dad: what I've learned
You know, the point of this whole thing was to talk about how my dad has influenced me in a positive way. We had a phone conversation and I told him something that had really influenced me, and he made a big fuss like I'd never told him such a thing before.
When I told him how selective his poor 60-year-old memory was, he asked me to write it down somewhere where he could always read it, and that's actually why I decided to blog about him.
You see, the whole "Anything is Possible" thing has a light side and a dark side I think. The dark side is that it's often used as a weapon against people who don't want to do what he's asking of them. People, being polite as modern people are trained to do, will say, "Oh, I can't do that."
He will point out repeatedly that they are using can't as an excuse, and not really seeing the situation in an innovative way that would allow them to do whatever it is that he wants. Granted, he also uses it to point out when people are holding themselves back from something they really want to do, and in his mind I know it's always used altruistically, but I've had it aimed at me too many times to believe he knows what the difference is.
I learned two things from this. One, is that he's usually right. If you're willing to put the energy and ingenuity into something, there's nothing that there's not a path to. Obstacles become stepping stones, and each one actually can propel you to a greater understanding of the situation, and a certain momentum that possibility thinking enables.
Second, I learned how to have some pretty solid boundaries, and why this can be beneficial. I learned that sometimes, lying and saying you "can't" do something that you simply don't want to do is sometimes more destructive than the "rudeness" that telling the truth entails.
One time he told me that to be able to "ask" someone to do something, you have to be willing to accept a yes or no answer. If you plan to punish someone for refusing, then you should really present it as a command, which is what it is. I never forgot that.
I've discovered that when I find myself saying I "can't" do something, that there's almost always fear of actually doing it, and some kind of message in that fear.
I have some serious differences in my philosophy as my dad. He thinks that "anything is possible" can just happen in this spontaneous playful way that doesn't seem like work because you're using your basic energy to naturally accomplish your highest goals. He seems to have this idea that you can just magically attract sponsors...that, in fact, there are thousands of people just waiting to give you what you want and make your dreams a reality if only you ask.
In a way I believe that's what enlightenment is like. When you free that energy and you can just live life like a kind of magical illusion, but I think that married to that idea is the idea of having no attachment to the outcome of your freeform labors.
When you want a certain thing to happen you have to put time and energy into it. You have to make it happen from the ground up with your own sweat equity. It is your own passion that will inspire others to help you. There are millions of people with their hands out, palms up, asking for support, but it is those who look like their willing to work harder than anyone for it who attract support from others. You have to try to do it all by yourself, and you can't have any hope that others will help you, even as you ask. Then they will.
As limited beings, we only have a somewhat narrow focus. We may know it is our potential to be unlimited, but until we are, we just have to tools that we have, and it is our delight and responsibility to use our strengths and weaknesses with as much diligence as we can, not spewing out our energy in all directions.
I honestly believe that if my dad could choose one project and move diligently towards it he could accomplish anything. I fear though, that that project encompasses every project he has ever thought of, and that he just doesn't know how to take a bite sized chunk.
He's lived on the planet for 60 years now, and on the streets of Chicago for about four. It's a city he knows and loves, and I see him sometimes in my mind, wandering it's streets like a hungry ghost, searching in the eye of each stranger at the Starbucks counter for the unlimited possibilities that he can't seem to find in himself.