Who would’ve guessed it, the source of wisdom is not always where one expects to find it. There was a lesson to be learned in the courtesy mobility cart at work. You know the ones. They help shoppers with disabilities navigate the floors and aisles of a large store. Well, the one in my store goes faster in reverse than it does going forward. And always before that seemed odd to me. You’d think threes far more danger of running into someone going backwards. But who am I to question the design, right?
Then this morning I read a tweet from someone who expressed a piece of the truth. It said that sometimes you have to go backwards so you can get ahead. I made the connection. Perhaps it’s because I had just awakened from the sort of dream state that engenders self-enlightenment. I don’t know. But I have always believed that dreams send me messages. Whether I want to pay attention or not, listen or ignore, is left to me.
There’s a recurring character in my books. You read a lot about him because he’s my alter ego. He’s that guy I have, at times, always wished I could have been and yet, at other times I’ve been glad I didn’t turn out like him. Writers have characters like that. They allow us to explore possibilities on our journey to expose the truths within us. Well, mine is named Brent.
His last name is Woods, a name chosen for good reason. I was writing about a forest in a fantasy tale that was tentatively called Dammerwald at that time. It eventually became The Wolfcat Chronicles. Since I was looking for an alter ego kind of name it seemed appropriate because a woods when I was growing up was the wooded area behind my house and I experienced a lot of fantastic adventures there from which some of my writing draws.
Anyway, that’s where Brent’s connection to The Wolfcat Chronicles lies and that’s how everything else began.
In one of the books I’ve written about Brent he says something that startled me. That happens for a writer pretty much anytime a kernel of the truth, seemingly by accident, emerges of it own volition. It’s like you type by sense of smell, instinct or whatever. And what you get is an unintended revelation. Brent said to me, and the other character to whom he happened to be conversing, “If you want to know the truth; here it is. Life is not about me, it’s about you. If you want to be successful, that’s all you need to know.”
When a character in a story tells you, as a writer or a reader, something like that, if you are paying attention you experience a wow moment. That’s when the tickles happen internally and those trigger the hackles, which on people are the tiny hairs on the backs of our necks. Those hairs raise in autonomic response to experiencing a piece of the truth. That’s how you know something is good.
Brent goes on at some length to explain to the other character, Lana, what he means. After making a statement like that usually a character has to explain it just in case the reader glossed over the remark and didn’t fully experience or benefit from the wow effect. But in this case, the wow happened to fit exactly into 140 characters. So it has been Twitter-approved as well. So, it must be the truth, right?
What Brent explained to Lana is the difference between true success and false success. True success is measured in terms well-beyond wealth or power. It comes from appraising the benefit others derive from knowing you and the influence you have upon them. A person who is truly successful can’t exactly measure his or her success because, by it nature, it is something others have to determine.
False success is the anthesis, of course. It is all about me and not about you. It is selfish and self-destructive. For a brief period everything seems to work well. Fame, wealth, power come because of self-focused determination that leads to apparent success. But the acquisition of the trappings of success corrupts the individual who does not possess the correct mental state for handling the benefits. And so, the trappings become a trap, a snare from which the pseudo-successful cannot escape, tethered to the corruption of the world around him or her and which he or she cannot be extricated. The trap destroys the the falsely successful.
That is why people who do not understand the truth crash and burn, their success flames out and proves fleeting. Unless the formerly false successful arrive at the enlightened moment, understanding that what made him or her successful previously were the people around him or her, failure continues.
You see, in the book about Brent and Lana, Brent is a writer. I know it’s a stretch of the imagination for a writer, me, to have an alter ego who is a writer. But it happens Brent and I are and have always been pretty close. So, whatever. Anyway, Lana is hired to edit one of Brent’s books about wolfcats and in the course of reading the story and living in his house, which is haunted mansion, she learns that Brent, who is – as a writer – at least partially nuts by anyone else’s standards, knows a lot of secrets about how the world works. She presses him. She believes in him and his art and wants to make him successful. But Brent explains to her that the real story he has to tell others is about her and not him.
Lana happens to be the alter ego of a character in Brent’s story. She’s his muse, if you will. She is the real world incarnation of a wolfcat. His story, then, was only ever for her benefit. Finding meaning from the strange life she has endured he helps her pull all the pieces together and learn about her destiny.
It all goes back to the truth, or at least the part of it, that seems antithetical at first. Going forward sometimes requires going backwards – or having that sort of outlook on life. One may find the truth from exposing the lies. That’s one of the examples Brent gives in the course telling the story. He shows Lana a path to the truth but allows that discovery to become a personal event, because that is the only way it will last. He cannot tell anyone the truth because each person needs to discover is or her relationship with the world. How it happens comes in many ways but most often it is through the expression of art in its many and various forms.
Brent, as an artistic sort, gravitates toward other artists. From my experience that is how it happens in life. Artists feed one another’s creative souls. Why wouldn’t we enjoy one another’s company? Artists tend to know other artists and understand the art if not the person. We naturally feel comfortable connecting with the creative aspect of the nature surrounding us. When Brent tells Lana the truth about success he hopes to explain why he is not concerned with becoming famous as a by product of producing his art. He says that success is not a goal or a destination but instead a process that is measured in another’s terms.
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