What Goes into the Forge

I’m a bit of a nerd. We’ve covered that, right?  Among a pile of distractions that I’m not super proud of, I have a thing for this History Channel show called Forged in Fire.

If you haven’t seen it, it’s a competition reality show, and each week a different cast of rednecks, kids who’ve never left their parents’ basements, and overweight men with rusty tools compete to make a knife.

Remove the clearly produced narrative, and underneath is some pretty awesome art being made in a pretty old-fashioned way.

I’m fascinated by the process. My brother is too, fortunately, which is how we ended up in the mountains of Tennessee swinging hammers with one of the show’s former judges, Jason Knight. All you need to know about my buddy Jason (for now) is that he’s one of barely more than 100 Master Bladesmiths in the world.

For reference, more people are qualified to quarterback in the NFL.

Trump’s lost more cabinet members than that this month.

Hillary lost waaay more emails.

Point is, he’s good, which means I learned a lot.

Forging is the process of taking multiple layers of metal, and through the violent art of swinging the ever-living crap out of a hammer, mashing them into a new thing.  You can’t rush it. Hit it too much when it’s too cool and it cracks. Heat it up too much and it burns.

But you learn that before any of that, you have to get all the junk off each piece of metal so that the weld takes.

You can’t shove dirty steel into the billet. Each piece has to be processed to that only the valuable part goes into the blade. If you leave it as is, it’s useless. What goes into the forge matters.

I’ve spent a lot of time this past year learning to do the same thing with myself. I’m very adept at using my own experiences as excuses for all kinds of things.  Hell, I’ve almost weaponized my own past at times. Our personal histories are treasure troves of justifications, aren’t they?

I mean, these things were ours, right? We lived through them. So why am I not allowed to use them as an excuse? I can’t change who I am. Those things are part of me.

And it’s true. They are part of us.

But it happens the same way it does in the forge.  What goes in is important.  All of our dumb stories are chunks of metal.

All of them.

The divorce. The promotion. The assault. The winning lottery ticket. The car accident. The childhood. The injuries.  The DWI. The birth of your daughter. The relationship you screwed up because you were scared.

You can dwell on them and continue to give them power, or you can crank some Motörhead and take those bad boys to the grinder to get the scale off. Then, once they’re down to their essence, you can start smashing them into the bigger whole.

All good things are like that. The whole is more than the sum of its parts. You can’t bake a cake without eggs, but try getting the eggs back out of the cake at the end.  They stopped being eggs somewhere back there in the mixing bowl, and now they’re just cake like everything else.

You can’t call them eggs anymore.

Just like that break up isn’t the debilitating emotional ankle weight it used to be.

Instead, it’s one of a lot of things that you survived that you didn’t think you were capable of at the time.  It’s a single molecule in the larger thing that is you being a bad ass.

It stopped being that thing you got over and became one of a great many things I got over because I am a fucking machine that gets over things.

Knives or cakes or you and me, same result.

Chunks of stuff plus heat and pressure.

And we do get to keep all the parts, but the caveat is that we have to let go of what they were. They have to stop being individual things, and instead be part of that homogeneous whole – one that’s better, stronger, and, in the case of the cake, more delicious.

So cheers! A happy turn of the new year to you all. Somewhere in this past year I wrote a book and got my face on a bottle of whiskey, if you’re interested. I have some amazing things to announce in early 2019 as well, so I do hope you’ll stick around to see where we end up.

Until then, thanks for wandering through another year with me!

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