It was my 6th birthday and more than anything I wanted an orange NBA basketball. My parents graciously worked hard to celebrate the anniversary of my birth. Cake, friends, games, and gifts – what else could a six-year-old want?
But when I tore through the wrapping paper, my excitement turned to frustration.
Instead of the orange NBA basketball, I received a red, white, and blue ABA basketball (the ABA league was in decline and would cease to exist within a few years). Lacking wisdom and maturity, I bluntly told my parents that I didn’t want the colorful ABA ball.
I wanted what I wanted.
And I let them know it.
I don’t think my behavior qualified as full-blown brat status…but there wasn’t even a hint of gratitude. All I was thinking about was how I felt. It was as if I was the center of the universe and everyone and everything revolved around me.
My natural egotism reduced my family and friends to mere actors and extras in the production of my life. I was not focused on my parents or all they had done to give me a wonderful party.
What I needed was a “Copernicus Moment.”
In 1543, Nicolaus Copernicus changed the world. He published a theory that challenged the well-accepted belief that all the planets and stars in the universe revolved around earth. Up until that time, it was assumed that we earth dwellers were the center of the cosmos.
Copernicus cut ties with conventional wisdom. He carefully observed the world and realized that the earth is not the center of the universe. Earth is just one planet of many and it revolves around the sun, not the other way around.
This simple change in perspective is credited as one of the great scientific advancements of all time.
A Copernicus Moment in life ushers in personal growth.
It permits us to retain our individuality and importance while not requiring us to be the center of attention, or of the universe.
This reorientation allows me to see that marriage is not simply here for my personal fulfillment, but that I am here to cherish and serve my spouse. It shows me that my children do not exist to form my identity or provide joy, but that I am here to parent and love them.
The Copernicus Moment ends the sense of entitlement and victimization and replaces it with an understanding of humility and service.
It’s also a relief.
Copernicus Moments occur when we cut ties with the well-accepted belief that life is all about us. We carefully observe the world around us and trade the desire to take with a passion to give.
I think when we look back on our lives we will find that our Copernicus Moments were some of our greatest personal advancements. As we begin to consider others more important than ourselves, we reorient our lives in a way that increases everyone’s value.
As I remember that birthday, I am embarrassed.
As an adult, I would never respond the way I did as a kid. I wish I could go back in time and shower my parents with the gratitude they deserved. Their gift was a symbol of their love for me and I wrongly elevated the specifics of the gift over the reason they gave it to me. The irony is that now I would love to have an actual ABA basketball. They are celebrated icons of American sports history.
Have you had a Copernicus Moment lately? Perhaps one is waiting for you to recognize and embrace.