Some years back when I was visiting Toronto, a friend treated me to a ticket to Barbra Streisand's first-ever concert performance in that city. Although we were sitting high in the rafters in a hockey arena that was anything but intimate, I was startled by how fully and personally her energy filled every corner of that venue.
"She's larger than life," I remember gushing to my friend at intermission.
I recalled the experience a few months later while listening to a recording of the concert. “That’s what I want,” I heard myself blurt out loud and was so startled by what seemed such an unspiritual, ego-driven thought that I was embarrassed. It would be a few months more before I was able to recognize the deeper meaning of both the Streisand experience and my response to it.
“Larger than life,” I realized, was not about having Barbra Streisand’s fame. It was about continuing to shed whatever self-imposed limitations I still carried within me in the mistaken belief that they could protect me from some undefined evil. Even if I couldn’t detail all the ways I was holding myself back, I knew that I was.
"Our deepest fear," writes Marianne Williamson in A Return to Love, "is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure." Perhaps even deeper than the fear she describes is the fear of experiencing and expressing our power out in the world, of being larger than life, of living beyond the self-imposed walls and barriers we create in the mistaken belief they will keep us safe.
They can't and they won't.
Our only safety resides in living our largest life to its fullest potential, in living our truth...in living our passion. In walking through life as though we are safe...as though nothing can stop, limit or restrict us.
As I write this, an old Cole Porter lyric keeps running through my head:
Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above / Don't fence me in
At a literal level, the song is sung by a cowboy who longs for the endless space of the open range.
Yet it's also the song of every soul deprived of its fullest expression by the fences of a fearful mind, a soul that seeks only the limitlessness of its natural state.
Whatever you think of Barbra Streisand's talent or personality, when you are in her energy field, you touch that limitlessness and your soul cries out, "Me too! That's who I am, too!!"
Here in the Western world, where we have been taught to play small, we transfer all of our natural desire for the fenceless world of a life lived large to our movie stars and sports heroes.
If we can't play out our own passion and power, we play it out through a celebrity cult that's no healthier than any other cult, one we also find in countries with charismatic leaders/dictators, in religions with unapproachable gods and in all situations where we abdicate the expression of our infinite nature to someone or something outside of ourselves.
In my novel, The MoonQuest, very much a metaphor for all our journeys, the main character is destined for a greatness he continues to resist. Yet destiny, as he is constantly reminded, is not cast in stone. There is always a choice.
"Every choice you have ever made, has led to this moment. Your moment. Still, the power to make a different choice remains yours."
The power to choose is always ours. In every moment and through every situation, we're offered the opportunity to choose our greatness, our passion, our light.
It's what we do with each moment and situation that governs our destiny, that decides whether we live in our greatness or in the shadow of someone else's, that determines whether we build fences or tear them down.
In this moment, what do you choose?
Adapted from Acts of Surrender: A Writer’s Memoir © 2012, 2013 Mark David Gerson
• Look for The MoonQuest and Acts of Surrender: A Writer's Memoir in paperback or ebook from your favorite online bookseller or signed by me to you from my website.