Monday, 30 November 2015

You Versus the Challenge

There, wherever you may be, you lay an inch from death in front of the challenge.   

It has insolently come before you, putting your desire, your fire, your hopes on display for its gnarly teeth to clamp down into.  You feel the searing cut of the sharper of the teeth and the unforgiving pressure of the flatter of the teeth.  Before long, not only its teeth gnaws its way through your flesh, but its numerous limbs take seamlessly orchestrated strikes at your weaknesses.  The challenge possesses mental abilities as well, beyond merely brawn and force.  The challenge seems to know that which makes you tremble and fear, that which makes you dread the sunset and the coming of the night and that which keeps you awake at night dreading the start of the day more than its ending.  It threatens your very core and shakes the foundations of your soul as an unexpectant earthquake rips through the hustle and bustle of daily, repeated motion of a grand city on a glorious summer's day.  You are left a-questioning, left fearing.  Indeed, the challenge has disconnected you from your very self.  There seems to be no light, no saviour, no silver lining, no chance for redemption. 

Yet, in the depths of despair, in hell's fury, in the valley of the beast, in the lion's den, you still have something.  You have life!  Life; so glorious a brevity bestowed upon us by the Ancient of Days, which has escaped billions already, but lay kicking, willing, knowing in your bosom.  Life is what you have that the challenge does not have - that which the challenge will never have.  The challenge only seeks to exterminate the very last life from you as you lay writhing in despair in the pit.  Yet, dear reader, you must rise!  Rise from the grave like the phoenix of legend.  Rise to claim the fullness and the abundance of the glory of life that your Maker has given you.  You must claw with your very blood gushing in passion out of that pit.  You must struggle unto your feet with the pride that still remains.  You must raise your eyes and lock your stare with the challenge with the last inkling of courage that remains within you.  Finally, you must turn the challenge upon its head by laying down itself in front of it.  You must provide it with a mirror image of itself within you.  "The challenge is no more external to me, but the challenge is within me!" you must roar, loud and long, to the challenge's ugly head.  The challenge will run in fear, cower and the victim will have become the victor!

Whatever challenge you may be facing as you read this, know that you are able, you are willing, you are courageous, and you WILL overcome!  Think that one day when you are old and infirm, you will long again for these days of blood of sweat of tears for never at any other point in your life than in these days of struggle were you more acutely aware of how alive you are and how glorious it is to be alive.

There is no greater an honour than the fight against the challenge.  Battles with the challenge are said to echo into eternity.

The more difficult the struggle, the more glorious the triumph.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

The Sands of Time

On Sunday afternoons, I have a tradition of Skyping with my parents. I do this considering that, other than text, I have no other way to immediately communicate with them.  Older people may say that back in my day the only way you could contact home was via snail mail.  I understand their points, that must have been hell, but not even a live video stream of your loved ones can truly ever replace being right there, next to them.  However, being in my third year of university 7000 miles from home, the pain of separation fades quietly  into history.  Yet some Sundays I am left more than nostalgic than I normally am after attempting to bridge the great Atlantic divide.  Maybe it's because it's rainy and grey outside.  Maybe it's because Homecoming at South Alabama finished yesterday.  Maybe it's because I don't have any practice today.  I suppose all of these things have come together and placed me in a ruminative mood.  Today my thoughts are turned towards time.

I have mentioned in previous posts how it seems to me that every semester I have spent at the University of South Alabama is better than the one that preceded it.  At the end of the Spring of this year I thought the Spring could not be topped, yet, here am I, sad on a Sunday afternoon in early November and I can almost cry with gratitude of an amazing semester so far.  The biggest mistake I made in my first semester in Spring 2013 was that I spent way too much time on my own in my room.  95% of the times I went to the caf, I would sit alone and further sink into sadness of being alone and further into the doldrums of my head.  Each semester that percentage has decreased to the point where nowadays 5% of the time I sit alone .  I haven't played video games since the summer because I am in constant contact with people and I have had no lonely weekend excursions on my bike because there is always a friend around that wants to do something or there is someone new to meet and to get to know.  How then, considering how far I have come from the desolate days of early 2013, am I seasoned with a hint of sadness today?  Time. Time and the tragedy thereof.

The past few days have enlightened me again to the tragedy which is the brevity of human life.  It always seems that as though there is not enough time.  Whenever you come to, the event you have dreamed about is already a distant memory.  It seems like only yesterday when I was playing in the arid field of Koingnaas (my original hometown), dodging snakes and scorpions and my worst fear being to not knock out a house window hitting some balls toward the house whilst swinging some golf clubs!  I close my eyes from those everlong days and open them to being in my third year of university wondering where all those years went.  It's funny how when I live in carpe diem manner I seem to worry more about the passage of time whereas if I live unproductively and lazily, the passage of time is insignificant.  Maybe it's because when you live every day to its maximum potential, you are made more acutely aware of how much more you could have done.  Trying to balance sport, academics, personal growth, love and friendships is hard because you can always look back and say that I could have done more for this one or for that one.  That is, as they would say, where prioritizing comes in.  How do you prioritize life when you want to have it all?  How do I say no to playing soccer with friends when I want to do well in academics?  From an economical or societal perspective, doing your homework is better, but from a human perspective playing soccer with my friends is more important than learning the origins and insertions of elbow muscles. 

Maybe more than anything I am caught in the web of fear of missing out.  If I work on personal development, I might be skipping out of an important practice.  If I study for a test, I miss a movie night with friends.  In all those situations, I want both, but the tragedy of time is that you can only pick one.  The real tragedy lies in the fact that when you have chosen one, you cannot go back and relive that other when your first choice is completed.  The Almighty hath made this universe one where (at least as far as it is practical) time is linear.  Time and life spent on one thing is forever lost for the other.  Yet, that is a more negative way to look at it.  More positively said, time and life not spent on one thing is forever gained for the other.  My mother always told me that tears you shed are like pearls, you are only born with a set amount of pearls, therefore you cannot spend them indiscriminately.  Same goes for time, when we were born, the Greatest endowed us with a set, but unknown amount of time.  Our task at this genesis was to spend the time in the most excellent way possible.  To never waste, but never be too frugal with all that time either because other than the tear-pearls (which you have a relatively good deal of control over) the time we are given slowly trickles from our lives, just like sand trickles out of an hourglass.  Our finite time is therefore spent whether we consciously choose to do so or not. 

I suppose therefore the origin of this Sunday feels is that the sand of my hourglass, your hourglass, our hourglasses is trickling away into the bottomless pit of history.  Our time is running out.  This is nothing new, that's for sure, but do know that even though consciously "unspent time" casually drifts away into the abyss, consciously spent time goes exactly where your heart desires it to go.  We have not been bestowed power to control every facet of this beautiful life (but that's why it is beautiful!), but we have been given our knapsack full of time.  Use that, my dear reader, in the most excellent way possible. 

I leave you with the words of Gandalf in reaction to Frodo's regret of being bestowed the Ring, "So, do all who live to see such times, but it is not for them to decide.  All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.  There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil.  Bilbo was meant to find the ring in which case you were also meant to have it.  And that is an encouraging thought."

Do not go quietly into that night