And now hear me, Mother,
What thing has seized me and I have conceived
In my heart.
I shall die, I am resolved
And having fixed my mind to die
Well and gloriously, putting away
From me whatever is weak and ignoble.
That thought occurs to me on a daily basis. Dying. I ask myself all of the time what is it that I am willing to die for… Not because I’m some hero looking for a glorious ending to cap all I’ve done. I’m just a regular guy who aspires to learn more about my life and what I’m capable of; introspection isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I just want to live my life purposefully.
I’m a husband, a father, a brother, a friend and many more things but am I brave? Are the things that I want to accomplish in my life worth doing?
Killing comes easy to a lot of people. Members of ISIS do it on a daily basis with their retarded philosophy. Not hard to do at all…Men who would kill others, and having nothing to lose, kill all the time; Afghanistan, Jordan, Mexico, and on many street corners of America; you name it and we have many blood-thirsty men who do weak and ignoble things; killing for a wrong philosophy is just one of them.
Dying comes easy but living rightly is such a harder thing to do. My interest into purpose and value has been piqued more these last few days especially after reading a few stories from the news: another brave photojournalist was killed by the Mexican drug cartels. Ruben Espinosa was his name.
“I had to come (to Mexico City) in a context of violence that journalists in Veracruz have to live under,” Espinosa said in his last recorded interview. He was murdered five days later after first being tortured by his captors. His torturers were brave, huh?
Add Ruben’s name to the same list that photojournalist Mr. James Foley, killed by ISIS, belonged to: the List of the Courageous. How about the men of Extortion 17? How about our boys in blue?
Were these men brave brave? Yes. Men who desired nothing more than to serve others.
Let me ask you something. What is your hero’s journey? What is your quest? Are you making efforts to bleed today?
Benjamin Franklin said, “Many people die at twenty five and aren’t buried until they are seventy five.” What did Ben mean by that statement? Count those days between twenty five and seventy-five. That’s 50 years. 365 days x 50 years is …1,2,3,4…wow…18,250 unfulfilling days.
18,000 days of living an existence without a purpose. And so I ask myself all the time a few questions: 1) What kind of man do I want to be? 2) Do I build relationships or do I make everything about me? 3) Am I engaged in worthy things on a daily basis? 4) What kind of legacy do I want to leave? 5) Am I making it happen?
My wife asked me today if I hang around friends who are unwilling to take advice. I told her no. I work with men who are willing to listen to wisdom as much as they are willing to dispense it. They don’t believe they have all the answers and neither do I. What I try to do is surround myself with people I can learn things from. I also try to help others learn valuable things as well. As a very imperfect person I make great efforts to check myself a lot.
I am not saying that you should subscribe to the superhero’s dream. Not all men are called to be warriors but all men (and women) can aspire to live nobly. All men can choose to live their life with right intention. All men can live making right decisions even when they feel weak. They choose to act with integrity even when they feel like doing wrong. All men can choose to serve others; that’s called brotherhood.
The worst kind of superhero dream becomes the existential nightmare when you choose to serve only yourself and instinct.
“What is life? To die? To kill myself at once? No, I am not afraid? To wait til death comes? I fear that even more. Then I must live, but for what? In order to die? And I could not escape from that circle.” Leo Tolstoy
Brilliant thinkers like Tolstoy were caught in the existential trap. Should I zig or zag? Should I live or die. Should I? Ahhh heck I’m paralyzed. Anguish! They cannot operate outside of their mental circling and so often feel a dislocation with society that is at odds with everyone else. There is a reward in this though as we benefit from the work they did for us. Though they did not feel fulfilled we can learn something from the outsiders so well depicted in books such as Colin Wilson’s the Outsider. Though they are revered in our modern culture, they largely struggled emotionally, and never felt close to humanity: Franz Kafka, Friedrich Nietzsche, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Albert Camus, T. E. Lawrence, James Fox, Vincent van Gogh just to name a few. They felt much despair and never felt that life had a way out for them.
“The whole conviction of my life now rests upon the belief that the sense of loneliness, far from being a rare and curious phenomena peculiar to myself and to a few other solitary people, is the central and inevitable fact of human existence. All this hideous doubt, despair and dark confusion of the soul a lonely person must know, for he is united to no image save the one he creates for himself. He is bolstered by no other knowledge save that which he can gather for himself with the vision of his own eyes and brain. He is sustained and cheered and aided by no party. He is given comfort by no creed. He has no faith in him except his own and often that faith deserts him leaving him shaken and filled with impotence. Then it seems to him that his life has come to nothing. Then he is ruined, lost and broken past redemption and that morning, that bright and shining morning with its promise of new beginnings, will never come upon the earth again as it once did.” Thomas Wolfe
But the life of someone who chooses to serve in the military or law-enforcement is different entirely. Who are these people? They are people who are willing to transform themselves, to be torn down in basic training, boot-camp, the academy or flight in order to become something better than they were. They are willing to serve their country instead of serving their own self-interest. I want to be clear that much value can be obtained from deep introspection. But the trap occurs because trusting in yourself so deeply rather than some higher calling to serve can be dangerous.
“The new rebel in our time is a skeptic in our society who will not trust anything. He has no loyalty; therefore he cannot be a true revolutionist. The fact that he doubts everything gets in the way every-time he wants to denounce anything. For all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind, and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution of which he denounces but the doctrine by which he denounces it.” GK Chesterton
Those who have a belief in a higher calling, such as chronicling the evils of the day, or patrolling the streets and towns on U.S. or abroad, are willing to die to get the truth out. Those who have a belief in serving others, such as the men of Extortion 17, rush into battle because they must; they are willing to die to save others. Boys in blue…we got you too. Civilization cannot function without law and order; it cannot survive without its heroes either.
There are energies slumbering in each of us. Every one of us possesses powers yet many fail to use them. We spend little time challenging ourselves in order to find out what we are capable of. We limit ourselves by fearing the unknown and by associating with those who slow us down with their disparagements rather than encouragements. Little use is made of the enormous gifts each of us is born with and little of what we obtain during our travels through life. Will you change that?
The New Year is coming. What then? Will you make a change in your life or stay where you’re at? What mountains are you going to try and climb next year, and the year after?
Throughout history in various cultures, mountains have symbolized many things: conquering, overcoming, obstacles, seclusion, progress, permanence and immovability, willpower, hard work, climbing, the battle over love, the battle over defeat and ascension. Sitting on the peak of a hill or a mountain allows us to see what is before us, and what it is that we have left behind. Do we teeter on the symbolic edge of a peak and fall back into old habits and our past or do we press on and reach higher? What will you do with your gifts?
Serving others has many benefits:
Serving others can teach you to respect others. You develop leadership skills. You learn to respect others. You learn to relate to others. You learn to understand people who are different from you. You learn to become more patient and one more, you become a better person. What did these men have in common with the others? They were willing to do something for others even if it cost them their life.
Luke 6:32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.
What are you willing to die for today? I would die for my family but that is the easy answer. Everyone will have their own answer. All I put forth to you tonight is to ask yourself what is it that you are willing to stand up for. Whatever it is, do it with all of your heart, and have no regrets. What is your hero’s journey? What is your quest? Are you making efforts to bleed today?
- Are you training in the gym to stay healthy for you and your unit
- Are you taking steps to keep your family secure.
- Are you reading books and learning new things.
- Are you being challenged by others for doing the right thing.
- Are you rescuing others from defeat.
- Are you fighting a good fight.
What do you think is worthwhile to do?
Find out what it is and let the idea seize you. Never turn back to look at what you left behind. Just keep on moving forward and try to bleed for it everyday.
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Article originally published Aug 7th, 2015