I watched a film a while back named “13 Assassins.” During the closing scene, the dying father and leader of the group of thirteen says to his son, “Live your life.” These are powerful words particularly when coming from a dying father to a son who was trained as a samurai but never totally embraced the concept. A son who had joined the mission believing he would not survive and realized this was his last opportunity to die as a warrior and please the father whose expectations he had never lived up to. With his last breath, the dying father releases his son from any expectations and frees him to live his own life whatever that might be.
“Live your life.” What do those three words mean? I’ve discussed the subject before in my writings and was unsure if I had anymore to say but those three words kept reverberating in my head since that closing scene. I believe the words of Georgia O’Keeffe are a good place to start.
I decided to start anew — to strip what I had been taught, to accept as true my own thinking.
These words are similar to the ones I wrote in “This I Believe I Know” but takes it a step further. Whenever we start anew, it is most important to make a separation from the concepts, beliefs, ideologies which no longer serve you. Yes, I know. Those beliefs, concepts, etc. may have played a role in getting you to this point but you must determine if they are still of service or if they can take you to where you want to be, even if you are uncertain where that is. You don’t have to hold on to anything simply because you always have. This is the jumping off point. A most difficult first step but it does not have to be done all at once. It can be done in incremental steps but this method usually causes one to retreat back to the imagined safety of old habits and beliefs.
A simple example: When I started playing tennis in junior high school, I learned the continental grip. My high school tennis coach encouraged me to use the western grip which allowed greater top spin and ball control. He was right and the grip improved my game but whenever I got in a tough spot, I reverted back to the familiarity of the continental grip. I never made the complete transition and neither did my tennis game. I failed to accept as true my own thinking and experience over the habit of familiarity.
This was one of the best times of my life. I was alone and singularly free working on my own, unknown — no one to satisfy but myself.
These words are true of every transitional experience I have taken. Each is one of the best times of my life, once I settle into the new existence. Yes, there is that initial doubt which will be overcome as your belief in yourself grows stronger. And there will be those days in the beginning when you will ask yourself, “What am I doing or Why did I leave?” This is the point when most turn back and give up the journey and convince themselves that where they were is where they were meant to be. They will convince themselves as the son did in “13 Assassins” that they are doing the right thing in living someone else’s dream, making someone else “happy.” They will hear the voices of Mary Oliver‘s poem, The Journey.
One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice — though the whole house began to tremble and you felt the old tug at your ankles. “Mend my life!” each voice cried.
It is a journey we must make alone, and if one has not learned to live with solitude, or to embrace this new found freedom of the unknown, most will choose to go back to the familiar, to the grip that “feels” more comfortable. To the old beliefs and habits which they believe had sustained them without requiring them to change and once again put their own life on hold.
How does one know what one’s life is? The answer is you don’t, but I do know that in order to get there you have to let go of here. The important thing about life is to live it before you die. There is no afterlife from which one can claim redemption for a life not lived. Life isn’t about fear. It’s about living. Savor the happiness and sorrows of your life equally. They are the only experiences that are truly your own and
One day a light that is in exact proportion to them will flood the soul
— Simone Weil.
This I know to be true.