I’ve felt out of sorts lately. Like I’ve lost my bearings somewhere along the way and have become disoriented, forgetting where my strength resides. Instead of standing firm, I feel as if I’m being pulled by distracting thoughts and feelings into untamed corners of my psyche. I run around and around within my own head with no way out and no clarity of what the best direction is forward.
I doesn’t help that I make my living in words. I consume them, write them, repeat them and proclaim them. I study them and agonize over them; I attempt to control them and employ them at will. And while words are certainly a powerful commodity, they tend to lack a certain tangibility that the rest of our world is based upon. Words are a great business when they work, when they behave the way you want them to and you get the results you hope for. But when they don’t, when the words fail, when they produce little to anything at all, then you are left reeling.
Imagine writing a love letter. You set out to move someone else to the same feeling you possess for them. You want to shape a world made just for them by your words, to captivate their heart and soul with the poetry and prose you scribble down on paper. And when it’s done, when the note is signed, sealed and delivered, your words fail to do what they set out to do. That is a difficult reality to bear. After the words were designed to take what was inside of you and bring it to bear on the external world. So, if you fail to do that, what are you left with? You’re stuck on the inside, in the dark and aimless wanderings of the mind. Second guessing every utterance and trying to control every receiver of the words.
The solution to this is, of course, is easy enough to see. It is not my words that come from within that I must lean upon but an eternal word from the outside that I need to break into my world. What I am realizing, though, is that isn’t always so easy to find and receive. Waiting on one to speak from the outside can be brutal. Even if a word is spoken to light the path forward, sometimes it is so faint and brief that it simply isn’t enough to do the trick. It feels good for a moment but then I slide right back to where I began. And I’m stuck waiting.
My faith causes me to trust that the words will come, that I won’t remain like this forever. But what shall I do while I wait? I can certainly position myself in a place to be more ready and able to hear. I can try to create situations where it is more likely that I will hear those blessed words. But there is still much time left in the day, where I run round and around on the inside, unable to do much about the words.
What I have found in this waiting is increasing clarity regarding what is within my sphere of control. For me, one of the most basic means to endure the failure of my words and the waiting for words from the outside is to intentionally engage in the practice of violence.
These days, I have found that I rarely miss and opportunity to head down to my Jiu Jitsu academy to engage in simulated combat with men half my age. We run through a class drilling moves intended to submit an opponent, either by some sort of choke or joint lock. There are counters to every move and moves to every counter. It is a human chess game of which there is no perfect form. Technique counters strength and even size and speed can become a moot point. But where it really gets good is when the drills move to open sparring, and the sparring moves to all out warfare (within the given ruleset) with other men.
Here everything is tangible. Everything has a consequence, and for a moment there is clarity and focus. For a moment the violence takes away my failed words and I even forget what I was waiting for. I feel strong here. I feel bold even when I lose, for at least I’m here. At least the pain is physical, the bruises real. The rounds come relentlessly. There is no time to recover fully as we impact the lives of one another. Not through words but contest. Not through your desires but actual violence, and it is a beautiful thing.
I wonder then, how much of our violence stems not from a deep perversion in the souls of men, but from our weariness in waiting for the word?