At my core, I am a tranquil man. Deep inside me, buried beneath the façade of a sometimes explosive temper and an anxious, excitable shell, is a man who attaches great value to serenity; not just for myself, but for everyone. Yet I live in a world that is not suited to such a man. I live in a world that foments anger and cultivates excitability.  And so, I suppose, I adapt to that world. I allow myself, too frequently, to step out of the calm waters of a placid pond and into churning rapids approaching a waterfall. For years, I’ve felt a kinship with the idea embedded in the title of a book of poetry by James Kavanaugh: There Are Men Too Gentle to Live Among Wolves. The poem that gives the book its title includes a stanza that especially resonates with me:

There are men too gentle to live among wolves
Who toss them like a lost and wounded dove.
Such gentle men are lonely in a merchant’s world,
Unless they have a gentle one to love.

People who experience the world with sadness at its horrors are ridiculed as weak and useless. People who wish for peace and gentleness and compassion and caring are derided and mocked and scorned. Even when that derision is not directed at them, they know in watching others shower it on kindred souls that they, too, are its objects.

I think my armor plates, the stuff of which anger and excitement are made, are so adept at hiding my tranquil core that only I know it is there. But I do know it. Regardless of what I do and say. Regardless of how I behave. Regardless of how others perceive me. It is there. Perhaps it is barely alive, having been suffocated and strangled and beaten with my own fists, but it is there.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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