Life In A Meat-grinder

With ABC’s Dianne Sawyer conducting a two-hour interview scheduled to air tomorrow night, stories and pictures of Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner are everywhere online as well as on the front pages of various tabloids. Jenner reached the pinnacle of success, snagging two Gold Medals in the grueling decathlon. Esquire described him as “the greatest athlete of his time.”bruce-jenner-olympics-590rr020410-e1340118588112The picture above shows the young athlete I remember admiring, proudly holding one of his medals. I can’t deny my amazement that this man – and he is a man, no matter what extent his body is or will be mutilated – could be the same individual the news outlets are now covering.

Forty years separated from his last Gold Medal achievement, the recent picture below makes me think of a tortured and lost child, someone so despondent he’s chosen an extraordinary (some would say irrational) path in hopes it will bring him some measure of peace. I look at this second picture and it breaks my heart. How does an individual arrive at this point of utter desperation?Screenshot 2015-04-23 18.26.14Yes, life can be a meat-grinder … even for someone who is perceived to have success, all the perks of a fine life and seemingly not a care in the world. With three marriages and three divorces, Jenner fathered six children but did not (apparently) find the transformative experiences of family suited his neediness.

It’s hard not to think of the words of St. Augustine, who famously noted (in the beginning of his book The Confessions of St. Augustine) “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.” Restless hearts tend to be searching for ??! … we come back to that “God-shaped vacuum” about which I posted here. It seems to me Jenner’s longing is best explained because he’s looking for answers in the wrong places.

Now I don’t mean to offer glib solutions nor do I wish to minimize Jenner’s extreme suffering, but I can’t help wondering how “becoming a woman” is going to resolve his deep-seated problems. He’s still going to have the same brain with the same issues that have haunted him up to this point.

Peace of mind and contentedness aren’t products of the body … but of the soul. It’s clear one can be wealthy and famous and brilliant and highly productive and surrounded by resources but still be a tortured misfit because those external elements cannot feed one’s soul. They only distract and no amount of distraction will keep one’s soul from starving to death. The restless heart is begging:  “Feed me!” The restless heart needs food to nurture the spirit.

When I composed today’s poem, the subject matter came as something of a shock. The grammatical faux pas bothered me, the coarse term for backside annoyed. I set it aside, unsure it would be something I’d post. But each time I returned to it for an edit, I realized it might be useable with some further tweaks.

Usually, if one has to explain a poem, as soon as the explanation’s given, readers tend to bypass. I already know that, but please bear with me. When I chose the title, I knew I was taking a risk that people might trip over what looks like a misspelling of Man Kind. The term kine isn’t used much today, I’m told, but it is the plural term for cows (mature female bovines).

I thought the title fit our twenty-first century confusion about identity. All the discussion of self-identifying as a woman in a man’s body (or vice versa), etc. … do you identify as a man or a woman or a cow? With what part of the LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM distinctions do I (you?) most closely identify?

And if anyone thought all of these distinctions and categorization would miraculously make our lives less like a meat-grinder existence, please raise your hand now. Expect to be appropriately pommeled.