September 19, 2014

Surviving a Personal Apocalypse — Part 3: Alchemy and a Gift for the Holidays

rhodesRenaissance physician, alchemist, scholar, and general curmudgeon Paracelsus was no picnic to be around. He was loud, opinionated, ego-inflated, and generally lived up to his middle name “Bombastus,” vilifying his contemporaries’ reliance on traditional texts, theories, and techniques, and advocating for fresh empirical research and perspective. But despite being personality challenged, he is credited with several lasting contributions to his field, such as founding the discipline of toxicology and introducing the notion of a mind-body link.

Robert Browning immortalized him in a poem that includes these lines:

TRUTH is within ourselves; it takes no rise
From outward things, whate’er you may believe.
There is an inmost centre in us all,
Where truth abides in fullness; and around,
Wall upon wall, the gross flesh hems it in,
This perfect, clear perception—which is truth.
A baffling and perverting carnal mesh
Binds it, and makes all error: and, to KNOW,
Rather consists in opening out a way
Whence the imprisoned splendour may escape,
Than in effecting entry for a light
Supposed to be without.

‘Tis time
New hopes should animate the world, new light
Should dawn from new revealings.

What does this have to do with personal Apocalypse? A lot, actually. For starters, the word “Apocalypse” means “Revelation.” (That’s how the book got its name.) Apocalypse is about “new revealings” – it’s what happens when you unwrap a package to see what’s inside.

How appropriate for this time of year – not just as we open holiday gifts, but as we wonder what the New Year has in store for us.

Revelation at this level isn’t about your garden variety peccadillos. This is discovery and due diligence to the max. No secrets anymore, nothing hidden, nothing unknown. The seals are all broken, all safes are cracked, all containers ransacked and their contents strewn across a billion conference tables. All motives are revealed, all alliances betrayed, all missing links discovered. WikiLeaks is passé: all files are opened, classified access breeched, proprietary information violated. Everything has been hacked. All is Open Source.

This kind of unveiling turns us inward, invites us to realize that WE are the package opened, the mystery revealed. It’s not about measuring up to external standards and practices, or the expectations and achievements of others, it’s about who we are and how we’re doing in our most private moments and vulnerable selves. It’s about who we are and how we fit in this Brave New World where there are no secrets anymore.

Not nearly as much fun as PlayStation – more like having Paracelsus walk into the room – but in the end it’s the magic alchemic ingredient that turns our leadenness into gold. Its purpose is to change both the person who lives inside our skin and the person we present to the world, make them one and the same. As such, it’s the pathway to integrity, authenticity, wholeness, and freedom in the here and now.

And for that reason, Revelation is the gift I wish for you this holiday season. See you next year!

To be continued.

Kevin Rhodes is a lawyer in private practice and a registered mentor with the Colorado Supreme Court’s CAMP program. He offers career coaching for lawyers and leads workshops for a variety of audiences, including the CBA’s Solo and Small Firm Section and the Job Search and Career Transitions Support Group. You can email Kevin at kevin@rhodeslaw.com.

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