Category Archives: philosophy

The Fighter

Last Monday, after I had secured my spot on the Woodland Street bridge and spread out the legs of my tripod, I sat back and watched people. Out of the crowd, I noticed this man in a suit walking towards me, smiling like we hadn’t seen each other in a long time.

It had been a long time. Around oh, say, never before.

I greeted him with a smile and said hello because I tend to do that with strangers, especially ones who I know are coming straight at me.

He said his name was Rosco and that he used to be a boxer. After we talked a while, I asked him if I could take his photograph and he said yes. Almost instinctually, he stepped back into what seemed a very comfortable pose.

If you look at his right hand you can see his pinky finger folded up under his other fingers. He told me he broke his hand and that ended his career. I believe it. The pinky on that hand lays almost sideways across his palm. Go ahead, look at your own. Ouch.

He told me about his rise in the boxing world and how he met Don King. He spoke of some family issues and of some legal troubles he went through. I told him about some rough spots in my past and that seemed to surprise him.

I told him about all the internal fighting I had done for most of my life. How it wasn’t worth it and didn’t pay off in the end and how those battles never produce a victor.

I think he understood what I was talking about. I hope so. I guess what really matters is that I understood what I was talking about.

The Essence of Everest

The Summit
The view from Mt. Pilatus in Lucerne, Switzerland.
Not Everest, but striking nonetheless.
     I was having lunch with a friend the other day and somewhere between the cheese dip and the chimichangas he started telling me about the workload he was under. In addition to his full-time job he started law school a week ago. He’s not lazy, as you can probably imagine, but sometimes, almost all the time, motivation is met with challenge. 
     When I think of law school, the image conjured up in my popular culture infused brain is of Mitch McDeere in The Firm. I picture long nights of sifting through mountains of books, sleeves rolled up with a legal pad full of notes. I see veins bulging from the forehead of a student trying to process more information than the human brain has capacity for.
     This doesn’t sound like fun stuff. It’s not supposed to be. I have heard that the first year of law school is the most difficult and it’s not by mistake. The first year is designed to be hard and is meant to thin the herd of the hopeful to make way for the devoted. 
     My friend is at the very beginning of a long slog and he knows that. Knowledge of a difficult journey doesn’t stop the feelings that come with it, though. Inherent in any great undertaking are the concerns, fears, second-guessing and worry that are, in a way, life’s way of doing it’s own herd thinning. It was then that I thought of Mt. Everest.
     Years ago, in a sign of simpler times, I became obsessed with doing an impression of Christopher Walken. He was all over the place and being able to mimic his uneven cadence was something I tried very hard to do, if only to impress myself. I never got it, never came close and it drove me nuts. I was, however, able to do an uncanny impression of Carl Sagan (not that that means anything to anyone) and even a pretty good Jodie Foster. That’s right, Jodie Foster. But never Christopher Walken. My buddy James called it my Everest, meaning the toughest obstacle I would face in the world of vocal impressions. If I could succeed in that, all others would be easy. 
     Well, I abandoned the Walken thing. However, the essence of Everest has stayed with me.
      When faced with difficulty in my life I’ve often thought of those that have achieved the summit of that mountain and the challenges they faced along the way. I wonder how many times they wanted to just quit and turn back because it seemed too hard. I think of the signs telling them it wasn’t worth it to continue, like the dead bodies of other climbers who never finished the trip. How many times did they think, “This is crazy.” or, “I can’t do this.”? How often is the progress of just a few feet celebrated as a success?
     From the outside, reaching the top would seem to be the end of the trouble, but any experienced climber will tell you that the trip back down is just as dangerous and presents its own set of challenges. The pinnacle is only part of the journey. Forget what you learned on the way up and the whole trip can be for naught.

     The feeling I try and channel mostly though, is the mental calm of knowing that once you’ve made it past Everest, all other mountains pale in comparison. Once you crest the summit of that great peak, other climbs that may have appeared insurmountable in their own right shrink a bit and don’t appear so forbidding anymore. You can make it through them, because you made it through Everest.

     I have had many Everests in my life, metaphorically, of course. Every one of them that I have dared to climb has always given me the same gift. I’m granted the freedom from worry about challenges that, in comparison, just don’t measure up. Things are put in their right place. I’m reminded each time that what appears to be impossible is usually possible.

     I once heard photographer David DuChemin say, “What’s in the way, is the way.” That’s often how Everest appears in my life. Everest isn’t usually something that’s hard to see or hiding in a corner, it’s in my face and obstructing a complete view of the horizon. The biggest challenges are the ones I’ve been looking at for a long time, spinning wheels trying to find a way around instead of over them.

     A lot can be learned from those that scale the mountain and return to tell the tale. They prepare themselves, of course. They securely fit in their mind that the task ahead is expected to be difficult and do it anyway. And no one, lest they be doomed to fail before they even begin, tries to conquer Everest alone.

Catching Up

The Holidays
     We’re already more than a week into the New Year and while 2010 seemed to come and go much too quickly, 2011 doesn’t appear to be slowing down either. I’ve noticed a byproduct of increasing age is that time becomes a precious commodity there never seems to be enough of. The same amount of sand is in the old hourglass but I believe the hole in the middle gets larger each year. I’m not meaning to be morbid here, there’s still 24 hours in a day, I just realize now more than ever their worth. 
Ola amigo
     The holidays were great this year. I appreciate spending time with my family more and more these days and it’s an amazing experience to witness our newest members filling out the family tree. There were a few lean years with just us adults that were special in their own right, but nothing can compare to a house full of kids on Christmas. We had 3 running around and exploring with 3 more on the way for next year including a set of twins. Good stuff. 
Farm in Guthrie
     I also had the pleasure of spending my first Christmas with my girlfriend Melissa’s family in good old Guthrie, Kentucky. I was invited to one of their family traditions, Christmas breakfast (pronounced brack-fast) and not only was the food amazing, which it always is up there, but they were incredibly gracious hosts. They’re wonderful people and I’m enjoying the new relationships we’re building. 
     It’s good to be around for the new year and I have so much to share about the new things happening in 2011. It looks to be jam packed and I’m ready for it. I’ll be posting updates here and on Facebook about some of the new developments on the horizon that I don’t think you’ll want to miss. It’s going to be a good year.