The road that led to the man I am today was riddled with debris and fallen rocks left over from some act of god that was carried out in an effort to spite all those that traversed it. Looking back now, it’s easy to make out the obvious but easy path forward but there and in those moments, in that life, I was blind.
Blind, ignorant, or too stupid and full of pride to take the road most traveled and join the ranks of my peers that seemed to have an easier time integrating into the world that I didn’t belong in.
From an outsiders point of view now it seems that the choices that I made to suffer and tear myself from the teat of comfort and ease were the right ones all along. I’ve heard that no man is truly a man until he’s had his mettle tested against forces greater than him.
His own trial by fire.
I remember clearly the days in the desert where my lungs heaved as if filled with ash as the sun and it’s unyielding glare beat down against my bare back like a masters lashes from some from the cosmos.
Still to this day I can feel the weight of the iron hammer in my hands. The shock ringing through my very bones as it crashed upon the dirty concrete like waves, urged on by some invisible force.
Every strike drew blood from the torn callouses on my palms leaving a red spatter on the burning sands that disappeared into the red earth as the westerly winds churned the landscape.
Every nerve in my body screamed in primal rage as I fought down the demons that tempted me with comfort should iIonly kneel. The smiling demons were like modern shylocks with the vig always in their favor, getting in return far more than they would ever give to desperate men.
It was always a bargain. Some offer of solace in exchange for a piece of your soul. If I’m being honest, there were times when the price of my soul seemed worth those thirty pieces of silver and not even the fear of the rope did anything to try to discourage me.
It wasn’t fear of death, damnation, or bodily harm that stopped the deal with the devil. It’s was a pair of eyes. Eyes that looked straight through me and into the bleak and dead future. Eyes that burned into mine, that were of mine.
Every waking moment was a war fought to reject the bargain, taking the hard road that would only bring me more pain in the moments when all I wanted was for it all to stop. I had to make peace with the pain, make it my ally if I was going to become strong enough to kill the weakness that led me into the desert back in the beginning.
Pain is the ally of all men. The ancient levy we proudly impose upon ourselves as the means to guild our armor, our scarred and gnarled flesh that lays out the map of our meaning, our purpose in this world.
Modern men don’t get this and think it old and outdated, as if their insidious on-tap gratification is doing anything more than watering down their very essence.
I suppose I didn’t understand it all that much myself back then. It was the ease and comfort that I ran toward not knowing that it would be my Brutus.
It’s was only after the betrayal by comfort did I learn the value of pain, of struggle, of the fight to break chains placed around my neck by a world that demanded I bend and bow to the weakness and soft handedness of those that could not and will not ever make the hard choices.
In the end, it’s only the ones that can stand in the face of pain and smile, that can make the hard choices that truly know themselves.