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Value Speak: Ahh ... the rectangle of life
by Joseph Walker
Nov 17, 2011 | 770 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The recent re-release of Disney’s “The Lion King” (3D! Blu-ray! Diamond Edition 2-disc set!) takes me back to the day Anita and I took our five children to see the animated film when it was released in 1994.

Even with a 2-year-old in tow, the cinematic experience was pretty overwhelming. I don’t know what came over me – chalk it up to PDE (Post-Disney Euphoria) or Jungle Cat Simba-osis – but I was inspired by the show’s thematic exploration of “The Circle of Life.” As soon as we got home from the theater I hauled my 2-year-old son, Jonathan, upstairs and plopped him in front of my desk.

“One day, Son,” I said grandly, “this journalistic kingdom will be yours!” I gestured to my computer, my dictionary, my copy of the Associated Press Stylebook and a file containing mailing labels for all 16 newspapers that carried this column.

“You will be,” I continued, stifling a tear, “the Column King!”

Somehow Jon interpreted that to mean that his rein would begin immediately. With an impish grin and two quick pat-a-cake strokes he sent an important – and unfinished – document on a one-way journey up the information superhighway. Think of it as the technological equivalent of “The Lion King’s” wildebeest stampede.

Sans “hakuna matata.”

Was Jon trying to tell me something? To be honest, 18 years later I still don’t know. But I have learned a few things about life during the nearly two decades that have elapsed since then, and one of them is, it doesn’t really follow circular paths. That would be too easy, too clear-cut and defined. While it could certainly be argued that life is cyclical, with an ongoing ebb and flow of seasonal variations, those seasons can be of different length for each of us and take us off in decidedly different directions.

That doesn’t sound very circular to me. It sounds more like a rectangle. Or an octagon. Or a design created by a 2-year-old with an Etch-A Sketch.

And that’s OK. I mean, unless they are lined up behind the number “1” on a check from Publisher’s Clearinghouse, circles can be boring. Patterns of living were made to be broken. Just ask any pioneer. Or inventor. Or visionary leader.

Or better yet, you could’ve asked my Dad.

I grew up in a family of athletes. My father was a sports star in high school and college, and my three brothers were similarly athletically oriented. Since I was the youngest — and tallest – male in the family, I always felt that I was expected to continue in the tradition. And I did. Sort of. I played basketball and football through my sophomore year of high school, and I enjoyed it. But I also enjoyed other things, including drama.

Then came my junior year, when the school production of “Fiddler on the Roof” was going to run right through the middle of the basketball season. There was no way I could be in both. I had to make a choice.

I still remember the long walk home the day I decided to participate in the musical instead of playing basketball. Over and over I practiced the speech I had prepared to explain my decision to my father. But when I told him that I had been cast as the Rabbi’s son, and that meant I wouldn’t be playing basketball that year, he just smiled at me — proudly.

“We’ve had lots of basketball players in this family,” he said, “but we’ve never had an actor. I think it’s about time we had one, don’t you?”

To be honest, it was years before we actually had a real actor in the family. We currently have two, including a daughter and son-in-law who have been performing in “Finding Nemo: The Musical” at Walt Disney World — which, come to think of it, brings us back to the wonderful world of Disney.

Full circle, as it were.

As for me, I changed directions — again — halfway through my college career. But this time I did so confidently, knowing that personal growth occasionally makes such adjustments necessary, even welcome, in the rectangle of life.

If not the circle.

(To read more by Joseph B. Walker please go to www.josephbwalker.com.)
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