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the one in the arena, bloodied but unbeaten.

The photo above is of some graffiti that I saw on the pillar of a bridge on one of my weekly walks near where I live. I noticed this week that it has been painted over.

My wonderful father Frank Price loved listening to people like Archbishop Fulton Sheen. Dad loved a thorough, rational, thought through, logical explanation of faith. There were others like Fulton Sheen that dad admired and among them was Gilbert Keith Chesterton. Chesterton is famous for many sayings but one that I have always loved is, “Life was not meant to be easy!”

Life can be tough. Life is tough at times. As I have grown older I have become more and more aware that every person, and I mean EVERY person has their burdens, their pain, their struggles. No one is immune from life. One of the innate factors of life is that life of its essence has pain and death. New life and growth can only come about through pain and death. The tree appears to die back during the Winter, the crops vanish leaving only apparently barren soil, some animals retreat into dens and caves and we humans have our slow days, our days when, as my mother Zena would say, “my get up and go has got up and gone!”

“My get up and go has got up and gone!”

I went and visited a friend in hospital last night. After some time he shared with me, “Pricey, this may be the beginning of the end!” A wave of sadness went over me. But then my friend quickly added, “But I’m going to keep on fighting this illness and making the best of whatever days are left to me!”

It is important to note that the full quote from G K Chesterton reads, “Life was not meant to be easy my child, but take courage, it can be delightful!” So our invitation and our challenge is to a mind set and heart set change. We need to change from a way of thinking that wants everything to be easy and life to be a ‘bed of roses’! But just as important is that we need to change from a way of thinking that life is terrible and difficult and that we must retreat to a cave of isolation, apparent safety and comfort. No battle was won in the cave of isolation and loneliness.

My two older brothers love that famous quote of the American President Theodore Roosevelt from a speech he delivered in Paris in 1910.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

So, get out of bed. It may be as simple as that. Get out of bed and see the beauty in the midst of the pain, observe the courage in the face of apparent defeat and despite all that burdens you down, take that one small step forward and outward – away from self-pity – to make this world a better place for all. All of that can sound so easy but we all know it is not. Life at times is not fair. We all have a tendency to wallow in our pain surrounded by the self pity of ‘poor me!’ Ok, allow yourself a few seconds to acknowledge the difficulty and then, simply and with humility get up again, dream again, reach out again, forgive again, accept again, love again. Then you will become aware, paradoxically, that “life is delightful!”

Last week I trekked the Rakiura Track on Stewart Island to the south of New Zealand. There was one day when my friend James and I slipped and sidled, curled and crawled, crept over and under branches and logs along a stretch of mud covered track that appeared to be endless. Unbeknown to me my friend had stopped at one point and enjoyed taking a photo of this old man contemplating where to put his tired feet to avoid the deep mud. That day was full of thousands of small five second choices to start again, face hundreds of steep stairs, ignore the tired limbs and the steep climb around the corner. The reward – a warm cabin that night and the laughter of new friends and at times glorious vistas that put all into perspective.

So this week and every week, life will be tough, you will have the curved ball bowled at you, you will be disappointed and let down, there will be struggle and pain. BUT, take courage my friends – in the midst of all of that, when faced with small five second courage, you will find meaning and it will be delightful!

Some of the vistas of Stewart Island after the trekking through the mud!

2 thoughts on “the one in the arena, bloodied but unbeaten.”

  1. Thanks Damien for these encouraging words today of all days-Ollie’s 3 year anniversary-they’re like a soothing balm as well as a wise reminder about life’s journey and challenges
    Plus you’ve inspired Gerry and me for our next trek having completed the Humpridge and Paparoa last month. .. the Rakiura next.

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