“Hide not your talents. They for use were made. What’s a sundial in the shade?” ~ Benjamin Franklin
We are who we are. We are similar, yet unique. No one has our particular combination of traits. And that makes us precious – one of a kind. So it’s important to allow our uniqueness to shine through.
But in a world that seems to value certain traits over others, that is sometimes hard to do. The above quote, which I came across recently, helped me see more clearly how I could allow my essence to come through.
In the shade.
According to Wikipedia, a sundial “is a device that determines the time of day by the position of the Sun.” So a sundial in the shade can’t do what it’s meant to do. But, it can do other things.
Depending on it’s shape and size, it can be a play structure, or a water feature. It can serve as an object d’art, or a table. It can even be a paper-weight, or a ring. It may have to stretch itself to do things it wasn’t meant to do, or deny parts of itself because no one can find a use for them. But otherwise, it can serve many functions, and even serve them well.
Over a life time, such a sundial may earn a living performing those functions. It may even earn great respect. And lead a wonderful life by anyone’s standards. Then, when the time comes, it may move on having been a roaring success.
But the true promise of a sundial lies in “determin[ing] the time of day by the position of the Sun.” It’s what it was meant to do. It’s what makes it unique and valuable. It’s what makes the sundial . . . a sundial.
A sundial in the sun doesn’t have to struggle to tell the time. It doesn’t have stretch itself. Or deny parts of itself. It tells the time naturally. Because it wants to. And because it was meant to. No other object can tell the time by the position of the sun as easily and accurately as a sundial can.
So what a shame it would be if the sundial went it’s whole life never seeing the Sun. Never telling the time. Never sharing its greatest gift. Never exuding it’s essence. Never knowing what it feels like to be a sundial?
What a shame. And what a waste.
Instead, what if the sundial at least sometimes went out into the sun? Not because it knew it was meant to tell the time. Or because it was trying to follow it’s passion. Or because it wanted to rebel against being in the shade.
But only because it felt the urge to be in the sun and tell the time. Regardless of whether anyone needed the time. Regardless of whether anyone was around to read it. Regardless of whether anyone paid it. Regardless of whether anyone respected it’s abilities.
It told the time because telling the time felt right, and made the sundial happy; and allowed it to express it’s essence and its uniqueness for at least some of it’s existence.
Just as successful.
We struggle with expressing our unique talents and passions because we expect them to look grand or creative like they did for Picasso and van Gogh. Or we expect them to make us rich and famous like they did for Oprah and Dr. Phil. Or we expect them to help us earn our living like they did for Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. And when they don’t show the potential for those things, we conclude that we are not unique, and that we have no talents and passions.
But maybe our unique talents and passions also lie in things like cooking wonderful meals, entertaining friends, telling jokes, being loving parents, providing comfort to others, dancing, riding our bikes, knitting, fixing old cars, and even being accountants, lawyers, or bankers.
Those things may earn us our living, or they may not (if not, we can add an activity that does). They may earn us respect, or they may not. The world may care, or it may not. It doesn’t matter.
What life is about?
Because as long as we truly express ourselves, our lives are just as successful as the lives of people who create masterpieces, television shows, and successful companies. Because we are living our essence. We are being ourselves. We are happy. We are sundials, beaming in the Sun.
And maybe, just maybe, that is what life is about?