Fatherhood at Fifty – The Illusion of Control

“You teach best what you most need to learn…” 

Have you ever heard that phrase or a paraphrase with a similar message? Have you experienced a truth in your own life that makes the phrase resonate with you inner teacher and/or inner student? Do you know the source of the above words of wisdom?

The words come from a passage in one of the most profound books I have read in this lifetime; Illusions by Richard Bach. Bach is best known for his groundbreaking best-seller Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, but is has always been Illusions that has intrigued the storyteller and mystic in me the most.

unnamed-15Illusions is the ultimate teacher apprentice story: It is a hero’s journey of epic proportion disguised in a 140-page, easy read that can effortlessly be consumed in one rainy afternoon or an average length plane trip. If you have never had the pleasure of reading the book cover to cover I strongly encourage you to take it on your next adventure. Once read it can be picked up again and again and read piecemeal, somehow making to deliver the exact message you need at any given point in your own life journey.

The larger part of the passage that leads up the the powerful one-liner above reads as follows:

“Learning is finding out what you already know. Doing is demonstrating that you know it. Teaching is reminding others that they know it just as well as you. You are all learners, doers, teachers.

Your only obligation in any lifetime is to be true to yourself. Being true to anyone else or anything else is not only impossible, but the mark of a fake messiah.

The simplest questions are the most profound. Where were you born? Where is your home? Where are you going? What are you doing? Think about these once in a while, and watch your answers change.

You teach best what you most need to learn…” 

Hold those powerful words in mind for a few moments as I share with you my own story and recent opportunity for awakening.

About a week ago I had just finished a virtual gathering with one of the many groups of inspirational people that I am blessed to travel through this lifetime with. This particular group is made up of like minded, positive energy male incarnates who gather once a month to talk about things that men are sometimes not very good at talking about. We talk about things like fear, emotions, vulnerability and the like. While it is a circle that I started, it is not what I would consider to be “my” circle. It is “our” circle in that I am both a student and a teacher in the circle and while I may moderate the call each month, countless others have shared their wisdom and leadership through the years.

This month we had a very casual call with no specific focus topic where we all shared what we are currently working on in our lives. As we made our rounds, I noticed a particular theme developing. I found myself continually noticing and commenting on the concepts of non-attachment, of allowing things to unfold organically and refraining from micro-managing within our daily lives. At the end of the call I felt very much at peace. I felt like we had all done some great group and individual coaching of each other. At the end of the call I asked each circle member to offer me one piece of fatherly advice.  I ended the call with a deep sense of knowing that my journey towards fatherhood would unfold exactly as it was intended to regardless of any external circumstances. As I began to clean up from the call and put away all my video equipment, I felt like I was floating on clouds of peace and contentment. My state of peace and ease lasted a full ten minutes until I made the ill fated decision to open up my email and take one last peek for the night.

Amidst the standard junk email and Facebook updates I came across an email with some rather unexpected and unsettling information. It seemed that the place we have been living for the last four years was about to be put up for sale. In an instant I went from a place of invincibility to a place of irrational fear. What if we had to move out because the building sold and new owners hated us? What if we had our baby in February and had to move out in March because our lease was expiring? What if we wound up homeless with a newborn infant? Let’s just say I felt like I was riding a surfboard of emotion and fear in a sea of tidal waves. Not so invincible now, are you Mr. positive thinker?

“You teach best what you most need to learn…” 

Over the next few hours as the news settled in I gradually began to let go of my inner panic. I put the Xanax bottle back into the bottom of the drawer where I keep it just in case, even though I almost never take it. I started to realize that there were as many possibilities that we could stay in our current home as there were that we would need to move out. Eventually over a period of a few days I even reached the place that I usually try to tell others to try to get to when dealing with change and uncertainty. I reminded myself that if staying in our amazing home that we love so well home didn’t happen organically, that maybe that was a sign the we needed to move on with trust and grace.

My guess is that fatherhood is going to look a lot like that that surfboard riding. The good news is that I have so many bodies of water to explore yet and so many teachers and students to help me continue the learning. I’ve made some progress over the last few years. I’ve gone from needing to be in control of pretty much every aspect of my life, to understanding that control is an illusion. Even when we think we are in control we are merely clinging to a set of ideals and beliefs that we think will lead us to contentment and peace. It is in that clinging that we resist the natural current that the Divine Universe has in mind for us. I may not know exactly what the next few chapters of the story will look like, but I will say that I’m excited to ride the river…

“Once upon a time there lived a village of creatures along the bottom of a great crystal river.

The current of the river swept silently over them all – young and old, rich and poor, good and evil, the current going its own way, knowing only its own crystal self. 

Each creature in its own manner clung tightly to the twigs and rocks at the bottom, for clinging was their way of life, and resisting the current what each had learned from birth. 

But one creature said at last, ‘I am tired of clinging. Though I cannot see it with my eyes, I trust the current knows where it is going. I shall let go and let it take me where it will. Clinging I shall die of boredom…” 

Richard Bach – Illusions Chapter 1: Verses 11-14

Prophet like words from a master writer, an inspiration in verse, and nicereminder that it is always a good day to grab your journal, post your next blog, or write the next chapter of the story of your life…even if you don’t have any idea how it’s going to end!


About Jim Herbert

I've been wanting to write my whole life. By age 45 it had amounted to nothing more than a storage locker of half full journals and a lot of unfulfilled dreams. Then Paris in the fall of 2011 happened. It was the catalyst I needed to consistently blog. At first I had a hard time hitting the publish button, but now two blog sites and over 300 posts later I'm hitting my stride. I'm also a budding speech writer. I've recently been heavily involved in the Chicago Storytelling scene and have also won the Chicago Toastmasters Area 66 International Speech Contest. Check out our website at www.emergingintojoy.com for more details about the amazing things that are happening in my life. A book or two are nearing completion. With another Paris trip on tap for Easter of 2015 I can only imagine that there are Infinite Possibilities on the horizon!!!
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2 Responses to Fatherhood at Fifty – The Illusion of Control

  1. wendydoherty says:

    Jim, I enjoyed this writing. It is exciting and engaging to watch from afar as you prepare and approach impending fatherhood. What stood out in this writing is your growth. “Over the next few hours as the news settled in I gradually began to let go of my inner panic. I put the Xanax bottle back into the bottom of the drawer where I keep it just in case, even though I almost never take it. I started to realize that there were as many possibilities…” BAM! You nailed it.

  2. Yep…get it. Not only have been there…but there right now. Uncertainty, worry, wringing of hands, knashing of teeth…all of it. And then, rationality returns and we realize we actually can control some things and all is well. Great share.

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