You may, like me, find yourself thoroughly hooked on the personal story of Queen Elizabeth II, the longest lasting and greatest monarch the United Kingdom has ever known. Certainly, Elizabeth must be the luckiest woman alive. She was a princess with a loving father born in the largest economic-political empire the world has ever known.
If you have royal blood in a country that honors tradition, and you are appointed queen by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and you get to occupy the throne and wear a crown worth millions in gold and diamonds, you most certainly have it made. Could anything be easier?
As we witness on Netflix’s The Crown episode after episode, nothing could be further from the truth.
We all have a story. We all have a “past.” We grow up, fall in love, find a career and then grow old--with or without--a spouse. I came from a broken family with a sick mother and sister. My father went on welfare to support me. I was a loner and painfully shy as a kid. Not very promising!
Queen Elizabeth grew up dealing with the fact that her uncle, King Edward, had abdicated the throne to marry an American divorcee. It precipitated a constitutional crisis where her father, Prince George, was suddenly made King of England to replace him. Elizabeth had reason to believe that King George would live long, and that she could enjoy a normal life with her Greek husband, Prince Philip.
You may have had a sheltered middle-class life with loving parents and all the perks. You had a few traumas, but basically you came out sane and red-blooded. Or, you may have had a tough time in a broken home ending up on the streets. With any luck, you might pull off a rags-to-riches story.
We all reflexively suppose our story is basically true, unless we have something spectacular to hide, such as our father was the attorney defending President Nixon in Watergate. We don’t want to dwell on how much of our life experience was extracted from our narrative, which only touches on the highlights.
On closer inspection, we suddenly realize that we left most of our earlier experience out, and threw our own slant on it. We may have already chosen to see ourselves as losers and have had a brutal time getting through. We no longer try to win, just to break even.
When we go back into our childhood, things get blurry. We may remember having made some early decisions and fought an impulse to run away. My parents don’t understand me. I will never fit in. No matter what I do, I can’t win. We learned to play the game early on, or we wouldn’t even be here to ask these kinds of questions.
When you hit adolescence, you are halfway to adulthood. You are no longer a child. You are way too tall and awkward for that. You can no way pass for an adult. What do you do? To individuate and become your own person, you must stop imitating mom and dad. The only people you can identify with are fellow teenagers (or screenagers).
You are smart enough to start thinking for yourself, but you lack all maturity and sufficient context to interpret your life. You know the facts fairly well, although the memory of early childhood is already starting to fade. So you make up a personal story that kind of makes sense. To gain sympathy, you will play victim. The only possible heroism is to rebel and do the opposite of what you are told.
You see everyone around you doing the same. When I was 12 or 13, I hung around with a cop’s kid who loved throwing fire crackers and smoking. Fortunately, I took half a cigarette, and was done with it. I simply didn’t like the taste. Of course, it was only a matter of time that I would acquire other vices that would take decades to shake off.
What we are can be defined by the givens of our life. Where we were born, from which parents, under which circumstances. They were of such and such an economic class, were happy or unhappy in their marriage, were intellectual or down-to-earth. My dad, being a chemical engineer, went to the library when he was upset with my mom. Out of this, I acquired a lifelong habit of being a bookworm.
Who we are as an individual has to do with the soul, the character, the inner spirit shining through our circumstances. Although Queen Elizabeth received all the breaks from childhood, she was born at a time when the institution of royalty was increasingly questioned, and Mahatma Gandhi successfully brought down the British empire.
Elizabeth could have sold out to win peer approval. Yet she made the hard choices, being fiercely loyal to her subjects regardless of any personal inconvenience. For example, she had to risk her marriage, and refuse her sister, Princess Margaret, marriage with a commoner. She had to ultimately answer to both God and Country. She stayed true to both. Not only has Elizabeth been a great queen, but a royal soul.
People still consider John F. Kennedy a great President, even though he was a hopeless womanizer, and didn’t even finish out his first term. Sure, they loved his crisp Boston accent and his Harvard credentials, and the mystique of being born wealthy. However, what made us all love him was his vision of the New Frontier of outer space, and his commitment to land a man on the moon by the end of the 1960’s. He was the first President to take a stand for the rights of Afro-Americans, and he introduced the Peace Corps to empower the new nations in Africa and Latin America.
Everyone has some idea of what might make the world a better place. For me, at first it was ending the threat of thermonuclear war, then it was saving the dwindling tropical and temperate rainforests. Finally, after 9/11, I nursed a passion to eliminate forever people killing in the name of God. If they want to go wreak pain, havoc and misery on others, let them not use the Almighty to justify organized murder. I soon realized that I would need to find a unity that embraced all human beings on the deepest possible level. I found a partner, and out of our combined effort, wrote a book to introduce a new global context: Awaken Perfection.
Queen Elizabeth envisioned a peaceful transition from an overt British Empire to an international community of people who shared the English language, along with faith in the Christian religion and eagerness for cultural and economic exchange. By and large, she succeeded spectacularly well. Twenty years after London was defaced by bombs, the Beatles emerged as the first true, global superstars. Elizabeth, herself, ended up knighting these stalwarts from Liverpool.
Your personal story is your particular piece in the puzzle that supports a much larger picture, including all people everywhere…past, present and future. Everyone you meet IS your mirror. You have multiple selves, and ultimately, you are all of them. Your personal story gives you a unique position on the game board from which to enjoy the action.
Queen Elizabeth may be the last great queen the world ever sees. She was born into modernity, and saw the world change faster and faster. Two World Wars, revolutions on every continent, empires being broken up. Her family had German ancestry, and was actually brought in after the English Revolution to provide stability. Elizabeth was able to preserve elements of tradition that have lasting value, while deftly transforming, as a supreme actress, the meaning of the Crown both within and outside Great Britain.
Your own story is indispensable to the great story. You were uniquely crafted to fit the big picture, even when you mess up. You play a unique role that no one else can play that makes a statement about the divine nature of humanity. Only human beings could relish in that essence which characterizes our Source. God is LOVE, and in LOVE He created the heavens and the earth as a perfect extension of Himself.
Basically, we live in a divine love story. At least I choose to see it that way. You can see it any way you like, but nothing quite does it as stumbling upon that love that powers the stars. Christianity, more than any other tradition, taught us to stand in awe of that self-sacrificing love. Those who chose that path came to discover their own inner Christ, their own utter magnificence.
On a higher level, this is a game of enlightenment, the only one worth playing. In order to enter this game, we had to choose to forget, so that we could again experience the supreme joy of waking up to Who we are. Even though human beings are infinitely small compared to the expanse of the galaxies, they have with them that Self in which the stars spin.
On the highest level, we find ourselves in what the Hindus call Lila, the Play of God. We are here to celebrate, to make celestial whoopee. The glory of the Creator is everywhere. We are infused with it. When we realize we are created to create, we start to go about that creation in earnest. Perhaps more of us should be like Elon Musk, who already has carefully crafted plans to colonize the Planet of Mars. Why not?
As you face the New Year, you see massive potential in all the new technologies, including artificial intelligence and virtual reality. On the other hand, you observe a never-ending stream of problems, from global warming to child abuse, from religious warfare to burning down the rainforests, from epidemics to diabetes. Pick one. Choose a cause and make it your own.
In the coming year, endeavor to do one thing that might make a difference. It might be as simple as befriending a Russian, Persian or Korean and getting to know the other side. Forget the current campaign of bigotry and retreat. America may be going isolationist, but only for a short time. You can hold the torch of planetary citizenship, even if it is for only one person.
Your story is beautiful. It is not over yet if you still are reading this text. In terms of our collective story, it has only begun. As you open your heart to humanity and to all sentient creatures, your story, and you, will grow bigger and bigger. In the process, you will walk into your True Self and find a way to live FOREVER!