I was at the Aspen Global Leadership Network Conference this summer and one of the participants offered a different take on an adage many of us have heard. That adage is “How would you feel if you read about what you had done on the front page of the newspaper?” His take seemed to ring deeper with me: “Can you wake up in the morning and look at yourself in the mirror with elation and be greeted with a warm smile?”
The person you have to face in life is you. People will have many opinions about your behavior good or bad, generous or stingy, but they will never appear opposite you in the mirror.
Often people go through a journey in life that Joseph Campbell calls the Hero’s Journey. Campbell says, “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”
You may feel you have gone on your own hero’s journey, having left home to experience “fabulous forces” and won decisive victories. It’s important, of course, to share knowledge and spoils with others upon your return. But you don’t forget to reunite with your former self. A poem, that I recently came across, brings this point out with such clarity. It is called “Love After Love” by Derek Walcott
Love After Love
The time will come when, with elation you will greet yourself arriving at your own door, in your own mirror and each will smile at the other's welcome, and say, sit here. Eat. You will love again the stranger who was your self. Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you all your life, whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart. Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, the photographs, the desperate notes, peel your own image from the mirror. Sit. Feast on your life.