A man’s true strength comes in his ability to know what weight needs carrying, and what weight needs letting go.
How often in life does it feel like we are carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders— That overbearing and all-consuming heaviness that presses down on you? Do you spend most of your time free of that weight, or most of your time under it? And above all, what is the right way to live?
Each moment in our lives is defined by the emotion we feel that accompanies it; how it affects us and what it evokes within us. When this weight pushes down on us, no matter how physically strong we may be, we may still buckle under it. This is not the kind of weight a world strong man would carry, it’s the kind of weight a man carries.
Why do we, as men, typically carry such ridiculous loads?
The weight we carry is the weight of so many things: responsibility, obligation, necessity, relationships, judgment— and we typically shoulder these all at once.
I believe as men, there is a hidden strength within us that allows us to carry such burdens. I think at the very core of a man’s soul is who we truly are. Deep down, underneath the lessons we have learned through life, underneath the media emblazoned preconceived notions of the world, under our trauma and stress and anger and regret and pride and vanity— under all of it, we are truly selfless creatures. We would rather shoulder the burdens of our lives and the lives of others on our own, than let another suffer under the weight.
Yet this weight is so harmful to us. Stress riddled lives need a way to cope, and our vices are not always positive nor do they have positive effects on us. We carry this weight, hoping that it will make us stronger, hoping beyond all hope, that one day we’ll have the life we want. And while we strive for a higher purpose, our weight keeps us grounded. It keeps us level and keeps us from being carried off by the loftiness of our dreams. One of my favourite books of all time, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, which I think every man should read while in his search for himself, has a passage that goes like this; Kundera’s question of the lightness of being expressed:
The heaviest of burdens crushes us, we sink beneath it, it pins us to the ground… The heaviest of burdens is therefore simultaneously an image of life’s most intense fulfillment. The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become. – Milan Kundera
Not all burdens are good; not all should be carried alone. The more weight we carry, the slower we move; the slower we move, the faster we begin to die. Our dreams and ambitions are smothered by our inability to progress. The reach of our dreams exceeds that of our arms and we are left holding nothing but the empty present. We lose sight of the future, we lose hope for a better day. Our aspirations are then easily destroyed in the face of what seems like insurmountable odds, and we retire to accepting our place and never reaching high again.
There is a second lesson here. One that we all must learn. It is a lesson that does not come inherently, like our selfless nature.
We are well intentioned fools. What prevents our own self-destruction is the acceptance of the things we cannot change, and the release of that excess weight. We must learn when to relinquish responsibility for something that we should not be concerned with— all of the worry and doubt and fear and regret and anger; we must shed the negative emotions and the negative memories and the negative experiences.
As climbers, in order to make it up the cliff, we must be light enough to carry ourselves there. If we climb with too much weight, eventually we will fall.
Until recently, I was part of a close group of friends that used to meet every Friday night to play a decade old game of Dungeons and Dragons. Our Dungeon Master wrote the entire story himself, and being as old as it was, it was an epic of epic proportions. So much so, that the lot of us had intended to turn the story into a comic series and had begun working on it the past several months. Then, as though it were too good to be true, One of the couples in the group separated from their ten year relationship, and with that separation went the group.
One of my psychology professors in college told me: You will never truly know a person until you have seen them angry, and boy was that right. It turns out I didn’t know these people like I thought I did, and they didn’t know me. I shouldered responsibility; the weight of lost friends, a lost dream (the comic), and a lost weekly activity that we all used to de-stress— it was a lot to add on top of the already massive pile.
For weeks I constantly missed these people whom I knew were bad for me, and desired to fix something that was outside of my power to fix.
Sometimes in our lives we become too encumbered in our ascent. We must cut the dead weight from us so that we can move higher up that cliff— unhindered by the detriments that we have relinquished. We may not always know the outcome, or the best way to get there, but make no mistake, letting stress or other people hold us down is never the right thing to do.
We are bigger than we feel, and stronger than we seem. Our vices do not define us. Our actions do not color our lives one shade. We are dynamic and ever growing. We are not the static monsters that some may see us to be. No longer are the lines between us walls to be climbed; they are slowly being erased. We are the vibrant men. We are the pillars in the sun. We are post millenial men of courage and strength. We don’t have overly indulged reputations; we have modest reputations that we live up to and then exceed. We are real men. We are creatures of perseverance. We are indestructible as long as we believe that we are. The true strength of man, is not in his ability to accomplish, but in his indomitable will— in his ability to never be defeated; in his ability to know what weight needs carrying, and what weight needs letting go. We are the sons of Hercules, each and every one of us; but we must always remind ourselves— we are not in this alone.
Photo: Flickr/ Hernán Piñera