“There is something about the outside of a horse that’s good for the inside of a man.” – Winston Churchill
I think the next best possible place for the inside of a man is splitting firewood. I have always found peace splitting firewood. It’s good honest physical work. It’s rewarding to know that your home will be heated, and your family warm because of the preparation and sweat you put in. First it’s about the physical work, you and that 10lb wedge against that log. Each log, a new contest. Between the cycles of splitting and stacking, alternating swinging arms, its a fairly complete upper body workout. It’s so repetitive your mind has time to wander and contemplate.
Today I wore my headphones while I worked. I’ve been listening to Man’s Search for Meaning, by Victor Frankl. If you haven’t read or listened to it, I highly suggest it. He tells his story and experiences of being in the Nazi concentration camps, and how he found meaning is his suffering which gave him the strength to endure. I think I pushed myself harder than ever before while listening that book. Any pain or weariness that I felt did not not even register in comparison to what that man experienced and persevered. I plan to reread it next week because I’m sure there’s more that I didn’t pick up the first time.
The end of this day I feel at peace. We started today with yard sale. Decluttering. We spent all week clearing out our clutter. I hauled over 500lbs to the dump, and we pretty much gave the rest away at our yard sale. It felt like a load got lifted off. I had a good morning with my boys, they worked well by my side. As they napped I knocked out my wood pile, and doubled the size of my stack, enough for winter. Victor Frankl gave me much to think about. We will never know suffering the way that he and his fellows endured. My daily grind is just a grind if there is no meaning behind it. If there is no meaning, then what’s the point? I learned through Victor that a man can endure and adapt to almost anything if there is truly a meaning to his suffering. That there has to be purpose.
Frankl states that people are more than just the result of their environment or conditions. He emphasizes that everyone can choose, under any circumstances, what “will become of him mentally and spiritually.” He argues that what kind of person you are is a result of an “inner decision” rather than your situation, and that bearing your suffering with dignity is a real achievement. “It is this spiritual freedom—which cannot be taken away—that makes life meaningful and personal.” Frankl regards suffering as an opportunity to make meaning out of life.
So I think of the stressors of life, work and responsibilities and wonder simply, why?
Why get worked up? Why do seemingly small infractions ruin my day? Why the grind? Why did we allow all of this stuff to accumulate all around us when we could do with so much less? Why did it take so long to declutter?
Demolishing that wood pile, I knew my why: To heat my home, keep my family warm, to be prepared in case the power goes out, to work off some of that sitting behind a computer belly. It feels good, a job done well, a sense of validation.
There’s something about splitting firewood that’s good for the inside of a man.