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  • Writer's pictureDoug Weiss

On Becoming

As a young child I spent a good deal of time wondering how my life might unfold. Like so many children of my generation the adults I looked up to assured me I could be and do anything I wished and I believed them. It did not occur to me until I reached my pre-teen years that life did not just happen; that I had agency and responsibility for my future, for what I might become. And it would take another dozen or so years before I learned, somewhat to my dismay, that despite my very best efforts life might not follow the course I intended; that, at best, it might reflect my desires as well as the fortunes of a capricious universe.

It would take me decades longer to understand that we are always balancing our ambitions against our acceptance of the unknown. Wiser men than I have written eloquently on the subject, I cannot improve on their wisdom. But among the many slowly revealed lessons taught me by that universe one stands tallest of all. We are always becoming, never become.

To live, with courage, with acceptance is, to appropriate a saying about old age, not for sissies. If we wish to live vitally, to strive and also to accept with grace what we cannot foresee, control, or possibly overcome, we need to summon stillness, have faith in ourselves and in the tempering of time. It is not possible to live and remain unchanged, unmarked by what we have experienced. We must continue to become, to grow, to falter, to adapt and accept.

To remain in the state we have been, this day, this month, this year, is a kind of death. If we are to move forward, to live, we must become a different creature, altered indeed but still our essential selves with our purpose and ambitions intact. It is a tremendous balancing act, this business of becoming without losing our authentic selves or conceding our destiny to unknown fates. It is more than a calling, not a manifest destiny of the soul, but a willingness to find anew the path diverted.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “the only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be”. And the person we decide to be is the result of a chain of decisions reaching back to our earliest reckoning. Some or even many of those decisions might give rise to regrets, others to celebration but whatever they have been they are only steps on the path, not its end. The invention of ourselves goes on if we invest in its genius, if we keep on becoming. Each new day presents an opportunity to unbecome what no longer serves us and become a better version of ourselves.

The act of living itself teaches us that nothing is constant, everything is in flux moving between what was and what will be, whether we wish it so or not. Whether we gain wisdom about ourselves--our flaws and failures as well as our triumphs and nobility comes only through honest self appraisal and introspection. We cannot shed our skin, but we can shed the image we have of ourselves and leave behind those behaviors that have caused us regret. The yin and yang, to become we must unbecome and to unbecome we must become anew.

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