The Grapes of Strength

I was bullied as a kid, and I used to resent strength, saying it was just for bullies, but deep down, I knew this was a cop-out.

The Grapes of Strength
World Champion Süleyman Samet Göktopal (@ssgtrk). A fox who never saw sour grapes, only opportunity.

2600 years ago, Aesop captured the essence of a force threatening to destroy the world in just 140 words, resentment. I'm talking about Aesop's Fable, "The Fox & The Grapes." In the story, a hungry fox sees some tasty-looking grapes on a high branch, but no matter how much he tries, he can't seem to reach the grapes. Finally defeated, the fox walks away, calling himself a fool for trying to get sour grapes. The story is older than Christianity, but not much has changed since then. We all know someone like the fox; heck, sometimes we are the fox. It's easier to resent what is out of reach than to admit our shortcomings. Sadly this path of least resistance has made resentment the default setting in the world. While this is a shame, there is a silver lining. In a world where most people choose resentment when faced with difficulty, it's easier than ever to set yourself apart from the crowd. Recently actor Jonah Hill shared a post with the world where he showed how he did just that. Hill rejected the ease of resentment & in doing so, showed how the world could be saved.

Life is hard; the things you want will always be out of reach, and the deepest pleasures in life will always exhaust you and pull you out of your comfort zone. Why? Because you are not enough, and worse yet, you know it. To accept this harsh reality is to take the first steps to your destiny. To reject this reality is to damn yourself & if that wasn't bad enough, you slide the world closer to damnation with you. Look, I realize saying you're not enough, AND you know it is harsh. I can forgive the person who winces at the offensive language but deep down senses the truth in the statement, internalizes it, and then acts on it. What I cannot and will not forgive is the person who says that they are enough and then disparages the ideals they failed to meet, the very same ideals they once upon a time strived to meet. These foxes erode all that is good.

It's easy to imagine a young Jonah Hill getting beat up, looking at his bullies & hating strength. It's very easy for me to imagine this because I've personally been there. I was bullied as a kid, and I used to resent strength, saying it was just for bullies, but deep down, I knew this was a cop-out. I knew I wished that I was also strong in my heart, and what I hated was the fear that I'd never be strong. I'm grateful that my conscience didn't let this false hatred persist; I imagine Jonah's didn't either. A false ideal cannot & will not endure. The honest victim of bullying knows in his heart what has always been known by all men, of all creeds in all times; it is better to be strong than weak.

Unfortunately for us, the mob doesn't have a conscience, and today our society does not celebrate strength; it sneers at it. Today our society embodies the spirit of Aesop's fox. Strength has been equated with oppression. The millions who failed to become strong wear their failures as badges of honor. The foxes proclaim that they aren't oppressors. They look at strength as sour grapes and those who pursue it as fools. Worse yet, those who become strong are hated. When Elon Musk was starting, he was universally praised. Colbert's Late Show audience loved Musk when Tesla's future was uncertain, but today he's the butt of its jokes. Musk's success strikes a sharp contrast to the failure of many. This is THE TRAGEDY of our age.

To hate strength is to hate virtue. To hate strength is to promote immorality. The weak man is incapable of virtue because he is incapable of causing any harm. Only the strong man who can cause harm and chooses not to is virtuous. The empowered are calm and confident; the weak are insecure and unstable; we all know this hence the famous Napoleon Complex. This isn't just theory; like Jonah Hill, I have been practicing Jiu-Jitsu for some time now. During that time, I have met the kindest, sweetest, most emotionally intelligent people, who are all absolute monsters. Practitioners of Jiu-Jitsu who could take most people's lives, and I believe that because they have that power, it has freed them up to be gentle. I have not met one black belt who exhibits what could be termed toxic masculinity; they speak on their emotions, fears, hopes, and dreams freely. They are uninhibited by insecurity because they've achieved a modicum of strength in this life.

The Swiss psychologist Carl Jung put forth the idea that the root of most anxiety is the knowledge that you aren't doing what you know needs doing, that you were not going after those grapes. Life will always bring suffering; you can choose the suffering of overcoming weakness or call the grapes sour and suffer in the knowledge that you rejected your destiny. Worse yet, you've labeled the good as evil. When you label strength as bad, you not only damn yourself but also encourage the other foxes struggling to reach the grapes to hate strength. The whole world slides a little closer to ruin when you call the grapes sour.

The world we live in was not created by you & me, but we play a large part in shaping its future. I don't know about you, but I'm not happy with the world today. We can fix things, but that starts with fixing ourselves and accepting we are not enough. We must look at the grapes and keep striving, never calling them sour. I salute Jonah Hill and anyone who insists on getting the grapes. Training Jiu-Jitsu has been one of the most significant decisions I've made in my life. The truth is clear: destructive ideals and resentment won't get you very far on the mats. The world isn't much different from the mats.

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