Wrapping up my formal academic studies felt like a titanic weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I had unfortunately chosen my educational path without truly understanding what I wanted from life, but what 18 year old knows the answer with any sort of certainty?
Instead I looked forward to my new sense of freedom to discover what it was I truly liked and who I was as a person.
And so the years after my graduation became priceless opportunities to fulfil my dreams of travelling far and near, local and abroad, finding my inner peace and direction in nature amongst the hills, plains, forests and mountains.
I specifically remember a day trip to the wonderful Cotswolds during a cool summer’s day. My views while hiking its winding trails were unparalleled and the distant, expansive horizon calmed my soul. What I remember most from that experience however, was a random stick in my path as I hiked along the trail.
It was perfect. A length 2/3rds of my entire arm span, relatively straight with only a slight crookedness and a thickness that did well to conceal its strength, but that would betray its existence with a single blow.
I immediately picked it up.
In an instant, this formerly lifeless stick had transformed itself into a living extension of my body, a tool to clear my path, defend against any (fortunately nonexistent) predatory threat and most importantly, a staff to assist me on my journey.
As it so happens regardless of age, culture and geography, this kind of behaviour is common amongst boys and men alike. Much has been pondered over with regards to this phenomenon by many introspective men and curiously confused women.
Why do men love sticks? What is so special about coming across a large, stick on a trail, in a forest or even on a city road? What compels us to its possession?
What about them captivates us so much and elevates our minds to embody the archetypes of old?
I believe I speak for many when I say that the well constructed stick of reasonably large length and respectful thickness brings about an instinctual reaction in many men.
This invoked feeling is one of power and capability. The power to extend control over the earth and the capability to mould it as he sees fit.
Indeed the stick is a symbol for man’s strength, his power, his desire to bring order from chaos. It illustrates his ability to attack and his willingness to defend. It acts as his aid while walking, the tester of danger while travelling and the tool by which the path ahead can be cleared for advancement.
The stick is a tool, the most basic technology which man uses to exert his will upon the world. It is the fundamental building block of order which allows us control our environment, therefore it is the building block of civilisation itself.
The stick is an instrument of man’s will.
Over the countless centuries, our tools have changed, our methods have evolved. Yet our modern weapons, machines contraptions are but generational variations of the humble stick.
And so I continued the rest of my hike with my trusty stick. I felt my inner instinct to explore and gain some mastery over the land surface and I, armed with my stick, knew anything was possible.
Every day has its shadows however, and so it was a sorrowful parting when I got back to my car. I knew full well that I was returning back home to the concrete jungle, and my beloved stick would rapidly shed any utility it boasted of in the forests and plains.
So the next time you come across such a stick and find yourself drawn to it, you can recognise your instinctual nature for what it is, the core, instinctual desire to master the world around you and build a lasting legacy.
Play with sticks.