Porcupine Purpose

The porcupine wasn't roadkill kind of dead, it had been preserved to make it appear very alive - as though it might walk right off the table at any moment.  I was intrigued. I had only viewed live porcupines from a distance, a far distance.  The majority of porcupines I had seen previously, were dead on the side of the highway.  They were not a pretty site.

The one standing on the table was pretty in a prehistoric way and the young lady offering up porcupine facts was eager to share. Most golfers were walking right past her display table without even realizing what they missed.  That's life for most of us most days.  We truck right on by all kinds of wonderful life opportunities in a hurry to reach our next destination, even if it's only the pro shop.  Who expects to see a taxidermy specimen of a porcupine standing on a table outside the pro shop at Kananaskis Country Golf Course?  And, the bonus was the porcupine's resident specialist available to share their porcupine knowledge with someone, anyone who would take time to stop.

We stopped, I couldn't help myself.  I wanted to get closer to the porcupine and I wanted to touch it, all of which is unusual for me.  I normally prefer wild animals remain far away from me but within viewing distance preferably with glass between us.  Remaining about three feet from the table I began to talk to the wildlife specialist.  My brain was still processing that the porcupine was not alive, so a closer proximity would not be a problem.  Chicken on human legs.  I know.

Lesson 1: Don't judge

The specialist eagerly shared her knowledge with us.  At first, she just responded to our questions, then slowly she warmed up to her prickly subject and began to gain momentum.  She asked if we wanted to stroke the porcupine specimen.  Of course, we did.  I expected it to feel hard and sharp but discovered its body felt feathery as I stroked it from head to hind end. Classic lesson on not judging based on externalities and the value of getting to know even the prickly ones.

Lesson 2:  Imagination and truth aren't necessarily the same

There at the hind end, were lots of stiff quills, the kind we have pulled out of Kanti's nose and paws a couple of times.  Those quills are the ones that cause an offender grief if they get too close. Contrary to my imaginings for over fifty years, porcupines don't have the ability to launch quills from their bodies in an explosive manner.  Quills don't go flying.  Porcupines push their quills out but there is only enough push to lodge quills in an offender if the offender is close enough to be touching the porcupine in the first place.  Question your imaginings, a.k.a. fears and search for truth.  Maybe the truth isn't nearly as scary or dangerous as imagined.

Lesson 3:  A greater purpose

Danger aside, our new friend invited us to handle the quills on display in a see-Porthrough container.  The quills were hollow, extremely light weight, and strong.  We were told they took dyed colouring well which made them useful in various art works.  A pre-historic looking critter was able to contribute in perpetuity to art work in the human realm.  Not only that, but medical specialists were conducting studies on the ability of quills to puncture the skin, the mechanism of the barbs which kept quills lodged securely, and the antibiotic properties of quills.  Sometimes things that appear ugly, seem useless, and were designed for protection, contribute to a greater purpose.  If a porcupine quill can help make the world a better place through art and research, surely you and I can too.

All of the porcupine musings led to thinking on purpose.  Well, not really thinking on purpose but thinking about purpose.  Somehow that has become the latest and greatest thing for us to consider.  What's our life purpose?  I don't know about you, but I go into porcupine mode and get all prickly if someone wants to push me to talk about purpose.  I'm just me, living my life the best I can day to day.  There are no illusions of grandeur, no mis-guided notions of saving the world, and certainly no ridiculously aspiring purpose.   Who needs that pressure?

My quick answer is no one needs that pressure.  The world already puts enough pressure and expectations on us.  My slower thoughtful answer is, it might be wise to contemplate our individual purpose.  I don't want to wake up one day at eighty years of age and wonder what the heck I did with those eighty years.  I am not interested in living blind to my purpose only to have the blinders removed when mortality smacks me over the head.  If I live without intention I run the risk of huge regret and the reality of a wasted life.  Living without intention happens when we are oblivious to our purpose, it is reactive and ultimately soul-sucking.

Last winter I came across a statement by Richard Rohr that grabbed my soul by the lapels and shouted at me.  I have never had a string of words affect me quite the way his words did.  The words were "helping others discover their souls".  When I read those words, I cried.  That was it.  It was an encapsulation of what I wanted to do in all my work.  I wanted to help my clients in their businesses to function in a way that protected and honoured peoples' souls.  I wanted to write pieces which encouraged others to become aware of their souls.  Whatever work I did needed to be making a difference.

Helping other discover their souls became my way of making a difference.  It wasn't an easy project or purpose I took on.  It challenges me every day.  Some days I am good at it and I feel like I made a difference.  Other days, I blow it royally and have to practice a little re-orientation and self-forgiveness.  But there are a few things that help me stay on track and they are lessons from the porcupine experience.  Don't judge based on externalities.  Take the time to get to know the prickly ones.  Most of what I imagine is not as frightening once I know the truth. And finally, if a porcupine can contribute to making the world a better place, surely you and I can too.

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