Good vs. evil, life vs. death, sinner vs. saint, hero vs. villain, and damnation vs. redemption. But the universe is a dangerously chaotic and messy place with few hard-drawn lines, and where all sides battle to coexist in each place, each person, each chance, and each choice. That one choice can sometimes seem impossible. But even the impossible has a finish line.
To Live With Honor is the true story of Captain Tim Finley—told in his own words. The tragedies, the triumphs, the heroes, and the horses.
“No person was ever honored for what he received; honor was the reward for what he gave.”– Calvin Coolidge
Do you give the horse his strength? Do you clothe his neck in a flowing mane?
Do you make him leap like a locust, striking terror with his proud snorting?
He laughs at fear, afraid of nothing and charges into the fray.
He does not shy away from the sword. The quiver rattles against his side
Along with the flashing spear and shield.
In frenzied excitement, he eats up the ground.
He cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds.
“The eighth fold is for the one who entered into the Valley of the Shadow of Death, that we might see the light of Day.”– US Flag Folding Ceremony
“Maybe the ultimate wound is the one that makes you miss the war you got in.”– Sebastian Junger
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air . . .
Up, up the long, delirious burning blue—John Gillespie McGee Jr.
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
“It is not the critic who counts. Not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood. Who strives valiantly. Who errs. Who comes short again and again because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who does actually strive to do the deeds. Who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions. Who spends himself in a worthy cause. Who at the best, in the end knows the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”-Theodore Roosevelt “Man in the Arena”
In the clearing stands a boxer– “The Boxer”, Simon and Garfunkel
and a fighter by his trade
and he carries the reminders
of every glove that laid him down
or cut him ’til he cried out
in his anger and his shame,
“I am leaving! I am leaving!”
…But the fighter still remains.
Everyone wants to quit. Everyone wants to flee. Fight or flight reflex makes quitting the first and best alternative. Despite the ease of flight, a fighter simply cannot. It just isn’t in his nature.
While horse and hero fell,– Alfred Lord Tennyson, “The Charge of the Light Brigade”
They that had fought so well
Came thro’ the jaws of Death
Back from the mouth of Hell
Sometimes circumstances issue us orders to attack a fortified artillery battery. You can’t evade it or retreat. So charge… choose to. When you need a hero and one isn’t around, stop looking around.
“Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight–– Dylan Thomas, “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
“God is dead… and we have killed him… who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves?”––Friedrich Nietzsche
“I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, ‘Come and see.’ And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.”—Revelations 6:7-8
Death is inevitable. We are what Death leaves behind until it comes for us. Live fierce. This all ends.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”—1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Love is not rose petals and rainbows, nor a flourish of poetry on picnic blanket in the Victorian countryside. Love is a ruthless equalizer between “is” and “should.” Love is the hand that coerces our conscience at gunpoint to rebuild bridges we worked hard to burn. Love cracks shells and lets in light.
“All the tales of miracles, with which the Old and New Testament are filled, are fit only for impostors to preach and fools to believe.”—Thomas Paine
Miracles aren’t what you think they are. They aren’t water to wine or parting seas. Don’t pray for a miracle. Pray for courage. If a miracle comes… you’ll need it.
“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”—Plato
Fear is a liar. It seeps into the cracks between thoughts and bends them just enough to make reality worth fleeing. When a horse freezes or spooks at a plastic bag fluttering in the wind, it seems justifiable to chastise him for such a dumb response to something so innocuous. But… imagine what the horse thinks when we react irrationally to the esoteric fears that send us reeling in terror.
“Distilled to its purest form, the bond between a horse and his human is this: the human’s brain lets the horse know he has nothing to fear; the horse’s heart returns the favor.”
Narcissism is a result of the weak and broken trying to protect the positive image others hold of them. And lies are the best tactic in that defense. Because it is a lie. But buried inside the bundle is actually the most insidious lie of all, the lie the narcissist tells himself that is the platform for all others: that he is truly awful. If he did not believe this, he would have no need to lie, nothing to hide, nothing for which to compensate. Light and shadow.
“The greatest way to live with honor in this life is to be what we pretend to be.”—Seneca
Pain grows and festers the longer one carries it. First we must be honest with ourselves that the pain exists. We must be honest with ourselves that we were vulnerable enough and human enough to be hurt. Then we must finally be honest with ourselves that we possess the strength to defeat it.
Trigger warning: this episode contains graphic references to suicide, combat and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Courage doesn’t look the way you think. And neither does the forgiveness that requires it. At a time when bravery is flooding the market, courage is in critical supply. Still yourself for a moment, and watch closely.
Stop looking at your shadow. Embrace change; don’t begrudge it. It will never cease, and neither must you.
Life has a soundtrack. Sometimes we choose the song. Sometimes it chooses us. Sometimes it’s a freight train careening off the tracks.
There are millions of resources out there for horse owners seeking to better improve their horsemanship. I locked that market down to a one-idiot monopoly. Follow me for more disastrous recipes.
Greatness resides in the world all around us in unlikely places—places we despise, resent, regret, and choose to overlook. Places we hide away from, places we don’t want great things to come from. Including within ourselves.
Youth comes standard-issue with hubris, despite its noble aims. Decisions have consequences, even if not for years. Every war has a first shot fired… even the war within.
Welcome to the war. In case of emergency, the horse is set to auto-eject. Stay hydrated. Live fierce. This all ends.
To Live With Honor is available across all podcast platforms.
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