Saturday, January 21, 2012

Thanks for the father who failed him

In Caged, mixed martial artist and poet Cameron Conaway portrays his development from abused, angry kid to confident, Renaissance-man adult.

In no small measure, what helped Conaway forgive his father and forge his own adulthood was violence - of the formalised, disciplined, respectful kind: martial arts.  A sample:
Conaway tells some sordid stories. 
Over the years, he is mocked, beaten and ignored. This drives the youth to be what his father never was for him: physically and intellectually refined. Conaway's Oedipal rage and insecurity are educative pathologies. Conaway quotes Nietzsche, and Caged has Nietzschean undertones: the visceral origins of higher ideals, the replacement of an absent father, the value of pain and the importance of gratitude. Often Conaway takes no credit for his balance. His need for physical exertion was "instinctual", he writes, but it enhanced his studies: knowledge was the effect, not the cause. 
When the author was a teenager, his father was replaced by healthier role models in martial artists such as Ken Shamrock and Bruce Lee. But Conaway recognises what his father gave him: opportunities to become stronger. In a moving passage, he echoes Nietzsche in Ecce Homo by thanking his estranged father. "I do not know what I'd be without the pain you caused, but I know I wouldn't be nearly as happy as I am right now. I'm as confident and strong as I've ever been. I hope that brings you happiness."

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