The Chains of Life

 

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I bought a book of Mark Twain quotes recently, and this one really hit me:

“We are strange beings, we seem to go free, but we go in chains – chains of training, custom, convention, association, environment – in a word, Circumstance – and against these bonds the strongest of us struggle in vain.”

I both agree and disagree with this bit of theology. I mostly agree – we are in chains throughout our lives, to one degree or another. And most of those chains are taught and learned. How many things would we truly feel guilty about were it not for society telling us it is wrong? If not society, than religion. We are free to exist on this earth but we are not free to be human; we are not free to express so much of what our humanity allows us, compels us even, to feel and experience. Hide your feelings – show your feelings – love less – love more – do not covet – care more about your neighbor. I could go on and on with juxtaposition after juxtaposition. We are bound from the moment of birth, as soon as the teaching begins and the constraints are placed.

What I disagree with is this – is the struggle in vain? The weak and the strong struggle with this in unison, do they not? And it is not a battle that is only for the strong. Honestly, I have seen many a strong one fall while the weak rise up and march forward. It may all be in vain, I don’t know. But I would like to think that enduring the struggle, not backing down, that it can add to who you are and give you a deep humanity like nothing else.

I wrote once about how trauma and tragedy can either harden or soften you. (What Did Trauma Do To You?). What I didn’t realize then is that perhaps it can do both. Perhaps it is a journey from one to other and back again. Perhaps the struggle helps you find some kind of balance between the two. I went from too soft before trauma, to too hard after, and now I am somewhere in between, the trauma helped me find a compassion and understanding for others that I never would have known otherwise. So, is the struggle in vain? I don’t believe so – if we can just find our way through it and allow ourselves to see a deeper meaning than what life shoves in our faces.

There will always be chains, none of us is immune. The difference is who lets those chains drown them and who stays afloat in spite of them. The strength is in the staying afloat.

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4 thoughts on “The Chains of Life

  1. I beg to differ here. The way I look at it is yes it is in vain. Its like fighting till the end knowing you are not going to make it. So for the sake of honour or considering various other philosophical approaches like growing in the process, discovering things, etc. its okay but what after that? Nothing still stuck with those chains. The leg is still going to be in the water. Rather it is worse for people like us who fight it and try to stay afloat as much as possible because we can see the shore and world beyond it but cant make it there. There are so many chains that all cannot be broken. But trust me when I say this that I have seen people who for the sake of freedom and complete independence have cut their leg and swam to the shore.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess I would rather see the shore, maintain a sense of hope, than let the chains drown me.

      It is okay that we disagree. I have found that often the way we see things at any given moment is directly related to where we are in life, in our minds and in our hearts, and what we feel is never wright or wrong, existentially speaking of course.

      To me, it is only in vain if we have a particular end game and it doesn’t work out. But that’s not chains, that’s just life. It’s not in vain if we take what comes and make the best of it. To me, the chains are imposed, either by others or by ourselves. You are correct that they can not all be broken, but the ones I HAVE broken have led to a much better life and much nicer peace in my heart. And if those chains led me to that place, then the struggle to break them, for me, was not in vain.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. You are so correct, trauma can both harden and soften. My husband and I are both going through this now. We are hardened and introverted from other people, but at the same time it has brought us together with a very powerful understanding. Thanks for the post!

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  3. “I wrote once about how trauma and tragedy can either harden or soften you. (What Did Trauma Do To You?). What I didn’t realize then is that perhaps it can do both. Perhaps it is a journey from one to other and back again. Perhaps the struggle helps you find some kind of balance between the two.” – I think that our goal could be to find a balance. I know for myself I’m always on one side or the other and don’t spend enough time in the middle.

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