Masculinity and Courage.

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Duncan Regehr as Zorro. Source: inter

 

 

If I win – I win for all our people, if I lose — I lose only myself.

— Vassil Levski

 

The mystery that was constanty calling to me in my early childhood continued to do so while those first years rolled by. And when I began to read books and started making sense of what I saw on the television screen, I discovered that the mystery was also there — on the screen, and on the pages of those first comic-books, just as it had been in the lavish gifts of the wild nature, and the ancient stories told by those around me.

During my transition from childhood to adolescence, I found myself drawn toward the screen even more, through my favorite television shows, among which were the Highlander series, and La Piovra, or Octopus — an Italian TV series about the Mafia and a few brave souls who took a stand against it. Here, in a stark contrast with the serene world of nature, I found myself stirred in a new way; I was aroused, like I had been in my explorations and encounters with wildlife, only this time I felt less peace, and more emotion. It was as if the same unseen hand that had previously lavished the wonderful blessings of nature upon me, had now placed me in a new, more dynamic, and far more dangerous, environment — nudging me, stirring me into feeling what the heroes on the screen felt – anger, hatred for evil, defiance and a wild, self-sacrificial love for that which they defended.

It was in the Italian saga La Piovra, that I found my first hero. Corrado Cattani, the brave police inspector who relentlessly pursued and fought the Mafia, was among the first men that I admired for their heroism, nobility, and fighting spirit. New emotions, unknown to me at that time, stirred my young heart as I watched Cattani live. But never was that stirring stronger than in the moment I watched him die. The brave Cattani faced his death alone, his back against a wall; he left the world bravely staring evil in the face, in utter defiance of the masked cowards who had come to take his life. Sudden grief seized me; fear and anger gripped my young heart; I was shaken by tremors and convulsions from deep within. Confusion descended upon my mind and overcame me – how could the hero die? Why did evil prevailed in a world where everything and everyone I knew seemed to be on the side of good? Something shifted inside of me, something changed as I watched Catani breathe his last, leaning against that cold, cruel wall, his body riddled with the bullets of those who hated goodness and destroyed it. Silently, awkwardly, I suffered, hiding from my parents the uncomfortable emotions that raged within me. The sudden, unexpected death of Cattani, was my first true loss. In vain my mother, who had noticed my distress, tried to comfort me by explaining to me the ways of films and acting. To me, the story and the loss was as real as the hero whose life was depicted in it. Days, weeks, even months after watching the scene of his death, I drew picture after picture of Cattani`s last moment — with his head bowed sideways against the wall, his eyes closed on a face that did not change its grim, fierce countenance even in death. Beautiful. He was just beautiful.

I had truly lost a great friend on that day. A brave, bright soul had been extinguished by men who served an evil cause. I grieved, but shed no tears.

Cattani had died like a man — I knew that, though I knew little else besides; he had died like someone who hated evil more than he feared death. No, but he scorned death, looking at his murderers with fierce, blazing eyes, and an open face in which nobility, strength and passion merged in a splendid, divine way.

Do such things really happen, I wondered? Do people like that really live today?

* * *

Another very powerful story I immersed myself in as a boy, (besides that of Vassil Levski, of course — the idol of every Bulgarian boy) was the story of Zorro — the noble masked outlaw who defied evil, defended and protected the people from their oppressive rulers, and captured the heart of the beautiful girl.

I became acquainted with Zorro in the early 90`s, when the national television broadcast a show named The New Zorro, where the main character was played by Duncan Regehr — a man whose face, just like the face of Michele Placido who played Cattani, became a symbol of everything I wanted to see on my face one day.

I was stirred beyond words by Zorro`s powerful, yet gracious presence; I was mesmerised by his courage in the face of opposition, by his strength, speed and the graceful masculine gentleness with which he treated the women around him, especially the one he loved…

I was young, very young at the time and could have never been able to put all that to words – the strong pull from within, the call that aroused a deep part of me which I felt but could neither see nor explain. That strange urge swelled into a desire, as I watched those tales of heroism unfold on the screen before me; I longed to grow and do more — be more — and live, breathe, fight and die, in the name of love, and for some great cause. I did not know what it was I was wishing for, hoping for; I only knew that the life I wanted was very different that the life I saw around me. Looking at my surroundings and then into the other world behind the thick glass of the old television, a voiceless question was being birthed within me. A question that did not come out into the light until decades later:

Why is the life we live so different that the life we desire?

There, in the safe nest of my childhood, I was not aware of any search for meaning, or even the feelings of sadness, nostalgia, and inadequacy, that had already began their treacherous unseen work within me. But I was deeply impacted by the black-clad man who embodied the beautiful, noble, and gallant warrior-spirit I so longed to possess.

Without words or even thoughts, I wondered: could I be a man like Zorro one day?

Even though the greatest blows which would soon descend upon my heart were yet to come, I felt a barb in that question, and a faint trace of shame pierced me; I began to suspect, albeit vaguely, that its answer could be disappointing.

Do not ask that again, it seemed to say. Do not open Pandora’s box.

Yet, I persisted. My dreams lifted me higher than the world around me, and my imagination gave me wings.

Could I, like Zorro, face a group of villains and, draw my sword and use it, with graceful speed, uninhibited by fear, free from paralysing dread?

Could I, like him, gaze into a beautiful woman’s eyes, and talk to her gently, opening the door of my feelings, not with shame, but with a smile — a tender smile, but manly and even roguish.

Could I be like him — slender but strong, sure-footed, and utterly confident in himself — so much so, that he even dared step in to defend others.

Could I?

As my hungry eyes took in all that played out before me, a sense of hope arose within me. This wild hope was something new, but felt very old; it was a feeling unreasonable and totally impossible to explain…

Perhaps I could indeed, be such a man one day.

And with all of my heart, I wished for that to be true. I longed for the day when life will offer me a chance to be like Zorro.

I did not know how the world would one day treat my heart; I was only a boy, and I believed.

* * *

‘If people bring so much courage to this world’ — Ernest Hemingway once wrote — ‘the world has to kill them to break them…’

There is much courage in the heart of every baby boy brought into this world. Much courage, and much strength. But it must be drawn out, nurtured, and trained — or it will remain weak and hidden; it will be stifled, darkened, and broken.

‘The world breaks every one’ — continues one of the most popular authors of all times — ‘and afterward many are strong in the broken places.’

We have all been born to be courageous; and we have all been  broken.

May you have the courage to rouse the lion that sleeps within you. He is your goodness and your strength; he is your very masculine essence — this is who you once longed to be, and this is who you are still…

Courage.

 

 

 

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Masculinity – Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. Part 2

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Most people today would agree that the world desperately needs to see and experience a new kind of masculinity; and, I think, most men would agree, too.

Today, men do not need any more exhortations to do better; most of us are already labouring under the heavy load of externally imposed values, expectations, stereotypes, accusations, and the deep desire to be different, that seems to find no fulfilment in the world, no matter how hard one searches.

I do not mean to suggest that there is no proper use for such things; but if they are put before what matters most, they can enslave the soul, instead of liberate it.

The tough, hairy man of the past, and the sensitive, eco-friendly man of the present, are but mere images, false ideologies that only drive the masculine soul deeper into bondage. As a result, few men today are truly free – one needs look no further than the TV screen and the news headlines…

Or the mirror.

Like every utopian idea, the false masculine icons of the past and the present have strands of truth woven through them: it is indeed good for men to be stronger, and it is good for them to be more caring…

But we must beware.

‘’And oftentimes, to win us to our harm, the instruments of darkness tell us truths,’’ said Shakespeare in his dark, bloody Macbeth; and continued:

‘’Win us with honest trifles, to betray’s in deepest consequence.’’

A grave warning indeed – not a mere verse of dead prose, but a call, echoing from within the stone walls and the dark dungeons of the past centuries; a call we must heed, if we want to survive…

Because, more often than not, today as ever before, deception works through good intentions; it speaks to the heart and appeals to its desires and passions – only to betray it later.

We must never forget that Hitler did not force his way to power – he was elected. We must remember that the most brutal, murderous tyrants in history, used deception long before they reached for the sword. And even after they had revealed their true faces, they were still wanted by many people; they were even loved by them.

Not too long ago, as Communism came to power in little Bulgaria, most of the population rejoiced. They rejoiced, even when some of their own friends and neighbours disappeared without a trace, and soundless whispers of dark deeds slithered through locked doors at night. They rejoiced, even while rich landowners, scientists, artists and thinkers, suffered and died at the hands of those who claimed to love their motherland and her people. Yes, it was no Soviet invasion that so darkened the sky above the little sunny Balkan state; when the Red army marched in, they did not come as enemies…

And when the killings began in earnest, it was not Russian hands that dripped with the innocent blood of so many – it was those who served the people, who were mercilessly killing them. The sons of the land were dying at the hands of their own brothers – sometimes, literally…

But how was such monstrosity chosen? And why was it allowed to endure for so long?

Utopia – this is what, I think, lies behind all other reasons. The human heart longs for prosperity and peace; it is our make-up, our deepest desire. And so, well-meaning ideas, by well-meaning people, were wrapped in promises and presented to the people, most of whom, longing for peace, unity, and life with no class-system, hierarchy, or oppression, took the bait and swallowed the lie…

And, even after decades of blood and oppression – even after thousands of brutal examples of the very inequality and injustice they had once fought against and voted against – they refused to turn back, refused to see…

Even though they were normal people. Good people. Hard-working people.

More love, more compassion, more unity and peace – is this a bad thing?

No, but beware. Beware…

For in this world of ours, things are seldom what they seem; and if the innocence of the dove is not joined by the serpent’s craftiness, deception often comes, and does its secret work unseen, in the dark…

* * *

The dark, disturbing events I have mentioned above, are used merely as examples of how good ideas and good values can serve an evil purpose, if individual thinking, inner sense of calling and purpose, and personal responsibility, is abandoned. The difference between the unwritten laws that set the external standards of masculinity – strength yesterday, compassion today – and the iron rules of Communism, are only the amount of blood that is spilled, while people are trying, and failing, to adhere to those dogmas. In the case of oppressive political regimes, the blood is real, and the bodies are still being counted. In the case of the unseen, but no less harsh, rules imposed upon men, death mainly happens at the level of the soul; it is the death of joy, death of relationships, and death of the men’s connection with their own true selves – the selves most of them freely enjoyed and expressed when they were still little boys…

As I write this, I am tempted to say that, yes, while many have suffered from the harsh rules of the cult of masculinity and its various expressions through the ages, at least there had been no blood…

Comparing that to Communism would be ridiculous, I say to myself, and prepare to erase the whole paragraph above.

And then I hesitate, and stop. And the blood begins to flow.

And I see before me thousands of dead bodies: those killed in all the school shootings, and all the other senseless crimes of violence across the world. And, sadly, that is only the tip of the iceberg…

Terrorism. War. Oppression.

We would be dangerously naïve to assume that this same phenomenon – that external ‘’moral code’’ of masculinity, in all its shapes and forms – has played no part in the blood that has flown, is still flowing, and is yet to flow, under the beautiful blue skies of the planet we all call home.

We would be fools to say such a thing. And sooner or later, fools pay for their foolishness.

We need change. And we need it soon.

* * *

Unfortunately, many times when change occurs in the world, it is often external, the replacement of a set of rules with a new one. I believe that, just like our inherent desire for a world of prosperity and peace – an idyllic Eden – which are not bad desires at all, we humans also have the tendency to avoid the hardships of personal responsibility, and the toil of discovering of one’s own unique design, the hidden potential and its realisation. I think that, this tendency, for the most part, is in fact rooted in the longing for Eden, and so, is it not harmful by itself. However, when not engaged head-on and overcome, it can lead the individual to a lifestyle of compromise, which might evolve into emotional and spiritual numbness, and then give birth to corruption – and this is the best scenario. An example of the worst one would be tyranny and oppression; after all, dictators seem to be elected by groups of people who are either willingly avoiding the pain of knowing themselves and thinking for themselves, or are too desperate to care. Mostly, it is the second; sometimes, it is both.

And so, one tyranny replaces another; Communism replaces Fascism, and the old macho-man god of our fathers, is overthrown and replaced by the god who demands obedience through openness, sensitivity, and care – no matter how one might feel.

No matter how one might suffer inside.

* * *

Yet, there is a better way. It is a narrow, rocky path, cut through dark valleys and forbidding mountains…

But it is the only way to true freedom – the only way to true masculinity.

Through years of being alongside men of various ages, and through the pain of my own journey of regaining inner wholeness, I have found that every man has within himself, no matter how deeply buried, a heart – that is to say, an inner self – which is good, and filled with all that the man has ever wanted to be. There is the strength that the insecure men of the past have desperately tried to find in machismo and bar fights; there is the compassion, love, and care – for the fellow humans, and for the animals as well – that many men of today are so passionate about. In the heart, there is much glory – it has unique expressions of creativity, as well as strength; it has deep wells of wisdom, love, and knowledge of justice – all spoken in the language of that one man, all marked with the fingerprint of that one soul. There is no evil in the heart, no violence in the deepest core of being.

But rarely, if ever, are people fully connected. Rarely, if ever, are men so healed, that they are one with their heart – the self which they once knew, while it still shone it those first years, and have since lost.

‘’Comfortably numb’’ – well-fed, and devoid of passion. Lost in anger and crime. Lonely and enslaved by their dark sexual demons. Corpses that have not yet died, and time-bombs, waiting to explode.

Poor beggars, starving and diseased, while sitting on bags full of gold – this is what we all are; we do not hear the cries of the child within, we do not heed the call of the heart that is not yet dead…

Instead, we run away, and live tragic lives. Too readily we turn from truth and hate the only thing that can make us human – the heart, and all its treasures.

* * *

How then, can we get to those treasures? How can we connect to the source to all that is good, the place where all true masculinity comes from? Where do we find the dark and rocky road, so that we can walk on it?

Unfortunately, the answer that I have found to be true is contained in a single word – a word filled with potency, darkness and horror…

Pain.

Yes – the doors of our hearts behind which the best treasures are hidden, are shut down and barred, sealed by pain and guarded by horrifying darkness, anger and grief, and self-protection mechanisms – it is a sick, oppressive system, a system many have accepted to be their character, their trie self, their lot in life…

But we must know that, as in the fairy tales, the most precious gold is often guarded by the most hideous monsters – monsters that can be slain.

Monsters that must be slain.

I have found that those men who walk in the direction of their pain are noble; those who endure further and reach the source of their pain are heroic, and those who grit their teeth and press on, all the way to the other side, are transformed.

The men who reach such transformation are not only able to recover their lost strength and courage, but they are also able to embrace the heart of the child they once were – the little boy who had been rejected as weak and unmanly, the young keeper of all the love and compassion that the world today so needs to see in men.

By taking the narrow road, men become boys again – but only if they are willing.

By stooping low, men become raised to unseen heights, as those boys are slowly integrated into the whole being, as they are nurtured and ‘’grow up’’ to finally be the men they wanted to become before they were cut off by rejection, self-hatred, or other forms of trauma and abuse.

True masculinity should come from the heart; the boy inside must be liberated, and embraced by the man who once so hated him.

Only then – when every man is no longer divided within himself – will the world rest from radical division and hatred. Only then – when every man truly knows, loves and values himself – will the world know peace.

But it is pain, that we must desire, and not just an easy way out.

* * *

‘’You need to do better, or you’re not a man!’’ shouts the man of the past and kicks the fallen, wounded boy, in the ribs. ‘’Man up, and get up!’’

‘’You are acceptable and good, just as you are,’’ smiles the modern man and extends a hand to the wretched, hurting boy. ‘’You just need to love others as you love yourselves – and what’s not to love? You are perfect!’’

Yes – you are that boy. And so am I.

He does not need the brutal training of manhood – perhaps it would have helped him, if he had been whole, but now it makes his state worse.

He does not need just to be accepted, and be accepting of others – not in the state he is in now; he would have naturally been accepting and loving, if he had been whole.

He needs wholeness, and everything else can be added to him later – and everything else might well be needed, in different amounts, in different areas of his life. But wholeness comes first; the heart comes first.

May all of us men have the courage to face the darkness within, and find the hidden gold, before we look for monsters out there in the world.

 

 

 

 

 

Masculinity: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

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We did not come to remain whole.
We came to lose our leaves like the trees,
The trees that are broken
And start again, drawing up on great roots…

— Robert Bly, A Home in Dark Grass

 

 

In the past, the most widely accepted standard for men (as well as women) in Europe and the West was, generally, the successful application of certain rules and principles. One of the most fundamental of them was communicated with the exhortation to ‘man up’, or ‘toughen up’ – to show no fear, even no emotion, in the face of danger; to get the job done; to be reliable, and ‘stable’. The society of the past, almost always dealing with one crisis or another, had indeed a great need of men who were strong, efficient, and determined. Thus, the characters played by John Wayne and Clint Eastwood, Sylvester Stalone and Arnold Schwarzenegger – these, and many other famous Hollywood icons, became archetypes of true masculinity, and the term ‘real man’ stood for that kind of men – tough, serious, skilled, and fully able to live up to their ‘warrior’ image. They embodied the spirit of the ‘old generation ‘ men – those who lived and fought through the World Wars. The majority of those men never shared their true feelings with others, even with those closest to them. In the face of danger, they rarely acknowledged the presence of fear, even to themselves, and simply tried to ‘do what they had to do’, with no fuss, and no drama.

Those were the men of the ‘stiff upper lip’; the tough, hard-working men who lived a life of service to country, family, and justice, while seeking no glory to themselves.

In recent years, Western culture is seeing a rapid decline in the need for the ‘tough guy’ persona; as more and more living ideals of masculinity fail their followers by revealing a history of violence, abuse, shady deals, or sexual misconduct, the world looks away in disappointment and disgust. The icons of masculinity fall under the hammer of media and justice, and nobody cares to pick up the pieces…

The world today knows that, under the brawny, weather-beaten surface of traditional manhood, things are not always what they seem to be from the outside. By now, most of us are certain that we have seen enough of those ‘real men’ – the men whose so-called masculinity often did more damage than good…

And so, we have turned away from the rules and the principles that uphold strength, honour and courage; we aimed to create new rules and new principles, and to forge a new man out of the ashes of the old one, who was burned at the altar of our righteous anger at the injustices caused by that ‘old school’ masculinity.

The idea of the ‘modern man’ is realised through the application of those new rules and principles; they largely revolve around issues like the need for more sensitivity, and less aggression – in men – and the need for gender equality and greater consideration of the rights of women – in society. Much like its predecessor – the ‘tough man’ of the past, the ‘modern man’ is led by rules and principles that demand of him to ‘soften up’ and be more ‘open-minded’ and ‘considerate of others’. Through these rules and principles society exhorts the ‘modern man’ to be more gentle and compassionate, to care for the environment, to be more accepting of other cultures and religions, and, when all is said and done – to be less like the man of the past…which perhaps means, to be less like his father.

It is clearly evident that, in each case, there appears to be an emphasis of the need of certain qualities in men: in the old, wartime years, they were related to strength, resolve, toughness and reliability, while the modern age calls for more compassion, sensitivity, openness, and understanding. And so it seems that, whenever each of those quality groups are in demand of the current society, standards of masculinity are set by that society, and the rules and principles of that version of masculinity are used to generate the desired outcome. In the past, men had to be tough, and failing to live up to that standard, resulted in shame and exclusion: the boy who failed to win the competition on the playground, or was unable to stand up and defend himself against a bully, walked home with his head hanging low. The modern age, though far more accepting of failure and sensitive to need, is nevertheless doing the same thing: it criticises the ones who do not conform to its standards, and ostracises them, often labeling them with names and epithets that brand and stigmatise their reputation, just like shame and inadequacy once branded and stigmatised the men who could not live up to the expectations and standards of their time.

It is therefore clear that each one of those societies, driven by certain needs and agendas, seeks to exclude parts and fragments of masculinity that it has no need for, while accepting and developing the ones that it needs. Men’s true needs, and indeed, their true selves, are neither considered nor, in fact, accepted, as the political forces of their current reality are unleashed against them, driving them to either behave in the only accepted way, or be marginalised forever.

The biggest problem with both of those ways of living – the demand for toughness in the past and sensitivity in the present – is that they are based in external needs and expectations, rather than knowledge. The external rules and principles of each version of masculinity are used to enforce the external behaviour of the men who live under them, which in turn, yields external results in the lives of men and those around them. External models, rules and principles, as good as they might be on their own, do nothing to address and honour the individual reality of each man’s life; it might achieve obedience and adherence to its laws, but it does so by being no different from a cruel taskmaster who cares only for the result of his slaves’ hard work, and nothing for the slaves themselves.

It is therefore fitting to say that the widely accepted models for masculinity, both in the past and in the present, have been merely external, and could not offer any hope for those who happened to fall outside their rigid boundaries. Those who had naturally found themselves within them, and have found their laws easy and even pleasurable to keep and uphold, could only thank God for being the way they were; by the same token, those who have gained acceptance by striving hard to hide their true desires and tendencies, could only be grateful for not being exposed as impostors. Lastly, those who had neither the abilities nor the desire to fit in, could only suffer in silence, resentful and angry at fate for the hand they had been dealt, and bitter toward all who had fared better than themselves.

If we take masculinity to be, like femininity, a thing of a much deeper nature and significance than its external, purely physical expression and behaviour, we must acknowledge that modifying that behaviour will produce little or no results in transforming the inner reality of the addressed individual. And if we know something about people in general, we will see that most of them would be far more attracted by living a life of quality, well-being, and inner satisfaction, than being drawn to a life of endless attempts to adhere to external doctrines. Unfortunately, the history of humanity shows very little knowledge of this truth; too much desire for collectivism on one side, and the ‘every man for himself’ strategy on the other, has left little room for the pursuit of deeper, individual truth, and has simply offered humanity better ways of hiding behind masks. The deeper nature of being a human – in this case, a male human – has been treated as something like a set of mere habits and rituals, the altering of which has been thought able to provide us with the success that only inner transformation can bring.

So, if we say that the two most popular models for masculine behavior have failed, we must look for a third option.

When the external approach fails, it must be replaced, either with another one of the same kind, or with something better, something deeper.

The superficial address of masculinity has failed, and will fail again, because it ignores the very thing masculinity is rooted in – the inner being, the heart.

If we want to change the face of masculinity, and alter its behavior, we must first take a good look at its heart; it is the heart that must be re-discovered and redeemed, and it is the heart that must be honored, healed, and brought back to life. When men are in touch with their hearts, and when those hearts are truly free to be what they were designed to be, masculinity will at last present itself to the world in its glorious fullness.

Only then will the world begin to fully live; only then will we be finally able to forge a brand new future for ourselves and our children – a redeemed generation that would never commit the wasteful sins of their fathers, but would instead use their toxic fumes as fuel, to propel itself into a golden age of freedom and peace never witnessed by any of the generations before.

But if men are to recover their hearts, if we are to create this golden future, we must first take a deeper journey – a journey of healing; and if we are to be healed, we must first face our sickness.

It is a sickness of the heart, and the cure is received only by those who are brave…

 

You are brave.

 

 

 

 

 

To receive, one must let go first…take your mask off, you will find pain and treasure underneath…

The Father. The Power. The Wound.

baby-22194_960_720When a father and son spend long hours together we could say that a substance almost like food passes from the older body to the younger. The contemporary mind might want to describe the exchange between father and son as a likening of attitude, a miming, but I think a physical exchange takes place, as if some substance was passing directly to the cells. The son`s body – not his mind – receives, and the father gives this food at a level far bellow consciousness.

Robert Bly — Iron John: A Book About Men

 

 

I had always wanted to be like him.

He was a good man, a strong man; he was a man who did not shy from telling it as it is, and did not let bad people get away with their badness.

But now I know. I know the truth…

He could not love me, and he never did. He could protect, and he could provide — but he could never father me. My little body needed his big body; my boyish skin longed for his touch — in an embrace, or a wrestling match…

I did not see what he failed to give me, for how can one sees what is not there? But I grew with a lack, a void, an emptiness of soul; and I knew I would never be a man like him. Yet this is what I have always wanted, in a deep and primal way, far beyond the reach of reason…I wanted him, and I wanted to become like him.

After boys are born, they do not become men; they must be made men. That ‘making’ happens through the active intervention of the father, as Robert Bly once put it. In other words, we must be loved into manhood, in those precious first years, and then trained and initiated into it.

But love comes first.

Masculine love is the baseline of manhood.

The father’s love is the power that works within the boy and spurs him on to do more and be more, later in life. The lack of it…well, you probably know its effects…

I certainly do.

Not being able to give me what he himself had not been given, the great man left me with a deep hole in the chest, and a deep question:

am I a man?

The question came from the curious, hurting soul, and my wounds provided the merciless answer:

No. 

You will never be a man; you must pretend and cover your weakness…do not let them see the child within — do not even allow yourself to see him.

They whispered dark and dreadful things to my young and trembling soul. In my weakness, I believed them; in my fear, I obeyed.

Kill him and bury him. 

And I did.

Then I wondered, year after year, why I was so hollow inside — why the sex, the drugs, and all the falsehood and pretense, failed to make me alive, save for a few fleeting moments?

Inside, I wept for the boy, and I searched for him — an orphan, searching for his lost life, the family he has never known…

Or a murderer, searching for his victim in repentance.

A father holds a great power over his son, a power to make or break him with his words or with his absence. Harsh words, or the lack of words; scornful look or an absent smile — it all pierces, and it all kills…

How can you, years later, give to your family from a full heart? How can love overflow from a soul in which love has never been poured? How can you be strong and make strong decisions, if you have never been trained and fathered into manhood; if your empty, father-starved heart has either been shut down — abused and pushed out into the world — or left alone in the dark, forever waiting to receive that which only a man can give…

That which only a father can give.

A grim message, to be sure, but it is not the end of the story — only its beginning.

I will not ask you if you are ready, only if you are willing…

Are you willing?

Have you suffered enough inadequacy, shame, and emptiness?

If you have, good.

This is your time; this is your chance to re-write your story.

 

The father-wound must be entered, for beneath it lays a golden heart; the pain of the past must be re-lived, for only then it could be healed.

Do not fear.

You are not alone.

 

 

 

 

 

A Story. A Heart.

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I’m standing before my old high school
It’s been 10 years since I touched the door
But to heal the old pain we must face it again
So I’ll walk down that hallway once more

David Wilcox, Last Chance Waltz

 

 

The following story is from the life of a boy – a boy who once lived and now lives again. It is a story the telling of which I will leave to him, for it is his story and it is best that he tells it. Hear him now…

 

 

The Lost Heart

 

Life was slow in the village. But life was also fun, and full of hope. At that time, American films and television shows, as well as most of the other foreign programs had only been in the country for a few years, but I did not know that. I simply enjoyed them. In those days I took everything for granted, and oh, how happy I was. It is only now, after some time in the darkness, that I can see clearly how sick the world around me has been; it is only now that I can see my own sickness.

But this is now, and I will not speak of the present. This story is about my past and I must tell it well…

As I said, life was quite slow once. Slow, before it got faster, and very fast, before it slowed down again. Back in those first slow times, I was a king. I was the prince of my little world; I was the center of the universe.

You see, one of my problems was that I was too sheltered. Nothing big was happening at the time I was born; the war of my grandfather had been fought and won long ago, and the war of my father – that endless striving for staying afloat – was being fought for me at that very time, and all I had to do was feed of the spoils.

At the time when I was still locked inside myself, confused and self-obsessed, my father had already started working and had been expelled from five schools; never for doing badly at his studies, mind you, but always for fighting. He was a beast, my dad, just the opposite of me. At the age of fifteen, I already knew that I was not a man like him. I knew, deep down in that mysterious place where knowledge is turned into understanding, that I will never become a man worthy of my own respect, and the respect of anybody else.

I was, in other words, a loser.

When the other, normal boys kicked the football and ran around like maniacs, screaming and hollering at each other, I stayed away from them – I could not do that; neither of those things were natural for me. Most of my attempts at being an athlete ended with the others jeering at me and mocking me, and even though we did not have any really ‘bad kids’ in our village, the others` opinion about me, as being a not-quite-like-them type of guy, filled me with self-pity, bitterness, and resentment. I was no good and I knew it. I know now, I can see it, that I was inwardly comparing myself to my old man, that I was trying to race against him as I was growing up. But this was one race I could not win, and the knowledge of this deepened with every passing year, until that one night, when it finally cemented itself over my heart, freezing my dreams and stifling my true voice. From that night, I began to change.

From that night, I began to die.

You see, we were never close, me and him, and I always wondered why. Why was it that everything I did was not good enough for him? Why was it that we never enjoyed any time together, apart from the times when I helped him, quite fearful and anxious, with his chores around the house? Why was it that he always expected me to be ‘strong’ and not allow anyone to ‘push me around’, to be as he had once been and do as he had once done?

Did he not see that, while he loved sports, I loved reading; did he not see that while he was strong, I was weak; did he not hear me when I woke up at night, screaming with terror, waiting for the embrace that never came?

He was my hero, yes, and I held him up as a standard – no, as a god that must be pleased and appeased. ‘What would dad do if he was here’ – this is what I always asked myself, deep down in that forgotten chamber, the place that is abandoned and shut up in most people. Yes – but I was not like them. He was more like them; he has shut the door within, and could now simply live and be, undisturbed by what people thought about him, knowing he was always in the right…

And in the right he was, quite often. This was what made it very hard to know the truth; this was what made it impossible for me not to adore him.

This was also why, in that deep and secret place, I hated and feared him.

He was not my father. I had no dad. He was my king and my god; he was also the slayer of my soul.

I am getting too deep again, and this was not my intention. It was the facts that I was after, not all the stuff behind them. I must forget, I know, but I cannot help it; I have been cursed with deeper vision and a bleeding heart. And death; I have been cursed with a slow and painful death. It began on the night I was telling you about.

I was fifteen…

On that night, I was wearing a black T-shirt which was stamped with the name of The Prodigy and had the terrifying face of their frontman Keith Flint on the front – you see, back in 1999 they were my favorite band. In those times I devoured their music like a ravenous teenage beast; in return, they gave me hope. I hoped that, after my immersion into the world of music, after my entrance in the local party scene (though you could hardly use that term for what used to take place in that little rural community), the others will forget my clumsiness as an athlete and my weakness as a person; I hoped they will forget that I was what I hd always known myself to be, even before that day – a weakling and a pushover, a boy not worthy of his father`s name. And my hoping, it seemed, worked, at least for a while.

It was my sense of humor, I think, that began to turn the tides; it was that good-hearted desire to simply have fun and be the life of the party (but that only when there were none of the more serious males around) that made me a good companion, liked from both boys and girls. And it was in those years – the time between the end of my first decade and the half of the second – that I was at my happiest. You see, I was a believer back then, a true believer in the ‘live and let live’ philosophy. And because, in those few short years, I had finally achieved the nirvana of my adolescence – that living when I, left undisturbed by all, disturbed none – I was as happy as anyone could be.

Life was good and the world held promises. There were treasures, I began to discover, riches hidden in the darkness of life; there were jewels hidden under the cloak of night, gems that I could not see in the daytime. The eyes of the girls shone like precious stones, reflecting the light of the moon, the stars, and the projectors in the restaurant that turned into a nightclub every weekend. And that was when my weapons, those tools forged to secure my survival in the world, were most used. A fighter I could not be – this I knew only too well – and my nice-ness overflowed; I could not stand up and face another when it was called for; I could not be right and stand my ground – but I was forgiving, and I was accepting, even of those who did not want to be accepted. The stories I had read back in those lonely years, were now used for fuel, and the fire of my pretense bathed us all in its warm, seductive glow.

All was forgotten, and all was now well. I was new, and life was good again.

Until that night.

 

* * *

 

I knew the boy, of course I knew him. And he knew me too, but this did not stop him. He needed someone to fight with; he wanted to test his strength but had no courage. And so he found the perfect man to meet those needs.

After his provocation, to which I half-jokingly protested (I could not hear my voice, it was too weak and too quiet) he grew serious, and this was when my knees started shaking. I know, it Is hard to believe, but I have always been that way around other boys  – all those that seemed to be more confident, more alert, or more aggressive that I could be. And I know why…I know why now.

It was him, my father, whose image they evoked…

But it was him, my father, whose strength I needed to become a man; it was his love and his fury that I needed to face them! But how could I receive anything from him while we were so far apart? And how could I be closer to him if he was so cold and scary?

But this is now, and that was then. Now, I am strong, and I am dangerous. Then, I trembled like a leaf.

 

* * *

 

Bang!

The first blow landed on my jaw and made my head snap to the side. I saw stars and felt no outward pain, though the pain within was growing every second.

‘What have I done to you? What have I done?’

My voice sounded weak and feeble and I was disgusted with myself. Why, oh why didn`t he just kill me and get it over with.

Bang!

This time, it was my nose. My face was already burning at that time; whether with shame or pain, I could not tell.

Slowly, methodically, my assailant worked me as if I was a piece of raw meat, pounding me with his fists in sadistic, youthful delight. I did nothing to defend myself – my body felt overcome with an apathy that came from deep within, from the soul that knew well its weakness and the futility of any action I could have taken. This had been, after all, my lot in life: I was a weakling, and weaklings got beaten.

We were in the darkness behind the nightclub, at the back of the old Communist building. I had always found it comfortably dark there, but there was no comfort for me that night. The old, good things of my previously quiet life, the things I had always looked at and loved for their warm familiarity, were growing more hostile and more remote around me with every second. Even the music sounded hollow, empty and void of life. The song that shook the old place from within as I myself was being shaken from without by slow but accurate blows, was called ‘Ghetto Superstar’; its tune I will never forget. Months and years later, I played that same song at home while, trying to ‘toughen myself up’, I practiced blows and kicks on my mother`s pillows, rehearsing a dreaded confrontation with my enemies.

I don`t remember how many times he hit me, five six, or maybe ten. But I remember well the feeling of despondency that overcame me as I dragged myself back home. I was not hurt, save for one blackened eye and a reddened face, but, as far as I was concerned, I had been destroyed; I had been attacked, violated, and left for dead – left as good as dead. Yes, death was far more desirable than the fate that awaited me in the next days, months, maybe even years. I did not even know if a wholesome, happy life, the life I had just begun to find, was possible for me anymore. How would I look at my peers; how would I look at the boy who had beaten me – not with anger, as I had none; how would I look at myself – that stupid, childish self whose face I disliked ever since I could remember?

Hot with shame and inner torment, I opened the door of the house. It was not yet midnight and it was hot. My traumatized soul recoiled with horror as I realized that my father was still awake, watching the football game. It was a couple of years before the first air conditioner was installed in our house, and all doors and windows that had mosquito nets on them were opened, apart from the front door.

Inside, the man whom I respected but did not love, waited for me.

As I stepped into the television-lit room, I made a big mistake. I was a rookie in everything I did in life, no matter how long I had done it for; I was also a weakling, and weaklings never win.

Greeting my father briefly, before my eyes could meet his, I pulled the T-shirt over my head, proceeding to take it of me as I quickly walked away from the danger zone and toward the back of the room.

‘Wait,’ he said sharply, a vigilant bulldog, suddenly alert and ready, an old, battle-hardened warrior who, though wearing only his boxer shorts, was fully dressed, clad in the ageless regal robe of his grim dignity.

‘Come here and let me look at your face.’

Sheepishly, I obeyed. Had I not been humiliated enough already?

‘Who hit you?’ he asked me sternly. I looked at him. He was brimming with a scary tension that seemed to have shed fifteen years from his back. The tattoo on his chest was no longer old and grey, belonging to the past; it was now alive, and it was dreadful.

A coffin and a cross, this is what it was; and it was my coffin, and my cross.

I told him who had done it; I spoke in a hushed voice, void of emotion, void of any pain, though God knew, there was enough pain to drown us both. I was silent, dry, and broken. I felt shame but it was far from my lips; I felt sorrow but it did not touch my eyes. I was barren.

His blue eyes pierced me with fierce intent. They were for me, I knew, but I knew it in my head only. The hard blue gaze penetrated deep into the very depths of my lost, confused soul. It swept through all the masks, pretenses and defenses; like a blade, it ran through me and traveled fast down to the most secret chamber of my being, to discover emptiness and loss. I was disarmed and I was beaten, but it was not the enemy without that had done that. It was the wolf who hid under my roof; it was he who murdered my heart; it was he who drank my bitter blood.

‘Listen now son…listen to me now.’

The blue gaze was now too firm and steady, too hard and impossible to bear. I squirmed but I made no sound and did not move.

‘In the days to come’ my father began in a low, controlled voice. ‘You must find him when he is alone. And you must beat him, and beat him well.’

‘None of those brats should push you around — you must not let them!’

His voice was now raised and that dreadful tension was gripping him again, making his aged body young and brilliant with some dark, malicious potency. He was a god, and like a god, he was immortal.

‘If you let him get away with what he did to you,’ he continued, knowing little of the torment in my soul. ‘They will all try to do it, they will all think you would let them do what they like to you…’

My father`s voice dropped again; it sounded cold and unfeeling to me, like the voice of a general who sends his best troops, already beaten, starved and ravaged, back into the battle, back to their certain death; like the voice of a crime boss who orders the death of an innocent man; like the voice of a father who, intending to make his son cold and invincible as steel, cares nothing for the soul of the boy, the soul which should have been nurtured and loved before it could be hardened for battle.

There were no feelings within me, save for the shame and the confusion. I did not know what to do, or what to be, and I walked over to the end of the room and sat on a bed, making myself busy with changing my clothes. Even though it was more than twenty years ago, I still remember it all – the brown tiles on the floor, the broom in the corner, my black socks…

I think that perhaps he saw what I had no strength to utter and, I can at least hope, he sought to make things right. It was then that he drove the dagger deeper into my heart.

‘Ah, forget it…’ he said in a voice that failed to appear gracious and understanding; he could barely hide his disappointment. ‘You are not like that. You are not made for this sort of things.’

The last sentence did not even have the thin coat of pretense that clothed the previous ones; it struck its mark, clean and true to its malicious purpose.

I was dead.

There were no tears. There were no emotions. My family had never had the time and the freedom for such things. Within me, there was only emptiness and some vague, dry sorrow. Oh, but the emotion did come, and it poisoned my whole being. But it was not strong, not in that way, it did not have to be expressed and released; this was not its design. It was a hatred for myself and a burning desire to die and finally be done with. My mind formed words that my lips did not utter; instead, they floated back and forth within me and around me, keeping me numb and occupied, taking my attention away from the bloody throes of my dying heart.

 

A worm…a worm, and not a man…

Never…you will never become a man…you will never be like him…

I hate you…little, twisted, ugly boy – a boy that has not grown and will never grow…I hate your dull, ugly face, and I hate your slow, clumsy body…

Why are you still alive, worm? Don`t you know the world doesn`t want you?

I want you dead; you must not live, you hindrance, you burden, you awkward, heavy load – die and be gone forever!

I want to kill you, and raise another one in your place…you are a mistake – a mistake!

You must die.

Curse you. Curse your very life…

 

I will kill you…I cannot let you live.

 

I don`t know how long my torment lasted; maybe a minute, or fifteen minutes. But I remember that, when I finally got up and left that hot and heavy room, each slow, heavy step of my feet took me further away from everything that was good and real in my life.

A child cried in the dirt and I did not pick him up to comfort him this world is no place for children; I stomped on him and kicked him until his screams were heard no more. He is still there, rotting in the darkness, and I am still here, empty and alone.

I did not know what I was doing. None of us know…it happens too quickly, or in a slower, more secret way, but the result is always the same – we lose our heart, or we give it away. It is taken from us, or it is killed. Look around you, you who read this, or better still look in the mirror if you dare. Look at them; look at us all…

Do you see the walking corpses? Do you see the empty shells of life, the souls that are dead but are still living? Our land is full of shadows…

They were once alive but are now empty; we were once ourselves but we gave it all away without knowing. A sad story indeed, and a fate we all suffer.

No – if these wraiths are running the world, I want no part of it. There is not much more I can tell you now…you heard it all; you have seen the beginning of my downfall.

Oh, life went on, on the surface, and the seasons came and went as they did before. But in this new season, as my dying soul withered inside of me, my body grew stronger and my wish was granted — a new self was raised at last. Masks, as many as the stars over my quiet village, were put on and taken off – so very often. Hard muscles covered a heart that was too soft to be left exposed… A new regime had taken power and the great purge had begun, for this new rule had no mercy for the past. Old dreams were put to death and old desires perished. What was new was cold and gleaming and it had no truth and hope; but it had efficiency, and it had power to survive. The world no longer seemed that bad, and in the years to come, joy began its gradual return.

 

* * *

 

Oh, the smells…

The stale, dusty aroma of the white powder as it hit the nose; the scent of perfume, youth, and gentle skin; the smell of victory and triumph; the sharpness of the whisky and the sweet softness of the cocktails – it all connected, blended into one, and day after day I chased it, and I caught it. I was not like the loser Gatsby who reached pitifully for the distant green light; my life was in my hands, and I took in through my pores. I was alive – alive! The front – oh, the front was nice; it stayed nice, for I had not become a beast. Not only nice, of course, but effective too. Did I not tell you – there were exams taken and work done; names were whispered and love was pledged; there was a plan for success and a promise for life…

But let me tell you something, you who read this – it all came to nothing in the end, for I could not live without my heart. I could not love without my heart.

 

* * *

 

No more. No more…

I cannot bear it any longer.

Long have I sat into the nothingness; long has my soul suffered while I toiled day and night to heal the ache that would not heal…

I am going on a search, on a quest if you wish, and I will plunge down into the darkness. The coward does indeed die a thousand deaths and I have died many…

I will leave this live of endless dying; I will take the risk and go back into the darkness. It was there that I lost my heart, and it is there I must return…into the heart and into its pain; before the heart dies its finall death and my sentence becomes final.

There is terror that awaits me there, and this time, I will face it…

And if I live, I will tell you of my journey.

 

THE END

 

 

 

 

 

The Heart has its Reasons of which Reason Knows Nothing.

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I had no idea when exactly it had happened. At the age of two, three, or four maybe. The event surfaced during an attempt to discover the roots of the depression which had dogged my heels and darkened my days since my youth. I did not know that the constant tiredness, the gloom, the despair and the weakness, both emotional and physical, were signs of something else, some deep tension which source had never been faced…

Two days ago I lost some money. I had lost money before, of course, among other things, but on that day, things were different. The feelings of despair, sorrow and the physical weakness that swept over me, were far surpassing the reality of the current events.

Looking out through the window, I saw a young fox crouching in the grass. The fact that the fox was young, almost a baby, did something to my soul. I felt tender and somehow dangerously vulnerable. I love animals and I am usually very happy to see one, but no, not this time. Tears ran down my face as I looked at the young fox…I knew it was going to suffer, sooner or later, I knew the poor creature was going to die…only a young fox…a baby…

Yes, the heart of the child within me was weighed down with sorrow. And this time, unlike what I have done for decades, I listened. I listened to my heart. I let the boy speak.

This is a cruel, cold world…

People are cruel. People are cold…

The sobs shook my body. I was that child and I wasn`t going to run anymore.

I don`t belong here. I don`t want to live in this world…

I want to die!!!

The sorrow poured out from me, each sob calling more to the surface. Tears, not shed for decades, now freely rolled down my face. I had been running from my emotions for far too long, I said to myself inwardly, and if God could bring healing to all those other areas, He`d better be able to handle this, because I can`t.

Who hurt you, son?

I listened, wondering about the nature of the question.

Boys…bigger boys around you. Pushing you, mocking you. Mocking a little boy who stands alone in their midst. A little boy who should not have been alone…

I did not know the answer. However, a very familiar feeling began to build up within my chest, causing my jaw to clench in a way I knew only too well. I had only ever clenched my jaw in that way when I have been fighting the tears and the murderous anger, preventing them from coming on the surface. Films in which innocent people suffered, especially children, or even animals. Yes, little, defenseless animals, and little defenseless children – this was what always made me react in that way. Reading a history book where wars or genocides are described in details, watching a program, or hearing some of the heart-breaking stories of the people I work with – my reaction to the suffering of the little ones was always the same – stony face, clenched jaw, and a tight knot in my stomach. And it was only at the age of thirty-one, few years into the journey of the recovering of my true heart, that I was finally ready to face the reality that raged within me. Behind the smile hid a bitter heart that hated humanity and all the harm it did to the world.

What did they do to you, my son? What did those boys do? Do you remember…

Bitter tears. White knuckles. Eyes which would not look away from the carpet bellow. Shame, fear and hatred – murder, lurking deep within the soul that had suddenly become very young.

Son…express it. Tell them now…you could never speak, you could never tell them…because your father was not there. He should have protected you, son. He should have faced them, not you. You were too little, my boy…you were never meant to do this!

As the warm, loving words resounded in the depths of my spirit, I turned to face the opposite wall.

‘I…hate you…’

Over and over again, slowly at first.

I want to kill you…you bastards!!! I will kill you!!!’

Keep going, son, feel the anger rising within you..let it come, do not suppress it any longer, you can do it now, I am with you!

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‘I WILL KILL YOU!!!’

My fist hit the sofa with a loud thud, again and again. Each blow released something in me and it brought new, fresh bursts of murderous, red-hot anger. A new sense of being swept through my body, as if some center of vitality had finally awakened inside me and a new life spread within me. My body, which had been, in a spiritual way, separated from my mind and soul, was finally co-operating, responding to the feeling without being prevented by the mind which always had a reason to block its responses. The fear that I will, again, fail to access my deepest feelings, quickly evaporated as the wave of energy rushed through my body. I was angry! I was alive!

Growing up, I often wondered why I couldn`t seem to be able to get angry when other boys provoked me. I got angry with my mother at home, but in the face of the masculine threat, no trace of anger was found. Fear, shame, and paralysing shock took its place. The fear returned when, later, my mother, or another, ‘weaker’ child did something that upset me, no matter how small. At last, I was beginning to see where the anger was hiding and why I feared other, more ‘manly’ men so much as to never be able to be myself around them. Anger is good, and anger is just, as long as it is the right anger, at the right time. It is that misplace anger which causes so much troubles among us, and its roots often lie in our past where it was right and proper to express it in the face of the injustice we had once faced. The human heart knows good from evil even when we don`t, it knows injustice even when we say it doesn`t matter…

Tell them they are cowards to take advantage of a little boy like that. Tell them to come and try now, when you are bigger and stronger. Come on, son, tell them!

‘You!’ I gasped. ‘You! Why don`t you come and try now, huh???’

My fist smashed into the sofa again and my body jerked forward, my eyes flashing murderously toward the wall beyond which a boy was being mistreated by a group of bullies.

‘Do you hear me, you cowardly bastards!!! Do you wanna try now??? COME ON THEN!!!’

‘I WILL KILL YOU!!’

‘I WILL F…KING KILL YOU, YOU MOTHERF…ERS!’

A beaming, radiant face of a proud father. The face of a God who is too big and too wild to fit any church. A God, feared by religion. An immortal God who was once killed by those who claimed to know Him.

Son! Oh my son! I am so proud of you. I am so proud of you, look at you. You are strong, do you see it now. It was a lie, a lie! Oh. I am so proud of you…

Life. Peace. Joy. daisy-1317232_960_720And, with only the wilful choice at first, forgiveness. Yes, true forgiveness can only come after facing that which should be forgiven. A heart which is neglected is a heart which is not loved. And, as Pascal said, it has its reasons of which reason knows nothing. It thus becomes disobedient and who can blame it? But a heart which is loved is a heart which is expressed. Love frees. Love heals. Love restores.

There is no love without the heart. There is no god, apart from the God who made the heart.

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Freedom.

 

 

The Highlands. Reforging.

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Dark shadows crept over my soul as I gazed into the vastness of the wilderness around me. I knew nothing of what lay ahead, apart from a promise I was given as I signed up – an  immense physical and mental challenge. Looking at the excited, confident men around me, all fully equipped and ready, I swallowed dryly. The moon, strange and somehow sinister, peered at me over the black, snow-laden peaks. One after another, the coaches roared down the empty, dark road. There was no turning back.

Inside me, a storm was brewing. Fears, as old as my first days in the world, screamed and raged at me. Doubt gnawed at my trembling heart and silent, crippling hopelessness weakened my legs as I beheld the formidable mountains. I was accustomed to the presence of the forces within me…

Sitting next to my dad, feeling so much, wanting to say so much, but keeping quiet instead a little boy, who somehow already knew that he is not, and never will be, a man like his father…

Standing alone in front of the taunting bully – immobilised, frozen with humiliation, unable to do or say anything…

Falling behind the other kids when we ran together at school. Losing each playground wrestling match. Failing to catch, throw, or kick the ball in the pitch, and sending the other kids into hysterical laughter. All the while inwardly chanting the mantra which had become the anthem of my life. I can’t.  I can’t.  I can’t.

Fear. Inability. Shame. Emasculation. An ugly, repulsive softness inside. A worm, not a man. A cripple in the world of boys, trying hard to be somebody, only to be humiliated, time and time again. No, it does not go away with the passing of childhood. What is forged in the world of children, its sharpened in the world of adults. Sharp? No, not me. I am nothing. A faceless poser. I can`t survive in this harsh, brutal place. I am nothing.

As I walked through the miles of treacherous marshes, hour after hour, not seeing how far we had yet to go, my mind screamed in despair. I had to stop. I needed to stop. I kept walking.

As I climbed the first mountain, not knowing what challenge awaited us at the top, my muscles weakened and my lungs burned. Dropping to my knees, I drank from the waterfall and collapsed on the ground. I had to stop. It was impossible to carry on. After a short rest, I got up and kept going, step by step.

As we waded into the freezing waters of the river, an army of men, stripped down to their underwear, the sharp fangs of the cold sank into my flesh, burning my limbs with a cruel, icy heat. I wanted to get out. I needed to get out. Instead, I let out a roar, and burst out laughing with what seemed like a defiant joy. People turned to look at me. I roared again, laughing and hitting my chest with my fist, over and over again. Something stirred within me. It was old, deeper than the shyness, and the softness and the inability which I had always seen as a part of my character. It was something real, alive and sharp, which made me alive and present to every breath, sensation, or feeling. As if somewhere from the top of the great mountain, a battle call has been sounded and my heart was awakening from its stupor, urging me to follow the call and plunge into the unknown dangers.

Emotions welled up within me as we climbed to the snow-covered top of the mountain. Slow and laborious was my ascent, fraught with danger and despair, both increased by my exhaustion and the height from which I would fall if I slipped. I dropped the rock I carried on my shoulder and fell face down on the ground. I had found what I had looked for and my heart knew it. The vast beauty – the sky, the peaks, the ocean, the islands – shook my soul to the core, telling the eternal tale of something precious which, although known, is yet to be revealed. I could see the places which me and the team had walked, climbed and waded through – miles of untamed wilderness. I could hardly believe my eyes. Hot tears rolled down my face as the beautiful, affirming words penetrated my heart…

How can you be nothing…look what you`ve done…

And there was light.