Thursday, February 23, 2017


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Age 12 is one of those tension filled crossing points in life. It is a time when the tenderness of childhood is waning and we are beginning to test our growing bodies, to create our intellect. Our genius arrives in a “do-it-yourself kit”. But, there are no specific instructions, we must struggle to form it. We wrestle with this unique, “higher self” and fashion all kinds of challenges, inner and outer, large and small. Our gifts seem to emerge from our engagement in, or our fleeing from life.
When I was 12 my family lived in a particularly windy part of Colorado just east of the Rocky Mountains out on the prairies in a bedroom community named Broomfield just between Boulder and Denver. The wind blew so much out there that the metallic threshold on our front door vibrated whenever the wind velocity topped 40 miles an hour, which was frequently, at all hours of day or night.
My mother had been a young woman in the “Dirty 30s” in the Midwest and Texas. That was the era of drought and giant clouds of dust which would blow up, become storms and roll across the open prairies engulfing farms and lives. So, she knew the tragedy borne by ill winds of the Great Depression and World War II. In 1961, when I was 12, my father was in the midst of a political “dust up” in his job which would eventually lead us to being blown off the Colorado prairies and tumbling toward a new life in San Antonio, Texas.
Age 12 is also the age of grandeur. Grand ideas, big challenges are just the thing for learning life lessons. In my case, life gave us wind, lots of wind, we foolhardy boys seeking a thrill made “bike boats”. “Bike boats” were a way for us to test ourselves, our creativity and seek lofty adventure.
Two kids would ask our mothers for an old, worn-out bedsheet and getting on our bikes, hold the sheet between us so it caught the wind like a sail and propel us. We would ride our bicycles holding the sheet with hands off the handlebars rocketing down dirt farm roads, whooping and hollering.
When we crashed, and we did crash, we got the tragedy we apparently wanted to experience. The world, life, gave us feed-back on our “great and adventuresome ideas”. We would limp home, trying not to cry, practicing swear words aimed at the wind, dragging along our busted bikes, sprains and bruises and composing great lies about our adventures and daring one another for our next even grander exploit.
My father may have saved me from further damage when he gave me one of the best, yet perhaps most modest gift that a father could ever a boy – a bundle of raw, balsa wood kite sticks.
“Look what I found at the Army surplus store!” he said with sparkling eyes as he physically radiated glee.
There must have been 100 pre-made sets of kite sticks without the cheap paper covering that was typically found in that era’s 10-cent drugstore kites. A broken kite stick was less threatening than a broken limb. So, for the next several weeks, while our bruises healed, my friends and I (and my Dad) made kites, dozens of kites of all configurations.
We became kites.

Genius will work with whatever it has at hand in order to fashion you. At age 12, through your imagination and inspiration, your genius will take whatever you give it to a higher level.
A stick becomes a wand and you become a Harry Potter. A basketball and a plastic box nailed to a telephone pole and you become LeBron James. A homeless little girl named Ella Fitzgerald transforms a neighborhood talent contest into the launch pad for a lifetime singing career. Slavery, neglect and horrific abuse spins George Washington Carver into the heights of scientific insight.
The greater the headwind challenge of youth, the higher the potential to rise. 12 year olds are the holy boy (puer aerternus) or the holy girl (puella aerterna), the genius we ride in our lives to great grandeur is the kite of our selves.

Kites are all about capturing the tension between two dynamic sets of polar opposites in two bent sticks. Each of the two kite sticks is like a different aspect of our genius. Both must be put under tension and bent into an arc and both are joined together. The vertical stick represents our upright self which stands between the spiritual and the earthly poles. The horizontal stick represents that which goes between our self as an individual and the world.
If we put too much pressure on any stick, it might crack. In kite making, you have to risk in order to have enough arc to generate lift.  Adding tension in life is risky because genius is both positive and negative, there is always the danger of unbridled egoism, hubris, anger or violence; or fear, depression and brooding.
      The sticks are bent to create a wing shape and high flyers are the ones who can create more than enough draught to create lift well in excess of the weight of their situation. It’s a mix of wing span, angle of the wing and velocity of the wind.
Genius inspires all arts, transforms all effort into art, and all people into artists. The configuration or the form of the art is the wingspan. For a writer, a haiku, for example, is a short, intense form with high imaginative velocity.  Meaning, inspired in the reader, gives lift (or not). The angle of the message rises above culture and makes use of the headwinds. Genius inspires all the arts.
Genius, can be craft, all hand work, or earth focused and inspired as well – contractors, carpenters, mechanics, farmers, or gardeners. We all have connections with the spirit and with our communities.
Kites can spin out of control if the genius is too intense and one sided. A kite can spin in a strong wind and won’t rise unless there is counterbalance. A kite, a genius, requires a counter balance – a tail.

Kite tails are bits of fabric, usually cast aside fabric, torn up and tied together and attached to the earthly end of the spirit / earth pole. Separate bits of life brought together. Each is like a memory perhaps of attempts, failures, regrets, embarrassments, tragedies. Bike boat crashes. Gravity. These are what gives weight to our souls. Our shame adds heaviness. We are glad they have sunk down beneath our consciousness, but they are not gone, never gone. They balance out our enthusiasm. They are the fruits of our lies. Our seasoning. Our tempering. Our scars. The tail of the kite of our lives.
Some wise high flyers with special genius to see into the spiritual world have said that when we die, and we look behind ourselves as we ascend into the spiritual world and see that our egoism, failures, misdeeds, sins and errors stream behind us like the tail on the kite of our genius. They are the tail of the kite of our genius.
The memorial services which I have attended for friends have a public portion in which we speak and honor the genius of the dear-departed friend. And at the same time, we sit in unspoken silent remembrance of their flight, including the choices which held them back.
The headwind of life continue to blow no matter how old we are. There is a chance to rise even higher than before. Are we able to rise with it? Do we still struggle? Do we risk failure? Bike boats of elder-age? Are we still in contact with the source of the good and holy of our genius?
Our final years are tension filled crossing points in life. We wrestle to free ourselves from what we have created during our life in order to rise again. This is another “do it yourself” kit.
Sail on.

(C) Copyright 2016, Jean W. Yeager - All Rights Reserved

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