So, like years ago I read this book titled The Hamlet Syndrome: Overthinkers Who Underachieve.
It’s interesting because it pretty clearly describes the syndrome, but it goes haywire when it becomes prescriptive. The authors haven’t found a way to help these people, but they imagine what might help, and that answer is to narrow their focus down, keep them more myopic rather than in the big picture.
In other words, the solution they imagine is to change these overthinkers into people like the authors, to force them to be more normative thinkers. That’s the common way people offer solutions, of course; they assume that if people become more like they are, the solutions they used will make things better. What cured me will cure you, because how can you be different? Just let me force you to be more like me!
I thought about this “syndrome,” and realized I saw it in a different way. These poor “overthinkers” are really just people who see a bigger picture, and while that may lead to some “analysis paralysis,” it also offers the gift of context. Every different way of seeing, different way of being, has its costs and benefits, its strengths and weaknesses.
For me, these people are the ones touched with the “Guru Gift,” a kind of vision that sees bigger and wider. We are the too people, seeing the world in too much detail, sensing the world too viscerally, experiencing the world too intensely.
From September 2002, after the jump:
It shows up early.
It’s a kid who we say seems to have “an old soul.”
The one who sees and speaks truths that approach wisdom.
The one who seems to observe more than participate, who always seems a little out of the crowd.
They are the ones we choose to speak at funerals, the ones who we look to when things become unsure, and the ones we shy away from when we don’t want to have to face ourselves.
They have the vision, the insight and the mind that never stops going.
They are a mirror of their world, a light in the darkness, and a knife that cuts away true from false.
They are too big, too fast, too bold, too bright, too sensitive and too intense.
These are the kids who got a big share of a special gift, one that we are always ambivalent about.
The Guru Gift.
They are the visionaries, the truth tellers and over thinkers.
And they are also the handfuls, the troublemakers and the challenges.
To some, they are the over thinkers who end up underachieving. To others, they are the ones that hold the knowledge and vision we need to change the planet.
Odds are you know someone who has The Guru Gift, and odds are that they have suffered because of it.
How, in a fast, modern world, do those with The Guru Gift learn to be all they were meant to be, learn to embody the gifts their creator has given them?
How do they take their traditional place and help keep society balanced and moving forward?
These are the questions this book will seek to answer.
But Aren’t Gurus Evil?
Good gurus are powerful. They can change the way people think. And any power, especially the power of persuasion (as opposed to the power of trade and the power of intimidation) can lead people astray.
What’s the difference between a good and an evil guru? A good guru is a teacher who knows the right questions, challenging us to break down barriers and be better, and a bad guru is a preacher who knows the right answers, saying that we need to build barriers against an outside world that does it wrong. Isolation and simple answers are seductive and can create much sadness.
Power is powerful. Power can be used for good or bad. Is the solution to avoiding any slippery slope to remove power, to run from it, because we have seen it misused? Or do we need the power to change, so we need to engage power, with appropriate checks and balances?
Power is not evil, any more than a hammer is evil. Used well it can build safe, warm and beautiful houses, but used badly it can crack skulls.
How do we face and enter into our own power? How do we affirm power in others without getting lost?
What is the Guru Process?
The goal for any guru is to effect change. We are the changelings, the ones who straddle between this world and the better one that is visible to us.
What is the process that can make healthy change happen?
- Feeling: By being open to intuition and instinct, we see possibilities
- Immersion: By entering the possibilities, we can separate the noise from the voices, see what is right and wrong
- Vision: By creating a vision of what we see, we start to make our world a reality
- Story: By shaping stories that illuminate our vision, we gain the power to share that vision
- Performance: By performing our stories, bringing others into our vision, we change the way others see the world,
- Change: When the world begins to see what was previously hidden by barriers, the world changes
The challenge is to take what has been constructed, to deconstruct it to see it beyond the conventional assumptions, and then to reconstruct another possibility that is better and more affirming of wider connection.
What is the Art Of Guru?
The challenge for any guru is simultaneously being participant and observer.
Gurus get lost when they become too much participant, sucked into the world of others, losing their own vision, and they get lost when they become too much observer, losing their connection to others.
Art is the place where we take the spark of creation placed in our souls and the sweat of our own brows and create the new, the potent and the breathtaking in our world.
How do we as gurus stay in the art, without getting tipped over?
What are the frustrations for a guru?
The biggest frustration is that those with the guru gift have their own, unique path to walk. They are never just one of the crowd, they are both inside and outside of it.
That means that a guru works at a different place and lives at a different pace than most people. This may be faster than other people, seeing connections and truths, or slower than other people, out of the hustle-bustle of everyday life.
A guru bridges worlds, and that means that they have the challenge of not simply being in step with others. They are very conscious of the limits of language, the places where shared metaphors hide the very truths we are missing. They are always aware that their vision can cause other people to fear them.
Like a fire that burns brightly, people are both attracted and repelled. They want to see gurus blaze on stage, big and bright, but they also want to keep gurus at arms length, where they can’t feel their own illusions burn away.
Many people assume that if gurus can do what is hard for them to do, then it must be easy for gurus to do what is easy for them to do. This is an illusion, of course – we each have or own special gifts and our own areas of difficulty.
To be a guru means following a hard, hard path, and in this culture, a path without structures and systems to help.
How do we play big in the face of the stigma that wants to maintain the status quo and fight against the power of change?
What are the touchstones for Gurus?
To speak for change is to speak for death and rebirth. When gurus talk about change, they talk about moving beyond surface comfort to find deeper connection, and that moving beyond the images, desires and fears we hold dear feels like talking about death. What people fight for is their stories, not their property – they hold onto beliefs.
That means that Gurus must reaffirm some kind of deeper, continuing, and enduring connection that brings comfort in the face of change, on the face of death.
Tradition and Ritual are the touchstones that keep us stable. They keep us connected to some bigger story, but only when those traditions and rituals are kept conscious, current and compelling.
The routines of gender, for example, have to not simply be compulsory but conscious, the meaning in them exposed and explored, the truth in them assessed and affirmed.
Conscious traditions and creative ritual are the touchstones for helping others embrace change by valuing what is enduring. Myth, story and history must come together and be read in a way that keeps growth and change making the world new.
All gurus are queer.
In the classic meaning of the world, a queer person was one who wasn’t one of the crowd, who stood alone as an individual.
It is impossible to have the guru gift and be one of the crowd. Those with the gift always stand out and stand apart, even as they are one of us.
To walk between worlds has always been part of the guru gift. And that means walking between the worlds of gender, class and race too, the systems that humans use to build walls between people.
To be queer means to value the truth that resides in the individual. No one human can see the whole world from their single vantage point, so to see beyond, we need to be able to see though the eyes of another. We need to believe that their stories are an attempt to share with us what they see as true and real. It may not seem factually correct in the details, and it may challenge our worldview, but it is a view of the greater reality we all share.
To accept the challenge of diversity, to value the individual narrative even when those stories trigger our discomfort, is the key to immersion, to moving beyond assumption and comfort into connection and power.
Listening is a most important part of practice, and that means listening not only to those who affirm us, but to those who challenge us to be better.
What does it mean to Grow Up Guru?
Do only some people have the Guru Gift?
No. Everyone has a touch of it, and when we are called to become better, we are often called to enter our own guru gift, enter the power of embodying our own vision.
Part of what those who have entered their guru gift must do is encourage others to enter their own higher place.