When asked one time what book had the biggest impact on me in terms of offering a path to follow in life I thought briefly and came up with the following. Louisa May Alcott’s, “Little Women”.
One of the main characters if not the main character, Jo March, had much to say to me. When I first read of her in the book I was intrigued and a little infatuated. I was only ten years old. Not your usual fare for a little boy though I was also reading Moby Dick at the same time.
Her boldness, outside the box thinking, and steadfast honest behavior was such a breath of fresh air. Though a female in a world dominated by males she represented freedom and independence from what seemed like a very restrictive society even for males. To me she represented a way out of the cultural box.
All the male hero’s of my early years seemed to be of the same cloth and color, i.e. various shades and textures of emotionally restricted John Wayne’s, Clint Eastwood’s,and James Bond’s. None of them could show a lonely, sensitive, intuitive, inner-directed and compassionate boy how to express his soul in a healthy way.
Then along came Jo who should have been much more restricted and oppressed than this young white male of the suburbs and yet her joi devivre and drive to own her life gave power to this little boy and offered hope that he too could break out of the box that culture and family had put him in.
“You can be lonely in a crowd, if it’s the wrong crowd” Jo said to her sisters and putting into words how I had been feeling for all of my short life.
Though it took me several more years to fight my way out of the box and to find a crowd where I felt accepted and included this one book set me on a path toward my own expression of a self I’ve come to appreciate more and more as I grow older. Also like Jo I’ve found that the union of both my masculine and feminine aspects e.g. the rational, assertive, decisive masculine and the inclusive, compassionate and intuitive feminine has made me stronger and more useful to others. From her I have learned to own my own being and resist what others wanted me to be. Thanks, Jo.
It is often said that we have the power to choose the path we walk but like the book I read at 10 years of age more often than not if we look closely enough we are chosen for the path from a place deep within us and it is from there that experiences come into our life and have the power to transform us.
As a boy I knew I was different and those differences were not accepted by many of those around me. This presented me with my first known crisis, are those differences wrong and thus need to be corrected toward some definition and expectation of ‘normal’ or can I continue being different? Though we all have to make some changes to accommodate the world we find ourselves in the question becomes by how much and of what kind? This has always been a balancing act for me i.e. shall I give in to living a life with little or no mistakes or do I engage it as fully as I can, mistakes and all, and do it without condemning myself for them or alienating others to the point where I get totally ignored and/or rejected?
The decision to be as much of myself as I can has gotten me into trouble sometimes (maybe a lot) but has driven me down a path with very little boredom and where sometimes I’ve been of some value to others. Outside the box living has become my norm over the years and continues to inform many of my actions right or wrong.