An Ongoing Journey To Becoming A Man That I Would Admire. Thoughts on life, dropping the knife, and embracing an ideal.
Things happen for a reason. Sometimes you can control them, sometimes you can’t. Part of opening up yourself for an opportunity at true happiness, is accepting that you will undoubtedly also experience small bouts of pain throughout the journey. I know that now. It’s part of the balance. Part of the game. Part of fully living in the moment. It should be embraced as such.
I suppose that I have always guarded my emotions too strongly in the past. A suit of armor, not to be penetrated by life’s slings and arrows. A way to stand and fight. As a young man, as a warrior, this made sense. I watched over and over what happened to men who wore their armor too lightly. Broken phone booths in Korea, sleepless nights pacing in Iraq, reckless behavior, loss of focus, loss of control, loss of power, loss of strength. The cost of letting your guard down surrounded me constantly. I couldn’t afford it. Strong men brought to their knees. Broken men. At the time, I thought these men I observed to be foolish, I thought them weak, undisciplined with their emotions. I know better now. I went through my life with a knife, ruthlessly cutting relationships away, less my armor be pierced. Less I lose focus. Less I be weakened. Whether consciously or not, I approached relationships as a battleground. Kill or be killed. Better to coterize the wound, less it become infected. Cut and run. A tactical retreat.
This was my primer into understanding the world of the emotions and actions of men. Show no weakness, let no one in who may injure, keep your guard up, be ruthless. It turned out to be a poor, and extremely misguided ethos. I know that now. The US Army Infantry is many things, but a catalyst of mastering a positive personal philosophy on life, relationships, and love, surely it is not. I can see that clearly now. We need to do better. It’s easy to train a boy to violence of action, to be ruthless in deeds and emotion, but that does not make him a man. Not a real one. Mercy, forgiveness, and empathy always. Overwhelming violence only when you must, and even then, narrowly focused, and with precision. This is where true power and strength lies in a man. As a society & culture, we need to create more complete men. Stronger men. We need to create the warrior poets of old.
I understand now, fully, that the knife I picked up so many years ago, in an attempt at emulating strength in emotion, was the very tool that ultimately made me weak. Truly strong men do not need it, do not want it. They set it aside. I know that now. My time for fighting is now through. I tire of it. I’ve lost the will, lost the drive. There is too much beauty in the world. I told myself when I left the war, that I would strive to be a more positive force in the world, a better man today than I was yesterday. I don’t think I fully embraced that ideal, or realized what that actually meant until somewhat recently. I know now that it takes more than lip service. I know it takes strength and courage. The strength to endure, the courage to accept. It takes truth. It takes true compassion. Letting go of the knife has proven harder than I imagined though. Old habits are hard to break, as they say. I feel defenseless without it, but now realize that this feeling is exactly what is needed. Too strong of a shield repels the positives, along with the negatives. It is a barrier to living a full life. A needless, and disruptive blockade to a whole and complete human existence and experience. It weighs you down. A barrier to living in the moment. I need to be faster, lighter, more agile.
I think now about the men I truly admire. Great men. Strong men. Men I strive emulate. Men who have shaped my existence, in some large or small portion. My father, my family, men that I now know were positive mentors in my life, whether they are aware of it or not. These men are far stronger than I feel I could ever be, though I know now that their strength also lies in the struggle. Deeds done in the struggle is the true measure, and display of strength. Forces of true positivity and light in a society all too often covered by a vague shroud of negativity and darkness. The intertwined commonality of their ideals, as I understand them now, lies in the ethics of character, truth, wisdom, love, forgiveness, compassion, courage, and the universal idea of selfless action. Most of these men were also warriors once, some are still, so I feel there is hope for me yet. I must try. I must amend my misguided philosophy. I must do what I can to atone for my past, and embrace a more fulfilling and complete existance. The knife has no place in this future.
I choose now to fully drop the knife, and lower the shield. With that comes the occasional injury, perhaps, but also an undeniable lightness of being, that can only come from going unarmored, and unburdened through this life. I understand that now. I will replace the knife with compassion. I will replace the shield with acceptance. I will replace the constant instinct of self defense with the knowledge that I am strong enough to take a blow, should it come. I pray for the strength to be positive in the face of adversity. I strive to learn from the past. I strive to be better, be more complete. I long to be a man who can embrace the emotions of disappointment and loss, while at the same time forgive immediately and completely. I pray that others will also find the strength to forgive my trespasses some day.
I strive to simply become a better man than I was yesterday.
I embrace that my journey towards this ideal will be difficult, and fraught with challenge. The caliber of man I strive to be Understands this, and has the inner courage and fortitude to embrace it fully. So must I as well. Wish me luck.