The Man In The Forest

A man stood transfixed in a clearing.

He looked out through the forest at the lake a stone’s toss away.

He listened to the loon call echoing over the water.

He smelled the vanilla sap of the pines.

He imagined the cabin he would build: the fieldstone fireplace, the wide-plank floor, the skylight that would open upon the wind-cleaned stars.

His heart beat in his chest as though to burst, the vision whirling until he could no longer contain it… until he was compelled to begin the building, to make it manifest.

He reached down to his tool belt to seize his hatchet, axe, hammer, adze, and all the other tools there.

And his heart fell.

For in that moment he remembered these tools were somehow despicable and craven… that to use them was somehow offensive, crude, intolerable.

These tools were powerful. And what made them powerful made them dangerous.

And so, finally, unhappily, he unclipped his tool belt and let it fall to the moss.

If the use of these tools was abhorrent… then he would do without.

Thus impaired, he went to work.

He came to the first tree and pushed and strained to fell it. But it was too well-rooted.

So he found a smaller tree. And after working it back and forth to loosen the roots, he finally pushed it to the ground.

Without a hatchet to clear the small branches, he had to break them off by hand… twisting the larger branches round and round to finally tear the bark that held them.

At dusk, his progress was but a single log laid in the grass.

In the growing gloom, he ran calculations.

He saw then that without his tools, he would never build his house… that all his efforts would produce, at best, a wet reedy hut.

He raised his eyes to the darkening forest, all vision, all joy drained away…

He looked back with dull hopeless gaze at the tool belt there on the ground: the one his house’s completion depended upon… the one he dare not use.

You want a life of freedom and power.

A life that cannot be merely willed into existence, but must be built: forged, wrenched from the earth by old dark arts:

Bold decisions, courageous acts, conviction, obsession, naked desire.

These powers… you know them by the rumbling they make inside you, begging employment.

But you do not trust them.

You’ve been told how dangerous they are… that to wield them is selfish, oppressive, volatile.

And so you refuse them. Or you use them half-heartedly, guilty, quick to cast them down and assure the hand-wringers that you mean no harm.

But then you wonder why the life you are creating… why the house is still only half-built, the two-by-four frame warped and rotting in the rain.

You wonder why nothing moves forward.

You wonder why you see so little return on all your back-breaking efforts.

But how could it be any other way?

How can you build a free life if you will not exercise the degree of freedom you already have?

How can you build a life of power if you’re ashamed of the power already within you?

How can you build the house if you won’t even pick up the hammer?


  1. If a man is standing in a forest and he says something, and no woman hears him, is he still wrong?

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