Before Harry Potter took the world of young-adult fantasy-fiction by storm, there were a few other series that I read as a child, adolescent, and well into my teens that were so deeply rich & spoke to me on so many levels. One such was Phillip Pullman’s timeless His Dark Materials trilogy (the most famous of which being “The Golden Compass”). I never got too much into C.S. Lewis’ also-timeless Chronicles of Narnia (Jesus allegory lion!), but there were several other volumes of wild fantasy that I consumed voraciously as a growing reader. Brian Jacques’ Redwall series may be among the richest of them, and possibly the one I remember most fondly.
I bring it up today because I don’t really have words (or I’m not interested in extracting them from myself), I feel like I’ve been holding my breath all day but yet frenetically moving non-stop, and I wish I had some kind of exercise/conditioning program to run me straight into the ground (really missing varsity football right about now). I tried the infamous ‘Insanity’ workout around this time two years ago, to fairly disastrous results. Taking up boxing classes is floating somewhere around the middle of my near-future goal list, but for right now I just want run the gamut of physical exertion so hard that it churns all pent-up emotionsthoughtsfearsanxitiestroubles right out of my bodily form and out into the murky depths of the frozen night air, never to be seen or heard from again.
So that is where I’m at right now. I was thinking about how much I’d rather physically ache than mentally, and a little sort of, parable I guess you might say, came to mind. Now I *think* I read about this character in one of the Redwall volumes, but with only the vaguest descriptors available to my memory a cursory Google query did not yield me an answer.
Whatever the source, the character that came to mind was a mighty and revered brown bear (which is why I suspect Redwall – a tale of anthropomorphic woodland creatures). This particular bear was something of a recluse, and the protagonist had to journey far to seek his wisdom. When our hero finally arrived to the bear’s humble domicile deep in the woods, he happened upon this great, legendary beast…who was sitting at a pottery wheel, gently crafting an urn. As their interactions unfold the protagonist is led into the small hut, where the walls are lined with urn upon urn upon urn.
Our guess as to what their purpose is is as good as any, because as all beings of wisdom do, the bear does not so easily and immediately reveal what for. And then of course all at once there is some stimuli, or commotion, or turn of events, and the bear roars like the magnificent bastard he is, and begins hurling urns one by one as hard as he can into the forest around him — at rocks, at tree, into the dirt, and so on. An impressive and intimidating sight for our hero to behold.
After the last urn is smashed the heavily-panting bear explains that he spends his days so careful and meticulously crafting these urns of utmost beauty…as tools for expelling & controlling his incendiary rage. Lather rinse repeat. I’m certainly not doing the story the justice it deserves, but the point is that it exemplifies yin & yang; it is, for all intents & purposes, an exercise in zen. There needs to be balance between the extremes. The beautiful craft and the ugly destruction. Serenity versus rage. Whole to broken.
The recovering alcoholic experiences higher highs, and lower lows. This is what I have been told, during my foundational time in rehab and within the walls of A.A. meetings. I find it to be true. For so long did I simply not feel anything (or did my best not to). So now, even years the other side of those days…still raw. Still vulnerable. Still exposed. I wish I were as composed as my words are, but the reality is I am not. I’m at peace with that…but that doesn’t stop core-cutting, self-reducing stinging hurt on the bad days. Especially when I did my best. And still came up short.
It’s a bullshit excuse to stop trying, though. It hurts. Yeah? Fuck you. A lot of people hurt. A lot of people don’t cry about it. Grow up.
I will continue throwing well-timed punches right back into the emotional fray until they connect. And I will take as many on the chin as it requires, but I WILL NOT. STOP. DRAGGING. MYSELF. UP. OFF. THE MAT. I will claw my way through to the other side. Because there are no other options, y’see? This train doesn’t stop. This is an all-or-nothing life that I’m living. I’m the steely conductor of the freight train, or I’m the stowaway hobo in the cargo. This ain’t no pleasure cruise. And I never wanted it to be.
So sign me up for those boxing classes, because I’m coming out swinging.
‘Hammered’ takes on a whole new meaning now.