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Paul van Heeswyk

Updated: Apr 5, 2021

'The first duty in life is to assume a pose. Nobody has yet discovered what the second duty is'. Oscar Wilde

It still seems to me, 30 years on from first coming across this startling pronouncement of Oscar Wilde, that a valuable second lifelong 'duty' is to acknowledge and accept the identities we have assumed, from interaction with those on whom we have depended, within the cultures into which we were born, and then to subject these 'poses', the faces we have made, to our compassionate scrutiny. It is the paradox of change. Only by accepting who and what we are, can we be, and become, something and somebody else. We see this most clearly in the situations of those people at the extremes of distress - the heavy drinker must admit she is an alcoholic in order not to be enslaved to alcohol; the bereaved lover must say he cannot now survive in order to be able to live fully once again. This is not, as psychoanalytic writers have rightly emphasized, a question of taking up positions that are merely contrary to those of our parents, teachers and trainers. That reaction keeps us confined and stuck, reading the same script of the drama but turning the pages upside down. It is more like having the courage to improvise, within the story that we have anyway and always co-written, perhaps to discover, in the course of this journey of exploration, that we are creating and living, a life of our own.

No time like the present. The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now. Chinese Proverb.

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