It is a fact of life that we are to be pushed down and opposed in all things. I do not pretend to know that fate will be any easier on anyone for trying their hardest, pushing to the limits of mental exertion, or exhausting all physical energy. I really don’t. However, there are times in which one must demand something from life, too. When dues have been paid and courses run, whether life has acknowledged that or not one should claim a reward, a destiny, a result, better than one has. In this one thing I oppose the Stoics, for they would accept life and her gifts as sufficient for their efforts. I do not. I believe Pindar. He once wrote that honors should be sought because we had put the efforts towards obtaining them. To demand glory, to do so when we have paid our dues, it is not wrong, the product of hubris, or the manipulation of an overambitious soul. We demand to be given what is ours, regardless of who or what believes we do not deserve it. It is ours by virtue of our efforts, our sacrifice, our suffering.
John Milton wrote, in Paradise Lost, of a Satan that demanded glory despite his rebellious state. As he escaped Hell to confront God directly, he faced a cyclops-like creature that had been placed there to keep him from completing the attempt. A monster that:
…black it stood as night,
Fierce as ten Furies, terrible as Hell,
And shook a dreadful Dart; what seem’d his head
The likness of a Kingly Crown had on.
Satan was now at hand, and from his seat
The monster moving forward came as fast,
With horrid strides, Hell trembled as he strode.
Th’ undaunted Fiend what this might be admir’d,
Admir’d, not fear’d; God and his Son except,
Created thing naught vallu’d he nor shun’d;
And with disdainful look thus first began.
Some would argue Satan is the hero of Paradise Lost, I neither agree nor disagree. Suffice it to say that John Milton was a very religious man, more Protestant than Catholic, whose hero would not have been the rebel who started all conflict. Let us focus instead on what Milton believed the muses had told him about the infamous primordial rebel. Satan, alone, faces this gigantic monster now bent on stopping him. The monster is life. We are all Satan. We have all committed some terrible mistake at some point in our lives. We have rebelled against authority, we have done things we are not proud of or reject. We have all suffered the scorn of a life that seems to taunt us, a life placed there by some unknowable force, bent on our submission, fixated on our destruction. Such is life, such will always be life. If that is the case, if we are all satans in disguise, then his answer in this fictional work of Milton’s is all the more relevant to us:
Whence and what are though, execrable shape
That dar’st, though grim and terrible, advance
Thy miscreated Front athwart my way
To yonder Gates? through them I mean to pass,
That be assur’d, without leave askt of thee:
Retire, or taste thy folly, and learn by proof,
Hell-born, not to contend with Spirits of Heav’n.
Life is huge, and ugly, and scary. It charges at us with its mighty spear, shaking the ground beneath her, as if we were to sink into the abyss below us by its sheer weight. All shakes, all trembles, and all fall to their knees. But not us. We who have done the work, paid the price of our genius in sweat, and blood, and tears; we have a different duty. We have a different calling. We are too invested in what we have accomplished to stop now, before the dawn, and call it quits. We cannot fail, because we have done too much already. Every moment of our lives we have done the deed, and we will not be pushed aside by life; not now, not anymore. We may find, after all, that huge and scary life is nothing more than a mirage of power, set up by that huge nature, spirit, or god, in fear of what we might do. Said the beast:
Why yes, that’s me. Recognition, even in the face of the worst of circumstances, is the reward life gives only when taken. Also, only when taken with right to be taken. Life is a monster, it is true. No matter who you speak to, and how well-going their lives sound, life is a beast no one can get rid of. We should respect it, yes, all the more, because it is our lives. But remember this, reader, as well, even the worst of us have to face it and demand from it what belongs to us. The result may be you still don’t get what you want, but within, in our souls, we will have gain the respect we are owed; a recognition of our deeds and the necessity of our reward which, soon or late, will come. Let us be not dismayed at the thought of a hard and ignominious life. Although, as well, let us not fade so deeply into the abyss that we are never seen despite our deeds. Too hard have we worked, too long have we labored, to allow life to keep us on our knees.
Our path is the road to take, let us walk in it with pride.