I ran into Spartacus in the break room last Monday.
He was showered, clean-shaven and over-all well-groomed. He grabbed a cup of coffee, we shot the shit about losing electricity over the weekend, agreed gas stoves were superior for that very reason, and went on with our mornings. But it wasn’t always so for Spartacus.
Spartacus was in a bit of a slump when slavery ended. He still slayed his share of maidens with questionable reputations, but when he went home and hung up his leathers, he couldn’t help but feel like his existence had boiled down to a few key motions. Like a video game with only three moves. So, as many of us do, Spartacus took to repeatedly slamming his head into the wall and, when no such wall was available, shouting someone please shoot meeee for hours on end. Personally, I like to get this out of the way on my morning commute. I shout obscenities for no reason or just make really loud inane noises. Its how I deal with embarking on a brand new journey of the same old shit.
Last Friday I said, hey Spartacus, let’s get a beer. Two sips in, I said Spart, lets get real. He smiled intensely and leaned in close.
How do you go from decapitating dudes and leading revolts to commuting twice daily, drinking three cups of coffee before noon, shuffling papers all day, and eating greek Yogurt as an afternoon snack.
Well, he said, I really like greek yogurt. Its high in protein and low in fat. The other shit, well, I do that shit because I’m a a mother-fucking gladiator.
Huh? That sounds like the opposite of a mother-fucking gladiator, no offense Spart.
Don’t misinterpret my actions. I remain a man of principle. The one principle I’ve held closest to my core identify these past thousand-and-some-odd years is adaptability. Sure, I fight for freedom. And when I was enslaved, that fight was clear cut; my foe was easily identified. That became less so as time went on. Life got easier, and in many ways, more boring. I went through a life crisis for a few hundred years. Then I came to understand the strength of Sisyphus.
I asked, did you get on antibiotics?
No. S – I – S – Y – P – H – U – S.
Sisyphus? I asked. Is that like one of your greek yogurt things?
No. Not really. Well, sort of. When I gained my freedom, I was left to support myself. I was responsible for keeping myself warm, fed, and not dead. Eventually, these responsibilities extended to the woman I loved and the children we had. From this bore beautiful moments, ones that I would gladly trade for boring hours thinking of how boring the hours were. And the funny thing was, when I gained more experience with freedom’s responsibilities, I saw the challenge of it. If life is a pendulum swinging between pain and banality, I was to dodge its thrusts. I was to push the rock up the hill, with a smile, because that took courage.
We face a slow, certain, and uncertain death. To be strong like Sysiphus, and strong like a gladiator, is to not only embrace that fear and uncomfort, but to own it. Maybe that hill was built by another. Maybe that other profits from your trials. But that other is likely half the man as you, and he is certainly no gladiator. He does not smile as you do.
I still shout nonsense in the mornings, but after beers with Spartacus, its become my war cry. Yup, I’m a fucking gladiator.