The Buried Life

One of my favorite sayings is that as coaches and leaders, we must “Pierce the World’s Veil of Fear and Speak to the Soul of every Man”. This saying speaks to the fact that we believe most men and women of our post modern relative, technology driven society, have constructed elaborate barriers to protect and hide their souls from others. We wear masks and disguise our true nature from each another. We live in fear and these disguises help hide our fear. These barriers make ministering to young souls very difficult. You could easily spend all your time dancing on the surface and never getting down to the buried life. You have got to pierce the world’s veil of fear and get to the soul. Our relative society has gotten pretty good at dressing things up and we usually go around placating each other. I’m okay…your okay. We shine each others windows and walk away feeling pretty good about ourselves, but in reality, it’s just a joke. What’s inside the store never gets attended to.

Matthew Arnold was one of the most famous and prolific writers of the nineteenth century. His poems are generally concerned with the thoughts and feelings of humans living in an uncertain world. Listen to the voice of the poem and see how he describes us each living a secret “Buried Life”.

Excerpts from “The Buried Life” by Matt Arnold (1852)

Light flows our war of mocking words, and yet, behold, with tears mine eyes are wet! I feel a nameless sadness o’er me roll. Yes, yes, we know that we can jest, we know, we know that we can smile! But there’s a something in this breast, to which thy light words bring no rest, and thy gay smiles no anodyne. Give me thy hand, and hush awhile, and turn those limpid eyes on mine, and let me read there thy inmost soul.

I knew the mass of men concealed. Their thoughts, for fear that if revealed, they would by other men be met with blank indifference, or with blame reproved; I knew they lived and moved tricked in disguises, alien to the rest of men, and alien to themselves–and yet the same heart beats in every human breast!

Fate, which foresaw how frivolous a baby man would be– By what distractions he would be possessed, how he would pour himself in every strife, and well-nigh change his own identity–That it might keep from his capricious play.

But often, in the world’s most crowded streets, But often, in the din of strife, There rises an unspeakable desire after the knowledge of our buried life; A thirst to spend our fire and restless force in tracking out our true, original course; a longing to inquire into the mystery of this heart which beats so wild, so deep in us–to know whence our lives come and where they go. And many a man in his own breast then delves, but deep enough, alas! None ever mines.

And we have been on many thousand lines, and we have shown, on each, spirit and power; but hardly have we, for one little hour, been on our own line, have we been ourselves–hardly had skill to utter one of all the nameless feelings that course through our breast, but they course on for ever unexpressed. And long we try in vain to speak and act our hidden self, and what we say and do.

Ahead of his time, Matt Arnold’s poem richly conveys the feelings behind the false satisfactions of the technological and living standard preeminence of the modern United States. We suffer from an anxious sense of something lost, a sense of being displaced persons in a society where our human members are alien to one another due to technological advances which have been exploited too quickly for the adaptive powers of our human psyche. We have lost each other. Our kids have a better relationship with their electronic devices than they do with each other. They hide behind their text messages, emails, face book pages, I Pods, and websites. Using modern technology, they have created even stronger more elaborate barriers to each others souls than their parents.

So what do we coaches do about it? First, we get skilled at piercing the worlds veil of fear. The old coach’s axiom holds true here. The kids don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. Talk to them, person to person, face to face with great empathy. Ask questions and then shut up and listen. Really listen. Find out what they like, what they don’t like. We are not talking about a lot of time here, maybe 10 minutes. Get a great sense for when something is bugging them and give them the opportunity to talk about it. Open the door, let them walk through it. What kind of music do you like? What songs? How is your family? Do you have any brothers and sisters? How many? What ages? Who are your buddies? What are your favorite subjects in school? What are your least favorite subjects? Getting to know them helps break down those barriers. Simply by keeping the door open you can tears holes in that veil of fear. Love rips off whole bolts.

Finally, The Buried Life also hits home with me on a personal level. Having gone through my own personal crisis of limitations and glimpsing my own finality, I have discovered that when it comes to dealing with other adults, I really don’t have time to play emotional or egotistical shell games with them. I don’t want to talk to their “mask”, I want to talk to their “soul”. I want to communicate with their “buried” “hidden” self, the real person behind that charade.

Coaches, we only have a short time left to snatch young souls back from the edge. I say, leave the small talk for someone else. Let’s minister to the “Buried Lives” of our players.