I've had some heavy shit go down in my life this past week and a half...a long time friend, who I considered a brother, killed himself.
I've been alternating between grief and extreme anger at the selfishness of his action ever since I heard.
The first smile I had since I heard the news, was seeing this commercial while watching NFL Football:
Seeing that commercial brought a passage from the Book of Zed (pdf - p.31) to my mind...
The entire secret of life, of power, of everything, was taught to me when I was a teenager, by a man, a farmer. And he taught it to me in the way that is so typical of men: three sentences, no more...
...The farmer's name was Griff. I was a "townie" (population 300) and made good money for a teenager as a "hired hand". One day when I showed up for work he said "We're going to pick up a new truck." We got in his car and the entire 40 minute ride to the dealer passed without either of us saying a word: One of those easy comfortable silences that men often use to communicate more than words ever can.
We picked up a new 4-wheel drive ¾ ton pickup and headed back to the farm. When we got back, he pointed to a large gravel pile by the barn and told me to fill the truck bed with gravel and go fill in a hole in the entrance to one of his fields. I said "But that gravel will ruin the paint on the bed of this brand new truck." He looked at me silently for about a minute, his expression eloquently saying that I was the worst idiot he'd ever been burdened with having to tolerate in his life.
Without saying another word he picked up the shovel and, with a swing that would be the envy of every major league baseball hitter, he swung it around and smacked the side of the truck sending paint chips flying in every direction and leaving a huge dent. He looked at me again with that same "I can't believe you are such an idiot" look and said: "City boy this is a FARM truck. I didn't buy it to look pretty, I bought it to DO WORK, same reason I'm payin' you. Now it ain't new no more, so shut up and shovel the fuckin' gravel." Then he turned around and walked off, leaving me to feel foolish and gain wisdom.
Of course it took the entire context and circumstances for me to understand the full significance of the lesson: not with my head but with my spirit. In the same way, cultures worldwide and throughout history have used ritual space to teach the great lessons to the young. Complexity and too many words destroy the lesson, because the very heart and soul of the lesson is that words accomplish nothing.
Words do not put in crops.
Words do not harvest them or get them to market or prepare them or put them on our plates.
No one eats unless someone shuts up and shovels the fuckin' gravel.
The entire secret of male power is that men do, men have, shut up and shoveled the fuckin' gravel.
I gave myself one day to get all maudlin and get thoroughly drunk on a bottle of Scotch. I lamented the senseless waste of life and the legal issues he left for his children...two of them who are still young children under the age of 10.
But now it's time to put the grief aside and shovel the fuckin' gravel. The only thing I can do, is help his children to deal with the mess he left behind in an expedient and pragmatic way.
Men must do what men must do in times of great emotional turmoil.
Shut up, get up, and get what needs doing, done.