Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Candle

When I was a teen, living with my dad in Silverado, there was a restaurant/bar where we sometimes ate. A place of dark decor, minimal lighting, and candles on the tables. They were cheap candles, little votive candles in the bottom of tall glasses. We tried to impress each other by sealing the top of the glasses with our palms until the flame consumed the oxygen and died. It was a test of endurance, letting the heat burn our hands until we triumphed over it.

Dad liked it when we pushed past pain.

I always tried to do what he and my brothers did. I wasn’t as good at it as they, but I always managed to do anything they could.

Didn’t care for it though. I wasn’t like them.

I know I’m a little unusual. How could I not?

My father is a man’s man. Women and whiskey and wildness were a part of all the dear hunting trips, demolition of buildings, and dares to prove our masculinity.

While my dad and brother were bedding mother and daughter, I was reading books. While my brothers and father were seeing who could drink the most liquor and remain standing, I was hiking hills, comparing religious texts, learning to fast and meditate. While my father and brothers were honing their skills in crushing ever taller buildings, I was experimenting with art techniques.

Now I am respected enough in certain circles (education, faith, and even among a few blog readers), to be forgiven a few eccentricities. It is OK with my friends that I am sensitive, scientific, and a touch socially awkward.

Some things I am not very good at. I have a little trouble reading people. I don’t always pick up on others’ humor, and many of my puns and jokes simply confuse.

When people talk sports I am the quiet one in the background who smiles and nods and pretends to understand what the fuss is all about.

But ask me about the ball games of the Mayans, and I can tell you much about their equipment, rules, the designs of and on their courts.

Ah well.

I may not fit smoothly into a bar scene, or navigate the politics found in larger organizations, but there are other things I do fairly well.

My failings are obvious enough to prevent me from becoming too proud of my successes. The skills I possess, I use as a caretaker uses someone else’s tools. They are mine to use, but I cannot take credit for them.

Take art for example. Friends are amused at how excited I get over colors in foliage, shapes in clouds, shifting colors in sunrises. All this ties the universe outside of me to the creativity within me, another tool I use I cannot take credit for.

Or science. Again and again my friends and colleagues shake their heads and try not to smile as I become animated about the implications of the Higgs Bosun condensate or the potential of the Hadron Super Collider or how quarks seem to find the number three as a common denominator.

So what? I may be a touch sensitive, but the condescension it may illicit in others is a small price to pay for the depth of feeling I have in my experiences. I may not wax eloquent over the smooth teamwork of basketball or marvel at the passing skills of a quarterback, but I have other joys.

Still, there are times when I don’t like certain things about myself.

I don’t like the hurt.

Even in typing those words I hear my father’s voice: “What a wuss.”

I’m a loyal person. I am loyal to the companies, friends, organizations I belong to. I am, was, loyal to my wife. To the point where it becomes nearly masochistic.

I am working my tail off. I am doing my best in taking over all the duties of this household. Cleaning, cooking, laundry, bills, house repairs, helping the boys with their homework, performing my duties in my given avocation.

So, I’m tired.

But more than tired, I am sad.

It’s not a manly emotion.

In some ways it interferes with my life.

Would it be better to blow all this off, to saunter into the future on long legs like some sort of pedagogical version of John Wayne? It would be easier.

If I could just get angry, stay angry, say “Screw you!”, I would be able to jump past this emotional junk.

I am passionate. When I worship I feel alive. When I sing to the stars and sunrise, my heart leaps.

So being sensitive means I hurt more easily, deeply, but it isn’t much to pay in exchange for the joys I feel.

I think sensitivity pays off in other ways as well.

I have no doubts about the existence of God, about the truth of my faith. I am well aware of the logic of science which causes so many to doubt His existence.

I know Him to be real, to be true. I can’t demonstrate Him with evidence that could be sliced with Occam’s razor... still... I am certain the reality of His existence is truer than the reality of my own. As weird as that sounds, I know it, with the deepest certainty of my mind and soul, that it is true.

That is one area where my sensitivity pays off.

This sensitivity costs me.

That sensitivity guides me to be obedient to my faith, my God. That sensitivity makes such obedience more painful.

It hurts to be asked to be kind, to love, to forgive, when the mere exposure to the source of my sorrow is painful, burns.

Our faith is not an easy one. It asks us to do much (...forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us...), and we cannot refuse in the light of the spectacle of God incarnate washing the feet of His creation before permitting that same creation to spit on Him, torture Him, murder Him.

So, if my Lord tells me to hold my hand over a flame until I extinguish it, though it hurts deeply, I do it.


Amrita said...

Beautifully worded self-portrait Will.

One thing you forgot to mention,you are a wonderful writer and express yourself well.

God bless you Will as you seek first the kingdom of God.

wilsonian said...

Praying through the hurt, friend.

wilsonian said...

Praying through the hurt, friend.

Becky said...

He is very fond of you...THAT'S the Father to listen to and while I imagine that's hard....hear THAT. THanks for sharing your journey with us and giving us the privilege of praying for all of you. THANKS

aim4plumb said...

You might not be a "man's man" but you are God's man and have all of the characteristics that He requires.

You are the man who is respected and who is raising son's with character.

Sadness and hurt are emotions I know well but I know that God is there to get me through every dark spot.

I am praying for you.

Owen said...

As a man who describes himself thus, you are not alone just as a Elijah wasn't alone. From one non sports, non man's man, artist, sensitive guy to another, you are not alone.

Marvin the Martian said...