I call it "preventative snapping"; snapping long before things are even allowed to reach a certain point. That point. You know the one. Where fists clench, teeth clench, arse cheeks clench, everything pretty much clenches until the pressure is so great a release is inevitable. Those unfortunate enough to find themselves in the immediate vicinity are usually the ones most likely to be unwittingly bestowed with said release. But you don’t care, because afterwards you feel great. Your fists feel great. Your teeth feel great. Your arse feels amazing. It’s really only those unfortunate enough to find themselves in the immediate vicinity that don’t feel so great. But as I already said, you don’t care. You feel great.
The painter Vincent Van Gogh once said;
"Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together".
Vincent Van Gogh chopped off the lobe of his left ear, before later shooting himself in the chest. That wasn’t very great at all, although some people say his paintings are. Some people also say he had a congenital brain legion aggravated by excessive consumption of absinthe. I don’t think I have any brain legions and if I do, only susceptibility to excessive consumption of chardonnay might prove my downfall. It must be tough being great. But his point still stands. A series of small things brought together; that’s what I need. I’ll form the list in my head as I continue……
Ah yes, so back to "preventative snapping". In movies, they don’t seem to have my wily foresight. Or perhaps it’s artistically discouraged in order to drag the script out beyond the symbolic 90-minute milestone. In any case, time and again we patiently watch characters encounter an increasingly testing series of events (small things brought together, get it?) which raise questions about everything they’ve ever believed in, the rules they’ve followed all their lives up until now, their entire existence. And then they magically sprout a raincoat housing a military-grade armoury and go off in search of greatness. I’ve always quite liked these little adventures, munching on popcorn as I consciously ignore the ironic hypocrisy of fighting fire with fire, justifying the means by way of the end result, basically throwing a bag of cats at the screen (well, if one substituted clichés for cats, but I used cats to be more roundabout but ultimately more effective, well now this is just too roundabout…….). My POINT being that I now find myself in a humorously perplexing inverted situation. That of the man who begins with the armoury he now looks to decommission, along with the Inspector-Gadget-go-go-Goth raincoat. I might keep the shaved head, but that’s just a climatic consideration here in the south of France.
In less than a month I’ll have served 2 years in the ranks of la Légion Etrangére (French Foreign Legion). In that time I’ve come a long way. In that time everyone has come a long way. So I suppose what counts is not the distance, but rather the point of departure and most definitely the destination. I left Ireland aged 22, scared, optimistic, homesick, thin, too thin really, clean shaven (ugh), but essentially hopeful. 2 years on, I find myself bearded, bulkier (well, slightly), less homesick, less optimistic, but essentially retaining hope. Hopeful that my destination comprises a clean, uncomplicated exit from this, the most archaic of military institutions with it’s draconian system of laws, rules, punishments and ridiculously ill-founded rituals thinly disguised as "traditions". Maybe it all depends on thresholds, and mine has certainly not yet been reached, but then we find ourselves right back at "preventative snapping".
In 3 and a half months yet another military plane will leave France bound for Afghanistan, and a 6 month tour of duty during what is arguably the most turbulent time since coalition forces arrived way back in 2001 beckons. I plan to be on that plane. Whether my list of small things will be fully compiled by then remains to be seen, and there’s sure to be a whole lot of me all clenched up as I board. So I warmly invite you all to join in my little adventure as I hold back on the snapping and focus more on the compiling for now. After all, great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.
Enjoy the ride,