Adversity

I have never met someone who enjoyed schooling that I would see as interesting.  Adversity breeds invention, and one needs to invent the self in order to find who they are.  You are not born with a personality, but it is created in a curiously fateful way.  We are born with genes that give us talents, impact behavior, intelligence, and a physical state.  Likewise, your environment is the creation of your parents genes in the places you live, the food you eat, and the experiences you have had.  We are a combination of nature and nurture.

The introvert is part of you as well.  You are a fourth generation introvert as far as I know.  The introvert will not make you the life of the party or the popular boy.  Both of you are terribly handsome and intelligent, yet that is not what makes someone popular.  Good looks are necessary but the other is a charisma that can be stupid and cruel.  How do these people become popular you may ask?  The popular kids speak to the lowest sense of ourselves.

There is a part of everyone that likes to see someone have a bad day.  We like to see someone fall, especially if we did not when we approached that spot.  It is part of the basic human condition to elevate oneself by debasing others.  Popularity and the win is all relative and that is why the popular are not extraordinary individuals.  They simply know how to debase everyone else around them.  Their extroversion and stupidity help as they can loudly protest your worth as their feeble minds can.

You are not wrong in hearing my own debasement of their character and worth; nobody is perfect.  I have lived through the torments and issues that meekness will provide a man.  That is why you were always taught to step forward.  The safest way through is at the head even if it is against your instincts.  If you cannot make it to the head, at least try to land mid pack.

Popularity breeds in itself the mundane.  It is with adversity that we come to invent and in the process build our story.  The cruel of this world is what builds heroes. Keep that in mind as you build yourself.  If you accomplished something, what was it that inspired you?  Did you move in spite of that voice that told you not to?  That is where growth happens.  It is slow and painful, yet should be steady and celebrated.  Never stop finding your next adversity.

Savage

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The Last Of the Greatest

I sit at the bedside of the greatest man I have ever known. He is of the greatest generation and that generation will be gone for me very soon. This Staff Sargent was in the army at 16 (Germany 1946), Air Force 1949 including two tours in Korea, and Air Force intelligence working under the NSA. He was twice demoted and returned to Staff Sargent for speaking out against things he did not like.

He believed in God but not religion. He was a patriot but a skeptic.  He was a tough man, but not afraid to chase his grandsons around yelling “I’m going to get me a fraggle!” He believed in solving grievances with a fist, but did not spank children ever. He loved Florida but had no use for the beach. He loved the mountains and met his sweetheart there but did not return until his 80’s. He liked good country food and just assume throw away sandwiches. A decent meal utilized utensils. He disliked extra plates. All cars should be Datsun or Nissan or at least Japanese. Knives are Swiss and tools plentiful.

As I await his passing I think on my life with him.  My father taught me solely about career, but my grandfather laid the foundation for life. I remember once I was angry and said I would hit my mother after being spanked. He had me punch a bear until my arms were tired. He told me “there it’s out now, so we can just forget about that. We never hit girls and never our parents.” “You don’t want to do that. You’re a great guy.” He began lessons like this from the time I was maybe six, which is the age of my son now. He spoke to me as an adult my whole life always explaining things simply but slightly beyond my comprehension. I find myself as I remember his words knowing this was the basis for how I teach my son.

When I had a knee infection as a child he was at the beside with me holding my hand telling me to squeeze it while distracting me from the injection I was yet again to get in my knee. He taught me patience while I was off that knee for nearly a year. We had lessons in life while swinging beneath an oak tree in his back yard. 

He taught me how to deal with bullies saying, “in a group always swing at the biggest, the rest will scatter.” He taught me when knife fighting “watch out for the little guy as he’s faster than tall guys like us” and wedge yourself in a corner if there is more than one if running did not work. Both of these he learned in Puerto Rico watching a sailor fall to some locals. He commented that the sailor died because his pants were too tight; the sailor’s uniform does not lend to weapons.  He was full of seeing simple solutions to tragedies.

He was invited to Mensa after seeing a test and mailed it in. He said it sounded like a group for bragging and had no interest in it. He never went to high school as he was the youngest child and his father died as a result of an accident on an oil rig in Texas. He had to support his mother and was also eager to kill Nazis. He made only meager money before that collecting grass seed. If he could not earn it, he hunted.

He read everything he could. He taught himself algebra, geometry, trigonometry, rudimentary calculus, astronomy, electronics, classical physics, and he studied all forms of history. I had moved him three times in his life and discarded well over 400 books he had read. Some were manuals for trades he never practiced. When asked, he said he just wondered about that and then encouraged me to read the manuals as well. He was a person of theory and did not test or build a working knowledge.

He could recall quotes and lessons from a book he had read several years earlier and the exact page it was on. No one knew of his intelligence but his grandchildren and their spouses. His eccentricities masked his underlying genius. He was never fostered around academics or I believe his scope could have been much more focused and possibly his beliefs more mainstream.  He was radical because he was isolated. He had read much of Greek literature for example but had not heard anyone pronounce the words and nearly always mispronounced foreign words.  He lived in his own head and was isolated because of life: PTSD, war, and introversion. 

As a physician, one would think I have met many great minds; yet he is by far the most intelligent man I have ever met despite 13 years of higher education. He had a superior intellect and a photographic memory that I will never match.

He gave away all money he ever had to family only keeping a few thousand for himself and relying on his pension. He gave away well over $300,000 in his lifetime. He bought a car for me while I went to college, a house for my mother giving up his own, and numerous monthly donations to everyone around him. 

He was a stoic man and an introvert. War shaped him with PTSD to avoid groups. He was a solitary man most of his life until his twilight. Assisted living made him accept community for the first time in his life. He handed over control of his life completely to me after becoming paranoid living alone in Florida. The ghosts of war never really leave you. 

I have asked myself if I could have done better. I should have see him more, brought him to the house more, and taken the kids to his assisted living apartment more. I never got to show him my property in the mountains.  I wonder if I ever told him that he was my hero. I don’t think I did until today. I hope he understood. I am a man of principles, kindness, ethics, stoicism, patience, wonder and rules because of him. I remember all his lessons right along side of great writers that have taught me so much. I know I will never be as pure intentioned as he was or as intelligent. There were no limits to how far he would go to help family. 

This is an end of a geneneration, through the days of writing this the old warrior, grandfather, and best buddy has gone. A generation that went to war for the greater good, had a career to support family, and were true men by birth. We emulate this generation of gentleman in fashion, hobbies, and mindset as a poor imitation of what they were. That is what heroes are for us though. They set an example with faults and all for us to measure ourselves against. We learn from them in youth, compare ourselves in our early adult life, and respect them when it is our turn to carry their torch. He was a man of major impact for the few fortunate people that new him. He truly was the last of the greatest.

Defeat

Medical school was a trying time. I have of course pushed you through focusing on medicine for each of you since you were two. I want greatness from both my sons. I had once looked into going into investment banking in college but looking into my future I looked at work/ home lifestyle, money, flexibility, as well as job security. They were few options but I chose wisely and have always wanted the same for you, which is why you have been steered.

There was time I came very close to quitting. I have always been an introvert and coming to the wards was difficult. Attending are usually extroverts who push you to speak in front of assemblies and conferences. There is also much constructive criticism and just plain criticism. As both introverts, you know that sometimes you just need to recharge when you have been out in public. The long days and call nights caused me anxiety with no time to wind down. This lead to run away anxiety and a desperation to escape. I became depressed and withdrawn. I decided to speak to the dean about leaving. I was ultimately given a month to think about my future and decide.

The first person I told as I had this breakdown was your mother. She was supportive and left me dignified in an empathy only a female can provide with no other words on my future. I wanted to leave town and forget this place. My father was not understanding but was panicked and rushed to force me to get better. There was only talk of ‘not good enough,’ ‘not for everybody,’ and ‘why not just keep going.’ He was disappointed and did not seek to help me but rather judge. 

I did not speak on the future for two weeks. My mind and nerves calmed. I went on anti-depressants for a few months. I broke free of Memphis and got back to Florida. I felt free but unfinished. I have an inner sense of duty and it told me to get better and get back to work. Your mother trusted that I would come to this conclusion on my own eventually. She supported until I pulled through.

I attacked the wards with an outgoingness. I spoke first and often. I did not allow myself to feel the judgement of others as I just unplugged from emotion at work. I got used to long bouts and long recoveries when I had time off. I adapted and found myself stronger for it.

During that month, I made a decision that could have greatly impacted my life. I could have quit and gone back to business, but I felt an urge to conquer my fears and win. I wanted to quit; I wanted to be absolved. Still I could not look myself in the eye in the mirror. There is an inner drive that makes you move eventually. If we strive and listen and pull together, nothing can stop your greatness. 


If you succumb to what is easy, possible, or comfortable you will find yourself a nameless faceless person as you will not recognize yourself in weakness. I had a glimpse of ultimate defeat, and I do not want to experience it again. Defeat comes not from losing, but from giving up. Losing is part of life, but defeat is a choice. You cannot be defeated if you choose to get back up. Persistence will lead to victory. I do hope this begins the path to getting your legs back underneath you when you read this one day. I know you will. 

-Savage

The Crooked Road to Success

In applying for medical school, I was in need of research as it is one of three pillars to applying for a career in medicine.  One must have exemplary grades, basic science research, and medical volunteer experience to make it through the door for an interview.  I had crossed over from a business background to biology and was therefore lacking in contacts.  I needed research fast.

My grades were always A’s throughout most my endeavors, but the other top students had greater favor with the professors. They had been around the tenured professors since the beginning, and I had been rushing through classes as I had already been in college 3.5 years at this point.  I found an evolutionary biology teacher who crossed into psychology that was willing to give me research blindly without really knowing me after he was impressed with a paper I wrote.  I was relieved and grateful as I was already prepared to beg.

Our first meeting found me in his office.  It was a dingy unkempt space with a wild smell.  He attempted to tell me what his expectations were.  I was immediately distracted by a curious brown paper bag that kept moving slightly with a scratching sound.  My mind reeled possibilities. He never looked at the bag or acknowledged that I had noticed it. He simply talked through the scratching for an hour.  Our meeting ended with a vague notion that he was interested in how hard wired self awareness was present in the brain and manifested itself as psychological oddities in the afflicted.  He did not actually give me a task but handed me a notebook full of papers and gave me an office.

In visiting the office, I found at least twenty brains sitting in jars on random shelves in formaldehyde.  It struck me that the brains were not necessarily human although humanoid.  They did not have their own jars, which seemed exceedingly strange.  I was given a computer and a meeting time one month later.

I did not use the office except to show my future wife of my rather large space.  I met with the professor once more in which he gave me nearly a completely different view of his research.  It occurred to me at this point that he was scattered and not sure of what he had told me in the first meeting.  After an hour, he struck me as possibly developing dementia.

In all, I ended up researching multiple papers on the topic and giving him a possible location for the phenomenon he was looking for.  Without any further discussion, he simply accepted what I told him and congratulated me on work well done.  He wrote an excellent letter of  recommendation and I did ultimately get accepted into medical school.  I had seen him after finishing his class and this research about a year later.  He did not look at me as if he had ever known me.

When applying for medical school, I was given an interview with a neuroscientist.  He was a Ph. D. and not an actual MD, which meant he would likely know minutia very well.  I was concerned that he might see that the research was rather vague and likely incorrect.  I did not mention at the end of the research I was convinced that his hypothesis was completely nonsense.  I discussed with the neuroscientist the hypothesis and the outcome of the research.  I was convinced that the topic I discussed was not his strong suit and he pretended to understand and show interest when he actually did not want to appear uninformed.

The point of this tale is that, when we give an account of our lives, the idea that I did research in a emerging part of a junction between neurology, psychiatry, and evolutionary science as an undergraduate sounds impressive.  Yet, the actual account is laughable and seems somewhat scandalous.  Life is like that.  Somethings are genuine.  Some are fraudulent.  When we hear of men doing great things it is important to realize that each moment is human.

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The path of even the most successful is crooked and fraught with genuine victories, defeats, and sometimes nothing more than fake showmanship.  Acquiring greatness is filled with moments less than great.  So keep in mind that no matter how long the journey seems or how difficult, it is fallible individuals that you seek to emulate.  I tell you this not to deter your journey, but to let you know that it is possible.

– Savage

Bravery and Fear

Early in high school, I believed myself a coward. Cultured stories tell us that heroes are born. Superman, Hercules, and Paul Bunyan were all born to be great and had grandeur from the beginning. I believed this for a time; there was simply nothing I could do.  So what makes a man stronger than the rest?

One cannot speak of bravery and avoid speaking of fear. Fear is not antonymous with bravery however. If one lacked fear for instance, you could not say that he had bravery. Bravery is an action in the face of fear. A coward is faced with fear and makes the easy decision. The brave man is confronted with fear and makes the right decision. So in order to be considered brave a situation that produces fear must arise and a challenge met with righteous action.

Moving from a self considered coward to one’s own hero is a difficult task. One could proclaim victory over fear without having really done anything. I think this is the way most people live.  Aesop’s fable, the hunter and the Woodsman deals with this topic where a hunter stalks a lion, but prefers to look for tracks rather than actually face the lion.  Bravery is in action not intentions.

I began by overcoming small victories that went unnoticed by all but myself. It started with a Kung Fu class. I was afraid of being hit and realized I needed to conquer it. I began learning martial arts and dealt with my fears learning that being hit is not the worst thing.  Ultimately, I realized I loved the thrill of combat. It was my first fear I purposely tackled. I dealt with a fear of rejection by dating and a fear of heights by indoor rock climbing. Overcoming fears is a practice and a way of life. You take control once fear is no longer controlling you.

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This is where bravery has a chance. A well prepared fearless mind is one that is prepared for brave acts. Bravery is not foolhardy though. There are different types of bravery. A man who is ready to fight for his family and die if necessary is one type of bravery. Another type of bravery is a man who swallows his pride and serves a boss that he does not respect for the betterment of his wife and children. It is a decision making process in the face of fear and for the purpose of righteous action is one where heroes are revealed.

Aesop has a lesser known fable, the fawn and her mother, where the ultimate teaching point is that it is foolish to expect bravery from a coward.  Although full of wisdom, I will have to say that this story was most incorrect.  We were not born to be brave.  Bravery is the outcome of a decision we make everyday to act righteously in the face of fear.  Bravery is not the absence of fear, but what great acts were are capable of in spite of them.  Become your own hero.

-Savage

 

War or Peace

The subject is one that I feel strongly about because of how it shaped me.  The answer to the question is not always clear.  To fight or stand down is a difficult decision to make.  You have to understand that, as you grow to be the man you want to be, you will make the wrong decision many times before you learn.  There are adages on either side that are true and some that are not when it comes to war or peace.

“Live to fight another day” is one I have come to hold to any encounter as some may escalate to that point and you may not get a second chance to practice this one.  “Never back done” was a statement I held closely as a teenager; however, as a man I see sometimes that this method has folly.  The important point is to never let anyone become comfortable being disrespectful to you while also realizing that your ego and pride will leave things to escalate all to often.

This question plagued me in high school.  I was a late bloomer and overweight.  I was slow to get stubble on my chin and loathed exercise.  I was the hue of the modern day kid with days filled with television and video games.  I felt my own greatness, but it derived from my father’s accomplishments.  Every man believes he is his own hero but few rise to the challenge to realize their own requirements.

After sheltering in private school, I had maybe one skirmish every year.  When fists became involved in public high school, I shied from every encounter.  I did this until I became an easy target.  Being dark skinned only left a target on my back.  Even weaker white boys would make a target of me as they knew the tougher older kids had their back if I showed resistance.  I was to take their abuse, and I deserved it for being in their space.  Name calling, being sprayed with hair spray, spitting, pushing, or a random shove into a locker became a regular thing.  I did not meet their eyes as I had too much shame.

When I met your mother, I was in a better spot mostly because of chance rather than effort.  I had hit a growth spurt and lost some weight while starting kung fu.  I did not seem an easier target, but I was.  After our dating that summer, I realized I had worth, and if it came to protecting her, I would have fought to death for her.  We broke up after that summer which was the biggest mistake of my life.  In the aftermath, I needed something to feel passionate about again.


I became passionate about being better.  I began to lift weights and became more serious about martial arts.  I started in Bujinkan Ninjutsu after feeling I had attained all I could from Kung Fu.  I had some jobs and began saving money.  I knew I wanted to be a doctor and I retook my classes in which I had poor grades.  In this process, I needed to obtain respect for myself and learn to make others respect me.

I took on the never back down policy; I wanted to be respected and feared.  Interestingly, I have never been in a real fight.  Every brush with fighting never lasted past a few blows.  I came to realize that bullies are weak.  They have a longing to be noticed and feared.  If you do not show them that fear, they lose their power.  What I needed to achieve was the attitude that I would rather die than feel anymore shame.  It seems in today’s age, kids will sadly hurt themselves before they will stand up for themselves.  I decided that I knew I was worth it and there was no pain worse than shame.  I took on every adversary which usually only amounted to prolonged staring, chest puffing, and some body checking.  I did not always have the words for witty quips, but what I did have was the resolve that this person would not get away with disrespecting me.

The last real physical altercation I had was as a senior.  A fellow classmate that I had not known about my change in attitude decided to throw something at me.  I raced directly back to his desk and pushed it backwards and demanded a fight.  We were only three weeks from graduation and a fight would have been foolhardy at that point.  He decided to back down with weak statements of “how crazy that would be” and “maybe we could fight later.”  He swallowed his words.

Since that time, I had a man run back to my car after an argument at a stop sign.  Your mother was with me at the time.  He was a typical thuggish character and angled his car so I would have to stop.  His hand trailed behind his jacket as he approached our car.  I believe he had a gun.  I would not allow him to disrespect me when it came to words, but I would not engage him either.  I had some stabs to my ego that day and I may have been lucky that he did not try to touch me.  In retrospect, this was a wise day to concede and “live to fight another day.”  Words were not worth dying for, and, furthermore, my main objective should have been to protect your mother.  In that instance, I lived to fight another day.

I was in several shoving matches in my school days that I ought not to have been.  I truly believed I never started anything, but that did not mean I was not overreacting.  If I felt words were disrespectful, I responded physically.  As mentioned, I have never been one for cleverness in heated moments.  I even came into some of these ‘fights’ with friends; however, my ego could not stand anyone overhearing disrespect.  I thought it would shatter the safety I had found.  There was safety in conflict.

In retrospect, I likely had a mild form of PTSD that led to some of my decisions and ferocity.  Some of these bordered on my becoming the very thing I loathed.  I forgive myself though as an adult.  The trials of teenage years are fraught with mistakes and shortcomings.  Overcoming fears is an important part of life as it is part of gaining wisdom.  It prepares you for the type of man you will be as a brother, son, husband, and father.  Listen to that voice you have that tells you what the right answer is.  It will grow wiser and stronger as you utilize it.  You will know when to fight and when to live to fight another day.

– Savage

 

The Ladies Touch

I find the more I talk to men the more I see the importance of a lady in a man’s life. A true lady has much to offer particularly the masculine man. There is a certain softness, surety, and peace that comes from the presence of a lady.

A soft voice, a piece of beauty, smooth skin, and a warm meal do much to change the everyday demeanor. An acquaintance that I recently saw had me in mind of what has changed him. His complexion has changed, his smile gone, and his spark that made him interesting has gone out. I spoke to him after a prolonged period of absence and was taken aback by these changes. A deep conversation later and I found he has divorced and is now single. The effects are clear that this was not for his betterment. He has become cold and gruff. I hear in his voice how he speaks to his children differently and I see half of a person. This is a clear pattern I have seen throughout my life.

This is what is lacking in him. It is not his better half but his other half. Unbalanced masculinity leads to a person lacking in polish and spark. There is a void that is filled with mindless pursuits, coarse language, and an inexplicable abyss that is seen in the eyes. He would tell you that a woman did this to him.

Perhaps the wrong type of woman did, but it may have also been that he was the wrong type of man.  My father never wanted me to marry. He believed that men were better without wives. He taught that they were a drain on finances and emotions and should be changed regularly to remain fresh. My grandfather, filled with many positive attributes, taught me to never trust women or let a woman control you. He obviously felt controlled and suppressed and did not act gentlemanly to his wife. This is always been the one area where I felt he failed in teaching.


I have learned that there are various types of women in the world. A girl of female essence who has submission, grace, beauty, and household knowledge is of immense support. Ideally a woman with a wild spark can also keep a man feeling young on long days. One with proper etiquette and ways is a rarity in these times. A lady is a dying breed having been replaced with special interests in the my generation.  My own wife changed my grandfather’s outlook in his last chapter in life.  I wonder if this led the way to the changes I see him.  He has softened greatly with the company of women and has found happiness again.

Any person is free to choose however they will be, but a gentleman craves the presence of a lady and is only completed by finding his counterpart. This is what I hope for my sons. I want them to bring home ladies that will give rise to the next generation for this family I have worked hard to make strong, wealthy, educated, and happy. I hope they know my kind of happiness.

– Savage