Exhibit A: Liam Neeson
Our family recently saw the movie The Grey (2012), starring Liam Neeson. Here's the trailer, to set the tone for the rest of the post:
One of the main themes of the movie is survival. After their plane crashes in the Alaskan wilderness, the seven remaining men must struggle to survive against the forces of nature - most notably, a pack of wolves hellbent on hunting them. Suffice it to say, the odds are against them.
The movie features a short poem, which is recited multiple times throughout. Although this poem can be appreciated on its own, but will undoubtedly be more appreciated by those who saw the movie. The untitled poem goes like this:
Thank God, I haven't been in any survival scenarios like the one in the movie, but I can imagine that the mentality expressed in the poem is a real asset. By focusing on the actual "fight" - on the practicality of what must be done in order to survive, in spite of all the opposition - one remains anchored to the reality of the present and is less susceptible to fears about the future. Yes, one should have hope, but that hope should be kept in the back of the mind and drawn upon in times of need. To invest too much energy in hope is to open the floodgates of fear.
Exhibit B: Bruce Lee
This idea reminded me of a passage from the writings of Bruce Lee about Jeet Kune Do (the "style" of martial art that was developed by Bruce Lee).
Approach Jeet Kune Do with the idea of mastering the will. Forget about winning and losing; forget about pride and pain. Let your opponent graze your skin and you smash into his flesh; let him smash into your flesh and you fracture his bones; let him fracture your bones and you take his life! Do not be concerned with your escaping safely – lay your life before him!
Obviously, Bruce Lee doesn't mean that you should go out of your way to let your opponent harm you, nor does he mean that you should intentionally sacrifice your life. Rather, he means that once you enter into fighting mode, you must completely forget about the ends - winning and losing - and be fully engaged the in combat itself, even to the extent that you aren't focused on the possibility of physical injury.
There is much more to say about this quotation from Bruce Lee. I only mention it here because he seems to be describing the same state of mind as the one described in the poem.
Exhibit C: Me
I do have one experience in which the "Once more into the fray" mentality helped: my very first day of teaching. Even though I had been preparing for this moment for years, I knew that teaching is (to a large extent) a sink or swim profession. I also knew that you can be a knowledgeable and skilled teacher when teaching one or two students, but facing a class of 25 is a whole different ballgame, and some people just aren't cut out for it - especially when it comes to classroom management.
I arrived at school an hour before my first class started. Initially, I took comfort in the fact that I had planned everything out in detail and had prepared a number of techniques and back-up measures. . . but as the clock ticked closer and closer to the beginning of first period, my anxiety continued to grow.
Finally, when I began to hear the shuffling of students in the halls, my nervousness reached its peak. And then, all of a sudden, I had a flash of insight. I remember it like it was just this morning. I thought to myself, "Whether or not I succeed in my teaching career remains to be seen, but there is nothing I can do about that now. Only time will tell. The only thing I can do now is focus on teaching this class, and that is exactly what I'm going to do." Little did I know that I was tapping into the "Once more into the fray" mentality. And it worked.
The first bell rang, I stood up, and I said aloud, "It's showtime." The students entered. The rest is history.