Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Writers are an emotional lot.  They are sometimes oversensitive to the various in’s and out’s of human interaction.  What is just a minor spat to someone else becomes a lurid, overarching drama ending in tragedy.  What we often see on some of our more intellectually challenged television productions are just that, the poorly manufactured mountain out of a rather pathetic molehill.  Then there are those dramas that we act out in our daily existence.  These events occur in the darkness and obscurity of our private lives, hidden from the eyes of strangers and family alike, we suffer in silence.  It is my firm belief that there are two types of people in life, victims and survivors.  The victim picks at the scab of tragedy, relishing in the pain.  The survivor adapts, overcomes and allows even the deepest wounds to scar over, to mend and heal with time.  Some wounds however, run deep.  They terrify the soul, and burn our conscience.
Betrayal is that deep wound.  I am speaking not of something as prurient as the betrayal of a lover, or a friend, but of something much deeper; when our body fails us, that is the most devastating betrayal of all.  We all understand our mortality, we see those around us age, become frail and fade into memory.  We except the inevitable direction of time’s arrow, and we cling to each day, sucking the marrow out of each moment.  We are blissfully ignorant of our deaths. Then we stumble, our body fails us.  For the first time we realize our mortality, we see what has been invisible to this point.  The clock of our lives is finite; seconds, minutes, hours, days and years are ticking by ever faster.  There is no reset, and zero hour is coming up fast.
I never knew fear until my body failed me.  I was never afraid of the long dark nights.  I slept well.  I went about my daily tasks, not caring about my portion of life.  I lived.  Right up until I started to die.  My body was at war with itself.  As the battles raged, I found myself in a hospital bed, facing the inevitable; with no other choice, I jumped. With zero options, surgery was the only way out.  The medications were administered, I was anesthetized, and the doctors operated. I remember waking, being relieved that the journey to the west had not ended.  I would see another dawn.
My memories are foggy about that time.  They are distorted by the pain medication, and even the pain itself.  Nightmares still haunt me, even a year later.  Fear, confusion, doubt hound me.  There are days where I am paralyzed by weakness.  Sleepless nights, frustrated days, and the constant pain of rehabilitation, I am still hurt by this betrayal of the flesh.  I am stunned by my mortality. The physical scars have healed, but they still transect my body and are visible.  They are the first thing that I see when I use the bathroom mirror.  Some days, they don’t take my breath away.  Other days, I am still shocked by them, an eternal reminder of the time my body betrayed me.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hold Fast

One of my favorite movies is the often maligned “Master and Commander: The Far Side of The World”.  I think it is about the most accurate depiction of life at sea on board a Royal Navy Frigate during the Napoleonic Wars as can be produced.  In one of the scenes is an old Jack Tar who has seen many years before the mast.  Wizened and carved by the elements, this old salt has tattooed across his hands the words, “Hold Fast”.  In his age, he had to, just to survive. He held fast to the rigging, else he would have fallen to his death many a time.  He had seen the roughest life could be, and yet he was still ticking along.

So, why the reference; have you been watching the news lately?  Our nation is before the mast; we are facing the highest winds, the most frightening waves, we are storm tossed, rudderless.  The helm of state is hard over all the way, but we cannot turn.  Like the Titanic, we face nothing short of icy Armageddon.  This is not about politics. I am not being political. The facts present themselves, I am merely interpreting them.

If you except my interpretation, then as chaos erupts about us, what should you do? As the old Jack Tar said, you hold fast.  You hold fast to those truths that are irrefutable, you hold fast to those things which will lift you up, you hold fast to those people who will stand with you.  If you are a person of faith, hold fast to that.  If you are a skeptic, hold fast to that.  Pragmatism, honest questioning, fair play, the essentials of human decency are our rigging, and we are going to hold fast to them.

Nations will rise and fall, the sea of history is one of conflict and turmoil, with brief moments of glacial calm.  As the ship that is our nation is tossed about in the storms of economic chaos, we must hold fast.  We must hold fast to our freedom, we must hold fast to justice, we must hold fast to our reason.  When we are beset by storms, and the inexplicable events of life, it is our reason, the sapient part of our humanity, which must prevail.  It is too easy to just surrender to the insanity, too simple to let go and stop fighting.  The hardest thing to do is to hold fast.

Yes, our muscles ache. Yes, our calloused hands are bleeding.  Yes, we are tired.  But if we let go we will die.  We will die as sure as if we had fallen from the rigging.  Freedom and prosperity are not easy, they are hard won.  They require focus and management, they need tending.  Our moral imperative is to maintain what was given to us for the next generation, so they can bring it forward to the next. This is the way of things.

So what do you do when the rain falls from the sky, the seas rise from their depths, and the very pillars of heaven shake?  As the man says, “You’d better hold fast.”