Who is your favorite fictional character?
When I was 14 years old, as I do now, I loved to read fantasy and science fiction books. Within an epic series lived a character whom I idolized. My eyes scanned Robert Jordan’s words outlining the stout, stubborn, and humble Perrin Aybara’s quirks. But in these words I imagined myself, and my inner heroism now had a medium with which to express itself.
As Perrin Aybara delved into adventures, he began to discover a deep, powerful energy: his inner wolf. He grew a thick beard, became intimate with his senses, and noticed his eyes change into a golden hue. He could even communicate with wolves themselves.
I was born with blue eyes. After a few years, these changed to green. At 14 years old, my eye color was changing from green to an earthy, golden hazel. My canine teeth grew longer and sharper than the rest of my teeth. It couldn’t be a coincidence.
The characteristics, thoughts, and actions of an external symbol catalyzed the development of my own characteristics, thoughts, and actions. I could metaphorically conceptualize my life through the mind of a wolf: my ideal self. So, I did. I could see the humans for the animals they are. School lunches became a crowded crossroads at a watering hole. A morning run became a hunt for survival.
Wolves are pack animals: the adaptive team member. There is the “lone wolf”: the independent explorer. There is the “alpha” of the pack: the confident leader. I appropriated every positive attribute of the “wolf” to my own identity. Am I working with others on a project? Wolves sacrifice for the good of the pack. Am I feeling lost? Go out and experience something new: look at art; climb a mountain; ask questions. Am I yearning for a mission? Establish a vision, gather help, and build something.
For many years, I only lived as an animal. But recently, I began to understand the reasons why I did so. When I felt pressure, I found a way free from my longing to be a comfortable recluse, curled up in a fetal position of artificial security. When faced with a difficult interview question, for example, heat would rise into my cheeks and my neck hairs would stand on end. But now, I have trained my mind to leap for a split-second into wolf-mode. For that brief instance of silence between question and answer, time waning into slow motion, I bear my canines and flick my ears, drawing upon ages of feral spirit to reassure myself. With a brief smile, I can confidently re-focus my attention toward the task at hand.
We should not restrict our oases of inspiration to those most like us. Yes, I have my human idols: orators, visionaries, warriors. But, I learn more from noticing and grasping at similarities between things that, at first glance, appear mutually exclusive. If we don’t sense connections between things, it does not follow that these the connections don’t exist. Rather, a foreign feeling propagates because I have not conceptualized and understood the similarities, yet. That which appears furthest from me only appears as such because I am ignorant and biased. Once I open my mind to the possibility, embody it, and test it, I can hold myself to such a restricting dichotomy as “right” or “wrong.” What can we learn from ants?: About emergence theory and feedback loops. What can we learn from Watson?: About human nature. What can we learn from the moon?: About ambition. Symbols are teachers of our world.
As I walk down the crowded streets, I see lions and pumas, falcons and hawks, beetles and bears, gorillas and celery. Consider whatever animal (or thing) I smell in you a compliment. Such acts comprise my fundamental survival guide with which I consult when necessary to interact in a crazy, un-symbolized world.
“For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.” -Rudyard Kipling
Image by HaloGhost @ http://haloghost.deviantart.com/art/Wolf-Eyes-Detail-258153350