Eating Bitter Liver

We have a motto at the Kendo club I attend taken from an obscure Chinese tale that involves a broken man lying on hot ashes and eating bitter liver:

Good memories come from hard times

Put simply, this short version reminds us that from the hard times we go through come lessons learned and a life we can still look fondly upon.

It’s been a hard week in St. Peter’s community garden – a cold wind cutting across our acre and burrowing into our bones as we worked. Whilst the northerly wind has been digging into us we’ve been digging a new path around the pond – which will eventually be filled with a layer of hard-core and a top layer of stone dust.

At first thought I didn’t want to make a parallel between our freshly dug path and “the path of life” as it’s a metaphor that has reached the trite heights of inspirational posters.  But on second thoughts I might be able to put a fresh angle on it – or fresher at least – and it seems a shame to waste the chance!

If our newly dug path is a metaphor for life, then we can put aside any clichés that involve “following a new path”.  You can’t follow a path that hasn’t been made yet.  If you want to go a new direction you have to make that path yourself.  Dig in the bitter-cold, shovel, and shape, all with boots heavy with caked-on mud.  But once you’re done, you can make the journey with ease and so can others who follow you.

This means we can also throw out the idea of making “a path of your own”.  Not only can your lovely new path be used by others, but you’ll also want some help making it.  If I’d tried to dig our new path alone, I would still be digging now. Things are always easier when you share the load with someone.  If you don’t have anyone, try helping someone else dig their path, and maybe one day they’ll reciprocate.

Now we can come back to hard times making good memories.  Last week I saw our volunteers work the fastest and hardest I have ever seen them work.  Although it would be nice to think their enthusiasm for path digging outweighed any other interests in their lives – I think it had more to do with the biting wind and the promise of a cup of tea and a biscuit in the warm once we’d finished.  The cold made us work harder to reach our goal, and the harder we worked the warmer we got!  Although we may not have sat on hot ashes and the only liver was in my pate sandwiches – through harsh conditions and hard work we made our path.  Through hardship came success.  And through success came good memories.


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