Craig Jones Columnist
In the first Star Wars movie, Obi-Wan is teaching Luke about “The Force” aboard the Millennium Falcon. Skywalker has the light saber up and the blast shield down (which prohibits him from seeing anything) and gets shot at by the floating seeker droid.
At the end, he says: “You know, I did feel something. I could almost see the remote.”
Obi-Wan replies: “That’s good. You’ve taken your first step into a larger world.”
That’s how I felt after doing the Sterling Men’s Weekend 30 years ago this past month. I had begun something new, something game-changing. I had entered a larger world.
Preparing to attend that weekend, I had to come up with three major changes I wanted to happen as a result. I struggled mightily to write meaningful ones and hoped for the best. A lot of the weekend’s content is lost to me now, and I can’t even remember my changes.
Yet, the single most meaningful result of doing the weekend was one about which I had given no thought at all. To plumb the unexpressed grief I had about my father’s death when I was five and to have him back in my life, at least in a spiritual sense. I hadn’t given voice to it because living with his loss was the air I breathed. It was “God’s will,” according to my Baptist upbringing, taught by people who loved me and sought nothing but my best.
I didn’t give it voice because it was way past anything I thought possible. It wasn’t anywhere on my radar. But I had stepped into a larger world. A world in which adventure happens. Unexpected paths appear.
Thirty years later, thinking about “my greatest victory,” I wonder if something can be called a victory if you never intended for it to happen. Without intention, is there victory? Almost any definition one can find says, more or less, “The overcoming of an enemy or antagonist; achievement of mastery or success in a struggle or endeavor against odds or difficulties.”
From where I sit, victory sounds like something you long for and work toward, rather than a generalized “step into a larger world.”
There have certainly been many unintended consequences on this 30-year journey, some major, some less so. I am not so sure about victories.
I have also been able to say, as an unintended consequence, in these quiet and listening circles of men, “I am a writer.” A few months ago in this periodical, I alluded to what Joseph Campbell referred to as the “refusal of the writer’s call.” That refusal, on my part, occupied the same space as the unexpressed grief about my dad. The very air I breathed, buried deep, inaccessible. No goal-making possible, no words available.
Is being able to at last refer to myself, at 67, as writer, a victory? Is having my dad in my life again a victory? Neither was intended, both were tectonic shifts in my life.
Henry David Thoreau wrote of a “subtle magnetism” in Nature that can influence which direction one takes on a walk. Perhaps there has always been a force like that at work in my life. Maybe in every man’s, if he can eventually sense its presence. The victory may be found in the quiet spaces of listening and heeding and yielding over time. To stop refusing the call you didn’t even know you were hearing.
An article in Taileaters says this:
“If the refusal of the call can be summed up easily, it is the refusal to change when everything around us tells us we should change. It being beholden to fear. This means setting aside an old, no longer useful way of being or identity, and adopting something more useful for the present.The Hero’s Journey is a process of death and rebirth, and the refusal of the call is a refusal to kill one identity and begin a new one. Eventually, taken to completion, the Hero’s Journey is the complete eradication of identity to simply be.”
Whether it leads to great victory or unintended consequence, that step into a larger world is the first one.
To do the impossible.
Read more of Craig Jones and his “GratiDude” HERE