I’m not a religious man; I respect those who are though. To believe in something bigger than yourself to the point of zealousness is something I can appreciate, if not support. I don’t have a religion per se; rather, I have what some might call life philosophies. Vague, I know. They are something I carved out when I was younger and my confidence less stifled.
My “philosophies” were Hemingway-esque, if you were wondering: long on valor, honesty, loyalty, and reserve, short on imagination. They were sharpened by sports, coaches, teachers, and stiff-lipped parents who pulled-no-punches. Life was filled with avoiding mistakes and nurturing positive potential. Indeed, a disciplined way to sculpt an adult.
My perspective has changed since I quit playing sports though. Not necessarily because I don’t believe in valor, honesty, etc., but because I took the advice of my High School English teacher and read more. Literature gave me the words to better describe these mysterious “philosophies of life.” It doesn’t mean they were any less easy to abide by. It just meant that they were better articulated and less people wanted to fight me over what I said.
Also, books are humbling. They remind you of the scope of the world. That there are certain types of characters, familiar plots, and those who are doomed, and those who are blessed. Books taught me that the new things I was seeing were, in fact, quite old. That they had happened before. And much more articulate people than myself were writing poems, odes, and stories about their brilliance for centuries previously.
I have this great bookmark. It’s currently resting somewhere in the last 50 pages of Joseph Heller’s “Catch 22.” It’s a simple marker cut from a piece of purple construction paper, congruent and rectilinear. Somebody wrote on it with a gold pen: “Books foster growth, life furnishes understanding.” As it goes, the axiom holds true. Books do indeed elucidate the finer things in life but actually living is the true experience.
So, I’ve come to learn, briefly, that life’s tough. If you are not in to the whole brevity thing then I would add: life goes in ebbs and flows, there is a time to reap and a time to sow, but that discouragement lurks at every downturn and it can be hard to persevere. That’s why it’s important to have faith. Faith can pull you through. If you just believe in yourself then you can do anything. If you don’t believe me, just watch this guy: