Consider the story of the famous Spanish bullfighter, Manolete (1917 – 1947), whose life was the subject of the 2008 film The Passion Within (UK) starring Adrien Brody. No matter what you think of bullfighting, the story of Manolete’s calling has some interesting things to say about the journey of self-directed learning.
Born Manuel Laureano Rodríguez Sánchez, Manolete would grow up to change the face of bullfighting, inventing new methods and revitalizing the ideals of el corrida de toros, which some would say holds the soul of Spain. And yet, Manolete was a timid and fearful boy.
Delicate and sickly, having almost died of pneumonia when he was two, little Manuel was interested only in painting and reading. He stayed so much indoors and clung so tightly to his mother’s apron strings that his sisters and other children used to tease him. Around his hometown, he was known as “a thin, melancholy boy who wandered around the streets after school lost in thought. He rarely join other boys’ games of soccer or playing at bullfighting.” This all changed “when he was about eleven, and nothing else mattered much except the bulls.”
– Barnaby Conrad, The Death of Manolete
As James Hillman tells it, “at his first corrida, Manolete, hardly out of short pants, stands his ground without moving a foot — and does in fact suffer a groin wound, which he regards diffidently, refusing to be helped home to Mother, so as to return with the comrades with whom he came.”
Was a dim knowledge of the call there all along? Then of course little boy Manolete was afraid and clung to his mother. Of course he kept away from torero games in the street, taking shelter in the kitchen. How could this nine-year-old boy stand up to his destiny? In [the acorn of his soul] were thousand-pound black bulls with razor-sharpened horns thundering toward him, among them Islero, the one that gored him through groin and belly and gave him death at age thirty and the largest funeral every witnessed in Spain?
… Manolete exhibits a basic fact: the frail competencies of a child are not equal to the demands of their daimon [or destiny]. Children are inherently ahead of themselves, even if they are given low grades and held back. One way for the child is to race ahead, as in the famous cases of Mozart and other “infant prodigies” who benefit from good guidance. Another way is to shrink back and hold the daimon [or destiny] at bay, as did Manolete in his mother’s kitchen.
James Hillman, The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling
At Open Doors, our teens do come to us with their code written deeply into their souls, their calling hidden among the glimpses we get of their passions, fears, and dearly-held opinions. It is up to us, the adults, to listen and to become a student of that code. Come to our events to find out how we help teens discover who they really are.