“Knowledge is the eye of desire and can become the pilot of the soul…”—Will Durant
This quote struck me, as I was sitting outside of a bistro in South Florida. My visit to the sun-soaked area was brought about by my quest for knowledge; in a roundabout way.
Truly, this trip to Bonita Springs, FL, was to visit my aunt and uncle. My Uncle Gregg is my father’s youngest brother, and in some ways—one of our last links to my father’s family history. After my dad passed away five years ago, I started collecting lineage and historical data from my grandmother.
My grandmother was a voracious reader, writer and poet. She had written her own memoir and also tracked our family history—both on her side, and my grandfather’s. After my grandmother’s passing two years ago, I took on the challenge of transcribing some of her work – as well as a documentary written by my great-great grandmother. Through this process, I have started to uncover answers to questions that I’ve had for years and continue to develop an ever-growing respect for my ancestors.
As a young girl, my father told me about the Native American blood which flowed through his side of our family, and me. My dark eyes, dark hair and oftentimes dark skin, were a testament to this, and I immediately started buying dream catchers to adorn my bed, reading “Indian in the Cupboard” and watching old cowboy/Indian films. When the movie Dances With Wolves came out, I was smitten. Not only did I long to be Ivana Baquero, but my quest to learn more about my family’s rich history and tradition grew.
As my Uncle Gregg cracked another beer and joined me in the warm Florida evening breeze last night, he slowly started to open up about our family history. I shared that I am currently planning a trip to Dublin, Ireland, in the spring, and learned that we have a solid lineage located in Ireland – many of which are spelled differently than my last name is currently. My ancestors decided to change the spelling when they traveled to the United States as settlers, for fear of ridicule and shame upon their arrival on State soil.
Conversations of Martha Washington, a great-great Uncle who is still incarcerated in the Nebraska Federal Penitentiary, my grandfather’s wish to be a mortician, and more, brought amazement and increasing wonder. My family is seemingly built of biological leaders. Some have charged forward to seek leadership, and some simply had no choice but to lead—as dying was the alternative. I look ahead on my Outlook calendar this week to find a series of events and activities absorbing every evening for the foreseeable future. The term “lead” or “leadership” is listed in nearly half of these event titles, which causes me to question whether or not I have sought these opportunities out—or conversely, had they found me?
Regardless; I find leadership as a quality that not all are capable of, and many who may have gifts to be great leaders never have exposure to an environment to grow this quality. As I review my father’s family history it becomes clear that many figures on my family tree have received the gift of developing into a leader.
I am currently reading the book Outliers written by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell takes a turn from Blink and The Tipping Point to offer his readers a unique experience into the understanding what makes successful people, successful. He examines their worlds, and cites studies performed by sociologists and scientists spanning the world over. Bill Gates, The Beatles, Bill Joy and Mozart, are a few of the prodigies reviewed throughout the book. My timely reading from Gladwell relates to my research of familial identity in asking whether or not the leadership traits in our family are innate—or are we self-fulfilling prophecies?
Gladwell believes exactly as I do, that successful leaders are born when opportunity meets preparation (as many famous folks have morphed this quote over time). I believe that the combination of genetics and environment, breed good leaders and allow their offspring similar advances.
The quote at the beginning of this piece summarizes my findings. When we embrace knowledge and exploration, we succumb to the desires to learn more, become greater, offer innovation and simply, to pilot discovery. The search to gain a better understanding of my family’s history is just one part of my knowledge quest in this short life. As history unravels and time leads to discovery of those from my past who have inevitably impacted my life, we are allowed the opportunity to gain knowledge of myself—and to find my true potential.