Weekly Photo Challenge: Endurance

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
—William Ernest Henley
Waves in San Diego, photo taken by Emma Bennett
Daily Post Endurance Pingback

Endurance is an eloquent expression of grace mingling with human experience persevering onward even when the most terrifying, towering waves threaten to crush them against the rocks. To me, this is endurance: self-discipline, self-control, and fearless will to persevere even in the face of opposition, challenge, or uncertainty.

There have been countless people in the world who are Holocaust survivors, soldiers who have served in times of war, journalists captured and tortured in countries like North Korea or Iran, and children who have endured severe abuse like David Pelzer in A Child Called “It.”  There is a sort of survivor’s dilemma, to survive and thrive, and behave admirably as if nothing had ever happened. This contradicts the fact that their experiences cannot by denied.

There is a special kind of endurance that helps to form a character of exquisite depth, dimension, and finesse; enduring the wretched experiences of life but holding an unyielding conviction of grace. I believe Pema Chödrön can explain this much more eloquently than I:

“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest… Life is glorious, but life is also wretched. It is both. Appreciating the gloriousness inspires us, encourages us, cheers us up, gives us a bigger perspective, energizes us. We feel connected. But if that’s all that’s happening, we get arrogant and start to look down on others, and there is a sense of making ourselves a big deal and being really serious about it, wanting it to be like that forever. The gloriousness becomes tinged by craving and addiction. On the other hand, wretchedness—life’s painful aspect—softens us up considerably. Knowing pain is a very important ingredient of being there for another person. When you are feeling a lot of grief, you can look right into somebody’s eyes because you feel you haven’t got anything to lose–you’re just there. The wretchedness humbles us and softens us, but if we were only wretched, we would all just go down the tubes. We’d be so depressed, discouraged, and hopeless that we wouldn’t have enough energy to eat an apple. Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other. One inspires us, the other softens us. They go together.”
—Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living by Pema Chödrön

I’ve taken a lot of incredible leaps of faith. I have a willingness to go anywhere, do whatever it takes, and make a door where none seem to exist.

My friends often wonder where that all comes from. They tell me that I am extraordinarily brave. Actually, they tell me a lot of things that seem a bit incredulous to my conscious. They tell me that I am beautiful, brave, hard working, committed, kind, generous, supportive, accomplished, and capable of nearly anything.

If I am brave, it is because life gave me the right experiences to teach me. Drawing inspiration from Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search from Meaning , Albert Camus’ The Stranger, and other existential writers, to frame my life, I think of life in an existential way. Family, home, money, belonging. Stripped of these things, without earthly possessions or ties to any place, or persons, what one has left is their will. From their will, they have adopted attitudes, choices, and the option of either being a wallower in the muck or a 007.

“Orphans always make the best recruits.”
—M, Skyfall

It does take courage to defy the lamenting whispers of the feeble masses that life is too hard, it’s so arrogant to succeed, or that life dealt me a bad hand. It is optional but optimal to deflect those dour opinions and think: life might sometimes take a little bit of elbow grease, but it’s worth it, success is glorious, and the possibilities of life are more abundant than I can even begin to comprehend or measure.

À cœur vaillant rien d’impossible. Nothing is impossible for a valiant heart. Life is worth living for. Keep going.

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