Memories of Neil

Catharine writes:

This piece grew, as far as I can tell, out of Neil’s notes for his speech to a graduating class at Loyola High School in Montreal, sometime around 1998. What an evening that was – with all the students and staff celebrating this milestone. Neil had been asked to give that keynote speech by Father Eric McLean, president of the Loyola community.

I sat riveted in the audience, as Neil spoke without a single note, you could hear a pin drop. It seemed that he later expanded the subject in this written piece which I found among his papers (this is part 2).

Part two and final



How does one turn this situation around?  How does a person develop his or her own map for the journey?  Not easily.  Not by any more external band-aids or success stories.  The outer journey (with the wrong map) must be replace by the inner journey using the map that enables us to become the person God intended us to be.  But how do we move from outer accomplishments (which like drug require stronger doses) to an interior journey that deals with our dis-ease in a fundamental and permanent manner ?

This is a movement from disliking ourselves to liking ourselves, in my opinion the most fundamental spiritual transformation imaginable.  I think the first step is a total revulsion at the unreality of the way we have been living expressed perhaps in a cry from our inner depths,” I just want to be real”.  My own experience is that a crisis of some sort may be required to get us to this existential honesty, something along the lines described by the American Jungian therapist, James Hollis, as the ”swamplands of the soul”.  These include loss, depression, grief, loneliness and betrayal.

Some of us, at any rate, must hit what AA calls ”an emotional bottom” wherein we realize we are powerless, that our lives have become unmanageable and we must reach out for help. It is in this ”bottom” that I believe we take the first decisive step in beginning to draw our own map.  It is a marvelous paradox that when we become vulnerable we also become able to grow from the inside.  In this sense, God does indeed write straight with crooked lines. Or as the Canadian therapist, Marian Woodman, puts it, ” God comes through the wound. ”

How do you know when you are living out of your own map?  Let me suggest a few simple test, so simple you may think them jejune.  Believe me they’re not.  consider the following :

1) A friend calls you on the telephone to invite you to a party.  You tell the friend you’ll get back to her.  The reason for your delay is not to consult your agenda.  The reason is that you don’t really want to commit yourself until you’re sure another, more interesting invitation doesn’t turn up.  You are not living out of your own map.  The relevant advise is ”Move in a straight line.”  Only those who habitually live out of their own map are mature enough not to continually hedge their bets but to move in a straight line.

2) Another friend calls on you to take on a project of some kind.  You hesitantly say yes, not because the project really interest you (and you already have too many projects on your plate) but because you don’t want to displease your friend.  You are not living out of your own map.  Only those who do feel really comfortable saying ”no” when ”no” is the nature of the response.  How and why a person says ”no” is a fairly accurate test of whether that person is living out of his or her map.

3)You do something in public, e.g. a talk, a presentation, an article.  There is very little or no reaction from others.  You are inordinately discomfited by this lack of response. You are not living out of your own map.  To change the image, you are still dancing to the music played by others.

There are many other examples of not living according to your own map and I expect you can come up with many of your own.

Drawing your own maps is not a decision, an act of will.  It is a process which requires awareness, demands patience but is truly liberating, And blessings on your journey.

Neil McKenty

February 15, 1999

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