Questions from Wild at Heart Field Manual Chapter One.
Remember back into your boyhood for a moment. Did you play games involving battles? Cowboys and Indians, perhaps, or maybe cops and robbers? What were they? What do your sons or grandsons love to play?
My friend down the street had a section of woods behind his house that we used to play in all the time. It was a ravine between the alley behind his house and a housing development. It was only about a half an acre but to all of us kids in the neighborhood it was a forest.
We would meet there often and have battles. One group would set up camp behind a large pine on one hill while the other would set up camp behind a fallen tree on the other. If we had guns, fine. If not, we made due with sticks, pine-cones, or whatever else we could grab. As we got older it moved to Laser-Tag and then paint-ball. There seemed to be constant battles raging in those woods.
My boys spend much of their time planning and executing battles. Whether they are re-enacting the arrest and Crucifixion, with much fighting and drama, or they are out in the fields pretending our house is Redwall Abbey from Redwall books, they are in a constant epic battle. I am often drawn into this battle either as a worthy foe or ally. More often I am the foe that the four work together to defeat. Sometimes, though, William will come to my aide and this throws everything out of wack and the battles begin in earnest.
Who did you love to be as a boy? Did you have a favorite outfit you wore? What was the "necessary equipment" - tangerine grenades, trash-can-lid shields?
I honestly can't remember any certain character that I loved to be or pretend to be. I do remember much of the equipment though. My dad had a workshop down in the basement of our home. I think I mentioned it before. It was a wonderland for a boy and probably cause to call children's services today! Not only were there huge power tools, knives, parts of guns and such, there was shotgun shell reloading material. Yes, even gunpowder. I hate to think of how much gunpowder we used. I'm glad we didn't blow ourselves up. We'd fill babyfood jars with gunpowder and take it out and pour it on the side walk and then work on lighting it with a magnifying glass. Scrap wood became guns and grenades as did spent shells that dad didn't want any more. There was nothing to compare to throwing one of those spent shells at the enemy. Here was something dangerous, something that had actually exploded at one time and we were given permission to use it.
And who were your boyhood heroes? An army man, an athlete, or maybe a cowboy, a superhero like Batman or Superman? Did they have a great battle to fight?
It seems silly to admit but most of my boyhood heroes were cartoons. No, not Tom and Jerry, although they did have some great moments. We'd never miss the Superfriends - Superman, Batman, The Wonder Twins and the like all together at the Hall of Justice just waiting for a battle. My brother Bill and I were really into G.I. Joe too. We collected all the figurines and vehicles. We also had many of the Star Wars items. I also liked to watch the Thundercats. They were these powerful cats -lions, etc., that did battle with evil.
Look back now at your favorite movies you jotted down. What is the hero's great battle? Which of those battles would you love to fight, if you were he.
I'm not going to go through every movie of course but the one that stands out to me at this point in my life is The Mission. The battle would be that of DeNiro's character as he battles the inner demons that plague him - his former life, killing his brother, etc. I'd love to have more strength and determination to fight those inner struggles against an unseen but more deadly foe than any superhero ever faced.
Now; this longing may have been submerged from years of neglect, and a man may not feel that he is up to the battles he knows await him. Or it may have taken a very dark turn, as it has with inner-city gangs. But the desire is there. Every man wants to play the hero. I find that many men have long buried their desire to be a hero. But isn't there something in you that wants to be applauded, cheered for what you've done? Do you like losing, for example or being dismissed? What debate would you love to win, what deal would love to land, what "big fish" would you love to catch, what hill would you love to take?
This is a tough question because, for me, there are different answers for different levels. On the worldly level I'd love to get a publishing deal for my rosary book. I'd love for a larger audience to recognize the work, be applauded, be celebrated for it. On the spiritual level I'd love to finally win the battle for purity of heart. I feel as though I have been fighting this battle for almost a quarter of a decade, and I have, with little ground gained.
Every man needs to know that he is powerful... What happens in you when you watch one of those powerful stories, when at the end of Braveheart the "starving and outnumbered" Scots rush the fields at Bannockburn and win their freedom, or when Maximus goes hand-to-hand with Commodus at the end of Gladiator? Is there anything in a great battle scene that stirs your heart? Can you sense something fierce down in there?
The battle scene that comes to mind and stirs my heart comes from The Two Towers (Lord of the Rings Trilogy). It appears that all of Middle Earth is about to be destroyed. Everyone is holed up at Helm's Deep and the forces of evil are coming hard and fast. The enemy is battering the door to strong hold and things are not looking good. At this time Aaragorn leads a group of men out onto the bridge to do battle and stop them from battering down the door. I love the courage that they show even in the face of what looks like certain doom. They are outnumbered, stuck in a corner but instead of cowering and running they charge. It makes my heart come alive and want to win the battle, any battle against any odds.
Sometimes our aggression has no place to play itself out, except maybe in sports or how we drive. Do you ever want to just slam-dunk something, knock something into kingdom come? Do you like it when people pass you on the highway, or beat you to a parking spot? Where does your aggressive side surface?
My aggression usually surfaces when I see what I perceive to be an injustice either to me or someone else. Yes, when some idiot does something stupid and dangerous on the highway I get angry and want to ram my car into them. I fantasize about tapping their bumper in such a way that they spin out of control. My aggression also surfaces for no reason that I can identify. Sometimes I just feel like hitting something just to get the energy out or going for a run or breaking something for no real reason that I know of other than just to do it.
Closer to home, what if a terrorist broke into your house tonight and threatened the lives of your wife and children - would you simply let it happen? If you were armed, would you use your weapon? Do you sense something fierce in your own heart now?
That's a great question because I often play in mind how I would react to someone breaking in in the middle of the night. I struggle with whether I should have the shotgun and shells in the bedroom closet. In my mind I would kick butt. Not only would I defend my home but I would make the idiot suffer unbelievably. Yes, there is something fierce down deep.
Have you ever been told such fierceness is a good thing?
No. I have never been told that it is okay to feel that fierceness. In fact, I would say that the opposite has been conveyed even if not in so many words. In my opinion, this fierceness is often put down, ridiculed, shamed for being barbaric. Yet it is the same people who do this that wonder why no one is there to defend them! I have never been told it is a good thing but correctly expressed I think it is an asset to the man and the world.