Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Digging Mud (3WW)

I am here, digging mud, to salvage myself.

I think back to when I stood on the threshold of manhood, gazing into the horizons of possibility. I understood possibility then, and that is why I surrendered the opportunity to be fully alive. That is why I was afraid to stare death down. I wanted to hold on to possibility, not to look death in the eyes.

Instead of fighting in the war, I went undercover, ignored the draft letters. Dad helped me find a new home in the countryside as a farm-hand.

I ran from death, driven by thoughts of possibility, of all the paths my life could take, of everything I could be. But the moment I ran - it was an irreversible decision - I realised I had, by running, sabotaged possibility forever. My life would be dictated by fear.

Years later, whilst reading, my condemnation haunted me. It was not in the Bible, but in a tome of theology that I saw the truth of my decision, of what I had surrendered:

"A soldier surrounded by enemies, if he is to cut his way out, needs to combine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying. He must not merely cling to life, for then he will be a coward, and will not escape. He must not merely wait for death, for then he will be a suicide, and will not escape. He must seek life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine."[1]

I trembled as I read those words. I would never know that moment, a moment I have since craved with all my being. To numb the craving, I drink. I drink to forget this: The one chance I had, young enough to fight, the one chance I had to be righteous, to face death with furious indifference and thus to know the lucid effervesence of life compacted into a single, abundant moment, I squandered.

In secret, on my computer, I watch the videos uploaded by suicide bombers, and I understand. Yes, I understand. I want to be them. I watch their eyes, absorbing their eager hunger for life, for a righteous death. They, on the threshold of manhood, know all the possibilities of life, and they have made their choice.

We have dug deep enough now. It is time to use our hands, the sensitive touch of our fingertips and gentle brushes to feel the skeleton and remove the dirt from its skull, its axe, and its warrior helmet with Viking horns.

They believe this was an ancient battlefield. I am here, digging mud with them, as a volunteer. I'm retired, I've got little else to do. They appreciate the help.

One day soon, I will be rotting in the ground too, in a church yard. Died in his sleep, they'll say.

Before I go, I had to see this warrior, to salvage him from the death I wish I had. There is life in him yet - I can feel it - how lucid and righteous he was when he died, stabbed through the heart.

[1] G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (1908).


  1. This is so very deep and thoughtful. Excellently done.

  2. I like that quote. Consider the possibility of hope next please, it's more cheerful. ;)

  3. I agree with Anthony - very deep. Very well written.

  4. Very well written, David. You had me hanging to every word. Brilliant.

  5. Oh... that is the most beautiful thing I have read in a long, long time.
    Your touch with words is deftly poetic, not heavy-handed, and yet so sure. This story made me catch my breath. You are the most sensitive, thoughtful writer I have come across in a very long time.

  6. Wow!! I'm with Cathy on this. One of the most impressive pieces of flash I have read in ages.

  7. I agree with all above, this was exceptional overall, wonderfully told, intriguing and great capture of emotion.

  8. Lot to think about in this piece.

  9. Terrific writing! I've awarded you a "creative writing" blog award. Visit my blog for details!

  10. An excellent piece, something for the reader to take with them, the haunting of words in thought. Well done, sir.

  11. Beautiful writing, but I think the sentiment goes beyond war and applies to each of us accepting that we are mortal beings--death can be faced without a threat in your vicinity.

    Still, this writing resonates.

  12. What a powerhouse of a story; it really burrows into the mind and heart. You are a master wordsmith. Outstanding job!

  13. There is that something in a man that longs for the fight, not just to destroy, but to redeem oneself in the survive and live to say: "These wounds had I on Good King Crispin's day" something like that I think. I do think Chesterton knew what he was talking about...and you did explain it well.

  14. Beautiful and thought-provoking. I believe one can live like that every day, though, without the need of war - living for one's dreams and not fretting over the possibility of failure.

  15. This leaves the reader with so much to consider. Very well done!

  16. I agree with pegjet and bunnygirl. Living a life afraid of death, we'll become the living dead. If we instead accept our mortality at the start, we can join the fight or chase our dreams without worry...and really live.

    html links
    ..To salvage wishes .