There’s something monumentally transformative about going from a relatively athletic, physically fit martial artist to a seriously disabled person in less than ten years. I’m pretty sure anyone could kick my ass now. I wouldn’t necessarily bet in my favor against a 13 year old girl who wanted to give me a drubbing.
I was never the strutting type, but it used to be much of what confidence I had was rooted in my fighting skills. Other than writing, it was the only thing I was ever really good at. And now it’s gone. Oh, the knowledge is still there, which is either comforting and frustrating, depending on my state of mind. I wanted to teach my kids what I knew and I was robbed of that ability, which sucks. The best I can do now is to share what’s in my head with them, and I can say my eldest is already a much better man than I was. I was fundamentally broken when I reached adulthood, though I knew it not. It’s taken my life so far to put me back together. The irony is that as my body failed, everything else finally started to heal.
I would have thought, if I’d been asked ahead of time, that losing my ability to fight would have cost me something in terms of confidence. That I’d somehow feel like half a man. In some respects I am certainly diminished. If an emergency arises, I can know longer react swiftly, an ability that has saved my life and others in the past.
I think I’d be a candidate for someone who wanted to carry a gun to feel “safer.”
Let me put it this way. When one suffers from chronic debilitating pain and depression, one is not made safer by the presence of a firearm.
It might also seem as though I’d grow more timid, but it’s quite the opposite. I no longer really care what people think of me. After spending most of my life with social anxiety, it’s actually quite liberating. You’re welcome to your opinion. I’m not obligated to give a shit.
I am getting quite curmudgeonly, according to some of my friends, and I suppose that’s true. I have little patience with bullshit. Plenty of bullshit from other sources, I don’t have to listen to any one source in particular.
A friend once told me of the concept of “ego-death,” supposedly a shamanic step when you realize you’re not going to live forever. When you accept your own real death and come to terms with the idea that you are not, in fact, eternal as you are now. The acceptance of mortality.
Now, honestly, only three things matter to me. My family (adopted and otherwise), my writing, and the struggle.
My conversation with my youngest the other day, despite the fact that we disagreed on the point, just solidified my respect for him. He is certainly his parents’ son, just as our eldest is. But unlike both his parents, he wasn’t ever broken. As long as he dedicates himself to discovering truth rather than just accepting what he’s told, he might go on to do great things for humanity in general over the next fifty years. It’ll be people like Logan who save our asses, if anyone can. The fact that he’s a jock will make him extra competitive, the fact that he’s good in math science will make him invaluable.
Right now my mind is beginning to turn to the question of humanity’s survival. I see us as being a tipping point. We will either move out into the solar system and begin exploiting the resources there to make up for our dwindling resources here, or we will implode and kill most of us off in a great die-off.
I may have a bit of the misanthrope in me these days. Let’s say I don’t have a lot of use for about fifty percent of the population, near as I can calculate based on my observations over the years. But I don’t want the human race wiped out, or even close to it. I don’t tend to care for those who do. I am, despite everything, an optimist. I like to think there’s a purpose behind sapience beyond destroying ourselves because of our own myopathy.
We need people of vision to set a course to a workable future. I’d once dreamed of being one of them, but broken people rarely rise that high. I’ll settle for being an attempted voice of reason in the chaos.
And hope my sons can hold it together, for themselves, long enough to have a decent life. Because what my generation is leaving behind (and I think most of you know how much I blame Gen X for this–well, Gen X and the younger Boomers, anyway). If you don’t, you haven’t been reading my stuff.
Maybe ego death is in the realization that the only thing you’re leaving behind is your genetic heritage, and that’s in their hands, not yours.