On Character

Before we show up in this world, we get to have a final inspection by Mother or Father Nature, whoever is available.

As I lie there in the long line of those about to be born, Father Nature is working one line, Mother Nature the other.

Today, for some reason, the lines are moving slowly. There are large screens overhead with instructions which all babies are reading. Once we are launched, we’re told, we will repress all these memories and even forget how to read and talk and will have to start again from scratch.

Because of the slow line, both Mother and Father Nature have extra time and they’re going up to some individual babies and chatting with them.

I get to have Father Nature approach me. Cool.

He’s got a white beard and has no hair on top of his head. Only years later, when I recalled this unique conversation in a dream, did I realize that Father Nature had been of African origin.

Father Nature: Okay, little fellow, you’re about to launch. Know that we’ve given you some things and not others. We try to be fair but we also want diversity, so some people end up with more, some with less. Keep in mind that each of you is an experiment. We don’t know what the outcome will be because we don’t know the circumstances you’ll have to deal with, and Mother Nature and I can’t be everywhere. I know the myth is that we are everywhere but, no, not possible.

Me: So what did you give me?

Father Nature: You’ll discover it as you go along in your journey, that’s part of the fun.

Me: Can you give me any hints?

Father Nature: Well… I suppose I could.

(He thinks about it for a moment)

There are many talents to have… to be good mechanically, with numbers, with words, the imagination, musically, performing, painting, understanding people, telling others what to do, being good in business, cooking, being beautiful, sexy… anything. But as we see it… Mother Nature and I agree on this… we’ve had this conversation many times… the most important thing is to have strength of character.

Me: Strength of character… hmm… whatever that is, you can’t just give it to me now?

Father Nature: No.

Me: Why not?

Father Nature: We haven’t come up with the right formula. How many people to be made strong, how many to be made weak… the political considerations make it complicated, but we keep working on it.

Me: From what you’re saying, I’d rather have a strong character than a weak one.

Father Nature: Of course. But there’s hope. Even if you don’t start out with a strong character, you can build one as you go along. Just don’t be envious of those who do have a strong character, instead, worry about building your own.

Me: How do you do that?

Father Nature: Like I said, there’s no precise formula. What we’ve discovered so far is that to have strength of character you have to be able to set boundaries.

Me: Boundaries?

Father Nature: Yes… the sense that you are what you are, and you always have a right to be who you are – so long as you don’t hurt others – and that you’re able to make it stick. By the way, no one has a right to hurt you, either. Ever.

Me:  I like that. I suppose I’ll learn about the details very soon.

Father Nature: You’ll come across people who will want to impose their will on you, but just hang tight. Stand your ground. Don’t give in. If you do, there ought to be a very good reason for it and it shouldn’t be for long. But you’ll figure it out.

Me: You won’t be around to consult?

Father Nature: Afraid not. We’re so busy as you can see.

Me: I appreciate you taking the time today. Before launch.

Father Nature: You’re welcome.

The line starts moving again and Father Nature chooses to walk alongside me. That is nice.

Father Nature:  There’s another thing… keep improving yourself… it never stops… always learning… about the world… about yourself. If you make that commitment, then you’ll be okay.

The specially padded conveyor belt where I lie has kept chugging along but only now do I see the Exit sign up ahead. Distracted talking with Father Nature I hadn’t paid attention. An overhead voice comes on.

Overhead Voice: ‘You will be leaving this station and entering the world as it is now. You will forget everything that has happened here today, the language you’re speaking, everything, and will have to start learning anew. Good luck.’

Then I felt a little pat on my head. It was Father Nature smiling at me. And I felt a sensation that only later would come to understand as being deep sadness. Father Nature drew close and spoke in a whisper.

Father Nature: Just keep a dialogue with yourself, learn to dream, and you’ll learn how to be strong and free.

And he gave me an even bigger smile. I was almost at the Exit sign but the line stopped again and Father Nature quickly returned to my side and leaned in.

Father Nature: Take chances! You’ll never know who you are if you don’t take chances. Stick your neck out!

Whoosh!

A strong force pulled on me and sucked me out. I was launched into the world.

It felt like I had just come out of a long, wet canal and suddenly I see two people with masks and gowns and a bright lamp overhead that made me squint but they seem relieved I’d made it through and a moment later they cut a long, bloody cord sticking out of my belly and then they wrap me in a cozy warm blanket and they show me to a person I’d never seen but was glad to see me. She would be my mom. Wow.

I cried a happy cry.

Oscar Valdes is the author of Psychiatrist for A Nation. Available on Amazon

Oscarvaldes.net