"To endure is bolder than to brave, for fortitude never floats in the waters of fear, but resides within our inner fortress until next needed and is reproduced in the waves of victory. The process of endurance has stages through which we travel from the 'Port of Understanding' across the 'Sea of Withstanding', before finally settling in 'Survivor's Bay'.
The paragraph above is my words and thoughts after 75 years of being alive. Yet, despite (or perhaps because of) my many years of formal education, it took me half a lifetime to realise that the most significant consequence of all my 'academic experience' was that formal education actually restricted my learning by teaching me 'not to think' in a non-academic way. The truth, I later discovered after my mother's early death was more readily found in her words and sayings she would often tell me in my childhood than in any book I ever read or educational establishment I ever attended or taught in. The sad thing was that she had died before her wisdom consciously sunk home and took on new life inside of me!
My mother taught her children through example. By seeing first hand how she dealt with her trial and tribulations, all her children eventually learned not to give in easily. We learned not to allow the difficult experience to daunt and demoralise us. We learned how to maintain heart when all around have lost theirs.This homespun Irish wisdom of mum stemmed from her own personal experience and held sway at the very core of her reasoning. It was to explain to me in later life why one person will succeed and another fail under 'seemingly' identical circumstances.
It took me the best part of a lifetime to understand one of creation's conundrums and life's most common variable: that no two people ever experience similar events the same, and which result in them thinking, feeling and responding the same about what happened. Or put more succinctly in my mother's words, 'We are all different!'
It helps one to endure more easily, more often and more naturally when one understands what is really happening inside oneself during times of personal struggle. When one starts to unravel the process that is involved when 'Thought' shakes hands with 'Feeling' and produces the response pattern of 'Doing', the sapling grows into a tree that bears fruit,
In her own wise but simple way, my Catholic mother would tell me when I wanted something which family finances couldn't afford, that all personal trials throughout life are there to teach one the value of unmerited suffering. She would say, 'Billy, life is love and love can also hurt. God tells us that heartache and disappointment is put before us to make us stronger. Don't try to push it away; learn to live with it and beat it!'
It took me many years to accept that the more we learn, the less we truly know. I have read many thousands of books, travelled to numerous places and have been formally taught in educational establishments from First School to University (even 'progressing' to teaching postgraduate students in further educational evening classes over a three-year period in my forties). And yet, despite all this formal education, I suspect that I have always known less than my mother (who left school to enter the field of work at the age of 14 years).
Like many of my reader's parents, my mother received her education in the 'university of life', yet understood more about life and human behaviour better than any academic I ever came across. When I compare my extensive reading and expansive vocabulary compared to hers, along with my command of the spoken and written word, I will always run a poor second. In short, she had the capacity to say in half a dozen simple words, what takes me half a dozen complicated sentences to explain.
We can all endure pain when it has come about through our own fault and personal deliverance, but to experience unwarranted hurt without reacting with bitterness is the only road to transform suffering into a creative force that will surely strengthen one's mind, body and soul. To live and breathe involves experiences of pain and pleasure. Without either one, we could never know the other. Learn how to endure both, however, and you will have started to learn how to mould experiences, fashion happiness and come to terms with life itself.
All of my mother's influence on my life is hidden within every thought, feeling and action I have had since her death. I suppose the most enduring truth she imparted to me, was to help me understand the meaning of William Ernest Henley's immortal words from his Victorian poem, 'Invictus', written in 1875:
'I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.'
Invictus in Latin means 'unconquerable' or 'undefeated'. The poem was written by Henley when he was in the hospital being treated for tuberculosis of the bone.
Any Latin my mother ever read or heard spoken was when the parish priest said weekly mass in Latin instead of in the mother tongue. I could safely bet a £million that my mother never read Henley's poem, but she often told me in her own words the very same sentiments that Henley had expressed almost eighty years earlier. She would say, ' Billy, don't blame someone else when you do wrong. You're responsible for your own actions. You've nobody else to blame but yourself for having taken a wrong turning in life.'
My mother died at the early age of 64 years. Her memory lives on in all her seven children and the things she taught us has endured throughout the ages in a timeless truth. God bless you mum. Love you and always will. Your eldest son, Billy." William Forde: November 27th, 2017.