The Acorn Theory

(Originally published Jan. 3, 2007).

I am re-reading a book entitled The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling, written by leading Jungian psychologist and PhD, Dr. James Hillman. In the book, he describes what he calls “The Acorn Theory,” postulating that in the acorn lies the DNA of the future oak. An acorn doesn’t look like an oak, but it contains all of the genetic material required for growing into an oak as opposed to, say a turnip, or a daffodil, or a maple. Similar to the oak, Dr. Hillman proposes that every human being is born with a defining image or a calling, which is innate at birth and which manifests itself throughout our lifetime.

This got me wondering about my own elusive calling. Is my defining image really that of a writer? After all, for years, I thought it was something a tad more analytical–a management consultant, for example. If Dr. Hillman’s theory is true, then surely there must have been some evidence of my calling in my early childhood.

And so, I took a trip down memory lane. Ever since I can remember, I have always loved books. My earliest memory is a hazy recollection of my two-year-old self snuggling up on my grandmother’s lap while she read a story book to me. Shortly before I turned three, my next and more vivid memory is of toddling into my beloved grandmother’s room clutching my favourite book. Although I didn’t know it at the time, she was dying of cancer. She took one look at me and said, “Oh, Maureen, my wee lamb. I’m so sorry, but I am too sick to read to you today.” And I clearly remember answering, “Oh, but it’s for you to read to yourself. It will make you feel all better.” In my almost-three-year-old opinion, a good book held miraculous healing powers.

Fast forward to age four. Still dependant on the whim of adults for my reading pleasure, I wanted to read books by myself. Fortunately for me, British schools at that time were pretty advanced in their curriculum. I learned to read and write by the time I turned five. After that, there was no stopping me. Painfully shy, I immersed myself in imaginary worlds, devouring Winnie the Pooh, The House at Pooh Corner, Peter Pan, the Enid Blyton adventure series, Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, Treasure Island, Children of the New Forest, Robinson Crusoe, The Swiss Family Robinson, and countless more. I read paperbacks, I waded through hardcover. At school, I excelled at English composition (until the unfortunate dinosaur episode I described in my first blog entry, when my writing career went into a decades-long hibernation).

Looking back, I can see that the seeds of a writer were present at birth. Those seeds germinated early, but lay dormant for many years, waiting until climate and soil were right. Now the seeds have started to grow again and will soon bear fruit.

I propose the following questions to you. What are some of your earliest memories? Can you discern the seeds of your defining image or calling in those memories?