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Ted's Blog

The Arena

October 30, 2019

 “…… each represented a philosophy of life. Each committed to the death of the other. One - the “old way”– described as self-destructive, and yet it has kept him alive so far - he recycles these proven tools even while acknowledging that they never did work all that well, and they continue to injure him too…..”


What follows is what a client wrote to me, at my suggestion, about what he is currently experiencing.    If you are touched by this, as I was, you may have been at that place in life where what used to work, doesn't anymore and it feels like it is a life or death moment.  Sometimes, those who call themselves writers, or poets or artists or philosophers, as they share their journey, speak to me of my own experiences.  And they do it in a way in which I hadn’t quite been able to put together – using their words, in unique and elegant ways.  Receiving this was one of those times. Yet this man doesn’t consider himself a writer, poet, artist or philosopher.  Just an ordinary man, battling to the death for his very soul.  He has given me permission to share this with you. I believe we are all in “The Arena”.  It’s called life.   Bless all those, like this man, who are willing to move closer, and enter the ring, get close and learn.


“I watched the match with the thousands of others at The Arena.  The cheering crowd, the peanuts on the floor. The chugging of beer in big plastic cups. The smell of vomit in the bathroom. Tiptoeing in and out, holding my nose and gagging.


Sumo wrestlers are usually from Japan, Hawaii and American Samoa. They are unusual in their populations - giants really - great muscles under great fat.  In their societies those that compete, are viewed as heroes. 


What about those large fellows who do not want to compete? What about the ones who want to compete and are not "good enough"? Do they walk about as physiological freaks in their societies? I wonder how they are treated. What is their internal life?  Is it like what I imagine - one of ostracization? 


My point is that I have no idea what goes on in the mind of a Sumo Wrestler.  And so, I watched the match. I watched the fancy (and skinny) spectators sitting and screaming at ring side. I wondered about the women- was there a sexual thought of being intimate with a man who might weigh three plus times that of a petite woman. Were the women’s dates jealous?


Was this a free match - fair?  Or were the wrestlers pressured by gangsters to perform in a certain way- and if so were both aware of the unwritten rules of the contest? Surely each, even if there was no syndicate involvement, must be considering that this is his safe place in society, his key to social acceptance, in addition to his financial livelihood - that there were substantial costs to losing the match. 


I watched as the referee again found them grunting in sweat. He told them the match had used up its time allotment, the crowd is going home - he rang the bell calling it a draw. 


No. No draw to the men in the ring. They remained locked in their fierce embrace - glistening. Once the crowd had all departed, one could hear the sweat streaming off their bodies like rain on to the canvas floor.  Thunderclaps as their big bodies adjusted their feet to gain position. Crump! Crump! Crump!


The referee was beside himself- his task was to end the match - but the men were deaf to his entreaties. The focus of the two - incredibly, unsustainably intense - yet they continued locked in position. Grunts - no words. This was more than a struggle for livelihood, this was a struggle for survival. The heat radiated off them in waves colliding with the overheated humid air.


Finally, the referee threw up his hands and left. He drove home fretting about how he would explain that he left the men in the arena, the event incomplete.  Would he be viewed as incompetent as a referee? What would his wife say? He dreaded her anger.


I was alone in the arena but for the two wrestlers. I climbed down to the ring; Buggs Bunny in my mind wanting to tap one of the men on the shoulder and ask, “What’s up doc?”  “Whatcha doooing?”


That did not seem right.


I followed my instinct and climbed into the ring and sat down on the canvas - out of the way but in the peripheral vision of both. I could see the sweat dripping into their eyes. No words - not even eye movements to acknowledge my presence - but I knew they knew I was there.


I sat quietly on the floor waiting for one of them to make the first move in communication with me. The match had come and gone. The crowd had left. I could smell their bodies deeply. I waited quite some time.


They never spoke to me. I fell asleep only to be awakened to the same sight, pungent odor and vibration.


I began to fantasize that each represented a philosophy of life. Each committed to the death of the other. One- the “old way” – described as self-destructive, and yet it has kept him alive so far - he recycles these proven tools even while acknowledging that they never did work all that well, and they continue to injure him too.


The other equally determined - a new way to live.  This new way is not destructive, but so far, is not reliably accessible, it is not well verbalized and not yet proven.  Yet it is a daring way to think outside of the “old way.”


The men battle on today - inside my head; inside my heart.  There is no give and no take.  No rest.  Like two Greek gods in a lifetime of mortal combat. I finally left the two in the arena - still locked in their powerful embrace, vowing to return.”

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