In My Element

One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and the soul of the child.

~ Carl Jung


A friend and colleague recently asked for a photograph of me, taken in my element. I’ve never owned a Honda and never driven the vehicle known as Element. So, that’s not it. My friend is knowledgeable and intelligent, so I assumed the request had nothing to do with many elements from the Periodic Table of the Elements comprising my physical being. My friend’s question forced some serious thinking in response to the question: What is my element?

I sent a portrait. My friend declined.

I sent a photograph of me delivering a presentation. My friend said, “no, that’s not it.”

I sent a photograph of me as I was being interviewed in a television studio. My friend said, “please try again.”

My element apparently is not sitting to stare into the lens of a camera. And it’s neither delivering a presentation nor being interviewed. What, exactly, is my element?

I turned, as I sometimes do when linguistically befuddled, to the Mirriam-Webster online dictionary for assistance. The relevant definition states element is, “the state or sphere natural or suited to a person or thing.” As an example, it gives, “at school she was in her element.” As it turns out, so am I. At school, I am in my element.

I’m suited to teaching. I’m suited to scholarship. I’m suited to delivering presentations. I’m suited to being interviewed. I’m suited to radical discussions, including facilitating the same. What else? What more can I offer? What else suits me?

After pondering a few moments, I realized I’m suited to being outdoors. I’m suited to walking through the wilds of nature, from grasslands to forests, and from deserts to jungles. I’m suited to gratefully inhaling clean air as I observe undomesticated animals in their habitats. This, then, must be what my friend has in mind. I sent her the photograph embedded below.

My friend consented. This photograph captured me in my element. I’m glad we clarified that issue. And I’m glad she sent me on this quest. I’m grateful to have pondered my element because it is closely related to the purposes I’m pursuing during my time here on Earth.

What is your element? What “state or sphere [is] natural or suited to” you? Have you given the issue as little thought as I did during the initial 58 years and 9 months of my life?


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My latest book is available in audio, and can be purchased here. Ms. Ladybug and Mr. Honeybee: A Love Story at the End of Time is intended for ages 11 and up.

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