I can't help but feel a little burst of testosterone when I hear this phrase. It pretty much encapsulates every fuel-injected, macho man, red-blooded American thought I've ever had. I mean, come on - we're guys - we make an art form out of engaging against impossible odds; it's what we do! The attributes of valor, bravery, courage, integrity, and maybe a pinch of pig-headedness seem to be standing in the shadows of this timeless military quote.I also think of the latin quote "Carpe Diem" (seize the day) but it's lost a little oomph with me in recent years. I can easily remember the movie Dead Poet's Society and feeling a rush when a group of young men in boarding school were encouraged to seek more out of life than what their well structured, high priced institutions of higher learning were offering.
Monday, March 29, 2010
ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ (mo-lone lah-veh) were the immortal words uttered by King Leonidas along side 300 of his most ferocious warriors in response to the Persian Emperor Xerxes and his army of 600,000. You may remember a little film called 300 that graced the theatres recently...yea, that King Leonidas. There is some discussion on the intar-webs about the translation of this phrase - I won't get into that, I think the spirit of the quote is in little dispute: Leonidas was basically saying: Come and get it. In essence he was egging Xerxes on saying if you want our swords and our spears, if you want to make our knees bend then you will have to make it happen. The Marines have a similar phrase: Come get some! We're ready for you, we're ready for a fight, and in small part (if necessary) we're ready to die.
I know I'm doing a play on words here, but I think a lot of people my age grew up having heard those words at least once or twice - and it sometimes feel like it's backfired a little. We went out to seize the day, and it feels sometimes as if the world seized us back a little. Instead of seizing upon something magical and wonderful beyond our grasp, somehow we seized a mortgage, student loans, and a couple car payments. I'm not complaining - I feel sincerely grateful that I have a nice home for my family and that I can afford nice cars for them to travel around in - but certainly there is more to life than this!
The spirit of ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ seems to breathe new life into the idealism we all felt from Carpe Diem. It's almost as if we're saying, "We still want those extra experiences life has to offer. We still want to reach for the stars, dig deeper, seek out the people, places, and things that remind us how wonderful life is. And we realize that these things aren't just laying around for the taking. Life is going to try to knock us down, run us into the ground, and make us lose focus on those goals. So we respond with ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ! - come and take it! You think you got a shot at me - I dare you! You may win the battle from time to time, but you won't win the war! No sir!
Some of us have fought cancer, lost a loved one, declared bankruptcy, suffered a divorce, or any manner of affliction. And yet, we stand defiant that life is not over. We refuse to be beat down and swept under a rock because of how life's events have played out. 300 Spartan warriors vs 600,000 Persians sounds like a ridiculous notion, but they did it. No, I know they didn't win, but that's really besides the point. Thousands of years later, nobody is giving the Persians any credit; yet, they're making Hollywood movies that celebrate the Spartans.
I know some people can feel trapped by the lives they've built around them from time to time. I was just in a hiking/outdoors store today, and I saw a young (dating) couple. They couldn't have been more than 23 or so. They were both buying a couple of really nice backpacks (don't worry, mine is better :) and the salesman asked what they were going to be doing. They both replied, "backpacking in Europe". They talked about being gone for 3 months or so and just tooling around the countryside, staying in hostels along the way, and doing things on the cheap. Of course, the granola crunching, tree hugging salesman replied with the expected "that's the life man, on the trail, just taking each day step by step just like God intended." After I stopped rolling my eyes at the proverbial sales pitch, I couldn't help but feel a tinge of jealousy at the young couple with their whole lives ahead of them and of course this once in a lifetime opportunity to go see Europe FOR 3 MONTHS nonetheless! I mean, you know, I can't do that - I've got a wife, 3 kids, a mortgage, 2 car payments, a full time job, on and on and on. But then I remembered that...I've got a wife...3 kids, a beautiful house, 2 nice cars, 3 weeks of PTO, and you know what...maybe I can't go away to Europe for 3 months, but I can go hiking in the South Carolina wilderness for a few days and when I come back - I'll go again. And in a few years, I'll have 4 weeks of PTO. And maybe then I'll go for a little longer trip. And then one day I'll turn around and (hopefully) retire and every day will be Europe to me because I'll be with my wife, and talk to my kids, and who knows - maybe a grandkid or two.
Now, don't get me wrong - I'm not saying to settle or resign yourself to some hopeless fate. If you want to go backpack in Europe for 3 months then do it! Save up the money, and do it! What...did you think I was just going to hand it to you? No, you're going to have to take it - you're going to have to make it happen. It's the Persian Army for crying out loud! Get off your feet, bang your sword against your shield and let out a blood curdling battle cry and dare Xerxes and his hoards from taking away your life and liberty!
If I told you that you could go to Europe (or you know, insert whatever fantasy you wish) and all you had to do was to climb some difficult mountain, or swim across the English Channel, or some other great feat of strength - you'd probably do it. Well, if I told you all you had to do was make some small sacrifices and save your money and in about 3 or 4 years you'd have more than enough money to go to Europe, or Australia, or wherever/whatever your heart desires - then why won't you do that??? It's not as hard as you think - come on, you're smart...think! Make a plan and make it happen. You think it was easy for those 300 Spartans to lay down their lives? They had wives; they had kids. They don't write stories about people with great ambitions - we all have that from time to time.
Let me leave you with one final thought. A great quote by Mark Twain: Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
That quote helps to segue into my post for tomorrow, so I'll end with that.