old-man-with-hatHe grew up under the critical and unforgiving eye of his father, his boyhood magic extinguished by the chill of unyielding expectation. The tender qualities of wonder, joy and spontaneity went into hiding. They dug little foxholes to survive. The good soldier dutifully learned the qualities modeled as he stepped without choice on to the battlefield of his father’s world. He learned the art of finding fault, furrowing his forehead, and inverting the corners of his mouth. In fact, he became so good at being like his father that he forgot about his own essence. He forgot that he had hidden his magic in places so remote, that they had become lost.

Eventually he came to understand and even appreciate his father’s legacy, as he too found power in diminishing others. It made his lost parts feel bigger and better than those around him. He built a life of self-importance, accepted his loneliness as normal, and learned to function above his fragmented inner-life.

The boy in the man took him toward a career in theater, not so secretly hoping that his qualities of joy, laughter and wonder could be released, allowing him to integrate his spirit. It didn’t work. The cold water splashed on his young heart had solidified. He could not expel his father’s words, You are not good enough, and never will be.  There is no room for errors, mistakes or forgiveness.  Be perfect going in or don’t go at all.

As an adult, the boy who learned to judge himself without mercy, turned his razor-sharp vision toward others. Well-educated, lonely and brittle, he made a career of being a critic, and was paid handsomely to inform the public of flaws and weaknesses in those with freer spirits than his own.  He remains a man who is terrified of engaging the fullness of his heart, while demeaning the risk-taking of those with more courage.

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