From the Archive: Scars


“Wass mann nicht sterbt, macht mann stark.”–Nietsche

I wrote a couple of days ago about how each of us has a story that we are destined to tell. That story could have been something that had been told them in their childhood, a tradition passed on in their family, an experience they had, or something they had read or heard that had a profound impact on their life philosophy.

I want to talk about another roadmap of our lives: scars. I’ve been reading an autobiography of Ernest Hemingway and it tells of his late-night visits to the emergency room for events such as auto accidents, home accidents and war wounds. As much as I might wish it, my scars aren’t anywhere as romantic as that. And I am talking about physical scars. I guess a future blog needs to talk about emotional scars, but I am not there mentally, so that’s for later.

My first scar is on the tip of my nose where my dog Nikki bit me when I yelled in his ear. I was about age three. Right after that, I jabbed some scissors in my eye socket when I ran with them and fell onto the couch. The first scar is hardly visible; the second a little more.

I guess the next scar I have is an inch-wide triangle-shaped scar on the inside of my thigh. In elementary school I was climbing a pole used in volleyball when someone jerked my foot out from under me. My leg came down on a bolt sticking out of the pole and jabbed it. My mom’s face turned white when she saw the bloody flesh and torn pants from the accident, and promptly took me to the ER. (I think I was responsible for more emergency room visits and white hair of my mom than my three sisters combined.)

When I became an adult, you would think the scars would diminish, but they didn’t. I have scars on the backs of both hands from using knives to clean and trim our shetland pony’s hooves when we lived in Idaho. I have a scar on the index finger of my left hand where a metal spring slipped and went in one side of the finger and out the other. That’s when I was alone at home trying to put a clutch plate back into my son’s International Scout. I can still remember going to the ER with grease all over me and a rusty metal spring sticking straight out from my finger.

There’s the scar across my left eyebrow where I dropped a starter on my face. Ouch. That one hurt. And finally, I have five scars across my stomach from the surgery they did last summer. I look like someone used me for target practice.

So why am I sharing all of this? I guess the point I am making is twofold: First, having scars and going to the ER doesn’t mean the end of life. In fact, it is somewhat a rite of passage for young boys and men. Men need to take risks, and the level of risk is apparent by the number of ER visits and scars. Of course, my wife might just say it’s simply a sign of being careless….

Second, scars are somewhat a celebration of life. Each risk that we take is a risk because we chance losing something, including possibly our life. Scars remind us that we are alive. They remind us of our history. And we remind us that we are survivors.

Our scars tell us–and others–where we have been. And after all, isn’t where we have been indicative of who we are?