Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Elephants are amazing, powerful and intelligent creatures. Everyone thinks of trunks when elephants come to mind, but you might also think of their tusks (especially considering the title of this blog post). Being as large as they are, elephants don’t run fast, so when faced with a predator, their best chance is to face it and defend themselves. With their large powerful tusks, they present a formidable foe to predators, and if their tusks make contact, it’s a trivial matter of brushing the predator aside. It’s an amazing survival tool.
Leave it to humans to covet the defensive mechanism of animals, such as the tusk of elephants, the blubber of whales or the shells of great sea turtles. Learning to hunt and kill from a distance, we’ve hunted all three animals nearly to extinction for the very things they’ve spent eons evolving to protect themselves. No doubt, there are countless additional majestic creatures that fall into this same category. How many people have literally walked on tiger pelts used as area rugs?
Humans are not so different. We, too, develop defensive mechanisms that can easily lead to our demise, at least emotionally. When we’re young, we’re vulnerable and innocent, traits that far too many people target. My first sexual experience (with somebody other than myself) didn’t happen until I was out of college. When I think about this, I was rather embarrassingly naïve, and yet, it’s this trait that made my first lovers want to spoil my innocence. But sexuality hasn’t been the only way I’ve been naïve.
I really don’t want to say that I’ve been abused, but I’ve been hurt often enough by people taking advantage of my generosity and gentle nature that my emotional defenses are high, and quite possibly permanently. I’ve lost that innocent naiveté so long ago that I’m guessing that some of my friends reading this will find it hard to believe I was ever so innocent, or at the very least have a hard time imagining it. Unfortunately, these defenses are relatively indiscriminate, keeping friend and foe alike at an arm’s length, not unlike the bristles of a porcupine.
The problem with such defenses is that, while it may protect what remains of your heart, it also prevents you from progressing, or feeling happiness. It’s not only difficult for me to meet people or make connections, but it is also difficult to believe that anybody could like me outside of what I have that they might want. I love the friends I’ve made at my gun club, but I buy too much there because I can’t get past the feeling that the only reason that they are so friendly with me (and they are) is because of the cash that I drop there. This, honestly, is a dreadful thing to believe because basically it discounts the possibility of anybody liking me for who I am.
In the animals, their defense mechanisms are what ultimately lead to their being hunted and killed almost to extinction. In my life, my defense mechanisms are what are isolating me, and killing me inside. At this point, I’ve given up on finding a true companion. At my age, it’s just unlikely. I’m too attracted to younger women, which psychologists might argue is the age where my emotional development stopped. If I were to find a woman to love that is near my own age, we certainly wouldn’t be able to have a child, which is something that I’ve always wanted, but that, too, in impractical and too late. If I had a child, by the time that child is ten, I will be seventy, and too old to play ball or do anything fun. That wouldn’t be fair to that child even if I had one.
So, here I am, my defenses keeping everybody away. It’s good for them to live their own lives, as it seems to be my destiny to be that fifth wheel for my entire life. If there is a point to this post, other than getting people to think about conservation, it must be to beware of one’s own defenses. They can protect your heart, but in the long run will keep you from making real connections, and, in extreme cases like mine, they can keep you lonely for your entire life. It’s sad that when I was younger, the thing I feared the most was being alone for my life, never finding a wife, never having children and dying alone. Now it seems inevitable.