Emotional Stoicism

I came to the movement not on facts or statistics, but on an overwhelming despair at the future I was leaving my children. I spent many nights sitting at the kitchen table after one too many beers, trying to understand why I felt alone. Whittled down to a small cadre of confidants that I could halfway speak my true thoughts to. I had spent my whole life trying to rebel against any oppressive authority I did not understand, and decades later I had affected no change.

I had grown up in a stable yet poor home. Through my childhood I watched my father roll his sisyphian boulder up the hill trying to provide a better life for my brothers and I. Each time that boulder reached a new height, my father would buck the authoritarian weight of it out of sheer frustration at not making more progress. Down that boulder went again, and it was back to eating rice, beans, and fist fights with my brothers for the cans of tuna in the church handout box.

My father was a good man. Hard working, honest, and proud of his work. From his accomplishments and mistakes I learned many things that allowed me to get my own sisyphian boulder up my hillside at a pretty good pace. It was about my third child that I started having a hard time. If I wanted a better future for my children I would have to work harder moving my boulder up the hill. If I wanted to spend time with my children, I was going to have to let go of that boulder.

I chose to compromise, and submitted to the status quo. At least I could try to give my children a life as decent as I had, and still spend a bit of time with them even if I just held my boulder in place on the hillside. Our family spent a few years there, moving neither forward or backwards. As time went on I noticed that the ground was begining to crumble under us. The foundations of the society my father and I stood on was loosening and shifting. The fundamental core was being undermined by some rat I could not identify. Should I abandon this hill and find a new one with a stable fundamental core? Work harder and hope I have the strength to complete my task? Give up and wallow in self pity?

I struggled with what decision I would make for a long time, sitting at the table with a beer night after night, reading about other men in my same situation. All of us were confused, angry, and pointing fingers at everything from heaven to hell. It was only later, after years of struggle and bitterness, that I realized there were some who could name the rats undermining our foundations. They had named them, yet we would not listen.

My little brother called me one day. His hill had collapsed despite years of toil. His business had failed. He was bankrupt, on the verge of divorce, and already playing with the idea of ending it all. His sisyphian rock sat in the ruins of a formerly stable mountain of hope, and he just couldn’t do it again. He wanted an out. God how I wanted a way out too. The bootstraps I was pulling myself up by were so deeply embedded in my tendons they had become one with my blood. There had to be a reason why our burden was impossible to bear to the top of a hill that was crumbling under our feet.

As I sat there at my kitchen table, alone and angry at powers I didn’t understand that kept me from becoming more, I thought more and more about my brother. About what it meant to be my brother. About what brotherhood was. Sure we grew up in the same house and came from the same father and mother, fought massive wars against each other over nothing, and imprisoned each other in our childish exploits. There was more to it though. We shared the same goals, the same blood, and the same future. Why would I not see my brother as an ally to be counted on in that? It was obvious we were not able to do it alone.

My task didn’t seem as heavy as his, and I sure didn’t want him destroying himself under his burden just so that I could start my own burden over again. I wouldn’t even have a brother to commiserate with in the future if I didn’t leave my burden behind to help him. Together we pulled that sisyphian rock up the hill under authoritarian yokes. We made progress. More progress than we had ever made alone. Our burden got lighter, our spirits higher… and still our burden slid down as the ground at our feet gave way.

I stand here with my brother, looking at the top of the hill. I can tell you now that there is a force that keeps us from reaching the top by undermining the ground we toil on. A figure silhouetted against a dark sun, sinister and conniving. And I know that figure, and I will name him. He is the mortal enemy of my brother and I. The mortal enemy of my father. My grandfather and his father. He has named himself the enemy of my blood. He was named once before, and I name him now, as the jew.

My brother and I will return to our burden. As brothers we will do what we can, but we know we cannot succeed alone.

My brother and I call on you, our brothers. Our brothers of blood and hearth. Our brothers struggling with their own sisyphian tasks and finding the very bedrock of our people being mined out from under them. Alone we are doomed to play sisyphus. Put down your burdens and pick up the burden of my brother. Take up our authoritarian yoke and pull. Stand behind us and stable our feet. Have your children and wives clear pebbles from our path and bring us water to quench our thirst.

I call on my brothers to form a brotherhood, and aid my brother in his task. When our authoritarian weight reaches the heights, no force can overcome our burden, and we will use it to crush the power that has undermined our people. And as we stand in the shade of the monument we have aided my brother in erecting, then and only then, will be be able to turn to erecting monuments on every hill and mountain we see. As a brotherhood.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.