“You can’t stop us on the road to freedom. You can’t keep us ’cause our eyes can see. Men with insight, men in granite; Knights in armor bent on chivalry”. Van Morrison – Tupelo Honey

It’s a small and select but distinguished circle of friends I have been blessed to acquire over these past thirty years here at lands end. We have shared glorious and tumultuous times together; and sometimes neither has been mutually exclusive but often one in the same. The good times have made us happy. The bad times have made us what we are.

We know each other better than we know ourselves and none of us would fear any of the others writing our obituaries. We are men now seasoned, tested with challenges met and overcome, survivors; great and good with hearts of gold kept open on purpose. Winners all to be sure; yet not one of us are like the others; we celebrate our natural abilities and accept each other with our faults.

We are not a cult of personality but men who must be who we are; wanting to do something more than be something; the latter a recent fascination of social media, Facebook and Reality TV. We are men who admire character; not fame or acclaim or popularity for its own sake but un-cynical believers in the karma of right livelihood.   

We no longer audition since self promotion feels too much like bad form. Brando did not audition; the Lion does not either. The Lions audition is walking into the room and all who know see; for the things we think are instinctively known by the cognoscenti, charisma and charm are not a foreign thing nor are they shunned. But the greater attribute, what is prized above all else, is authenticity. We are men not motivated by celebrity or recognition but rather forged by lending steeled voices and actions toward those things we each think greater than ourselves.

The only invincible men are in the movies. The rest of us are simply mortal. Russell Crowe’s stoic Gladiator philosopher Marcus Aurelius said “It is royal to do good and be abused”. In the end he fell to evil and like all great men is remembered as an inspiration to the value of heart and spirit; often shown more by how we fall than by how we live.

No one can win all the time. Even great men fail and fall. But as Marcus posited; “what we do in life echoes in eternity”. This may well feel like cold comfort but in the end it is all we have. How we fail and fall and how many times we raise again matters.

The cowardly Roman Emperor Commodus slew Marcus and for evermore throughout the ages the code of pride and honor and dignity Marcus exemplified is revered and emulated and arouse the hearts and souls of men; guideposts of how to live a great life, while Commodus’ name is assigned to the bowl we all use daily, the commode. 

In Willy Shakes “The Lion in Winter”, his telling of one Christmas during the reign of Henry II, as the King prepares to kill his sons the Princes, one fearfully says “I will not beg”. The other Prince says “you fool, do you think it matters how a man falls?” The first Prince retorts “when the falling is all that is left; it matters a great deal”.

My friend awaits a billionaire angel, now en-route to meet him, in the hope that the whale will gobble up his labor of love and righteously promote and advance his life’s work; a vocation, not trying to be something but to do something; something great, and bring well deserved redemption.

I visited him yesterday to break bread and imagine together what wonders may await. As I ponder the excitement and the possibilities now just a hairbreadth away that must be coursing through his dreams I know if the stars align in his favor and he shall be victorious his talent and empathy will guide his assent to majestic heights.

But if he should fail and fall I trust his character will absorb the body blow of yet another false promise and he will rise up again; unbent and unashamed, secure in the worth of his path, to fight the good fight once again. Should he win, altruistic, I have no doubt he will spread his fortune far and wide. Should he lose I trust his character will sustain the heavens falling and his pride and dignity and honor, built these many decades brick by brick, something no man can take away, will not be laid asunder.

As I think about this; the knowledge that he is out there, alone, on the ragged edge, where angels fear to tread, burning and flying, yet calm in the center of the vortex of one more tornado, awaiting fate, my will demands it spirit him to OZ. And it is this thought that causes my heart to soar like a Hawk. 


About circusinpurgatory
Nick Masesso Jr’s fictionalized short stories, poetry and prose have been published in the Starry Night Review, Elegant Thorn Review, Language and and Vagabond Press; the Battered Suitcase. His latest book “Armor of Innocence” and first book “Walking the Midway in Purgatory, a Journal” are available on-line and through bookstores.

2 Responses to Gladiators

  1. Renegade says:

    Thank you Nick. I’ve got my fingers crossed.

  2. James Mcfarland says:

    Mr. Masesso soars to new heights with this eloquent yet gripping tribute to life and humanity. A 10.00 publisher’s rating for submitting a superb piece of revelation, forgotten history, unwritten philosophy and unveiled truism. Honored am I to have received this work of mastery. A fond remembrance to archive for the ages.

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