A Rotten Rope up an Ominous Precipice: Treasure guarded by the Grim Reaper

Naturally there are a lot of creative people in my family.  I of course have a lot of very creative skills, and my wife does as well.  Yet we protect those skills of their virtual with the guarded care of a church going virgin from previous centuries.  We don’t whore ourselves out to the modern world.  We offer our services on our terms.  My wife is even stricter about that practice than I am.  Her crafts would make a fortune in an open market, but she’s very introverted and doesn’t like to see her creations tended to recklessly in exchange for money.  She usually only makes things for members of our family and not the outside world.  Naturally my children are very creative as well, and are happiest when they can express themselves in some form of art.  That means that when it comes time for gift giving the members of my family usually make things for each other rather than just buying an impersonal gift.  That made this last Father’s Day interesting because I had just come off a week of extreme stress, and my oldest daughter was very concerned about me. She captured her feelings in a nice card with some art expressed with the following picture.image

My previous week was enough to flatten all but the excessively resolute.  It involved first and foremost a legal issue that I can’t talk about at this time because of the entanglements involved.  The Grim Reaper came calling.  But I take this overman stuff seriously, so I denied its wishes.   Just because death wants something, doesn’t mean it gets it.  Human beings are a lot more powerful in their self-determination than they are often willing to admit.  Additionally, professionally it was one of the most difficult weeks I’ve had in my life—just with all the elements of things coming together at the same time from so many factions of people.  When people want to argue the great novel Atlas Shrugged and wonder why there are always only a few people who are competent, they need to walk in my shoes for a week and they’ll understand.  Especially this last week.  Then at the end of the week there was the Matt Clark radio show which I enjoyed and wasn’t a serious time burden, but did require some focus that was desperately in need of rest.  That same morning leading up to the broadcast when I was trying to do some show prep, I had guests from the other side of the world trying to get on a plane to get home and a major meltdown in my professional endeavors that would not allow a retreat from productive enterprise.  My kids knew about all this, so my daughter captured my week with that drawing.

When I first saw the picture I thought of Indiana Jones from the movie Temple of Doom.  I raised my kids on that movie, so the metaphor was appropriate.  Yet it was customized to fit my circumstances appropriately.  The hat is more like the one I wear rather than the one Indiana Jones does, and the physical body is more akin to me rather than the linky Harrison Ford.  In the picture the hero is trying to climb out of danger on a frail little rope ladder up a treacherous precipice.  Parts of the ladder are breaking away leaving nowhere to go but to fail or succeed in climbing hanging on to whatever one can.  Even though the picture is a dramatization of reality, it was exactly how the previous week had felt.

There were times during this week of tribulations when I wondered, “why.”  Why should I even try to climb up such a rope ladder?  Why not just stay on the ground instead of going up such an ominous precipice with a rickety device.   The answer is of course for the treasure that resides at the top.  Yet I’m not all that interested in treasure, but people I’m loyal to are—so I climb it to retrieve it for them.  I climb because they can’t.   They want the treasure from the top; I want the adventure of getting it.  I actually enjoy the danger of the climb, and that’s what I get out of it.  But my kids want my company, they’d rather me stay next to the fire in camp.  They don’t want the treasure I retrieve, just my company.  So it gets to be quite a challenge to give everyone in your life what they want—including yourself.  My daughter understands that and was able to capture her feelings within that seemingly simple picture.

There is no such thing as too much.  The circumstances presented require us to succeed or fail, and experience says that the more you push yourself, the more that you can get done in spite of any precipice intent on our destruction.  Because in life there are two kinds of treasure, there are those that drop alongside the trails we travel through life.  Occasionally someone drops a $20 dollar bill and we might find it because they have traveled that path before us, and lost something we have later found.  Perhaps in other times it’s a gold nugget that can bring us riches.  But treasures are best found off the paved road, because let’s face it, if you stick to the roads that are paved for our travel, you will only be able to go in life where others have intended to direct you.  That’s where the real treasures in life are—the kind that are still unclaimed by any who have come before us.  So I spend a lot of time on my own path off of any paved roads looking for treasure that nobody else dares to retrieve.  That is where I get a lot of my personal philosophy—off that paved road.  But there is danger off that paved path and bad things do happen. The dangers are often hidden until it’s too late.  This means you must trust yourself to contend with those dangers in whatever form they present.  After a lot of practice, I have an understanding that I can handle anything.  But from those watching, it is a dramatic romp through uncharted territory—and can be a little scary.

Father’s Day came and went, but what remained was the nice card given to me that means more than just a picture reflective of a favorite movie.  It was an appropriate metaphor.  Truth be told I was happy to get back to the camp to enjoy some time with my family because there were times this past week where all the rungs in the ladder did break leaving me hanging by only a rickety rotten rope.  That’s when you dig your bloody fingertips into the sides of the cliff and keep climbing regardless of the pain even if only bare bone is left grinding away at the rocky surface.  What makes such moments truly worth the effort is the campfire stories that came after—and on Father’s Day 2015 we had more than a few to tell.

Rich Hoffman


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