A hearing was about to take place, a hearing to decide a man’s fitness, his ability to keep his job. The mining board had heard many other cases, those of individuals with personal problems, and those of physical injury like my grandfathers.
He had been between two coal cars that were connecting and the region of his hip had been damaged. I’m guessing that the healing had taken some time and was still far from over, yet he knew that to approach the board with crutches still in hand, he would be as much as signing his own resignation, his career, and this means of livelihood would be over. So he walked up to the gentlemen at the table without them.
Even in our age of conveniences there are still hard laws. One of these truths is that some of our decisions will not be easy ones. Whether this is because of a physical hurdle we struggle with or a weakness of character, often stolid physical strength must be bolstered by the will.
As a child I watched Vasily Alekseev lift tremendous weights in the Olympics. I was mystified because this large man had little or no visible muscular tone. He looked, to an uninformed child, like an overweight man. But there was a conditioning beneath it all, and more an indomitable will. My father told me that one of his training regimens was called Vasily’s mountain; a huge pile of gravel he moved from one spot to another with nothing but a scoop shovel and a wheel barrel. Before he lifted his eyes would enlarge and his face would take on the look of a man fighting an invisible enemy.
As I grew up I became very familiar with this look on such men’s faces. This place they were staring at was on a horizon we could not see, a place where the impossible was made possible. It was a place where the will ruled and only the flesh failed.
Some of our challenges may be physical at times during our lives, or a condition that calls for a constant maintenance and usage of our will to remain motivated and positive, involved in life. Some of these tests, though, are ones of our characters, calling sometimes for even more will power.
There is no higher place to stand in this discussion. Every voice, no matter how affluent, every opinion is one of the individual that is likewise involved in this daily test. It is unfortunate for the Politician, and the priest, for the law enforcement professional or any person clearly visible in the public eye. Their failings are magnified by the theatre they star in, and the causes of their fall, unfortunately, are subjects that are quite common.
In this world, filled with every type of news, we’re inundated with stories. Like the rain drops, they fall in glistening shades of things touching and the hopeful , and of those reaffirming the reality of man’s moral and spiritual decline. By moral, I mean not high handed values from the church pulpit but those common sense decencies that should not be the exception but the norm.
In America we are well acquainted with the failures of icons. We search them out and bare them with relish, and when our own tired efforts are not enough, and the discussion of our own spiritual plight come a bit too close, we look into the past with a pick and shovel attacking the base of the stories of those men, not greatly due to a demigod like status but greatly within the wide ranging effect of their accomplishments. These are men just as real, just as imperfect as us. Did anyone ever try to portray them as anything else?
The will is what makes a man or woman rise to go to work each day, or keep house, or care for their children. It’s what makes us put that payment in the envelope each month for that particular payment, and many others. It’s what makes us strive to excel, to better things, and if used negatively it is a response to choices that can bring dread and fear to many.
Like a disease carried on the wind, it affects us all, even if we are totally against the ideal of another that discomforts us, even if work in our everyday lives against this particular thing, we are touched by it none the less.
I stopped drinking over 6 years ago. I see no evil in it for others, but clearly saw in my life the physical damage it could do, so I stopped. It wasn’t easy. I had to change it into something I didn’t like so I began pouring only so much into my glass and adding a little water. Little by little I increased the volume of water and decreased the beer until it was nothing but sick tasting water. I was done with it.
In the moments of both my days and nights I feel no longing for it, but in the alcohol isle of our store as I drift past the Blue Moon boxes, grocery list in hand, I sigh a bit. The taste is instantly on my tongue. Like a missing arm in a Carillon photo, the aura of that experience is still tangible to my senses. I believe many things that we are exposed to leave a resonance on our lives long after the purpose in our lives is over.
The parent of a lost child may make peace with a situation someday, but they never completely heal. So invested are we, emotionally and spiritually, in one another. No country or community can fully regain its trust, its faith in the leadership of the moment when there has been an example of miss-appropriation or corruption within the halls of the capital.
Presidents are just men no more evil than the times they live in. Some Priests are not angels, are really no more gods representatives on earth than we are. Law enforcement officials as well, are only as good as the moment at hand and their answer to the choice between duty and the perversion of privilege.
Each of them, like us, can either shine as exceptional examples, or, likewise, be all too remembered for the darkness in their lives. The most important successes in life have no monetary worth. They are victories on that plain of the spirit over the hungers of our flesh and the weaknesses of our soul.