Different Devils


Over a beer, a friend said to me, “I like it that we have different devils.”

It started me thinking about my devils. My friend seems to think that not only do I have different devils but that I have more of them. He said it gently, politely, careful not to hurt, but he nodded his head in appreciation as if there were something notable in my pack of devils. He also said he was impressed that I didn’t take them as something negative.

We each have our devils. I’ve got my share just as you do. I don’t think I ever took the presence of those devils in my life as something bad or unfair. I fought – and continue to fight – the individual devils with all my might, but I don’t lament having devils at all, as if there were some pristine state in which people could exist without devils. There isn’t.

Modern life is life built on a scaffolding of “avoids”: avoid wrinkles, avoid scars, avoid hardship, avoid risk, avoid pain, avoid death — as if any of this were possible or even desirable. Not only can none of these things be eluded, but they are also what make us who we are. A person who girds themselves from hardship and pain is not a full person yet (they haven’t welcomed their devils yet), while someone who has suffered and gone on to live again is brimming with that mysterious, bitter-sweet elixir of life.

At a certain point, when you get over regretting them, there is a certain pride in having worthy devils. They are your companions; you can be proud of them. Everyone has them so you might as well have devils worth touting.

We wouldn’t have much if we didn’t have our devils. As in most things, we are shaped by what went wrong much more than by what went right. Those scars we tried to avoid – and couldn’t – are our path to self-knowledge.

Come on. Embrace your devils.

* The photo is from “Vuelta de Rocha,” an environmental dance piece by Gabriel Forestieri/Project Limb. Performed in La Boca, Argentina, May 2015.

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