I actually recorded this last week, but didn’t get it published because things were a little hectic. My dad had major surgery.
Jack London “…had a mental craving for the truth. He applied one test to religion, to economics, to everything. ‘What is the truth?’ ‘What is just?’ It was with these questions that he confronted the baffling enigma of life.”
W. B. Hargrave from The Book of Jack London by Chairman London, 1921, (republished in Manvotionals from the Art of Manliness)
In this episode, we apply Jack London’s question to the ‘baffling enigma of life’ and see what we get. Let me know what you think.
“I mean to make myself a man, and if I succeed in that, I shall succeed in everything else.” – James A. Garfield
“One cannot always be a hero, but one can always be a man.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“The fool in his ignorant bondage
May sneer at their fashion and speech,
The fop and the feather-bed workman
Make mock of the lesson they teach.
The demagogues rant in the market
Of things high removed from their ken:
What are words — empty words — in the balance
With the deeds of the manly men?
They are vertebrate, keen, and courageous,
These toilers, who raise the refrain;
Their work swept away by disaster —
Undaunted, they build it again.
Yet ye fawn on your quacks and your idols,
Your dreamers and mountebanks — then,
When your country is suffering shipwreck,
You’ll fall back on the manly men.”
— from The Song of the Manly Men by Frank Hudson (from The Song of the Manly Men and Other Verses, 1908)
“What are palaces and equipages; what though a man could cover a continent with his title-deeds, or an ocean with his commerce; compared with conscious rectitude, with a face that never turns pale at the accuser’s voice, with a bosom that never throbs with fear of exposure, with a heart that might be turned inside out and disclose no stain of dishonor? To have done no man a wrong; … to walk and live, unseduced, within arm’s length of what is not your own, with nothing between your desire and its gratification but the invisible law of rectitude — this is to be a man.”
Orison Swett Marden, 1911 from ‘Pushing To The Front’ (republished in Manvotionals from the Art of Manliness)
“But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” – Psalm 73:2-3
“When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.” – Psalm 73:16-17
“Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.” – Psalm 73:25
What a nice little Bible verse! That would look cute crocheted and in a frame hanging on the wall next to the calligraphy print of Psalm 23. It’s easy to read these words from Isaiah this way — just another happy, Sunday School Bible verse that holds no real importance for our lives.
Well, it’s not.
It’s a warning.
The phrase “while he may be found” implies that there is coming a time when he may not be found. “Call on him while he is near” means that he won’t always be near.
My boys and I watched The Hobbit trilogy this week. I’ve been home with four kids while my wife has been out of town visiting her sister. My kids have had pneumonia all week. Needless to say, we have watched quite a few movies this week. I think we managed to create a good memory, for me at least, watching The Hobbit movies over two nights. There is so much to recommend from this saga. If you haven’t seen it, please do.
There is an exchange between Gandalf and Bilbo Baggins at the beginning of the first movie that encapsulates the heart of the Hobbit story. Gandalf invites Bilbo to go on an adventure, but Bilbo is comfortable where he is. But, Gandalf isn’t asking Bilbo to join him on vacation. He’s calling him to become more than he is.
The world is out there. Adventure calls. Great stories are not created in comfort and perfection. Most men today spend their lives trying to perfect comfort and style. Madison Avenue sells us on the idea that adventure is in the perfect man-cave: including a 70-inch UHD TV, blu-ray collection, Xbox, La-Z-Boy, with a stocked wine cellar and a mini-fridge full of Dos Equis behind the bar.
Gandalf comes to invite Bilbo to “share in an adventure.” How many men wouldn’t leap at such an invitation? Maybe I asked that question too quickly. I’m not sure many men would, because we’ve lost heart, as John Eldredge says. It’s the same as when Jesus invited the fishermen to leave their nets and follow Him. It’s the same call that’s inside the heart of every man — and yet so few ever answer the call.
“When did doilies and your mother’s dishes become so important to you?” – Gandalf
“You are a very fine fellow, Mr Baggins, and I am very fond of you. But you are really just a little fellow, in a wide world.” – Gandalf’s final words to Bilbo at the end of their adventure (before he returns when Bilbo is old). At the end of their adventure, when Gandalf leaves Bilbo at the border of the Shire, he says these words, not to belittle him, but to caution him, I think. He says this almost like a father, or even a grandfather, to a child. I think it’s worth noting that we probably all need to be reminded of this from time to time.
The hard part of these adventures is learning to translate them to the mundane. I doubt many of us will have the opportunity to go off to war or go looking for a treasure in a mountain guarded by a fire-breathing dragon. And many men nowadays mistake rock-climbing and dodgeball for adventure. As Thoreau said, most men lead lives of quiet desperation. There is great adventure in life. I just don’t think it looks like a fairytale.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.'” (Matthew 25:34)
“You will reign, dear ones, over glorious kingdoms and realms within the great and glorious kingdom of our Father–a role we certainly need some preparation for…
A prince totally unaccustomed to the ways of the kingdom cannot be entrusted with the throne until he has had some preparation… We really thought this life was simply about getting a nice little situation going for ourselves and living out the length of our days in happiness. I’m sorry to take that from you, but you and I shall soon be inheriting kingdoms, and we are almost illiterate when it comes to ruling. So God must prepare us to reign.”
– John Eldredge #MovingMountains