Here Are “Ten Rules of the Road” for Journeying on the Spiral Values Highway of Life, Courtesy of a Couple of “Rebels with an Agenda”

Not long ago, on a Sunday afternoon drive, the wife and I rounded a bend in the road near the hamlet of Cross Creek, Florida, and abruptly found ourselves staring at the “cracker”-styled farmhouse where the Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel, The Yearling, was written.

A few minutes later, we were viewing the battered upright typewriter the novel had been written on. We were soon to learn that the book’s author, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, had preceded us to Florida by almost exactly 80 years. Over the wood-burning cook stove on display in the kitchen, the tour guide assured us, Ms. Rawlings had slaved to prepare meals for guests like Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Robert Frost, Margaret Mitchell and Zora Neale Hurston. Often, she was so worn out from cooking that she retired to bed early and her guests had to eat her superb meals without her.

And then the other night, a movie called “Cross Creek” appeared in the On DEMAND listings for our cable service. Mary Steenburgen played Majorie Rawlings in the movie, released in 1983. The Rawlings depicted in the movie is shown battling her way into a psychological clearing where she could be the proprietor of her own sense of how the world works and what she wanted to be. The fight was not pretty, and it was one of the reasons she had ended up living in the hardscrabble “cracker” back country of northcentral Florida.

From the local library we checked out an autobiographical novel by Rawlings called Blood of My Blood. A spare, almost tortured story, this work tells how a badly conflicted daughter fought free of her egotistical, domineering, spiritually vacuous mother. Marjorie Rawlings had moved to Cross Creek to do epic tussling with the final stinging nettles of parental stifling and there had finally succeeded in freeing her literary self and adopting a new worldview.

I’ve become infatuated with Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, who wrote The Yearling in the 1930s. I feel in some ways like Ms. Rawlings and I have shared similar kinds of growing-onward experiences. Call them “Being a Rebel with an Agenda” experiences.

I wouldn’t burden my readers with any of this were it not for the surprising discovery the other day that my own “Being a Rebel with an Agenda” experiences were being discussed by at least one business blogger in the United Kingdom. He’s read (and approves of) my often autobiographical work, The Mother of All Minds. In it I talk about casting off one worldview after another in pursuit of more complicated successors. (Aficionados of spiral values developmental theories will recognize this as moving up the complexity processing spectrum.) The blogger was wondering why some people can and some people can’t replace belief systems with some dependable regularity.

I’m not at all sure how far Rawlings might have eventually traveled on the developmental spiral. She died of a cerebral hemorrhage at age 57, which is young; she might have traveled farther had she lived longer. But having immersed myself in Rawling’s story and having read the British blogger’s remarks about my own experiences on the spiral have surfaced these thoughts:

10 Ways to Keep Adding Innovative New
Lanes to Your Personal Capacity Highway


1. Develop an early, healthy distrust of voices around you that insist the world has to be a certain way. Learn to say with confidence, “Okay, but what about…” so you can feel what it is like to challenge these voices and to experience their push-back and push back the experience.

2. Insist on finding out what it feels like to have your own hands on the controls. Nobody learns how to drive by watching a video or listening to someone else’s narration.

3. And yet you also need to live vicariously the greatest number of lives of the greatest variety possible by reading (both fiction and non-fiction) and watching video depictions (both real and imaginary) observantly.

4. Accept that neither you nor anyone else is a unity of one but rather are always a paradox of often irreconcilable fragments. Demand neither perfection nor a seamless assembly of your persona—not now, not ever.

5. Learn to surf your culture instead of absorbing it. This way you’ll be able to navigate your way in and out of it with considerable freedom instead of becoming one with it and thus its captive.

6. Come to terms with the realization that you’ll meet very few people in life who are comfortable with the kind of fluidity of mind and spirit you are developing. You can expect to feel alone a lot of the time even when surrounded by people you love and befriend.

7. Recognize that being alive guarantees suffering. The gift of being human is being able to decide what you’ll make of your suffering and the suffering of others. Be gentle with, but unyielding toward, those who want you to renounce your right to decide and acquiesce to their explanation.

8. Find that one person or that small number of people who can abide listening to you talk about what you are becoming. If you can’t talk about this aloud to real, listening, accepting ears other than your own, you’ll run the risk of real, dangerous depression and isolation.

9. Come to regard the experiences available at any one stage of your life and career as exhaustible. Make using them up a serious, ongoing goal. And make replacing them with very different ones a serious, ongoing passion.

10. Understand that all beliefs and all organizations that espouse and defend them are always hiding self-interested motives and promulgating undesirable self-limitations. The test of a belief at any point should always be, “Is this sensible in light of what I really, truly seek?”

I’d love to be able to have a meal with Majorie Kinnan Rawlings and discuss this list at length. She wouldn’t even have to cook. We could eat at the only restaurant in Cross Creek. It’s called The Yearling.

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One Comment

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