Men take great care to protect themselves against the violences of existence. Life oft thunders at the doors of our hearts, prying wildly for any imperfection, bellowing its discordant furies without rhythm or apology. The individual is a candle, dancing timidly as he burns; his being an opposition to the dark that yearns only to swallow him. Most are contented by a vein of wick and enough wax to endure the pale hours of night.
Such paltry contentment no longer sustains my being. For even in this security, existence is never assured. One finds only enough distraction to blind himself from a true life; honest, confident and free. When the eye squeezes focus upon every minuscule vulnerability, one merely winds the ticking clock of his eventual doom. He is resigned to the quantification of all things. Instead of exploring this gift of creation, he desires only to protect his current holdings, those he deems well enough for satisfaction. He then builds his fortress. Physical attacks are warded by armor. Adding, layering, hiding. Such devices only prevent the individual from discerning his own heart. Whatever the temper of steel, it can be broken. No matter how secret a word, it can be spoken. The man who never looks upon his own breast, for fear of exposing, already loses that which he seeks to protect.
Some exist merely by being. Some exist with ferocity; the heart pounding as a war drum. Much of my life have I spent being. I desired to protect myself from outside attackers; never realizing the serpent within had coiled himself in scaled knots about my visceral parts. It is with no artful skill that I now attempt to free myself. For freedom is truly my destination and I truly do not possess it. Thus begins a journey with no near end.
I have, in my life, employed emotional armament in the hope of preventing external jabs and thrusts from breaching my vulnerable areas. But in doing this, I smothered my own growth. I locked myself in with the beast and invited his cruelties with impunity. For my eyes turned only outward in an attempt to protect that which I did not understand, but by some instinct knew to be precious and beyond value. No deceits lead me to this path. I chose it for myself. I simply did not allow my eye a clear view of the consequences.
Honesty can make a man vulnerable, but only if he is honestly vulnerable. I utilized everything but honesty to fend off the attacks of existence. Sarcasm, cynicism, apathy; all of it misdirection. The magician moves swiftly and nimbly to provoke the illusion of magic. The audience is meant to believe, but never the performer. When the magician succumbs to his own illusions, he creates a keen-edged weapon and wields it upon himself.
No longer will I be duped by my own sleight of hand. An honest exploration of oneself will transmute vulnerability into strength. I am the alchemist and my heart is my gold. I seek not only a glimpse of myself but deep oaken roots into the fiber of my being, ergo I might grow strong and full and tall.
Before one begins such an adventure, he must not only know his destination but his purpose for footing out toward the horizon. I pursue an understanding of vulnerability and its trappings not to strengthen my defenses, but to strip them away in entirety. I wish to stand disarmed and defiant before my foe, knowing my hide impervious to his sharpest blade. This prize is not one easily attained. At present, I struggle savagely, blocking and parrying every strike, lest it penetrate my defenses and sink into my soft flesh. It is during this transition I am most vulnerable for I shall lay my sword and shield to the earth and begin the exacting process of removing a suit of armor I spent decades constructing. As each piece of my true form is lighted by understanding, it will burn and blister under a foreign sun and I may only vaguely recognize it as my own. But it is this hard-won familiarity I desire.
Unhindered by such burdensome defenses, I shall prowl with an animal grace and freedom of stride. Only in peeling away my helm will my eyes shine unobstructed and my ears prick at every clarion sound. Free of stale air, each breath of wind upon my face shall carry with it the howl of liberty after years of imprisonment. When I gaze upon my reflection in the pool, I shall know the familiarity of my own self in the stead of abysmal strangeness. I shall succeed in escaping exile from myself.
Vulnerability is an illusion of perception. A man protects the areas he deems most readily wounded. It is natural. But these are decisions he ultimately makes for himself, for no stranger with a forked-tongue could rob a confident man of his firmest strength. Adversely, if an individual decides vulnerability no longer exists, it will instantly vanish. They key is to decide for oneself the gravity of potential wounds. The most useful instruments in this task are understandings of honesty, confidence and the self-image.
Honesty is more precious to the heart than its blood. It exists within the self and equally without, each variety dependent upon the other. To exercise complete honesty with oneself directly involves the will to see that which does not readily wish to be seen. It is persistent effort, requiring constant attention. Often, one will only half-realize an aspect of his character, forcing the subconscious to its subtle art. The willingness to delve into these dark possibilities and unearth the root of oneself will prevent others from digging in grounds untilled. Only when a man possesses the ability to explore himself in naked honesty can he be fully honest with the rest of the world. If another body brings point to a fault, the honest individual will merely agree or disagree, free from the vulnerability of surprise. In this respect, the honest man will find no use in outward deception, for there is nothing to hide from the world if he hides nothing from himself.
True confidence is a derivative of honesty. Some possess a hollow confidence, heir to those never properly tested. It appears genuine, but can be spotted readily by an eye keen to real potency of will. Confidence is won by surviving the fires of trial and hardship. A man who honestly knows his own ends becomes confident in what he can accomplish. It is in reaching those ends, the threshold of breaking, that an individual finds strength in his ability to overcome. Vulnerability is defeated by confidence when it prevents the possibility of outside wounds. When confidence is earned and bestowed upon oneself, it can never be stolen or sabotaged by any outside element. There is no need for emotional armor when every incoming attack is calmly and confidently turned aside.
The self-image is born directly of confidence and like honesty, exists in duality. Inner self-image exists separate from the outer self-image and one should not be predicated by the other. An inner image or perception of oneself is reached through an honest understanding of his traits. This private image is founded solely by the individual and should be invulnerable to outside influence. The outer or physical self-image is most readily assessed and attacked by outsiders. Each individual is gifted with a body and it should be viewed as such; a gift. It is a vehicle for interaction with this world. It is the natural and living flesh of a natural and living environment.
Every society affirms its fickle and temporal concepts of what passes for physically attractive and what does not. Bodies are not chosen and they are not earned. Those who base perception upon the outer appearance are effectively blind. Likewise, he who obtains his self-image from the passing judgments of society gains nothing of substance, for his self-image can just as easily be shattered as it is bolstered. But the body is an animal. It possesses great strength and flexibility, the potential for change. One can largely mold his own animal appearance to suit his desires. The outer self-image is most easily assessed because it exists in the physical world and can be recorded by the naked eye. Once an individual realizes the outer self-image is the least important aspect of oneself because it tells so little of character and personal growth, he will cease to be vulnerable to attacks upon it. One cannot by wounded in an area he strengthens with honesty and confidence and clarity of perception.
Vulnerability exists in the mind and can thusly be dispelled by the mind. Honesty is not meant for moderation. A fullness of honesty fills the individual with strength. An open account of one's faults rids the individual of needless secreted vulnerabilities. Confidence derived from others is weak and rightly can be broken by others. Confidence given by the individual to himself can never be taken back by outsiders as it was never theirs to give. The self-image is effectively the realization of one's honesty and confidence. Society is powerless over an individual who creates this for himself in lieu of allowing it to be assigned him by his fellow man. These goals cannot be purchased or snatched up in an instant. The individual must seek them deliberately and purposefully. In this pursuit, vulnerability can be overcome and open strength its successor. The mind rejoices in honesty, confidence and belief in one's own image. One needs but turn his eye inward. When a man binds his own hands, the key to his fetters lies within his heart.