Màthair

From my mother, piety and beneficence, and abstinence, not only from evil deeds, but even from evil thoughts; and further, simplicity in my way of living, far removed from the habits of the rich.

~Marcus Aurelius: Book one; Line Three

Today I’m twenty-six. I’ve been on this wonderful, odd, planet for over a quarter of a century now. This article actually started as something about the odd paths life takes you down, but while writing it I noticed a trending constant. A constant that, to be honest, should have been obvious from the start. That constant is my Ma.

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My mother is something incredible. (I’d never tell her that in person. We’re not that sort of family.) When the issue of my siblings and I’s education arose, she took that burden on herself, homeschooling all of us through all of it up to college. When I say “all”, I mean six. Homeschooling six children with energy levels like ours isn’t something I’d ever have the heart to attempt. We were even referred to as a litter once by a stranger in a pet store. My mother was incredibly upset by the encounter. Little did she know the woman who made the comment had seen me, and one of my brothers trying to climb into a pen filled with puppies ten minutes earlier. (We told her this years later, to her dismay. Or amusement? Could be both)

I make it sound like we were a bunch of wild heathen children, causing havoc wherever we went. That’s somewhat true, and it’s a testament to my ma’s dedication to us that we all grew up with an ingrained desire to learn and to work hard at it, when we started out as a bunch of feral blonde monsters.

I am almost certain I was the toughest of the bunch to deal with. I was her first child, and that combined with a stubbornness and innate desire to do what I want, when I want to, couldn’t have been easy. I honestly don’t know where she found the endless patience to deal with educating me, let alone all six of us.

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                                                   (Still a horde of feral monsters)

And trust me, I know I tried her patience to no end. A favorite story around my parents’ house is the time I built a fort by turning over all her living room furniture, and barricading myself in it because I didn’t want to do a math lesson. (I still hate math. Sorry Ma.) After an hour of me yelling, and not getting anywhere with that stubbornness I mentioned, she finally cracked and chucked an orange off the counter at me. It’s a funny image, but looking back on it I know two things. Firstly, that she immediately felt awful about it, and secondly, that I absolutely deserved it. Hell, I deserved a whole bushel of oranges with an anvil and a really irritated ape of some sort buried under them.

She’s taught me a lot about how to interact with people. She taught a selfish man, how to find more value in what I’ve done for others in a day, than what I’ve done for myself. She imparted to me my endless love of literature and the outdoors. Finding ways to rev up my wandering engine at home through reading classics that are now books I read the way some people use a security blanket, then turning me loose on the woods, parks, and long drives.

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Long drives. Let’s talk about those for a moment. I live for long drives, to places I’ve never been. It’s the closest I get to meditation or prayer. Those long aimless drives that to some people would seem like a waste of time, or gas, or an endless amount of other “commodities”. Not to my mother. When we got to be too much, or life in general got her down, we never saw it. I only see now, in retrospect that all those adventures we went on were her clearing her head. I don’t know if habits can be passed on genetically, but if so that’s one I definitely attribute to her. Not adventure, that’s ALL due to Mr. Jeff Russell. No, what I got from her was the soft parts of wandering. The gentle sense of calm that comes with simply going. Those little moments between destinations where you notice small details of the scenes that pass by. We still make fun of my mother for a

Not “adventure”, that’s ALL due to Mr. Jeff Russell ( I’m sure an article about him is coming in the near future, now that I’m on this tangent)  No, what I got from her was the soft parts of wandering. The gentle sense of calm that comes with simply going. Those little moments between destinations where you notice small details of the scenes that pass by. We still make fun of my mother for a particular summer involving her teaching us geology. When my mother takes an interest in something she’s teaching it invades all her thoughts I think. So our drives from class to class, or anything else really, were invaded that summer by the phrase that still makes my mother turn bright red when we say it back to her. “Look at that awesome rock formation!” It was the cheesiest, most contrived (to my, at the time Preteen mind) thing I’d ever heard.

No, what I got from her was the soft parts of wandering. The gentle sense of calm that comes with simply going. Those little moments between destinations where you notice small details of the scenes that pass by. We still make fun of my mother for a particular summer involving her teaching us geology. When my mother takes an interest in something she’s teaching it invades all her thoughts I think. So our drives from class to class, or anything else really, were invaded that summer by the phrase that still makes my mother turn bright red when we say it back to her. “Look at that awesome rock formation!” It was the cheesiest, most contrived (to my, at the time Preteen mind) thing I’d ever heard.

But that’s the beauty of my mother and her desire to teach. Not only her six maniacs but anyone who’ll listen. She has a way of doing things that stick them into your brain. I hear her voice in my head on every highway that cuts through cliff faces and along hills. I see her in every landscape. Her passion is unabashed. That’s a hard thing to be in a family of people who tend to keep to themselves, and keep what they really feel close to the chest.

That doesn’t stop her though. I’m terrible about texting most of the time, unless it involves work. My mother knows this, and doesn’t care. I still wake up most days of the month to a small something from her reminding me that I am missed, or some tidbit of information she found that she knows I’ll find fascinating. If you read this Ma, I know I don’t always answer, but I always smile when I see them.

Somehow, through all my boar headedness and idiotic desire to march to the beat of a drummer who, I can only assume at this point, can’t keep time and is probably missing at LEAST one arm, all the things Ma tried to impart in me through her curriculum, and simply through the way she lived, stuck. Not that I do them as well as she does, but that I strive every day to do them half as well.

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The biggest one goes without saying. Patience that is fueled by a deep love for others. Lisa Russell is the most patient woman I have ever met in my life, and after twenty-six years I think I’ve ferreted out what lets her be like that. She cares, for everyone, instantly and deeper than anyone else I know. I took it for granted most of my life, that if I really needed something she’d do her best to help me get it. I can’t really ever pay her back for all of it, but I don’t think she’d want that anyway. She’d want me to pass it on. So that’s what I’ll try to do. If I take one thing away from all the things she taught me it’ll be that. At the very least it’ll mean I don’t have to take away algebra.

The line at the top of this page is from a book she “forced” on me at a young age, that I detested at the time but has become the closest thing I have to a bible. I don’t know if she intended it to become so important. It was mixed in with a slew of other greco-roman classics that were part of our curriculum. I can say this without feeling as if I’m bending the truth though. My mother turned me on to stoicism, not only by giving me the book to read, but by embodying some of the ideals it professes without trying, or possibly knowing she was doing so. I am constantly left in awe of her, and the sacrifices she’s made to give my siblings and I the best possible life we could have.

So, it’s my birthday. Twenty-six years ago my mother brought me into this world, and she helped me navigate it through everything that reared it’s ugly head. I miss the hell out of her, and everyone else in my family, and this is the closest I’ll get to ever telling them. If you haven’t called your mother lately, go do it. Hell, go hug her if you can.

I figure if you guys do that, it’ll balance out me NOT calling mine.

Kidding…. Mostly.

 

 

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Convergent Thought Evolution.

I’ve been going through a lot of my old scribblings over the last few days and found a short little thing I wrote that seemed like nothing at the time. However, reading it now I was surprised to see a lot of similar thoughts to those Robert Service transcribed in his poem “The men who don’t fit in”. Service’s work has quickly become a staple of mine, so it was an odd thing to see similar frames of mind between them. I hope you guys enjoy it, and if not go read Robert Service. I know you’ll enjoy that.

The more we learn, the harder life gets to navigate.

However, wisdom and knowledge are a less like a burden than I used to think.

I created this image of all the information I had ever learned tied

around my waist while I swam the length of a pool.

The rope was long enough to allow moments where the weight would help me.

As I turned at either end of the pool I could pull myself through the water

Until I passed over the burden. Then I had to start tugging it along again.

This was the wrong analogy.

It’s more like a map of an ancient broken maze that I keep seeing new paths through.

They all end up in the same place

but that’s the cruelty of the maze.

It keeps opening new paths as you head towards the destination.

Each path holds something you think you might want.

Or even just a different landscape to see while you walk.

Some can flow through paths making choices as they go,

not bothered by the plans they’d laid for the path before them.

Not me. I am one who succumbs to the wall’s cruelty.

I see paths sprouting up like weeds behind me,

In front,

below,

and to the right.

It crushes me, the weight of choice.

 

I stop and stare and see so many paths I can’t barrel down just one.

I head down the first for a bit, but I’m so curious about what lays down the others.

So I backtrack, and head down a different trail.

Sampling each of them for a while, then realizing some of them have started closing off,

and new one’s have opened.

This is the beauty and danger of living with an interest in all.

You accept that you will never be truly great at anything, only decent at all things,

but you will see more paths than most,

and that will make it all worth it.

You will die with your name unknown to the rest of the world.

No great paintings, no amassing of wealth.

But you will have seen more than they have,

And that is the cruelty of the maze,

but it is a gift to those of us who prize seeing more than the rest.

We wouldn’t trade it, but it’s going to remind us of the things we could trade it for.

It’ll be constant and keep things raw as long as it can by pointing them out to us

 

The friends that seem put together because they run down one path,

with the veracity and patience of bamboo.

The lovers who crave the stability we detest,

and they grow bored with our inability to sit still long enough to be bored.

Employers, who see something in us we refuse to look at,

for fear it’ll be the last thing we notice.

 

Towns we love and say to ourselves “I could live here”

but as soon as we visit the next one it wins us over,

it eclipses the memory of any other town we’ve seen.

 

So we live with the rawness, and salve it with a change in direction

it lasts for a while

But never long enough to heal.

We’d stop moving if it healed.

We find a new path and press the memories to the wall as we walk.

So they open up and we can treat them with the next twist in the maze.

But Still I Walk

I was thinking about how often I rationalized staying in St. Louis, and working in the political world, even though I knew it wasn’t right for me, and the path I’m on now was always calling. So I started scribbling this morning on a smoke break and this came out.

I walk, and as I do it all lifts off of me.

I roar into the surrounding wilds,

and whimper as it roars back at me,

A combined strength built of bird calls and running water,

and any other creature that wants to lend its voice.

I am small, and unnecessarily defiant of the paths I walk through.

I snarl at the falling leaves,

and cloy at the fog as it envelops me.

I cannot understand why it lays this assault against me,

Nor can I stop raising my voice in defiance of it.

So I walk, and as I do it all lifts off me.

 

  I am older now by days or weeks,

The nights have run together with the days.

I have tried to maintain my rage against this wild thing,

This ever closing pincer that seeks to shut me within it.

I still cannot fathom it’s intent,

And after so long walking I do not care to.

I simply resist for resistance’s sake.

I thrash against vines as they lay in wait for me,

Entangling arms and binding windpipe.

I am losing this fight,

This act of being apart from the wild that is around me.

But still I walk, and as I do it all lifts off me.

 

 I do not think of days or nights,

Only of walking and my aching bones.

I have grown ancient and tired,

And it would seem the wild is overtaking me.

But with age comes wisdom and understanding,

So the sages say.

I resisted to resist,

Without knowing fully what I was shaking off my back.

The roar I heard so many years ago was not meant to threaten,

Only meant to invite me into the choir.

To add my howls to the growing chorus,

To make the wild that much louder.

I was offered a place in the fold and ignored it.

I could have raised my voice in unison with the gentle wild,

Could have had it all taken off of me willingly,

Instead of shrugging it off piecemeal for the wild to pick up later.

But I am old now and the walk has lifted it all off of me,

 

So now I whimper beneath an ash tree,

Adding what little voice I have left to the wild’s call.

I feel the vines grow down from above,

Not to choke or bind,

But to draw me into themselves,

And up into the oak.

All the fight finally taken from me,

And understanding to replace it.

The wild called me,

Said “join your roar with mine”,

And I resisted to resist.

So now I lay, beneath this ash,

And as I do it all lifts off of me.

~C.M.R

The Rambler’s Bundle

“Ever since my childhood I’ve been scared, I’ve been afraid,
of being trapped by circumstance, of staying in one place,
and so I always keep a small bag full of clothes carefully stored,
somewhere secret, somewhere safe, somewhere close to the door.”

That’s a great line from Frank Turner’s “The Road” that exemplifies the need of wanderers to be prepared to leave when the wanderlust hits them. You feel the urge to go, and after it becomes an established pattern, it just makes sense to have a bag that’s always ready. The term “go bag”,  isn’t applicable since that’s gained connotations from the “prepper” demographic, and that’s not the situation here. This is more a collection of the things that should go in a bag to make it versatile enough that no matter where that urge is going to take you, you’re ready. It’s a hard thing to prepare for since your destination could be something outdoors related (a day hike location, an overnight camp site etc.), or a city whose street’s you’d like to wander for a few days

It should be stressed that this isn’t something that should be applied to a long trip. My ramblin’ bag has everything I need for a week at a stretch but is really more appropriate for a weekend trip. It’s something to encourage spontaneous trips, as opposed to those that take planning, and a specific set of gear, clothing etc. This list instead aims for versatility, and with the items in it, you should be able to adapt to whatever location has wormed itself into your mind and started calling to you to it. A lot of these are things people pack anyway, but what I’m advocating is picking up extras of those daily necessities and NEVER taking them out of this pack, so you don’t have to jump in your car and wonder “aw hell, did I bring soap”.

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  1. Clothes; this one goes without saying, but it’s worth mentioning. Go simple. I usually have two pairs of jeans, three or four plain black or white undershirts and a button down. The button down doesn’t get much use since the places I visit are usually for hiking, but if I stop into a city to see friends it’s nice to have the option. Shoes are another example of this. I’ve got a pair of boots I wear every day, but I usually bring along a pair of nicer shoes for the same reason as the button down.
  2.  A Toothbrush/Toothpaste/Soap ; I use my teeth like a goddamned multi-tool, so at the very least it’ll get the taste of whatever I just cut in half with my chompers out.
  3. $250; Look, things happen. I was hiking and camping in Tennessee with a friend, and when we got back to the cars I realized that at some point my wallet had fallen out of my pocket. Luckily, I was with friends so wasn’t stranded for gas money, etc. However afterwards I started this practice of having some cash always in the bag, just in case I wasn’t around friends the next time.
  4. Notepad; I scribble things down constantly, so this goes without saying. The other fun bit with having a pad that’s ONLY for this pack is that on the next trip you get to see all the thoughts you had on the last one, that you may have forgotten. It allows your spontaneous trips to build on each other in a way they wouldn’t without those reminders.
  5. Phone charger; An extra one. Don’t ever take it out of the bag, even if it means buying a new one when your everyday charger breaks. Your phone fills in for a lot of items someone a decade ago would have needed. It’s a great tool for orienteering, emergency situations, photography etc, and it can only do all these tasks if it’s charged.
  6. A utility knife; I don’t care if you’ve got an everyday carry that never leaves your pocket. Find a swiss army knife, or something similar and leave it in an outside pocket of the pack. If you think you need it, I also recommend a “hobo” style tool. If you’re eating on the road, or trail its a nice little bit of comfort, and definitely beats looking for plastic forks in gas stations.
  7. Something to read; I’ve got a big book of poetry that goes everywhere with me, maybe you’ve got a book that you can read over and over, or a textbook of some kind you’ve been trying to slowly learn. Toss it in, you’ll appreciate it.

 

If you need other things, go ahead and toss them in. I travel pretty simple, but if anything jumps out at you that I haven’t discovered, and has made your travels easier chime in below and let me know about them.

~slainte mhath

The Priest Archetype.

I’ve got a lot of things I want to do once I’m finished in Maine. The one that’s come most to the forefront is a pet project I’ve thought about a lot before, but never cemented into a real idea until I read This article about the women who play the role of Shaman for the people of Tuva.

A bit of backstory right off the bat. I grew up really catholic. The kind that, to paraphrase Dylan Moran, doesn’t know which is nicer, pleasure, or the shame of feeling that pleasure. The role models I had were mostly priests and nuns, and my mother who’d converted was and still is one of the most devout people I know, teaching at a private catholic school, etc. I spent a few years as a preteen planning on becoming a priest and devoured books about them. Some of them led such interesting lives and traveled the world as they knew it, helping and healing where they could. I don’t ascribe to any religion now, nor do I consider myself a spiritual person. However, I am still fascinated with the role that “preists” fill in societies. In any culture, there seems to be a member of the community who forgoes their own personal desires to a certain degree for the good of the community. Sure, sometimes it’s a position of honor that brings with it respect and possibly monetary gains. Often it isn’t, and more often than that it’s draining.

There’s a reason therapists have to have a strictly professional relationship with their clients. Otherwise, you become increasingly emotionally invested in these people, and it’s hard to not ache when someone you care about comes to you and bares their soul expecting you to have all the answers. The priest/shaman/mullah etc. does this willingly for their community, and is active in said community otherwise. They form friendships with the people who trust and depend on them, knowing full well that trust may not be fully reciprocal. I admit that this is an idealistic view of these people, but that ideal is what I’m interested in. Is this an archetype that will fade as the world becomes increasingly connected and people have more access to information of their own valition? Or will we always want a figurative “Medicine man” in our communities that we can turn to when conflicts and struggles arise. Religious or not, most cultures seem to have someone that fills this role and that’s where the idea for the previously mentioned “Pet Project” comes from.

I’m going to start compiling a list of these people, and when I can,  visit with them wherever I can find them and try to suss out their reasoning for leading this sort of life. The more obscure the better, because it’s easy to give up personal comforts for the good of the community when you live in relative ease anyway. The Tuvan’s are definitely on the list, as well as a few friends who profess forms of modern paganism and have been gracious enough to point me towards people who can explain that viewpoint to me. If this goes the way I expect it to, the list will grow larger and larger as I go. That’s just fine with me. If you know of someone like this, and feel the need to pass it on please do, along with how best to get in touch with them. I don’t expect this to be a project that’s ever “finished”.

I’ll leave you with the quote from the article about Tuvan Shamanism that struck me most and planted the seed of this idea.

“During Soviet times the rituals were banned but the tradition was still passed on, and in mid 90s completely re-emerged from the underground thanks to Mongush Kenin-Lopsan, now the head shaman of the republic and a respected historian, writer and poet. This year he is 90 years old.”

This is the point that I find most fascinating, that even in outright conflict with the larger culture or society, smaller demographics find such comfort in these traditional central figures that they continue to carry it forward, even as they adopt modern ways of living such as cell phones and living in five story apartments.

As previously stated, if you know of a culture, or practice I should add to my list please comment below.

sláinte

“Anam Cara”

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I spent Christmas and new years back east visiting family. On new years eve after most of the other guests had gone home I was sitting in my Uncle Pat’s music room with all my uncles listening to them play, singing along when I knew the tune, and chatting about life. I’d recently been through the end of what in retrospect I’d realized was an unhealthy relationship, and ultimately a toxic friendship as well as some bad news about the program I was in at Univeristy and losing a job. In talking about it with them, I mentioned how amazed I was by the people that had stepped in and not only comforted me but called me out when I was being insufferable. It was a level of friendship I wasn’t aware was there until it was necessary. My uncle Jimmy, who’s the oldest of the gang, and usually the loudest, got very quiet for a moment then simply said “Anam cara”. I know very little Gaelic, but knew “cara” was heart and pressed him to explain. He told me that it means “Freind of my soul” and when I rolled my eyes at him, assuming he meant “soul mate” in the way it’s thrown around today, and was trying to give me an expletive-laden version of “Plenty of fish in the sea” he stopped me and in typical Jimmy fashion, dumbed it down into the saltiest version he could think of. “It’s like this Chris, everyone’s got friends, right? But the one’s who you know are the good ones will hold up a mirror to your face whether you’re all done up or smeared in shit”

The phrase itself really stuck with me, and the more I looked into it the more I could see that quality in the people who’d been there for me. Especially my gang of fools living in Chicago who I see once or twice a year. Even with that distance and time, as soon as we’re together the dynamic is exactly the same as it always was. As individual recognition goes, my roommate, who became a brother in arms long before we lived together, and even survived the big dirty with me comes out on top. He dragged me kicking and clawing through the rough spots and always made sure there was something good to eat on the other side.

This sort of friendship is easy to miss in others. It’s sometimes painful the way resetting a broken bone can be, but most of the time it’s boring. It’s the autonomic nervous system of interpersonal relationships. It’s there, it does it’s job, and doesn’t complain unless you push it too hard. Even when you do, it’s only asking that you slow down a bit and let it catch up. Time and reflection have to be taken to notice it, as is true of anything that has the potential to be taken for granted.

In realizing how important these select people were to me, I knew I had to say proper goodbyes before I left for Maine. I’m writing all this down so I don’t have to have a deep personal conversation with each and every one of them, and because a lot of them live in places that don’t make for a short trip.

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My approach to any sentiment that I hold dear is to create a physical symbol of that thing. I’ve got my home states flag inked into my skin  where I can always see it, I have little knickknacks from every place I’ve visited and that impacted me significantly, etc. I think of them as little totems for those overwhelming feelings, good or bad, that keep them outside of myself so I avoid my family curse of “keep it all inside and then one day you’ll die”. So I decided to pass that on. I took an old table leg and sawed of small circular slices of it, then burnt those words “Anam Cara” on the back, and asked each of these people for a small animal/symbol/word that meant something to them and burnt that onto the front, as well as making myself one with the good ol’ vegvisr burned into it.

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If you’re interested, Brainpickngs has a great article about this concept, and it links to John O’donohue’s (The poet credited with describing this term in a way modern men and women can relate to) Here.

This last paragraph and quotation about “Anam Cara” is really for those people who’ve been in my life in this way. Stay touch as much as time allows and know that even when I’m in Maine I’m just a phone call away. After the last year, I’ve definitely got some ground to make up anyway. Know that at some point through every day we’re apart, I’ll glance at my little totem hanging around my neck and think of each of you, and how much joy you’ve brought to my life.

The superficial and functional lies and half-truths of social acquaintance fall away, you can be as you really are. Love allows understanding to dawn, and understanding is precious. Where you are understood, you are at home.

~John O’Donohue

~slàinte mhath

 


 

“John Muir’s head exploded” or; the story of Cranky Bones

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So since I’ve still got a month or so till I head to Maine and start writing posts about ACTUAL outdoorsy stuff, I figured I’d fill you guys in on the Primitive addictions logo above. This version was created by my friend Haily Kaufman, and incredible woman who I met through my university. If you’re in the market for something similar you should check out her work Here and here. She’s got a wicked way with whatever drawing implement you put in her hand.

The title of my blog/internet persona originated from a little cross stitch that sits on the mantle of my aunt’s home. I was spending some time with them a few years back and saw it and happened to be reading “My first summer in the sierra”  by John Muir. I started doodling and came up with a really simple line drawing of a Muir-esque man with his head opened up and trees, mountains and a river springing out. I didn’t think much of the drawing or words until I was hiking a stretch of the Appalachian in Georgia. In my downtime I started carving the guy into a table top I’d brought along to carve. I didn’t finish it on the trail, but once I got back it was the only thing I spent my free time on for a week or so. Below is the finished carving.

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Eventually I decided that I’d get a tattoo of this guy to be the centerpiece for my “wandering sleeve” which is a fancy way of saying “get a little tattoo in every town I visit”. I took it to the shop by my apartment and met Justin Kennon (Check out his Instagram here if you live around St. Louis and need an artist). I gave him the basic idea and told him he could do his own spin on it. I’m really happy with the path he took with my basic design, and I can’t wait to fill in all the extra skin around him with storys from the palces I visit.

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So that’s the story so far. Expect to see cranky bones show up more often, and in weirder and weirder places.

Got a design that follows you throughout your wandering? tell me about it in the comments.

 

Avoiding Comfort

My family has this weird tradition (I say family, I mean my three boneheaded brothers and I, “king bonehead”.) Every year on the first snow we all strip down to our underwear and go see who can stay out the longest. I don’t really remember why this started, but it’s been an influence on my approach to life. There’s a strange trend in the human mind to seek comfort, and while I understand this entirely, the best things I’ve ever done in life have been uncomfortable, or downright painful.  So, I’ve become an addict for things that I don’t take a shine to right off the bat.

Boxing is my favorite example. I hate the feeling of being hit, everyone does. The first three times I got the wind knocked out of me I almost quit right then and there. A strange things happens though when you keep forcing your body to do things it doesn’t like. It adapts, and not in the way I’d expected. I figured I’d simply get better at boxing and get hit less. Perhaps with another coach that may have been the case. Mine has a slightly different approach. His favorite line is “If a punch doesn’t knock you clean out, it may as well be counted as a miss.” After three years of having this shouted in your face when you start complaining, you stop seeing the pain, and start seeing it as an opportunity the other person missed and acting on it.

This isn’t just true of sports, or being outdoors. It’s also incredibly true to pass times. There’s this desire for all the good parts, but without taking on the less than fun effects of it. I’ve always liked the smell of cigarette smoke. I grew up around it, and I learned something from it. It wasn’t a pleasant smell, but I saw how it calmed down the people who used it. It was a sacrifice to some unknown god. In the old days we killed a calf and burned it as an offering, now we light our own throats ablaze and spit the smoke out towards the heavens. There’s something meaningful about that. It makes the chemical reaction something we’ve earned. The same way with alcohol. You want the buzz? You’ll have to learn to stomach bad beer, or strong whisky down your throat. Everything in life should be that way. Sacrifice bits of yourself to get what you want.

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    I suppose it’s sort of  that way already, but we just don’t notice most of it. It’s sort of leeched out as we devote time and breath towards whatever it is we’re working towards. Those are usually the good things though. Anything you’ve devoted time and attention to has a worth of it’s own. That’s why the chemical reactions are so appealing to us. It’s instant, but we also immediately feel what we’ve given up. The bits of our lungs getting clogged, the burn of vodka down into our stomach. Those are good things, because we’re constantly reminded that we’re poisoning ourselves in exchange for that high we need.

   Personally, I like that concept of “poisoning” myself. I like being reminded that I’m burning off bits of myself, via fire or toxins. I know what I’m giving up for the few moments of calm that I get. Bits of my lungs in exchange for a train of thought I can actually run and leap onto as it blares past. I understand what I’m giving up in exchange for those little experiences. It’s modern day sacrifice. No god in between the burnt offering and the reward. We sacrifice bits of ourselves to our own desires. I personally enjoy that sentiment, and I’ve never understood the appeal of flavored vodka and things like that. The deliberate attempt to lose the harshness of intoxicants, but maintain the enjoyableness seems like a dangerous and greedy thing to me.

Maybe it’s because I’m rereading Jack London’s work, but I think this quote would come to mind as I write it anyway.

There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive.

~Jack London, Call of the Wild

I adore this line, because it sums up perfectly something I’ve only ever felt when I’ve failed, or realize I’m about to. The most alive I’ve ever felt was when I fell off a small ledge while running at local park. I hit a patch of ice, and slid (In my head, I’m pretty sure I looked like a looney toon) off the edge. I fell about ten feet and cracked two ribs. the jog/walk back to my car? I don’t really remember it. I remember fear which turned into action, immediate and born of requirement. I’m not saying you should fall off cliffs to feel alive, but put yourself in situations where it could happen. Then at the end of the day, while you’re having a beer and a lung scorching smoke, laugh about the fact that it didn’t.