Carl Jung spent the entire second half of his amazing life dedicated to understanding the “myth” he was living by. He called it his “task of tasks.” Myths are the instruments that we use to make sense of our life events. The problem is, it’s hard to see the story when you’re living it. We don’t have the birds’ eye perspective…
Over twenty years ago I was critically injured in a head-on collision. I fractured T-12, displaced my spinal chord by forty degrees, and had paralysis from the waist down. The doctors gave me less then five percent chance of ever walking again. Perhaps because I fully recovered, I don’t talk about the accident much, but it definitely changed the course of my life. The insurance money I received gave me the means, incentive, and motivation to pursue a Ph.D. at the University of Chicago, which I wouldn’t have considered before the accident. More importantly, it gave me the means to deeply explore creativity in life, something I didn’t know would be my life journey.
Before Christmas, I received an unexpected phone call from someone who asked me to speak to a group of successful business leaders. The topic? Creativity. Two days later, I was in indescribable pain. I had fallen, re-injured my back, and for the first time since the accident, I was paralyzed again. The connection with the accident and my life path was not lost on me. At the same time, I fretted about how I was going to present anything to anyone in my condition. After two weeks of intense physical suffering, on the day before the big event, I was nearly pain-free and could move again. The presentation went great.
It seems obvious that we’re all living a story–our own individual, unique, amazing story. My story has something to do with the importance of creativity in life. This story was important enough to nearly kill me when I was in my 20s. The story literally stopped me cold so that I could hear its message and follow its path. And the story was important enough to speak loudly and clearly 22 years later. And still, it’s a mystery.
The poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, “Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.” All I can say is that I’m listening.