I thought I ought to make a meditation concerning my father since I mentioned my mother.
That sword, it is Constantine's fathers.
A weak link I know.
But this gains more relevance because my namesake's father served under Maximian and Constantius then Constantine.
It gains added force from the kinds of traits I have inherited from my father.
You shall see, if you read it. It shall all work out and tie in.
My father was a strongman.
Not a "strong" "man". Strongman.
This seems to have involved beating rival criminals to pulse.
For most of my childhood he was incarcerated.
My memories of him.
Tall. Very tall. Broad chest. Arms like tree trunks. Dark eyes.
I do not know if he has become a better man by now.
I pray for him.
Where my namesake came from, a Roman province along the Hister.
They resisted the Romans more fiercely than any other people.
When they lost - they recognized what made the Romans better.
They of all conquered peoples profited most from Roman discipline and training and arms.
They produced the best soldiers in Rome's history and so the best soldiers in the whole of humanity's history.
The name Valentinvs, or like names like Valentinianvs, were very popular in that province.
I read a historian say it is a Latin translation of their native language's word for "strongman".
They lived in fierce winters. Barbarians were constantly trying to cross their border. The men who held that border - strong.
Another Roman historian in a geographical work says simply that they have good fields and strong men.
They were either farmers or soldiers.
The men of this province, they did things which we readily recognize. The men of my family.
One of them, a career soldier and father of two emperors, had his cognomen from the Latin word for "rope".
A cognomen is a second name usually designating some part of the person's character or body.
Rope. Because when he was eight years old five soldiers could not take a piece of rope from him.
As an adult in the army he would challenge any man to take an apple from his right hand.
This was the kind of man my namesake's father was.
He began an ordinary soldier.
He ended in the schola palatina [the shock infantry and cavalry of the Roman army].
A tribvnvs [third highest ranking officer after dvx and comes].
We wrestled hard in Canada.
We would not go home for dinner until someone was acknowledged superior.
It was not as though attempting at imitating the kind of wrestling they did on television.
It was trying to put your opponent in the dust or snow until he did not get up (tacit acknowledgement of superiority).
Or putting them in holds until they expressly conceded your superiority (not tapping out but actually saying it or using nods).
Apparently they do not do this in Australia.
Or in any of the other countries from which most of my primary school class-mates came.
They were surprised at how hard we wrestled.
But they soon got used to it and became equally competitive.
I did not stop until I was universally acknowledged the strongest in the school.
Anyone who thought otherwise - would be shown otherwise.
I was only in year four, but this extended to all students in year five and six as well.
I was the second tallest boy in our school. Second only to a boy from New Zealand. But I quickly showed him the difference.
My best friend, Mohammed, was comically good at mimicking professional wrestling on television
but he was not good at the other kind.
I remember once I challenged one of his older brothers who happened to be at home as well.
He was in year eight, at least.
Looked pretty heavy.
He had seen me wrestling Mohammed in the backyard.
He prudently declined.
By year five we were beyond wrestling.
We were very serious by year seven.
My first year at secondary school, my first fist-fight was with a boy from year nine.
The weekend last I had beaten one of his friends so badly that later he actually pretended to have a twin (that is who I beat...).
Some of us took it very seriously indeed.
We would shadowbox with weights, to hit harder and faster.
Hold newspaper up against a brick wall and punch as hard as we could until we got used to it.
Took some away and did it again. And again and so on until you were almost just punching the wall.
So that your fists built up a tolerance to hitting hard objects - hard.
How many fights lost or turned into a draw because the one winning,
the adrenaline wearing off,
found hitting his opponent's head hurt too much.
Used to do crunches or sit-ups or the Roman chair for hours to build up our abdominal muscles.
What worse than when the bigger or better man gets dusted up because thirty seconds in he gets winded?
The Romans knew wrestling. They boxed.
Roman boxing - was not like modern boxing.
The Romans were an all-or-nothing people.
Only played for keeps.
Roman boxing - was to the death.
They wore gloves. But not as protection.
They were made of ox hides and lead.
They were meant to increase the injury done to one's opponent.
There is a fight in the Aeneid between Trojan Dares and Entellus the Sicilian.
. . .
NVNC SI CVI VIRTVS ANIMVSQVE IN PECTORE PRAESENS
ADSIT ET EVINCTIS ATTOLLAT BRACHIA PALMIS
NEC MORA CONTINVO VASTIS CVM VIRIBVS EFFERT
ORA DARES MAGNOQVE VIRVM SE MVRMVRE TOLLIT
SOLVS QVI PARIDEM SOLITVS CONTENDERE CONTRA
IDEMQVE AD TVMVLVM QVO MAXIMVS OCCVBAT HECTOR
VICTOREM BUTEN IMMANI CORPORE
PERCVLIT ET FVLVA MORIBVNDVM EXTENDIT HARENA
TALIS PRIMA DARES CAPVT ALTVM IN PROELIA TOLLIT
OSTENDITQVE VMEROS LATOS ALTERNAQVE IACTAT
BRACHIA PROTENDENS ET VERBERAT ICTIBVS AVRAS
QVAERITVR HVIC ALIVS NEC QVISQVAM EX AGMINE TANTO
AVDET ADIRE VIRVM MANIBVSQVE INDVCERE CAESTVS
Now, said Aeneas, if any has courage and speed of reaction,
Let him step forward and put on the gloves for a boxing
...They did not wait long, for immediately Dares stood forth
a huge man;
a deep murmur arose from the crowd as he
He - no others dared - used to take Paris on;
He it was, at the tomb where strong Hector lies,
Who met the champion Butes, a mountain of a man, when
...Knocked him out, laid him him out dying in the sand.
Such was the Dares who now put himself in a challenging
Exhibiting his broad shoulders, leading with left and right
as he pounded the air and indulged in a bout of shadow-boxing.
An opponent for him was sought: but, from that whole massive crowd
Not one man was heard to dare to come forward and put on the gloves.
Eventually a Sicilian champion comes forth - Entellus. But he is getting on in years. Still, they fight.
CONSTITIT IN DIGITOS EXTEMPLO ARRECTVS VTERQVE
BRACHIAQVE AD SVPERAS INTERRITVS EXTVLIT AVRAS
ABDVXERE RETRO LONGE CAPITA ARDVA AB ICTV
IMMISCENTQVE MANVS MANIBVS PVGNAMQVE LACESSVNT
ILLEM PEDVM MELIOR MOTV FRETVSQVE IVVENTA
HIC MEMBRIS ET MOLE VALENS SED TARDA TREMENTI
GENVA LABANT VASTOS QVATIT AEGER ANHELITVS ARTVS
MVLTA VIRI NEQVIQVAM INTER SE VOLNERA IACTANT
MVLTA CAVO LATERI INGEMINANT ET PECTORE VASTOS
DANT SONITVS ERRATQVE AVRIS ET TEMPORA CIRCVM
CREBRA MANVS DVRO CREPITANT SVB VOLNERE MALAE
STAT GRAVIS ENTELLVS NISVQVE IMMOTVS EODEM
CORPORE TELA MODO ATQVE OCVLIS VIGILANTIBVS EXIT
ILLE VELVT CELSAM OPPVGNAT QVI MOLIBVS VRBEM
AVT MONTANA SEDET CIRCVM CASTELLA SVB ARMIS
NVNC HOS NVNC ILLOS ADITVS OMNEMQVE PERERRAT
ARTE LOCVM ET VARIIS ADSVLTIBVS INRITVS VRGVET
Up on their toes, up with their fists, cool and undaunted.
Heads held high and well back, to keep out of reach of a
Hand to hand they were sparring and warming up to the
Dares relied upon his youth and his faster foot-work;
Entellus' strength was his massive frame, but his legs
And shaky, and soon he was breathing heavily, out of
Many punches are thrown by both of them, missing their
Many get home on the hollow ribs or beat a tattoo on
The mighty chests: against ear and temple their fists go
Constantly out, and their cheek-bones are rattled by heavy
Entellus stands solidly rooted, not changing his stance,
Blows by weaving and carefully watching his enemy's
Dares, like one who assaults with siege-works a towering city
Or skirmishes round some mountain redoubt he is
Tries here and there for an opening, scouts with expert
And launches attacks from every angle, but all to no purpose.
And the end?
PRAECIPITEMQVE DAREN ARDENS AGIT AEQORE TOTO
NVNC DEXTRA INGEMINANS ICTVS NVNC ILLE SINISTRA
NEC MORA NEC REQVIES QVAM MVLTA GRANDINE NIMBI
CVLMINIBVS CREPITANT SIC DENSIS ICTIBVS HEROS
CREBER VTRAQVE MANV PVLSAT VERSATQVE DARETA
AST ILLVM FIDI AEQVALES GENVA AEGRA TRAHENTEM
IACTANTEMQVE VTROQVE CAPVT CRASSVMQVE CRVOREM
ORE EIECTANTEM MIXTOSQVE IN SANGVINE DENTES
Battering Dares with lefts and rights, he sent him reeling
All round the ring. No pause, no respite: thick as a
Rattling on roofs, came the punches Entellus threw, as he
Dares and spun him about with a two-fisted attack.
...Dares is lead away by his loyal friends,
All groggy, knees sagging, legs trailing behind him, his head
From side to side, and spitting out of his mouth,
teeth mixed with blood.
. . .
I shall tell you a story. About a boy. Named, Cervidor.
He had an offsider. He chose him on height and similarities of disposition.
Turned out he was not much of a fighter though.
One day Cervidor arrived at school to find that a Spanish boy two years above them had beaten his offisider out the back of the school.
He went to find the Spanish boy.
"You can't fight him! He's a boxer."
"Boxers don't bleed?"
I cannot relate to you the things he said in anger when he found the Spanish boy.
To show you just one specimen of how bad this Cervidor was.
The Spanish boy's girlfriend lived near him. He actually threatened to rape her.
If the barking of dogs could be put into words, I am sure they mean such things.
At a park, at the back of a primary school, on a weekend, encircled by a crowd, with the two of them in the centre, without shirts.
They fought for no real reason, but it felt important then. It meant something to them.
The courage it took to be there. The skill and the stamina.
They went at each other like lions. Heedless of their own safety in their unbounded desire to injure each other.
Neither backing down, both surging forward.
No knees, headbutts, holds or elbows. Just their fists. Until neither of them could raise them above their waists.
Standing opposite each other, panting, covered in blood, marks that would become bruises and sweat.
They put their shirts back on. Shook hands and went home.
That is the glorious part of that story.
Most people know only television and films or amateurish scuffles of their own.
Most people do not know the injury involved
when two competent young men mutually decide to try to destroy one another with their bare fists.
It takes about two to five minutes.
The two or three days after.
Both at home laying down, covered with frozen food.
Periodically rinsing their mouths' with milk hoping that the loose teeth stay in.
Twisting a thick washcloth and biting into it to urinate.
The damage we did to eachother.
This boy has his eyesocket shattered.
His parents (= mom) could not pay to have it fixed properly.
Call him the Pirate.
My older brother had only half a right front tooth.
It was sharp. Looked like a vampire's fang.
I did that.
With a headbutt.
Mom could not afford a filling.
The police only came for him once, and he cried!
Me mocking him: "Your honor , your honor : I plead woman."
Knew one boy who had his front teeth knocked inward, not out.
He spoke with a lisp after that. Enter morphine addiction.
The things we did to each other.
I remember reading in a newspaper that violence was more common of a night in Newcastle than Sydney.
Strange to think.
Men like Flt. Lt. W.M. died to protect this country
which their grandfathers came to to love and make their own by their hardwork and honesty
so that we could come to it to deliberately not be a part of it
and glamourize or even bring the regional conflicts our parents and grandparents fled from here.
Or make our own much more local conflicts.
My father, according to the flesh.
From him all of this comes.
It is from him I get my broad shoulders.
These arms that lift whatever I want.
These eyes that flash.
This tendency to a stand-off.
This need to take a side and never the middle.
This straight-forwardness and single-mindedness.
Black is black and white is white.
My namesake turned all of the characteristics of his father,
which his father had used to to be a man of blood,
to God's service.
All that we have. All that we inherit.
The Living God has ordered things so that all is left to us. To our will.
These hands can hurt - or they can help.
This mouth can curse - or it can praise.
These legs can run - or they can stand.
And what will we do?
Edited by Servidor, 18 October 2012 - 11:50 PM.