“Your life,” ‘intoned the sibilant voice from the shadows,’ is no longer your own. It belongs to me now… I shall improve it. I shall make it useful. But I shall risk it, too. Perhaps I shall lose it, for I have lost lives, just as I have saved them. This is my promise: life with enjoyment, with danger, with excitement, and – with money. Life, above all, with honor. But if I give it, I demand obedience. Absolute obedience.”
Maxwell Grant – The Shadow – The Chinese Disks
When I write these blogs, I usually just start writing and then see what appears. Other times I have a topic in mind and I write to that. This time, however, I’m writing to the quote above. I found it in a compendium of stories of The Shadow, a mysterious, fictional crime fighter popularized in pulp fiction magazines, radio shows, comic books, paperbacks and a movie. In this part of the story, the Shadow is recruiting a new member of his crime-fighting task force. What was startling about this quote was how I’ve heard a similar summons in my own life – not from the Shadow, but from Purpose. I find the two very similar in the following ways.
First, both expect full allegiance. One cannot commit to purpose partially. Well, I can and I have, but I will get only partial results. More accurately, I will get no results at all. I cannot decide to love my children when I feel like it. I cannot write only when the mood hits me. I cannot do things in an arbitrary, half-hearted, casual or unfocused manner. This is serious. I can have fun, but this is serious.
Secondly, both expect to be involved in every area of life. When I discovered my Purpose in writing, I didn’t realize that it would soon creep in elsewhere, too. Gradually my relationships, hobbies, work life and time management changed. Things that were important became less so or not at all. Other things took on supreme importance. Everything changed and continues to change. What was bad or useless in me seems to be fading. What was strong in me seems to be growing. And the areas where I need to change the most seem to be under a very intense microscope. It’s all very perplexing, interesting and uncomfortable. It also seems to be changing my life.
Third, both take up a lot of time as well as mental and emotional energy. Not only am I constantly thinking about Purpose, but because Purpose is in more than one area of my life, I am constantly required to be focused and present in almost every moment. When I’m not, and this is often, life gets harder. This means that when I’m writing, I need to be writing. When I’m with my kids, I need to be with my kids. Despite the dictates of my constantly restless mind, I can only be in one place at a time. To paraphrase, “A mind divided against itself cannot stand or focus.
Finally, both tell me what to do. I have a mind of my own and I am even free to say no, but generally things go better as I follow the leading I am given. This leading only comes through consistent and disciplined effort. The results are not as important as the effort.
The only difference between The Shadow and Purpose is that Purpose does not promise that I’ll make money as The Shadow did. Purpose does not promise success of any kind, financial, material or professional. I may die before any of my work is ever published or recognized on the scale I would like. Fortunately, that doesn’t matter. When I’m doing my work, I have all that I need at that moment. This doesn’t mean that I don’t want vast financial gain for my efforts; I do. I hope money comes. I really do. But money isn’t the reason I’m doing this work. Doing this work is the reason I’m doing this work.
The Shadow radio shows started with this introduction: Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows.
Who knows a better way than evil, fear or laziness? Purpose knows.
It’s time to Get Started and to Keep Going, because the weed of laziness bears bitter fruit.