about life, if my learning stopped there, I’d be pretty limited. A world of artists and thinkers have contributed immensely to me; much more than anyone should expect two parents to provide.
Truth be told, after a certain age many kids close their ears to parental input anyway, even if their parents have great ideas to share, in order to form their own ideas. Hopefully they’re listening to someone wiser than themselves.
When you feel lost and alone, consider the millions of human beings, past and present, trying to connect with you through their art and work, sharing what they’ve learned in the hopes of making your life better.
The world is full of wisdom from people who have come before us, learned an important lesson about life, and have the talent to express it in a way that affects others. There is no shortage of inspiration in the world. Rather than letting in all the garbage that tears you down, open your eyes, ears, mind, and heart to the positive messages all around you, just waiting to lift you up. Your parents would surely approve.
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