Friday, May 21, 2010


The 2010 class of new Members of Parliament includes Rory Stewart.
The former Royal tutor, soldier, diplomat, Harvard professor, documentary maker and bestselling author won the safe Conservative seat of Penrith and The Border with over 53 per cent of the vote and a resounding majority of over 11,000.
At the age of only 37, he seems to have packed in more lives than the proverbial cat and is already widely tipped as a future Prime Minister.
'Do you think I should be Prime Minister?' he recently asked an interviewer.
What might have sounded arrogant in someone else seemed natural in this slim, slightly bow legged young man who one day could well be PM if he decides it might be interesting enough to put his mind to it.
Why not?
Born into the previleged Scottish upper middle class, the county set who inhabit places like Crieff in Perthshire where his family live, he followed their traditional path to Eton and Oxford - before decidedly going his own way when he abandoned his promising Foreign Office career to spend nearly two years walking 6000 miles from Turkey to Bangladesh.
The Afghan section of the walk on the trail of the Mughal Emperor Babur was the basis for his first bestseller, The Places In Between.
Job done, he found a perhaps miffed Foreign Office ignored his emails when he wanted to rejoin them. So he flew to Amman and took a taxi to Baghdad where he talked his way into becoming deputy governor of two Iraqi provinces - the subject of his next bestseller, The Prince of the Marshes/Occupational Hazards.
Another job done, Stewart returned to Kabul to set up the charitable Turquoise Mountain Foundation with the blessing of Princes Charles, whose sons he had tutored in bygone summer holidays - before heading off to be a professor at Harvard, a post he has now given up.
How does he do it? What is it about Rory Stewart which sets him apart as he moves around the world and through his many lives at the speed of light?
The answer may lie in Stewart's ability to be what psychologists and psychiatrists call integrated - able to handle and come to terms with all experiences. So there is no 'baggage' or unresolved issues from the past hampering his ability to achieve closure and move on.
The journey he describes in The Places In Between was as much a spiritual as a physical one of hard travelling. As he reached Kabul at the end of it he experienced a sense of completeness and wholeness he could find no words to describe.
'I had to accept that I had found something in the hills...' he writes. 'Beyond that I couldn't go. I had no words for it and I was reluctant to put words to it. Now, writing, I am tempted to say that I felt that the world had been given as a gift uniquely to me and also equally to each person alone. I had completed walking and could go home.'
The American writer William James described this moment when he noted, 'Of some things we feel that we know that we are certain: we know, and we know that we know. There is something that gives a click inside us, a bell that strikes twelve, when the hands of our mental clock have swept the dial and meet over the meridian hour.'
It is the achievement of that sense of wholeness, of being in touch with his deepest self, which may set Stewart apart more than anything else and enable him to move on in life so sure-footedly. Though we all have the capacity to heal, so many people only achieve a partial completeness of self and remain crippled by past emotional and spiritual difficulties.
Stewart probably is a future Prime Minister. The country would benefit greatly from someone as well balanced as he is being in charge.
The tragedy of the last PM, Gordon Brown, may be that he has never been able to come to terms with and move on from the early appalling strictures of Calvinism which hold that misery and poverty are the only fit state for man or woman.
Perhaps the reported tantrums and mobile phones sent flying through the air at 10 Downing Street in fits of temper were as much fuelled by ancient as well as present anger because he had never experienced those moments of wholeness which are the basis of healing and happiness and the ability to move on.
Copyright Rebecca Hamilton 2010. All Rights Reserved

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