Saturday, February 21, 2009

Inch by Inch, Hour by Hour — Play by Play!


"Destiny, the fatum, or the inner voice, tells you where you have to wind up and what you’re destined to do, but it doesn’t tell you how to get there or how to do it…

Aeneas cannot choose not to found Rome; he’s destined to create it. But he as to wrestle with himself, inch by inch, hour by hour — play by play! — to figure out how to endure the struggle and torment of doing it, and take all the bad breaks along the way.

As I sat there, an impressionable, twentieth-century seventeen-year-old, I wasn’t really swallowing Virgil’s brand of fatalism. But I sensed him speaking to me with a broader and deeper kind of truth.

It was terrifying that Aeneas’ beloved Troy had to be destroyed. But what I absorbed as we read was that the founding of Rome had a cost — Troy’s defeat and Aeneas’ years of torment. No accomplishment comes without suffering. Humanum est pati. “To be alive is to suffer.” Virgil wasn’t saying something as simple-headed as “No pain, no gain.” That implies you can choose between suffering and taking life easy. To Virgil, nobody gets to choose not to suffer.

And nobody is guaranteed a reward, a victory, in repayment for his suffering. The best man, the best team, isn’t automatically entitled to win. The winds of fate can turn you around, run you aground, sink you, and sometimes you can’t do a thing about it. However, just to make the commitment to something you believe in is winning — even if you lose the game. But for committing yourself to winning the game, whether you win or not, you always pay in tears and in blood." -- Joe Paterno

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