17 January 2012

Decide what to be and go be it

That's a really fun smile.  That's Sharon Lebell.

I've never met her, but sometimes there are people out there who you can just imagine really getting along with.

She is apparently a master player of the hammered dulcimer.  I couldn't really say what a hammered dulcimer is, but Google of course can, so here it is:  

Not that I've ever heard her play the dulcimer.  If I'd never looked at her website I'd never have known that she played it.  I "know" her from her translations of Epictetus.  I feel a sort of kindredness to her.  Here is someone who took the time to become a master of the hammered dulcimer, who first wrote a book about naming children, and then who wandered into the realm of Epictetus, Stoic philosophy, and contemplating the good life.

Some of us take roundabout ways to reach what eventually feels natural to us.  Others find a way to get there young, and, sadly, most of us never really move out onto that path.  I don't know whether Sharon was the first or the second, but I find myself definitely moving through the first.  Sometimes I feel like David Byrne, waking up, looking around, and asking myself, "How did I get here?"

Somewhere along the way I asked myself the question, paralleled in the title with a song by the Avett Brothers, and here translated from Epictetus by Sharon Lebell:

"Who exactly do you want to be? What kind of person do you want to be?  What are your personal ideals?  Whom do you admire?  What are their special traits that you would make your own?"

And once you ask yourself, you have to face up to it.  You are not, no matter what your momma told you, perfect, and you will never have the chance to be perfect, but you do have the chance to be better, to be more at peace, to be more happy and open and forgiving and honest.

 "It's time to stop being vague.  If you wish to be an extraordinary person, if you wish to be wise, then you should explicitly identify the kind of person you aspire to become.  If you have a daybook, write down who you're trying to be, so that you can refer to this self-definition.  Precisely describe the demeanor you want to adopt so that you may preserve it..."

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