There is a place men go when we have troubles, things we don’t understand or that which overwhelms us, a place to which we escape. It’s a place where we can be proud, joyful, angry, sad, afraid or lonely, or just a place where we can hurt. Some may call this place the garage, the basement or the local tavern but the reality is that this place has no name, nor is the where important, it’s just the place that’s somewhere else. It’s a place where we can lay our feelings out, put them side by side with our problems and try and make sense of things in our head. In this place we take the pieces that we have, bits of feelings, a smattering of the things we know, and we try our hardest to make a picture from the puzzle.
That’s what men do you see, we don’t talk about our problems, not unless we have to. We might fish for an answer here or there, gain some advice from a friend, but men always know there is only one person who can put that puzzle together and we already think we have the pieces that we need. Yet sometimes puzzles have no picture, there is no solution that fits the pieces together. Sometimes life doesn’t give us the pieces we need or sometimes the puzzle is beyond our ability to solve.
So what’s a man to do in this place, a place that’s somewhere else? What does he do when he finally works out the game is rigged and sometimes we get burdens bigger then we can bear? Some will fight the nature of the world, knowing from the start the cause is lost, and some will flee from it knowing it will catch them anyways. Some will turn to death, thinking that if he no no longer exists then the puzzle ceases as well, and some will plead for help knowing there is no one to there to save them. Yet by far the saddest creature, whether fighting, running, dying or begging, is the man who turns his heart to stone.
A heart of stone cannot feel, what dims the pain also dims joy. There is no way to harden the heart against just one feeling. All emotions must be felt or none felt at all. Yet being overwhelmed a man will turn his heart to stone to make the pain abate. Yet a world without emotion is a world of blacks, whites and greys. The beauty and wonder in the world is muted, these beautiful colors turn the same shades as horror and helplessness. Stuck in a world of silhouettes the life a man once knew becomes pointless, useless, empty and barren. There is no greener grass on the other side, no pot of gold under the rainbow, no silver lining in the storm, just a charcoal drawing mocking the life he used to know.
Men can win unwinnable fights; we are built of stern stuff. We can escape faceless hunters; our endurance is second to none. We can sip tea with death, rock bottom is merely a place to rest for a time, and sometimes we even cross paths with heroes, those who lend a hand. Yet no man has a harder time than he who turns his heart stone. He must learn to battle an enemy far greater than anything the world can throw at him.
He must learn to fight himself, and lose.
He must learn to see colors once more knowing that with cool greens and calm blues there will also be crimson reds and angry violets. He has to let the hurt in again knowing it will overwhelm him. He has to face it, embrace it and he must stand his ground knowing he will fail, knowing that these feeling will be more than he can bear. He has come to understand that pain, loss and grief will always and forever be a part of his life and he dare not run away, not now. Yet once he loses his fight against feelings he will find something vital has been gained, something he sorely needed, acceptance and mastery. They aren’t the answers he was looking for but they are solutions nonetheless.
Men, guard your heart from stone. This is a warning from a man who once only saw the world only in endless shades of grey. As tempting as it is to harden your heart when there are no solutions to your puzzle, don’t do it. Divorce, loss and situations beyond your control will wander into your life taking what they please but please do no turn to the comforting abyss of a hardened heart. Feel it, every damn painful feeling and don’t let go. Weep, rage, tear down mountains and do what you need to do because a world with color is far better than a world with none. When you truly enter that place of grey only you can save yourself, and I know many who have never returned.
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*A minstrel was a medieval European bard who performed songs whose lyrics told stories of distant places or of existing or imaginary historical events. Although minstrels created their own tales, often they would memorize and embellish the works of others. The Modern Minstrel observes the world around him and shares it with us as lyrical story. This series was inspired by Luke Davis, whose eye for story and ear for lyrical prose are featured here.
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