Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Like a Kite: Flight of Identity + Environment

I promised more. Funny how things just develop when we allow them to. I think Freud called it Free Association, but I call it FreeThink. If you are not really a Freud enthusiast, my sentiment may somewhat align with yours--the guy seems largely over-venerated. But I must say, I am totally a fan of this practice. So hang with me because here we go.

Identity is a funny thing. We are supposed to have a strong sense of it, yet it is not concrete. Within the framework of Identity, lies a dynamic cord of change and evolution. We are all products of our tendencies, environments, and choices--and two of the three factors, we have little-to-no control over. When we go to battle in this world each day, we choose the banner we will fight under--for that banner is our identity, and worth our lives. ("His banner over me is love," anyone?). But how are we to recognize our banner when the whipping winds beat against our flag in a raging war parade, hiding the emblem that gives us our name?

Abandoning pretension--how are we to understand the evolving nature of our identity?

Well, I imagine a kite. Yup. Childish, I know. And quite a shift of metaphor, at that. But I love kites, and this seems to work for me.

To begin, a kite soars with brilliance and majesty in high winds. A kite in flight, seems to function as a working (used as "functioning appropriately") identity. The winds of our environment act as the force that keeps a kite in flight. Yet in a moment, this same force can also send a kite spiraling towards its demise.

Interestingly, Greek mythology dedicates an entire team of gods to the shifting nature and awesome power of the winds. The four Anemoi (wind gods) are given sovereignty over the seasonal weather conditions--each residing in the realm from where their respective winds originate. Boreas blows a cold northern chill through the winter. The gusty blows from Old Man Eurus travel west across the Atlantic bringing warm rain and often a stoke of ill-fortune. Notus' deep, stormy whippings from the south usher in autumn and build anticipation of the fall harvest. And then Zephyrus, the messenger of spring, sends promises of renewal with his soft, gentle breeze from the west. 

The elaboration of these four winds may seem a bit frivolous, yet this variation speaks to me when I equate the mood of the winds with the situations or circumstances in life.  The four seasons embody clearly distinct climates, yet within each season, the environment also varies from day-to-day.  Similarly, in life, we may identify a certain "season" as a cold winter's frost, yet during the grey winter, the sun may and peek out, as if mimicking the groundhog, just to check if it is time to break from its hibernation.  For neither does life persist in a torrential, stormy autumn eternity, nor will it result in an everlasting string of balmy spring days. Life parallels this seasonal mix with days spanning the spectrum from devastating to jubilant, and every shade of melancholy in between.  Yet in each season, carried in by the breath of the winds, kites can fly.  And in this realization, I am boldly reminded that the circumstances of our life do not seem to affect our kites ability to fly. Circumstances do affect us, but the success of our identity is not contingent upon the season.  

To ground this analogy (No pun intended. Just kidding. Of course, "Pun intended."), the kite (which I see functioning like our identity) may sail through any of four the winds. Sure, the unpleasant whipping winds of Boreas are cold and may seem unbearable; but even so, their angry motion holds our kite up in the sky. And then the gentile Zephyrus graces our flight with subtly, and offers a chance to comfortably soar. This is the quintessential vision of a father and son flying kites at a park--a reassuring image and a comfort to follow the storms.

Yet I would propose that these soft summer winds offer perhaps the greatest threat to our sailing kites. More so even than the rage in an autumn storm. So beware--because a grounded kite is not mostly the result of gusty blows. The spring may be the most pleasurable interval, yet this season's comfort can be artfully deceiving. Even in the blue-skied felicity, we can find ourselves, for lack of wind, fighting to stay in flight. And under the most unremarkable of circumstances, we may find that the subtle winds that granted us rest have suddenly died, and there is no wind to hold us in the air.

Yet, this is where the analogy really works for me. I see points of maintaining the flight of a kite that transition into practices that will allow us to maintain a strong sense of identity. Firstly, we must learn to read and interpret our environment. So often, we become comfortable sailing in the spring winds. We enjoy the blue skies and and ride easy in the passivity that often accompanies pleasure. Let me be the first to say--take in the blue skies. Breath deep the fresh, easy winds. Appreciate the halcyon serenity that finds you. This confirmed--do not become a latent kite, ignoring the indications of egress. For when, and if, the vitalizing winds die, how will your kite continue to fly? Will you fall victim to the caprice of the changing winds? Will the sudden stagnancy send you spiraling towards the ground? Or were you embracing the good flight, yet also continuing your good practices of assessing your surroundings. 

Contrastingly, a raging storm, although frightening, rarely grounds an unaware victim. We know of the coming threat, are alerted to the building danger, and are diligent in finding safety. We are looking for the darkening clouds and listening for the coming rain and thunder.  Yet peace often lends itself to latency. Therefore, even in the balmy rhythm of springtime, we must practice the same diligence, observation, and assessment of threats and coming danger. When in doubt, we seek a safety zone that will keep us in flight. Even in the sunshine, always seek the place where the leaves still rustle in proof of the wind and the wild flower continues to sway in humble submission. Then, when the wind dies down, or the storm becomes too violent, let the breeze move you there, where the winds will still hold you up.

Also, consider the parts of a kite and it's construction.  A kite is designed to fly--not to swim or skim dry land. We, too, should pay mind to our composition and find the habitat that will allow us to function at our optimum. 

Also, a kite has someone on the ground at the other end of our tether, helping direct our flight. Who do we trust to help maintain our line?  A tree would probably not keep a kite sailing for too long. Nor would a 3-year old.  If we are acting as the kite, we may choose the person that stands below us holding the spool of our line.  I see the kite-flier as a mentor figure--someone primarily to offer a different perspective.  Also, a mentor should be person that has an interest to see us fly and will invest in our well-being.  And perhaps most importantly, we must find a confidant whom will use his discernment to offer us more slack on the line, or be willing to give a hard yank on our spool to keep us in air.   

Now, the circumstance of flying a kite has a few stipulations.  We need wind. We need an aerodynamic crafty construction.  And the kite must be connected to a line that can be maneuvered from the ground.  For, we do not classify releasing a loose diamond-shaped construction into heavy winds, "flying a kite."  No...that is more appropriately termed "littering."  A kite must have a line tying us to the ground.  Sure, a kite without a string may float across swirling winds for a short time, but the changing winds will carry the unanchored sail far away from it's launch pad. And most frighteningly, the severed flight of a kite unhitched, will terminate in certain injurious grounding. 

Without any rope to help reign in the momentum of a crushing descent, the inertia of a careless flight will only decrease the odds of repair. Resilience's is a gift to humanity, and there is much we can overcome, but the crash of a loose kite may be the equivalent of a totaled car.  

In our lives, we should not ever trust that capricious winds will sustain the flight of our kites. We must remain connected and grounded. The earth will always be below us, and will forever be the launch pad of basic foundations of our flight. Even when we find ourselves meeting the dusty floor time and time again, our base is always available to see us off for another round. The gravity that pulls us back to the earth is the very law that makes the flight of a kite magical. The opposing forces of inertia, gravity and motion all result in a task that although rewarding, requires work.

Becoming us isn't easy, but then again, do we really have another option? A kite in a closet deserves to fly. Perhaps its time I regard the task of being me as an equal entitlement.

Well, thanks for reading. Be encouraged. Seek Good and do Love.

Stay dusty.

No comments:

Post a Comment