August 16, 2013 | The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner
It just so happens that I am in Memphis, Tennessee today. I am here for a meeting with the leaders of CREDO, a well-known and outstanding wellness initiative that serves clergy and other leaders of the Episcopal Church. We are having some great conversations about possible areas of collaboration for Living Compass and CREDO.
What an incredible coincidence that I am here in Memphis on this day--August 16th--of all days. What are the odds of that happening? You do know what the connection is between Memphis and August 16th is, don't you? Well, just in case you don't, it was thirty-six years ago today on August 16, 1977 that Elvis Presley died here in Memphis at his Graceland home. This week in Memphis concludes the annual Elvis celebration and I was delighted to see many Elvis impersonators last night as I walked up and down Beale Street.
When it comes to wellness, Elvis is a reminder that there is always a fine line between thriving and declining. Creating and maintaining wellness over a life time takes commitment and perseverance. We can learn a great deal from the life and death of Elvis Presley, about what to do and what not to do.
One positive lesson I take from a person like Elvis is the inspiration to be unique, to be different, to be yourself. Oscar Wilde quipped, “Be yourself; as everyone else is already taken.” Elvis lived this truth. No one has shaken their hips and caused such a stir the way Elvis did-- in public no less! His gyrations were scandalous in his day, to the point that when he appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show the cameras only showed him from the waist up. All of this turned him into a world famous star and to this day he holds the record for most top singles on the Billboard Record Chart. Additionally, Elvis also went on to star in thirty-one movies that were equally successful.
There are of course lessons from Elvis's life about how not to live your life as well. In our Living Compass wellness program we draw the analogy that human beings are like trees. Like a tree, if a person wants to create growth “above ground” they will also need to create new growth in their emotional and spiritual root system “below ground.” Anytime we go through a significant change or growth in our lives, we need to nurture our root system to sustain that growth. It would appear to me that Elvis did not have the emotional and spiritual root system to support the incredible changes and successes that became his life.
A new parent is going to have to grow deeper emotional and spiritual roots to be able to support him or herself in this new role. A person leaving home for the first time will need to do the same. A person who takes on a new leadership role with more responsibility will as well. Any significant change in our lives will require a deeper emotional and spiritual root system to support that change. If there is not a healthy root system the person, like a tree, is vulnerable to toppling over. Many of you are familiar with the Biblical parable that talks about seeds that were planted in shallow soil. The plant grew up very quickly, but because it had no depth of soil it, withered quickly and toppled over.
Elvis died a lonely death thirty-six years ago today and that saddens me and I imagine millions more who were his beloved fans are saddened as well. I give thanks for his creativity and his daring to be his own person, while at the same time I grieve the tragic way in which his life toppled in the end. In memory and in honor of Elvis and of all the fun and excitement he brought into the world maybe we should all promise ourselves to do the work necessary to develop healthy root systems in our lives in what ever way works for us. In that way, his death can be a source of new life for those of us who so much enjoyed his energy.
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