My fascination with healed wounds began as a little boy, through those endless primary school days, when after each football game and after each attempt to dive at the ball in style like I often saw on my neighbor’s black and white TV with the twin doors, I’d come home with at least four wounds. Yes. I counted.
Mother was a Nurse/Midwife Tutor and like every mother with a growing child–she had three boys–she had developed and perfected her own special blend of drugs and potions for healing cuts, bruises and injuries of all kinds. I remember that one of her special ingredients was unprocessed honey, fresh from the mountains that made up the Obudu Cattle Ranch mountain range and separated Nigeria from the Cameroons.
The alternative to the almost-weekly injuries was to keep me locked up at home and out of harm’s way, but that wasn’t Mother’s way. She wanted us to experience life and to live, so she raised her boys to learn from their experiences and mistakes, and from their hurt. And we did, because every time I got injured, I learned a new way not to dive, and the scar was there to remind me if I ever forgot.
I invite you to recall with me, if you will, the personal stories of some of the most admired and respected people through history, people of character and charisma, people with that quiet, uncommon dignity that has become one of humanity’s most rare possessions.
Bring to mind their strong souls, forged on the anvil of personal suffering or their willingness to partake in that of others; their individual characters, passed through the many purifying fires that burned away the dross and brought out the gold in them, from Abraham Lincoln, who is arguably the poster boy of how hardships and personal failure can be positive character-building forces, to Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King, and all fifty-six signers of America’s Declaration of Independence. Recall their humanity and their self-effacing personalities, all of them seared with, but ennobled by the scars they bore.
They could have hidden behind the memories of their wounds or booked therapy sessions to sit on a therapist’s couch and discuss their personal demons. But they took those scars and made something beautiful out of them and shared this beauty with the world, and we haven’t forgotten since.
And it seems to me mankind could use some of that beauty, and grace, and character and temperedness right now, but we have refused the fellowship of scars and the world has suffered a hero drought.
They were just ordinary people like us but the scars made them extraordinary.
And I want to be like them. I want my scars to write my name in the stars when I go. It’s why I embrace them with an open heart. I wear them proud like medals, some of them conferred, not for victory but for valor in the face of failure and defeat. They are the keepsakes of my survived battles.
Sometimes I tell myself I am a mother in labor: pushing through the pangs, suffering an episiotomy but pushing still, mind on the pleasure that is to come, embracing the pain, for pain is just a scar on my pleasure.
So I invite life to cut me daily, with every risk taken, every step ventured further down the path less trod, with every stillborn dream I re-dream, every ruptured ambition patched; I take the wound and wait for my scar medal.
Last night, I had a long candid conversation with a dear friend and it drifted like many of them do, to the places where we came from, to the place we were headed, to our dreamed future and the distance left to travel. In many ways she was just like me; growing up on the edge of dysfunction, memories weighted with emotional scars, personal demons put to productive labor. There is always a lot to learn from these conversations, and last night was no different.
I have learned that wounds may leave a scar, but the scar is not the wound. The scar is simply evidence of healing, the mark of a closed wound. I learned that scars are not necessarily damaging, of themselves. It is only our response to their existence that determines their effect on us, and that response is often fear. But fear is a bullet in the spine, and makes mental invalids of those who will let it. I learned that life is a contact sport, and only the craven have no scars.
Like Garrison Keillor once said, it’s a shallow life that doesn’t give a person a few scars.
Thank you for reading, and I sincerely hope that this has challenged you. Kindly leave a comment if you can. I will appreciate that. If you are on twitter, you can follow me here: @iamashiwel and we can continue the conversation with a larger audience. Carpe Diem.