Restlessness gnaws at my sense of devotion to the “career” I’m saddled with. I begin each day, or night, they’ve become interchangeable, with a renewed hope that I may find inspiration or a type of primitive beauty in what I do. These hopes are dashed quickly however; as I trudge to my car to begin the eternal plod towards mediocrity I endure with the dawn of each evening. P.T. Barnum, showman and eccentric he was, stated, and forgive me for paraphrasing, that a man will amount to naught and will inevitably fail should he be employed in a profession that God had not ordained for him. And this, my audience, is certainly not my divinely ordained vocation.
I always joke with friends and acquaintances that I was blessed with 3 gifts only; writing, math, and hand balancing. At first glance, if ones perspective is restricted solely to the surface, only the middle occupant of this list would amount to anything fruitful. My propensity for numbers has won me splendid amounts at the card table, so it would be a logical leap of deduction to assume that I would pursue a career as an accountant, actuary or engineer of some type. I may yet follow one of those roads, though, at 26, I am indeed not growing any younger. Which is a blessing, of course, as you couldn’t bribe me with millions to return to the relative infancy of my early 20’s. Life is meant to be lived after, pain, suffering, and resulting illumination included.
The beauty of vagaries and platitudes is in their utility. If something is not etched solidly and unflinchingly in concrete, then it can be adapted and formed around any problem chance may hoist upon us. Writing is, at initial appearance, ancient and unerring, confined to the page alone, lifeless until a zealous reader breathes life into slumbering words. But, this singular gift has granted me the ability to communicate effectively in numerous situations. I don’t fear speaking to strangers or crowds, and can strike up conversations with unknown people easily, a byproduct of a predilection for words and the ease of manner and quiet confidence only a poet’s intuition for language can carry. I’ve already touched on the benefits of familiarity with numbers, the “language of the universe”, as my Father pointed out acutely many times during my tumultuous adolescence.
Hand balancing is an ancient art, and that is a declaration made without hyperbole or exaggeration. Acrobatics have been recorded in the tales and inscriptions of nearly every civilization in the Old World since the dawn of written history. Flash forward to the 1800’s, my personal favorite era as far as titanic strength and vibrant health is concerned, and all Iron Men and Women were well versed in not just hand balancing, but gymnastics on the high bar, pommel horse, and vault. Physical culture was in its prime, and its adherents populated a seemingly endless list. What a time to be alive! I like to believe that with my gifts, the talent I’ve sharpened and skills that I’ve gained, I honor these forbearers with passion and ardency. My strength and endurance have insulated me against unemployment as far as I see it on a primal level, both in the military and out. It’s sad to say in some aspects, considering the amount of schooling I’ve slogged through and endured, but there will always be encumbering cargo to be transported, exhausting labor to be completed, and flapping jaws to be broken. I’ll cut this short right here.
We all aspire to be giants of our paths, powering through uncertainty with the finesse of the promised. But what exactly awaits us beyond that ever present horizon? Bruce Lee said that plateaus were meant to be surpassed, not rested upon. If we set limits upon what we do, then surely that despicable habit will spread from our fitness and academics into our social, professional and private lives. Arnold Schwarzenegger instructed for us to strive constantly, to conquer and scale ever higher mountains, if only to bathe in the rejuvenating rays available solely to those who have tamed their inordinate fears, banished the bane of their procrastination, and ignored the lullaby of laziness to witness the peaks of those challenges. But it begs a simple question, one that plagues us all in our darkest, most lonely moments. When does it all end?
My wrists grow thick and sturdy, taking on the appearance of small logs, widening into imposing, sinewy forearms. The skin covering the heels of my palms becomes rough and calcified, a result of the constant pressure placed upon them. The veins in my hands, lining the tops before spreading like wild rivers around my fingers, are pronounced and engorged, a deepening shade of blue, an artistic and interesting contrast dancing upon my tanned skin. More reps, more sets, encumbering fatigue and ever-present exhaustion greet me as I lever my body down, feet gracing the ground for a few precious seconds. Hands poised sturdily for the full brunt of my bodyweight, I kick up, balancing in a fingertip handstand. A minute later, and it’s over. Crumpled in a heap on the floor, quaking from trapezius to fingernails, I smile. This, more than anything, is when pain courts pleasure.
Bob Marley inferred that the purpose of life is to find what is worth suffering for, since the ailment is unavoidable and expected. Maybe that’s the solace in the midst of the unerring pain, to fight the raging storm, the calamitous nature of existence itself, to bask in its comforting, soothing eye, if only for the briefest of moments. Agony, even in the most minute of doses, inoculates us from weakness, privilege, and glass-chinned aristocracy. In the words of the inimitable Quintus Curtius, even the hawk feasts on carrion.
Our purpose may be etched in stone by the omnipotent hand of God before we were even conceived in thought, let alone physically, but our free will burdens us from birth. I know not what my purpose may be exactly, but I possess an instinctual inkling of the general direction. Compass in hand, I rage against the elements, gradually killing the mortality that has confined and enslaved me, reducing every last bastion it has erected within my spirit to incontinent ashes with the raging inferno of my hatred for meaninglessness, my lust for more. In the absence of a roadmap to this world, I will forge my own path, using adversity to propel me forward like a surfer riding a leviathan of a wave. Hagalaz, rune of mastering and diverting chaos to my will emblazoned on my wrist, I am a warrior in hot pursuit of the plan for my life.