the boxer

“I am just a poor boy and my story’s seldom told
I have squandered my resistance for a pocketful of mumbles, such are promises
All lies and jest, still the man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest

…In the clearing stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down or cut him
til he cried out in his anger and his shame
I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains
Yes he still remains…”

Simon and Garfunkel – The Boxer

Seriously, are these guys not two of the best poets the world has produced?

I was wandering around the supermarket yesterday with my mp3 player buzzing in my ears, and had two Simon and Garfunkel songs in a row; the second of which was The Boxer. It’s funny how when I listen to music sometimes just a few words will stand out to you, and suddenly have significance you never saw before. Usually the rest doesn’t really apply, but those few words will express something you didn’t know you knew, about yourself or the world. I had that earlier in the year with Nirvana’s In Bloom (“he’s the one who likes all the pretty songs, and he likes to sing along…but he knows not what it means…”) and then I had it today with The Boxer.

One of those lines that struck me yesterday from The Boxer was “still the man hears what he wants to hear/and disregards the rest”. As I’ve been reevaluating Christianity, I realise that to a certain extent I’ve been doing that. I was telling the inspiral guys that I thought Lee Camp’s Mere Discipleship was one of the best books I’d read on describing the Christian life, but Croz subversively replied, “Is that because it confirms what you already thought?” and I had to admit, yeah, it kinda is. I mean, it wasn’t that crude or that simple because I’d come to most of it over a fairly intense period of reading, and synthesizing all that material (including life experience) only to find it all in one reasonably short book; but nonetheless, I was left with the question of whether I was now merely reading only that which confirms my ideas, whether or not they be misconceptions. After all, just because it feels right doesn’t mean it is (doesn’t mean it’s not either). Maybe I’m not being very generous to myself; probably we all do it, realistically, but it’s something I need to be careful of. There’s often little difference between hearing the ring of truth and confirming your own prejudices.

I do it with other stuff too – the more I invest myself in nonviolence the more I see around me that acts in contrary ways, reinforcing the myth of redemptive violence. The current situation in Lebanon, with Israel retaliating with the most unbelievable overkill (literally) imaginable, I wonder how on earth it could come to this, how this could make sense to anyone, let alone be justifiable. Then I heard this as part of a Pace e Bene podcast yesterday:

“Creative nonviolence recognizes that each of us has tendencies towards violence and love. It maintains, as the Soviet dissident Aleksander Solzhenitsyn put it, “the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.” Each of us has only a piece of the truth, and therefore each of us also has a piece of the untruth. Creative nonviolence fails when it is arrogant or self-righteous – especially when it claims to be free of violence, or when it asserts that only the ‘others’ are violent.”

It humbles me to realize that I am not free of violence, but also that we need each other in order to be whole – it’s so much easier to divide myself off from everyone I disagree with or have trouble with. So I, like Simon and Garfunkel’s boxer, carry the reminders of every glove that laid me down or cut me till I cried out in my anger and my shame, “I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains.”

And it does remain. But I am leaving…I am leaving.

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