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A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi. (In front of you, a precipice. Behind you, wolves.)

Friday, July 26, 2013

When All Hope is Gone

We've been watching Shark Week on Netflix; enjoying learning about those sleek, uber-engineered powerhouses of the ocean. We've learned when not to go swimming and where, and the how to survive one of their attacks. Last night we watched a program on the USS Indianapolis tragedy.

I am so in awe of those men who held on past the death of hope. And more than that, helped others to survive. The odds were nearly insurmountable: their ship had sunk, pulling hundreds of men down with it; many were covered in burning oil; hungry sharks circled the entire time picking off the weak and dying; the thirst drove many to drink the sea water; exposure; hunger; and loss of morale. Survivors of this wreck should wear a badge of courage. Maybe not a physical badge, because any decoration would not be vehicle enough to carry all the loss and anguish and sense of deprivation. But they should carry it in their heart. My hat is off to them.

My biggest heroes are those who hang on past all hope of rescue.

Frodo and Sam in the LORD OF THE RINGS, dragged themselves clear to the brink of Doom to toss the ring into the flames. In the same book, it's Eowyn facing down a Nazgul carrying the Witch King, the most fearsome of Sauron's minions ever to have sprung from the foul pits of Mordor.

It's Joe Simpson solo finishing a disastrous climb down from Siula Grande (a peak in the Peruvian Andes) with a badly broken leg. He'd fallen down a crevasse and been left for dead. By the end of his excruciating trail, he was licking snow melt from rivulets coming down the rocks. You can get his book here.

How about Forlorn Hopes, those forsaken men who were sent up the glacis of the castle to scale the walls first. They went up while the ammunition was still plentiful; the oil was boiling, the quivers full of arrows, the rock piles high. They went with the idea that they were never coming back.

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Artist: Brad Wrobleski
If our Founding Fathers had bailed on the whole America thing because of torture, penury, injury, slander, and the threat of impending death, where would our country be today? Most of those men died penniless and alone. George Washington should never have been able to drag his rag-tag army to a successful finish to the War for Independence. Those men hung on by sweat and grit and an indomitable will to succeed.

It's Natalie du Toit of South Africa, a one-legged swimmer who swam in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, along with the two-legged swimmers. She also won gold medals in the 2004 Paralympic Games and the Commonwealth Games. 
We tend to give up on things when the going gets tough, often way too early. Because we can't stand to be uncomfortable or out of our 'zone', we throw away the right to stand with giants. We let our fears, our insecurities, our whiny laziness win the battle we should have won. I know, I've done it countless times. When I should have put that little extra effort into something, I bail on it for something more interesting.
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 Well not anymore. The goal is to be excellent. The goal is to make it to the finish line whether I'm dragging along or not. The goal is to actually RUN tomorrow in my 5K.