Set your course by the stars, not by the lights of every passing ship. (Omar Bradley)
Having spent Saturday afternoon and evening out on the Pacific Ocean with family and having overheard two old-timers in a fast food restaurant speak so favourably about General Omar Bradley the day before, I could not resist starting with his quotation above. These words, coupled now with a favourable review of the man, will continue to captivate and inspire me.
To “set one’s course by the stars” is what I believe we are called upon to do. To look up, out, and beyond ourselves while still being mindful of the routines, habits, and expectations of daily life is what is required to be an authentic, fulfilled, integrated, and fully actualized individual. To strive happily and heartily and, most importantly, follow the path of one’s dreams, does take courage, persistence, awareness, and faith. But it’s important.
To be aware of “the lights of every passing ship”—others on their own individual or collective voyages—is essential but one need not always follow the flotilla. While it often makes sense to go with the flow rather than going against the tide and it can be immensely pleasurable to travel together for comfort, safety, or fun, it is wise not to lose touch with one’s inner barometer and destination in life.
While it is often unwise to go against the tide or create a choppy wake that impedes others’ travel and creates unnecessary resistance, awareness of one’s inner barometer of thought, beliefs, and resulting feelings can create the outer ability to chart one’s course with words and actions. In this way, one can literally set one’s trajectory by the stars. Preparation, patience, and steadfast belief can and do create the most celestial opportunities.
In overtly spiritual or religious terms, it is much like the age-old challenge of being “in this world but not of this world.” This suggests the kind of detachment and lightness of being and seeing that is not encumbered by socialized limits that restrict, entrap, and numb—making even the most scenic and delightfully stormy journeys seem mundane, dull, and lack-lustre. It implies a demeanour of calmness and confidence that signal trust and faith in the unified sea of life that takes us where we dream to go.
To remain open and aware while navigating the most challenging internal and external obstacles is to increase the capacity to make the still point inside accessible in any storm and, like Omar Bradley, live a life that even the most astute old-time history buffs could respect–unlike “the historical fiction” of “those other Generals.”
With love and faith,