September 19, 2011


One of those Nick Adams stories by Ernest Hemingway begins with an image of starving wolves. They’re so hungry they devour their own entrails. In a strange way, it might have been an image of Hemingway’s life, a man who pushed himself to satisfy his passions even to the brink of death. Certainly his desire to live on the edge pervades his writing. In “Death in the Afternoon” he celebrates heroes of the blood drenched bull ring. In “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” and “The Old Man and the Sea,” the presence of death gives meaning to life.  

Though I have read and studied almost all of Hemingway’s works and recognize his craft, I don’t much care for his stories with their dark underbelly. One exception is “A Moveable Feast.” It bubbles from the pages like uncorked champagne and is the only example he offers of life without the specter of death. 

Much of our reality is based upon how we choose to perceive it. We can paint our impression with shadows, giving it chiaroscuro shapes and forms. Or we can follow the sunlight. People fight disease and overwhelming handicaps daily for the joy of seeing another sunrise.

(AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

We see young men and women in the military like our most recent Medal of Honor winner, Dakota Meyer, facing death not to enhance the thrill of life but to preserve life for themselves and for others.

I honor them. These are the heroes among us.