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  • Writer's pictureBill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday 7-14-23 – Tribes of Inspiration

“This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. Being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it what I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.” George Bernard Shaw

While traveling for training I was facilitating a few weeks ago, I saw that Julie had pointed out a video clip to me. It was Jeff Goldblum on the Late Show reciting George Bernard Shaw. The topic was on how he stays inspired. It is worth watching him recite. I was getting on a plane to fly home from Green Bay WI at 5 AM when I saw the clip. I had just spent an hour with a researcher I had driven to the airport with who is working to figure out how to help people using xylazine. He was the keynote at the conference. We ended up bouncing ideas around and coming up with a treatment model that would have a good chance at working to help people heal given our respective knowledge bases. We then got on the plane and headed for our respective home states. I recognized he is a fellow member of the purpose tribe.

The quote stayed with me for the flight. I woke up thinking about it and Goldblum’s recitation of it the next day. What a gem of a quote. Leave it to an Irish playwright to put together this thought so beautifully. We are in somewhat dysphoric times. It is difficult to stay inspired. To cling to purpose and meaning in a world that often seems bereft of those things. As Shaw so poetically describes, we can be feverish, selfish little clods focused on empty little pleasures. I feel a kinship with people motivated to meaning and purpose. I agree with Shaw and Goldblum, who serve to inspire me. Life can be rough. Last week, I posted about PGSA and finding a tribe in the creative community, people I still feel connected to and inspired by. Both Shaw and Goldblum are members of these tribes, but there are other tribes as well.

One of the things that I am inspired by in my life right now are people who live this quote. They are so important. Devoting time and energy to helping others. The notion that their efforts will be contributive to future generations. There are many such tribes working on issues. Some seem Sisyphean, yet they carry on. It may not make sense to outsiders, but for me, I would prefer to work my whole life towards a set of goals and fail to fully achieve them than to devote what limited time I have to simple hedonism. Regular readers will spot this theme.

One other universal truth is that quite a few people feel this way about life. This is reassuring to me. I suspect still more would find meaning if they found that thing that made their soul sing. We should do more as a society to expose people to causes and experiences where they could also find a life of purpose. To highlight that it is a way to live beyond despair. Things that get people out of themselves and into communities of any type will do this. I suspect that if more people found ways to be of service to others in community, we would have a far better world.

I researched and found that the quote is actually the opening lines of a play, Man and Superman (1903). Shaw would have been 47 when he wrote it. The era in life when you start thinking where you are in the short timeline of your life. Wondering if you have more road ahead of you or in the rear-view mirror. The point at which one often begins to wonder about dreams and starts making a bucket list. Creeping through Erikson’s stages of life, and that last one, integrity v despair. I suspect Shaw was considering these age-old questions when he penned the words above.

Over the course of human history, we have grappled with our meaning here on this little rock. It is comforting to me that over millennia many have reached the same conclusion. Pursuit of a purpose greater than yourself is a worthy objective and has the highest potential to provide a sense that our short ride here served some purpose.

Over the last few weeks, I have bounced around more than normal. Presenting at conferences, trainings and meeting a wide range of people. Today, I end a five-day training I am cofacilitating on clinical supervision with an entire room full of people who live this quote. In times of despair, it helps me to think about all the people I have met who live for purpose. People deeply passionate about a host of causes, often ones aimed at saving or improving lives. There are a lot of amazing people in the world, who live the quote above even if like me (up until 2 weeks ago) had never heard it.

I have no doubt that many of you readers who live this quote have moments when you feel like rolling over and hitting the snooze button but get up anyway because of a deep commitment to a purpose. I see you. You inspire me to do the same. You are my people. Grateful to walk among so many of you who are finding purpose and following.

What are you grateful for today?

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