The Beijing Olympics have come to a close and as I think back on what was a uniquely compelling event, I am reminded of a word that was used quite a bit, especially as it pertained to at least one athlete in particular--U.S. Olympic swimmer and winner of 8 gold medals, Michael Phelps. That word is destiny. The commentators said that he was destined to do what he did, not just equaling the amount of gold medals that previous U.S. Olympic swimmer and 7-time gold medal champion, Mark Spitz had won 36 years ago, but surpassing that amount; not just meeting the world records that had been established in each of his 8 events, but setting new ones in at least 7 of them. And all at the young age of 23(I'd hate him, were it not for the fact that his accomplishments are not only monumental, but inarguable and if indeed he was destined to do all this, how can anyone fault him for that?).
Which brings me back to the notion of destiny, especially as it pertains to me. On this, the eve of my 44th birthday, I am struck with questioning what is or will be my destiny? What am I destined to do in this life, especially in light of how much time I may or may not have on this earth? If what has been documented as the average life span of the human species is correct(approximately 75-80 years), than I'm more than halfway there and am not certain that I've fulfilled my destiny or even come close. I have done a great many things in the past 44 years--which includes completing high school and college(getting a Bachelor's degree in Communications, which, incidentally, may or may not have been the best choice of majors); traveling around most of this great nation of ours, getting to interact with and help motivate high school students to be their best possible selves; climbing to the summit of Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs, Colorado--one of the highest elevations in the country; going whitewater rafting(twice!)on the Arkansas River; serving as an urban missionary in the inner cities of Chicago and New York City; writing and self-publishing 4 books of poetry; getting married, then divorced, and then remarrying, which resulted in acquiring a teenage stepdaughter, who happens to be a brilliant artist; appearing on "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire", where I won $1000(after attempting to go for $32,000) and two free, all-expense paid trips to New York; also performing poetry in a National Geographic documentary that aired on PBS. And those are just the highlights.
But could any of these things, either indivdually or corporately, be considered my destiny? I currently work as a courier for Warner Bros. Studios and, intermittently, as a dialogue track reader for the Nickolodeon cartoon, "Spongebob Squarepants"--my sincere prayer/wish is that neither of these jobs constitute all that there is for me as my destiny. They barely even help me in paying the bills. I still struggle with the desire to be a writer, which in my lifetime, has been the one constant that I feel I've done with any reasonable amount of success, even if it hasn't translated to any sort of financial reward. Am I destined to be a great writer, recognized for the words that I contribute into the ether? Will I write the screenplay for a movie that wil be hailed as a classic of this generation? Or write the great American novel? Or be the one who will help make poetry a viable art form in this country that doesn't always hold it in highest regards? Do I have the determination and discipline and stamina to do as a writer, what the scores of athletes, like Michael Phelps and Shawn Johnson and Usain Bolt and Misty May Treanor & Kerry Walsh and Sanya Richards, were able to do to not only make it to the Olympics, but succeed admirably in their respective fields of endeavor? Do I even have what it takes to be a good husband or stepfather, in the midst of the adversity and struggle of trying to provide for my family within the limits of my current income? The answer may be elusive; it may take time to figure out or it may be as evident as the nose on my face, I just don't know. I hope I live long enough to not only discover the answer, but also be able to fulfill such a destiny to the satisfaction of myself and those closest to me, and perhaps even the world, and ultimately, God.
On a slightly different, but not altogether unrelated note, I admit to being remiss in not commenting on the losses of three great talents this past month, who I would believe, met their destinies, or at the very least, attempted to, in the short lifetime that they were allowed to meet them. I, of course, speak of the comedian(and fellow south side of Chicago native)Bernie Mac, singer/musician/composer, Isaac Hayes, and in the last week or so, saxophonist for one of my favorite bands, the Dave Matthews Band, Leroi Moore. On the passing of Bernie Mac, George Clooney was quoted as saying that "the world just got a little less funny". I would add to that, in light of the passing of Hayes and Moore, that the world also just got a little less funky. May these three bright and burning lights rest in peace and may their destinies, which may not have been completely fulfilled, inspire and encourage us to seek out and try to fulfill our own. 'Nuff said.