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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Inescapably caught in a labyrinth of thorns


As a young boy with a voracious appetite for exploring the world, I never tired of pushing through dense thickets, easing my way through nearly impassible walls of twisted dead foliage that were themselves layered in intricate viney mazes and elaborate thorny traps. The secret to passing through these vegetative labyrinths was fearless determination. Slowly and methodically I listened to the pain of intrusive thorns as though they were teaching me a language I didn't know but was determined to master. This way, that way. Use this untrapped left hand to free my caught right leg. Lift this branch with my right hand and duck my head to the left while pushing my left leg forward another step. It was like a tai-chi form practiced by an obsessive compulsive contortionist. There were times when unwisely I went too far. I got caught and could not escape. It was then that I knew panic and fear. It was then in mastering that fear that I not only grew stronger but also wiser, where I learned the lessons that the world has to teach, where I was taught what it means to be a man.

If you've ever been trapped with no one there to help you, then some unimaginable growing up is suddenly required. You have probably heard about the mountain climber who cut off his own arm with a Swiss Army knife. The following video is incredibly graphic. The tension and the gore builds slowly so you'll be able to turn it off in plenty of time if it becomes too much for you.

WARNING GRAPHIC ARM AMPUTATION.


I'm unable to imagine being caught like that, facing what he faced. My tests of thorns were pebbles on his mountain. But who knows, perhaps after 127 hours I too would have finally done what he was able to do. What I do know is that several times I faced breaking points. There was no way out. No way forward. I was just plain stuck and after screaming for help and no one coming I finally did what I had to do.

All alone and trapped in thorns gives a person time to think about who he is, where he comes from, and where he'd like to go. Unfortunately, what I learned mostly was that there was no trap I couldn't get out of. It taught me that I was superhuman and that no matter how terribly bleak it looked there was always a way out. I say unfortunately, because I learned the wrong lessons. I learned to rely on myself, to eschew friends and to take chances solo. I liked trying new things, and yes this was good in a way, but I also falsely believed that nothing, no trial could ever hurt me, that I could tempt fate with impunity and because I'd never suffered any real consequences before, there would never be any real consequences. I've since learned to my sorrow how badly I misinterpreted so many of these lessons.

If you've never been trapped in a thicket of thorns then you can't understand me. It's a part of growing up as natural as fighting. It's our battle against nature and if it's done right, it's done alone. There are secrets in the woods, in the jungle, in the forest, in the wild. I sought out those secrets and tried to understand my world. Is it redundant to point out that this world I grew up in no longer exists? Kids spend their days playing video games and texting friends. While there's nothing wrong with that, I feel they're missing something. They grow up completely unconnected to this world we live in, to nature, to the untamed wild that waits to test us.

It was nearly seventeen years ago that I faced another test, another trap. Again, I had ventured foolishly into the thicket of thorns, perhaps believing in my own invincibility, my own superhuman ability to defeat any obstacle. Nothing had ever really hurt me before. There was no trap that I couldn't get out of. This time I was wrong! I'm only here today because of my family. It turns out that I'm not invincible. I'm not unbreakable. I'm only alive today because my family—my father—went out and found me and brought me home. There were other family members who helped. They spent time, money, effort, and heartache extricating me from the trap I had so foolishly and willingly climbed into. I write this confession today, not to induce forgiveness, but in the perhaps futile effort to understand myself.

My family will never understand why I would put myself into that position and unless you've done what I have, unless you too have longed to see things never before seen, stand in places where no man has stood before, I doubt you ever could understand me either. It's who I am and it's where I stand. Only a fool would climb into a thicket of thorns. Yes, I am that fool, and I'm the kind of man who only seems to learn by doing things the hard way.

I know from personal experience that drugs—marijuana, cocaine, meth, etc—are thorns which will eventually trap you. You can venture into that thicket but getting out again, that's the trick, isn't it? I don't understand why marijuana is being legalized in Colorado, California and Washington, but I know it's a terrible mistake. Why is it that everybody always has to learn things the hard way?

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