(This address was given to a small-ish group of kindred spirits gathered in the Power House at the Roycroft Campus in East Aurora on the evening of May 11, 2023 for the inaugural meeting of The Messengers.)
You might be wondering, “What’s this all about, Erik?”
“Please tell us you didn’t bring us here to feed us cheese.”
You agreed to gather on little more than the trust you have in me. And a hunch, maybe, that I only ever have good things in mind for those I admire.
So, thank you for being open-minded and for stashing your sense of adventure in your back pocket as you ran out the door to get here.
I’ve invited you all here tonight to fulfill a responsibility.
We are supposed to be here, together.
I’m not entirely sure yet.
As I sail past the equator of life on my way toward the Golden Shore, I’m learning how powerful this lack of understanding can be. Or, rather, how crippling the constant need for understanding is when it becomes a blind obsession.
You and I are storytelling creatures, wired for meaning. We seek, from moment to moment, to unearth the meaning and purpose in who we are, doing whatever it is we’re doing, with whomever we’re with at that time, wherever we happen to be.
We want to know, “What’s the meaning of all of this?”
Robert McKee, a master of story, was once asked, “If all timeless stories contain profound meaning, a transformational truth, how does one craft a story capable of accomplishing that everlasting achievement?”
Instead, masterfully wield every storytelling principle and technique you possess. Create a story that moves you at your molten, coursing core. Conjure a speechless confrontation with truth that possesses the gravity of a supermassive black hole, where not even the light of your words can escape. When you’ve written this story, it will tell you what it means.
I do believe we can find purpose in passing moments and encounters. But the deep stuff that binds us eternally forwards and backwards has a mind of its own and does not wear a watch.
When Elbert Hubbard, the founder of the Roycroft movement, penned A Message to Garcia he did so as a man of his time, as anyone would and should. He praised the individual who did their duty, as instructed, without quibble or question. He saluted the steadfast servant who set aside their uncertainty and found within themselves the resolve to see the task through.
Those of us in the service of the Roycroft Campus are the inheritors of this message that ignited a generation.
We are also the stewards of this legacy, entrusted with what remains and has been revitalized by those who have come before us.
Might we also be the flint that strikes fresh sparks of potential!
To rekindle will require more than a sense of blind duty or expectation. It craves a new reading of the sacred text, a Modern Message that I believe we are writing together. A Message not about duty to an external authority or fulfilling a bestowed obligation, no matter how noble.
The Modern Message generates from within, uttering a soulspeak each of us is naturally attuned to. I’m talking about the “thing there is to do” that is yours and yours alone. The thing you can’t be handed, that only you can pick up. Your sword in the stone. If there’s a sense of duty, it is to yourself, and perhaps to whatever Source you believe breathes your inspiration into you.
You have a Message.
I don’t know what it is but I know that you have one. Everyone has one. Not everyone knows what their Message is and even fewer carry it to the world. Excuses for why we resist ourselves are boundless. The fear we feel can tower over us as we slumber in its cool, dark shadow. We see our greatest gifts displayed in others. Rather than join them in creative toil, we admire them through a window.
Steven Pressfield has given a name to this insidious, dream-devouring force: Resistance. Resistance is a shapeshifter, taking many forms. It is a master button pusher, inflaming your fears. Perhaps its most devious talent is its ability to mimic your voice. When the sound of your doubt sounds like you, it’s easy to accept its criticism and dismiss your hope of a better anything.
But Resistance has a fatal weakness. In the words of Pressfield, “Resistance thrives in darkness. Bring Resistance into the light and you defeat it.”
In Hubbard’s day, pilgrims across the globe brushed up against the Roycroft Movement and caught fire. Rekindling this flame would create the light by which we could expose Resistance in all its manifestations. A community so bright that there’s nowhere for it to lurk.
There is no shortage of chaos and calamity in the tapestry of our lives. There is no way to know what life has up its sleeve. There is far less time left in our pockets than we tell ourselves.
So let’s get our hands out of our pockets. Let us stop fidgeting with our time. Let us choose to believe in our Message even if we’re pretty sure it’s silly and everyone is going to mock us.
They do not have to carry the burden of your life, unlived.
And there it is, friend.
This is the choice we are given. Forget trying to decipher where it comes from and why it must be this way. It is.
Carry your Message or carry the burden of keeping it to yourself.
Be yourself or be some other thing that resembles you at times.
In the words of the monk and mystic, Thomas Merton, “How do you expect to arrive at the end of your journey if you take the road to another person’s city?”
Of course, I’ve been speaking to myself.
I have fears.
I was afraid I would be standing here by myself.
I still fear that you’re being polite and that this will amount to little.
Resistance is persistent.
I am not asking you to take my road. I am pleading for you to take your own. And offering to be your friend when you need one. In hopes that you might be a friend to other Messengers who are making their way, especially those watching from the danger of their safety.
That is what we need. For you to live outside of the shadow of fear and disbelief and stand completely exposed.
Send up the smoke signal for all to see.
For where there’s smoke, there’s you.
This is my Message. That you have a Message. Something essential in your spirit that simply cannot find expression through anyone but you.
There’s another piece to my Message, though. You don’t just have something essential to share. You have a responsibility to share it. It’s why you exist. To participate in this entirely confusing experiment we call being alive. To play your part in the way only you can play. I didn’t invent this. I simply tried to avoid playing my part and found the suffering unbearable. You can run from yourself but you’ll find that you’re pretty fast. You always catch up with yourself.
So I decided to stop running away so that I can run toward, with my Message on my lips, heralding whatever the hell it is that follows.
I really don’t know what this is leading to. That’s not mine to know. That’s not my Message to carry.
What I know is, I am here now, and that being here, right now, feels right.
I’m offering myself as an ally to you.
My unique ability is encouraging others to see, believe in, and pursue what’s possible for them.
I’m also offering this Campus to you, as a place where you, where we, could explore our Messages and learn how to carry them well. In the hopes that it becomes a place of transformation.
What’s that look like?
Yeah, I’m not sure.
My theory is that there’s a spectrum. On one end you have those who have no idea that carrying a Message is even a thing to do. Then there are those who know but haven’t discerned what their Message is. Next are those whose Message is making itself known to them but they lack the courage or capacity to carry it. They’re followed by those carrying their Message who could use a shoulder to lean on or to help lean into making their possibility common practice.
I think sometimes it might look like this. One of us standing firmly in front of the rest of us, surrounded by love and acceptance, proclaiming our Message.
Maybe one of us is so moved that we risk reaching out to support that person, come alongside and help them carry their Message through encouragement, connections, and resources.
A community of souls striving to be true to themselves, their sisters, their brothers.
Carrying our Messages together instead of carrying the burdens of our unlived lives, alone.
We are gathered in what was the Power House. The steam boilers that were where you’re seated generated the electricity that powered the entire Campus, including the printing presses that propelled the ideals of the Head, Heart, Hand philosophy at the center of the Roycroft Movement.
Elbert Hubbard urged would-be co-conspirators to “abandon their comatose state and become radioactive.”
He said, “Be yourself and think for yourself: and while your conclusions may not be infallible, they will be nearer right than the conclusions forced upon you by those who have a personal interest in keeping you in ignorance. You grow through exercise of your faculties, and if you do not reason now you will never advance. We are all [children] of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be. Claim your heritage!”
Finally, he said, “We grow by doing. Not by thinking of our thoughts and feeling of our feelings.”
Elbert Hubbard was a Messenger.
I don’t want to be Elbert Hubbard. I want to be Erik Eustice.
And if history doesn’t remember me, but somehow remembers the good this community of Messengers creates then I’ll be justified.
So, who do you want to be?
Who are you going to be?
What good do you want history to remember?
Are you ready to carry your Message?
The Scottish mountaineer William Hutchinson Murray observed, “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no [person] could have dreamed would have come [their] way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.“
Are you ready to begin?