I'd like to start off this weeks post with my favorite poem - an Ode to Solitude by Alexander Pope. I write because words resonate with me - and this poem captured my life's intent the first time I discovered it. I don't often revisit it, but when I do, it inspires a refreshed sense of self... Happy the man, whose wish and care A few paternal acres bound, Content to breathe his native air, In his own ground. Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread, Whose flocks supply him with attire, Whose trees in summer yield him shade, In winter fire. Blest, who can unconcernedly find Hours, days, and years slide soft away, In health of body, peace of mind, Quiet by day, Sound sleep by night; study and ease, Together mixed; sweet recreation; And innocence, which most does please, With meditation. Thus let me live, unseen, unknown; Thus unlamented let me die; Steal from the world, and not a stone Tell where I lie. - Alexander Pope, 1688-1744
So why now – why these words now? My mind rests on two thoughts: Transition and Servitude.
Transition is life’s chapter breaks by which you will recount your breadth of life. Too few transitions and you’ll wonder where all the time went – too many and you’ll wonder what could’ve been.
Transitions have always been one of my life’s great challenges. The transition from asleep to awake, from work to play, from sitting to being active. I especially find it difficult to transition when the difficulty of the transition is high.
When I ponder on transition, I realize how we all struggle with our own transitions – from the person we are to the person we want to be. Many struggle to realize that person, either because it’s a moving target or the path to realization is challenging. Transitions are the currency by which we can measure the distance we travel in life. I say that because I have not needed to stay at a party for long to learn what I will. Occasionally, it makes sense to sit with something or someone for a while – but usually a swift transition will get you on your way a lot faster.
It’s a clever balance – experiences vs depth of experience. I don’t believe there is a formula for success, you just need to feel out the moment. That being said, great things have come from lingering a bit too long, in some cases, and leaving early, in others. Feel the moment but never be afraid to change your circumstances.
You are your own agent of change, and if you aren’t changing the world, someone else is for and through you. Up until the 1850s the majority of the human race was in servitude to kings and kingdoms – and breaking news – that hasn’t changed. The illusion of freedom has been on of the modern centuries greatest creations, and in many cases, freedom does exist.
200 years ago, you were born into a class, and likely would die in it. Your lifestyle and actions were predetermined by your birth, if you survived childhood. Today, that future is no so certain, but one thing is certain – if you aren’t serving yourself, you’re serving someone else.
Now, I’m not advocating for a life lacking compassion, service, or empathy. No – that lesson here is that in all we do there is ownership on one side of the transaction. You make Netflix rich as you sit mindlessly watching episode after episode. In this case, you are in servitude to the streaming giant. Perhaps you are no sacrificing your life, but life has become too nuanced for any one person or thing to take complete control over your totality – at least in the western world.
What you must understand is that servitude and leadership are important pillars to a successful community. Servitude doesn’t imply slavery – it implies power dynamics. One person is giving up someone for another in exchange for something. Not all power relationships are made equal – except the power relationships you keep with yourself. Those are the most equitable you will maintain in life and perhaps the ones that will grow you most consistently. That is because, typically, a master demands more than they are willing to give. Seldom will a master give more than they take.
Servitude to self is perhaps the best form of servitude you can engage in. You take ownership of your actions while taking action. Servitude of self will carry you far.
Again, if you aren’t serving yourself – you’re serving someone else. In at least, identify whom those parties may be and understand their motives. Perhaps, then, you’ll identify the true cost of your time and livelihood.
It has been a week of transition, compulsory and otherwise, for me. I bought a house and started working on it. I destroyed it, putting my in servitude to it as I need to fix it if I want to sell it. The transition was abrupt but I can feel my mind and body striving to learn new things as I navigate the complexities of a 70 year old house for the first time.
What transitions are you experiencing or seeking?
What actors are you in servitude to?