Many things confuse me.
I have never worked out why young people, especially young men, who are extraordinarily fit use drugs. I have known some extraordinarily talented young people who are elite rowers, football players, swimmers and more who are fit beyond compare. When I bench-press my 15 kg I am in awe of their bench-pressing 120 kg +! My chicken legs could never compare with their chiselled torsos. Yet these same young men, at dance club or rave party or whatever will reach for some pill or snort some powder – all to get ‘high’, to ‘fit in’, to ‘belong’, to blur – whatever.
What confuses me is that these same young people have said no to their bodies a thousand times and climbed out of bed while still dark to train or without hesitation run that extra lap, swum the extra mile, added on yet another weight to the already huge amount on the barbell.
Sure, I know that in many cases it is just the journey to maturity. For many it is just a stage that they need to go through. But sadly, too many, never mature. What is it when the boy now a man of forty is still a boy?
Many things confuse me.
I have never worked out why fine young people are so gullible in the face of social media and sell their souls to the fake world, the shallow world, of ‘likes’ and posts and more. Why do so many buy into the media driven, shallow, empty, fake / false world of the Love Island six-packer or blonde who never has a bad day, never needs to do their hair (or stop doing their hair) or go to the bathroom, wash dishes or do the early morning shift at work. The real world is full of balding patches, wrinkles, long lost six packs, greying hair and early morning aches and pains BUT also deep joy and satisfaction in love worked at, peace is giving and contentment is taking the ‘road less travelled by!’
Many things confuse me.
I have never worked out why talented people – especially elite sportspeople – with the world at their feet and a swollen bank account do drugs or engage in violence – especially domestic violence. What is it? Why does the famous player with their picture in the hall of fame break a wine glass into the face of their girlfriend or sleep with their ‘best mates’ wife? Why? Why does the elite golfer with the world at their feet leave a trail of damaged women behind them on their journey? Why does the ‘happily married man’ access pornography, have the affair or reach for the bottle?
Sure, I know it is all part of the human condition and sure I have written quite often that we all have ‘feet of clay’. We all have our brokenness, none of us are perfect and it is from the crack inherent in each one of us that the ‘light gets in!’
Many things confuse me.
I have never worked out why so many, too many, take the easy short cuts on life’s journey and bypass integrity, honesty and humility. Sure, they get the contract – sure they attract the fame – sure they make or write the headlines – but at what cost? At what cost to self – the deeper true self? At what cost to others – especially those close to them?
A term I often use is ‘crap detector’! The crap detector is that inner radar, that inner gut feel that says that someone or something is not fair dinkum, not real, not kosha! Perhaps we need to refine and work on building truly effective crap detectors in our young people!
What makes a great person – a truly great person? It is NOT about talent. Every now and again I hear about an elite sportsperson who is also a great person. What do they share in common with the others on our life’s journey for whom our crap detector does NOT go off and we ‘know’ deeply have a greatness about them?
It is humility. It is NOT about them. It is a ‘down to earth’ heart that knows they are not better than those around them – just different. It is a perspective that knows that the medal is NOT the end in itself – but rather the journey to it and the journey after it is that matters. These people ‘know’ that the real victory is the one within. These people ‘know’ that their truest self, their identity, their contribution does not depend upon a flag, a medal or a piece of paper that will fade
And maybe that is the ‘wisdom here’. Perhaps it is that too often all the inner energy of meaning and purpose goes into the medal, the premiership, the body beautiful, the bulging bank account, the trophy…. divorced from the person who walks the journey. Perhaps the young footballer who abuses the young lady on Mad Monday has confused it all. Perhaps they think it is all about the jersey, the trophy, the ‘team’ tribe and that they, who they truly are, are nothing more than a pawn to achieve some goal that will last a few minutes and then begin to fade or a fast and fleeting sexual arousal that leaves them empty because it is devoid of meaning and love.
Perhaps the mistake so many make it to make the body beautiful an end in itself; the premiership an end in itself, the trophy, the medal, the accolade, the headline – all ends in themselves. All the energy goes into that quickly passing reward, that medal that will tarnish or the memory that will fade with time and then, perhaps, be totally forgotten. I am not saying for a second that we should not strive for the high ideal, for the pinnacle of what gives us passion, for the premiership or more. But all of these are merely elements of our journey – the real journey we walk – to be our best selves.
So when that youth gets up in the wee hours to train in a rowing eight as the sun rises or the body of the athlete aches as they push their muscles to do one more lap or the elite in whatever form chooses discipline of mind and body works hard, it is not ultimately for the passing glory of some title or badge but rather for the person they are growing to become on the journey. That is the true medal. That is the ultimate victory. That is the podium that matters; to be the best me I can possibly be and then be that person for others.
The podium, the medal and the title will help give us motivation. At times they will stretch us in the best possible way. I never saw myself as an Academic. I was once working with young men who volunteered to build community with homeless people. Constantly people were telling me what a great job the lads were doing but I was not sure. Were we just young men from a private school getting a feel good experience at the expense of the poor? What was our motivation? What was the effect upon the young men and the effect upon the homeless. Sure, our motivation was to build community, to create a sense of shared dignity, to know welcome and acceptance and more. But what was the reality?
So I set out on the discipline of the academic journey of a Doctor of Philosophy degree – my version of benching 120 kg! I searched long and hard for ‘primary sources’, I examined different epistemologies (a word I could not spell nor let alone know the meaning of prior to my journey), I looked at data collecting methods, I collected qualitative data, analysed, synthesised and trusted my gut intuition as a model of meaning making emerged from within. All of this was at times difficult and asked great discipline. But I was driven NOT by the title Doctor but by a passionate need to know what was truly happening within the young men as we built community with the homeless.
On my graduation day I stood tall and proud. Proud of my parents who had taught me the value of hard work and striving for excellence in whatever form it takes. Proud of the young men and the homeless who had inspired me. Proud of myself and my hard work, discipline and gifting of the world with some new knowledge and awareness. That day came and went and my journey has continued. I am Damien who strives to be ‘brother’ to those I meet who happens to have a doctorate. I am not Doctor Price who happens to be a Religious Brother.
Ash Barty after winning the Wimbledon Tennis title this year reflected;
“A lot of the time, your greatest growth comes from your darkest times. That’s why this (tournament) has been so important to me. I’ve learned so much with all my experiences – the good, bad, everything in between I’ve been able to learn from. Just to be able to keep chipping away, keep putting yourself out there, let yourself be vulnerable, just be yourself, knowing that everything that comes with that is an opportunity to learn.”
So perhaps I am a little less confused. Sure, I am disappointed and find myself constantly sad when I see and hear about youth being violent, doing drugs, not respecting their bodies and the bodies of others. I am just as sad when I see and hear about this in supposed adults. But then I gently look within to my own far from perfect journey and the feet of clay that attempt to keep me humble.
Then I find the courage to speak up and invite the youth I meet to set out on the real journeys of life. I find myself sharing that it is about the journey and to be patient – we will all fall and fail – but hopefully and importantly – get up again. I find myself trying to encourage my fellow pilgrims on the journey to focus not on the medal but the journey that wraps it and grows before and from it!
Perhaps that’s the journey that matters!