No Bull

The word “Matador” is a name commonly presumed to mean a man who fights bulls. But the word “Matador” does not mean “bull-fighter.” It does mean “presenter of death.”

The man who walks into the ring doesn’t go there to fight the bull. He goes there to kill the bull. How the Matador kills the bull can be interpreted as courage or art to the audience. Not to the bull.

In the classic arena ballet between the two, when the Matador turns his back to the bull and walks away, the Matador is telling the bull, “I am the bad dude in this ring.” The lesson? Turning our back to power is a way of taking power.

Many of us tell others what we would never do for money, that our values are not for sale. At the same time, many of us have never really met that offer or been in a situation where we turned our back on the offer of so much money, or so much power, or so much so much. Saying what we wouldn’t do in the hypothetical is always hypothetical.

What we say we would never be caught doing has in fact caught many of us and often caught us by surprise. In life, the best fisherman can be someone who catches himself in time. What we don’t do can be the most important thing we ever do. Sometimes, in life’s pursuits, putting our foot on the brake is the best way to pick up speed.

It may be as great teachers remind us that the way to do is to be. But In Western society doing is elevated and being generally diminished as evidence of sloth or indolence. In Western society we are inclined to think if we aren’t doing something we aren’t doing something.

Sadly, too often what we are doing is our undoing. Courage can be the fight we avoid, as much as the fight we win. Bravery can be the dare we don’t take, as much as the dare we take. Restraint has power. A dam is powerful for the flood it restrains.

I am self-witnessing that I have often been impatient with others and myself. And like many have misread that vice for a virtue. Now however, I am doing patience penance and choose to see patience as a cathedral of opportunity.

Patience is the opportunity of not doing. Patience is turning our back on the bull within who is always ready to charge in. Patience allows us the time to catch our self just in time.

Patience is not winning the moment but making peace with the moment. Patience isn’t procrastination any more than action is always progress. And what we feel is a lack of progress in our life may simply be a cosmic reminder that God isn’t done with us yet.

Going to a bullfight isn’t on my bucket list. And I don’t know if I really have the grounds to take an ethical stand against bull fighting. Tough to do that when you enjoy a good burger. But whatever one’s stand on bull fighting, let us not be confused that all violence is equal violence. There is certainly more than a line in the sand between killing a bull and radical religious/political fanatics who are presenters of death, and spill a lot more blood, and cheer. And promise heaven.

It used to be that people liked to think they could cover what they said with the words “No bull!” This was the way we told others that we were telling the truth or our version of the truth. These days that term is so disingenuous and so broadly used, it more often sounds like fair warning that we’re going to be lied to.

Until recently when people asked me what is it a poet-philosopher does, I would say, “I’m a truth teller.” Now days when people ask me what I do, I think I’ll tell them, “I’m a bull fighter” and mean just that. No bull.

Noah benShea
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