Bernie Anderson
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the blog

Current musings, whatever they may be. 

Battle Wounds and Airline Pickup Lines

Conversations on airplanes have been intriguing of late.

Don't take that the wrong way. I am no airline conversationalist. My habit is to have my ear buds already stuck in my ears before I ever even get to my seat, even though there may be no sound traveling through those scratchy little ear speakers. It looks like there is. People are less apt to start a conversation that way. Call me unspiritually rude, but I really do like silence and space on an airplane. I'm not an airline evangelist.

That said, I do find the conversations I hear on airplanes to be somewhat entertaining. Somewhat. One of my recent trips had me eavesdropping through my soundless ear buds to a young man speaking most impressively to an only slightly older, attractive woman.

I'm on spring break. I've lived in Texas for 20 years. I don't like sweet tea.

Airline small talk.

The dramatic boasts increased, as they became more dramatically tragic.

My Dad left my family early on. I grew up with my mother and my aunt, along with her kids. My cousins are my brothers and sisters, really. My aunt was abusive. My mom didn't care. I haven't seen either of them for 10 years.

The life story went on. I really have no idea whether or not this woman was at all interested in or impressed with what this man was saying. I was interested long enough to listen through silent ear buds for a few more minutes, anyway. The conversations continued on surrounding the topics of Texas and sweet tea. I listened to The Weepies.

However, I do still wonder at which point our own personal war stories become pick up lines and when stories (which stories?) become something we really don't want to speak about any more. It was interesting to me that this 20-ish guy thought that baring all of his scars would impress the woman in the seat next to him. Or perhaps, I took the conversation the wrong way? Maybe he was young enough, and the scars were tender enough that he felt they were worth boasting about. Showing off. Battle wounds. I am a warrior. A survivor. A conqueror. A Braveheart. Maybe she was actually impressed.

It is true that our battle wounds shape who we are, for better or for worse.

I'm not sure how crazy I am about this getting older thing. But I know that I as I get older, I find that Annie Dillard knew the human psyche (and perhaps the male psyche, in particular) well when she observed that "The young man proudly names his scars for his lover; the old man alone before a mirror erases his scars with his eyes and sees himself whole".

It's not that there is shame in woundedness. There's no shame, there's grace for all, at any age. At least there should be. Scar tissue eventually becomes a part of the whole. There's no real value in hiding that. Some scar tissue even gets ironically exposed on blogs on the Internet.

In the end, it's really not about if we're scarred and wounded. It's about when and where it happened, and how we go on. Every person in this fallen world gets the opportunity to taste blood and to feel the bite of life's sword. I'm about to board another plane to travel to Rwanda and Burundi, countries devastated by genocide. There are many wounded survivors there. I'd venture to say that every one in those places who made it through, only came made it through with wounds. Wounds that probably cut through bone and flesh and soul. And they live and limp on. Some are now making huge differences in their communities. I am looking forward to meeting some of these heroic individuals and hearing their stories.

Woundedness is universal. Their severity is relative. And (again to paraphrase Ms. Dillard), we are indeed frayed and nibbled survivors in a fallen world. No one escapes that reality. Whether those wounds are hidden, used as airplane pick-up lines or leveraged for good and grace is up to us.

I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world.
— Annie Dillard