Once a beast-within spent a great deal of time licking its wounds. That wasn’t surprising; it had suffered one wound after another over the years. The life of a beast-within struck it at times like a walk through a bramble patch. On all sides were sharp threats that tore at the skin and brought fresh pain to the surface. This pain the beast nursed in private for the most part. Experience had taught it there were fewer complications that way, at least in one’s day-to-day contacts with the outside world. You had to be careful not to show too much of the inner you or to expect too much sympathy from others. They had their own secrets to shield from sight. The beast-within could tell this was true as it rode the 6:15 express into the city every morning. All of the seats were occupied by outwardly self-confident riders checking their web feeds or email accounts before they reached their destinations. To look at them, you’d never guess they’d spent the night struggling with their own beast-within or were still trying to hide the telltale evidence of that struggle before the train came to a stop. Strange, that after all this time, people still fought so hard to vanquish, bind, or simply repudiate the faithful companion that had stood by them through thick and thin and had in return received nothing but ingratitude. Their beast-within was always there when they needed its help with some detour from the moral path, some depravity or cruelty or betrayal that might have to be denied or explained away later. As recognition of that devotion, it only asked for the merest sign of thankfulness. Yet what did it actually receive? Whenever things went wrong, who got the sticks and stones? Instead of doing the right thing, instead of standing by their beast-within and taking on at least part of the blame, those who’d been more than happy to benefit from its selfless fidelity sought to distance themselves from it as quickly as possible. They turned away as from a pariah, cursing it and accusing it of having tricked them into “regrettable lapses.” Soon they’d convinced themselves it was their inner beast that was to blame for every misstep they’d ever made. Casting the full guilt upon it, they sought forgiveness for themselves alone, pledging to shun it forevermore. Was there any surprise then that their beast-within felt betrayed and lashed back in aggrieved self-defense? In its view, it had only acted out of obedience to their deepest desires. The results of this painful strife were predictable. The commuter train was full of them: seemingly composed lifetime pass-holders who were inwardly counting the wounds they’d given and received, feeling themselves deeply wronged and wishing they could creep away somewhere to lick clean the worst of what they’d suffered. For it was, without doubt, a wound-licking age.
Copyright © 2020 by Geoffrey Grosshans