It’s my birthday as I write this on February 25th: 71 years old … and I’m astonished at that number! Yesterday a kid; today my Dad. Those of you my age know the drill: “Where, oh where, have all the years gone?”
For me, the years have gone downward, not up, that is, I’m aware more each day of growing down into myself, not ‘up’ into others’ expectations. I’m discovering at age 71 I’m hard-headed but soft-hearted. For me at least, that’s the balance in my soul which Destiny and Fate and my Scottie dogs have taught me fits the Life that wants to live in me.
Hard-headed but soft-hearted. Thinking for myself and doing things in my own way are in my bones. That’s what I mean by ‘hardheaded’. Not negative complaining, or merely being cranky, but discernment and intelligent critique of persons and situations and claims. Just as there’s a stubbornness in Scotties and Donkeys, natural gifts for seeing Life singularly and uniquely, so also there is hard-headedness in this writer who is drawn to them both. No soft-headed herd instinct, but also no tearless absence of sentimentality. That suits me; it fits, and I’m embracing both ‘hard’ and ’soft’ proudly.
I’m realizing in myself the paradox that soft-heartedness suits this hard-headed man. You can’t give your heart completely to good dogs and animals and good people without going through the meat grinder of loss and grief. Burying loved ones tenderizes the soul.
At the same time, you don’t have to live to be 71 to recognize not everybody grows soft at their center as they age. Loss and grief leave some brittle, not better, hard-hearted, not soft as result of the blows of Life.
I thought of my soft-heartedness when my girlfriend, Anna, and I went to see the movie “50 Shades of Gray”. I had not read the popular novels, so had little notion of the content, except reports that the books are hot and steamy and waaay sexy.
I found the story and the movie icy cold, not hot and steamy, not about ’sex’ as I know it, but about power and domination, not the mutual surrender to romance and chemistry which in my experience make up all that is rich and profound between men and women.
My son tells me I don’t understand the mysteries of “pain”, as in tattoos and piercings and Sado-Masochism. He’s right. I don’t get why a man desires physically or emotionally to hurt a woman and finds pleasure in it — any more than I get why torturing insects and animals is fun. Watching the movie, I had the feeling Mr. Gray’s fabulous wealth glamorized brutality which, were it performed by vagrants in trashy trailers, would be called “criminal minds”.
I’m hard-headed and soft-hearted. Inflicting pain for my pleasure is out of the question; it’s not love or kindness or wholesome. Over the years, my dogs and animals have modelled for me unconditional love, leaving me “soft-hearted” with tenderness at my center. I wear my tender heart on my sleeve as earned badge of honor.
So my ‘hard-headedness and soft-heartedness’ leave me shaking my head over “50 Shades of Gray” but also in tears watching “American Sniper”, not because the young hero is murdered in the end, but because my “Land of the free and home of the brave” is so embedded in war that we turn young husbands and fathers into soulless assassins, call it noble, and then throw them away.
Guess that’s why in a nutshell donkeys and Scotties called me to their side. They saw hard-headedness and soft-heartedness in me before I did. They identify with that balance of hard/soft.
As I age growing down into my soul, so do I.
Joseph Harvill, Scottiephile