Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Cold Hands

"And who's that guy over there? Another college president?"
"Nah, he's Nathan Hale, this guy who got caught spying on the British. His last words are pretty famous."
"What are they?"
"My only regret is that I have but one life to give to this country."

It's late at night. Old campus is silent but for a few drunken stragglers, and the sound of my footsteps crunching on heavy snow. There is no one to greet me, no one to ask me for money, no one to stare at me sideways as I mutter nothings to myself in the solitude of it all.

My only companions are Woolsey, Pierson and Nathan Hale. There's the usual chuckle as I walk by Woolsey's golden foot and as always I simply ignore poor Abraham Pierson and his Latin inscriptions. Under normal circumstances I wouldn't even spare a second glance at Nathan Hale but tonight I stop right in front of the man.

The odd one out. The youngest. The spy. I look up to him and his eyes remain as distant as ever.

There are four things that are incredibly important to me. I've often thought about them and I neatly organized them into an acronym of sorts, something I called wisdom for the AGES.

A- Acceptance. The ability to accept that there are things beyond my control, that I am far from a perfect being, and that there are times when I will hate myself but those times are alright.
G- Generosity. To give without thought. To do little things for people that brighten up their day. To let your heart and world to expand to include the people around you and beyond.
E- Empathy. To understand others, including their circumstances, their mistakes, their quirks and faults. To put myself in their shoes and to move beyond the me and to consider the feelings of others as my own.
S- Sacrifice.

I don't always live up to these standards. In fact, I rarely do. But I try my best. And tonight as I'm staring into the face of Nathan Hale, it's Sacrifice I ponder upon.

Perhaps the reason why Nathan Hale sits among the presidents, intellectuals, millionaires of Yale is because he gave the most. Others give their time, their money, their mind... But Nathan Hale gave himself. I close my eyes and I imagine the last moments of the young man. Did he know his words would be immortalized? Did he say them only to infuriate his captors, to deny them the final satisfaction? Was it only youthful bravado, a middle finger to his torturers?

Did he truly mean them?

Nathan Hale's statue turns towards me, draws a gun and shoots me in the heart.

I open my eyes and the statue remains, as still as ever. The stillness stirs the workings of my mind.

Can I make that sacrifice? Can I impale myself for another, knowing full well such a sacrifice may never, no, should never be found out? When you take away the fame, the bravado and the admiration surrounding Nathan Hale, what are you left with?

I edge forward and slowly reach out for Nathan Hale's hand.

It is as cold as mine.

"Sacrifice" Taken November 2011, New Zealand. OKJ All rights reserved.
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