In Plato’s “Apology,” Socrates is reported to have said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” In chapter 2 of West of Tomorrow, Clay Conover (the protagonist) is clearly taking Socrates’ aphorism literally.
As he squints through the lens of his camera at a stunning sunset over the Pacific, he reflects on recent events of his life. The arrival of Sheera Prasad, whom he must train is disturbing on multiple levels. As Lead Trainer at Halberstamm Leadership Group, it is his job to train her in the imprecise arts of organizational development, facilitation and instructional design.
Clay has a lot of experience with all three, so he’s highly qualified for the challenge. But as is sometimes the case, it’s not his responsibilities that pose the problem; it’s the contextual realities in which life has served them up. Clay is confronting four dilemmas, three obvious and a third not. Taken together, these problems will pull him into life-changing conflict and some painful lessons we all confront sooner or later.
The first dilemma Clay is mulling over as he squints through the lens of his camera, is how Sheera was hired and why. He didn’t see it coming and her her unexpected arrival has set off survival alarms. Is Alistair, (the Director and Clay’s boss) dissatisfied with some aspect of his performance? Nothing in his behavior suggests he is, but Clay’s professional experiences have taught him to take nothing for granted.
Clay’s second conundrum is his intense attraction to Sheera, despite his reservations about her. On practical and ethical levels, he’s achingly aware of the problems this attraction poses. Even if he never acts on it, will it color his evaluation of her, when Alistair asks how she’s progressing? And ask he will. Might it cause him to cover for her when he shouldn’t?
Then there’s Clay’s third dilemma. What shall he do about the nagging feeling he has that she’s hiding something? He realizes his misgivings may not be fair or accurate. At the same time, they’re never far from his mind. And what about Clay’s final problem? What happens if he acts on his attractions, despite his better judgment? It’s not hard to see why Clay might be conflicted.
The Insistent Whisper of Our Soul
As the story unfolds, it becomes evident another factor is influencing everything he thinks and feels. Much of Clay’s conflicted state is anchored in his experiences and how they have shaped his present state of mind. Has he confronted and conquered his past, or has Clay allowed the politics of the immediate to crowd out the necessary?
The answer to this question has profound implications for the story. For Clay, as for most of us, life has proven to be a full contact sport. Clay has enjoyed success at a price. A price of which he’s aware at multiple levels. The life of a career Marine infantry officer with multiple combat tours takes it toll, physically, emotionally and spiritually. That toll keeps cropping up in a variety of forms.
Like Clay, most of us have gotten the memo. Life litters our path with challenges and pain. We all recognize these as part of life. But recognizing them is not the same as dealing with them. If we’re fortunate, thoughtful, attentive parents have cultivated healthy coping skills. They’ve armed us with a road map for processing our frequent disappointments, pain and loss, as well as (hopefully), constructive ways to channel our passions. A fortunate few of us find ourselves equal to most of it. Others of us get by with a little help from friends or spouses.
But somewhere along the way, we discover pieces of the road map seem to be missing. Our parents didn’t teach us everything. They couldn’t. It is at these times that quiet reflection help us puzzle out those missing pieces in our sanity road map.
Half-an-hour West of Tomorrow
In chapter two, Clay stands on this summit of uncertainty. He finds himself confronted with a new landscape, at once seductive and terrifying. Clay has reached the edge of the map. He’s now half-an-hour west of a sun rising on an uncertain tomorrow. A glance over his shoulder confirms what he already suspects. There is no way back. He (and we) must choose, and in our choosing, define, or finish ourselves.
For now, he has the illusion of options. But his past will force choices that will lead him over unfamiliar ground. For Clay, it’s time let that unfinished map slip from our fingers and choose a new direction, with all the possibilities…and perils…that go along with it.
West of Tomorrow is a cross-genre work of corporate intrigue, betrayal, misplaced love and the phoenix living in all of us, now on sale on Amazon. In this contemporary tale, Dirk leverages his experiences as a retired marine officer, corporate trainer and district manager to bring us this thoughtful story of self-reinvention in our turbulent time of shifting paradigms and runaway change.
Dirk is the organizer/facilitator of the Advanced Fiction Group, an collection of published and aspiring authors living in South Orange County. His current projects include Through the Windshield, an anthology of short stories and Tier Zero, Volume I of The Knolan Cycle, a story of first contact between Earth and the Knolan Alliance.