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Dueling & The Hero's Journey

Dueling & The Hero's Journey

Hello and good day!

I just read the most interesting statistic about Italy in the 1600's.

I read it in a history book.

Of course, Italy wasn't even Italy back then.

It was a bunch of city states that later unified to become what we now know as Italy.

However, the names of the independent republics, Rome, Venice, Florence, etc. are what we associate with modern day Italy, so it makes more sense in my mind to present it that way.

Italy didn't become the current unified version of itself until 1861.

Although, now that I've described the entire context, it makes my attempt at achieving brevity by referring to the entire territory as Italy seem to have been in vain.

But I digress.

On to the stat that I want to share with you.

According to archived public records that were later discovered, there were 12,000 deaths attributed to dueling over an 8-year period throughout the territory now known as Italy.

If you remember Romeo & Juliet, you'll remember that Tybalt killed Mercutio in a duel and then Romeo gets revenge by killing Tybalt in a follow up duel.

The play was set in the Italian city of Verona.

Art reflects life.

As I sit here in 2024, in the state of Washington, in the United States, the idea of two men meeting in town square for the purpose of sword fighting to the death sounds completely outrageous.

And yet, people were doing it all the time just a few hundred years ago all over what is now called Italy.

What seems totally unconscionable by current standards was a normal part of the culture in a different place and at a different time.

I'd like to put a pin in that line of thought for a second.

I will come back to it.

Just about the most intimate thing that I can share about myself is that I consider myself to be on a hero's journey, a la Joseph Campbell.

It feels like a funny and maybe even egocentric thing to admit, but it is true.

I am sharing it for a non-egotistical reason though.

The reason will become clear below.

The purpose of my journey is to undo what I consider to be a historical injustice.

My paternal grandfather was a fellow named Victor Wick.

He was the star and savior of his family.

He and his siblings were raised in abject poverty in a single room farmhouse out in the countryside in the township of Celina, Ohio.

As kids, Vic and his brothers and sisters used to get so hungry that they soaked corn kernels in a bucket of water.

Water plumped the kernels and made them bigger, so they'd feel more filling when the kids ate them.

Their mother had passed away, mostly from heartbreak according to the people who knew her.

Vic's father, my great grandfather, was an abusive drunk.

When it got real cold in the winter, the kids took turns staying up through the night to stir the bucket of corn kernels, so that the kernels wouldn't freeze and lose their swell.

Vic left home young and became a cook to support his brothers and sisters.

In his late teens, he was recruited by a professional chef who was passing through town.

Vic moved to Albany, New York to work in a big city restaurant.

He studied culinary arts and became a certified professional chef.

His specialty was pastries, especially pies.

He was flourishing over there in Albany and sending money back home so that his siblings could live better.

After 5 or 6 years, he got a letter in the mail from the sweetheart he'd left behind, back in Celina.

Her name was Valore. She was my grandma. My dad's mom.

Valore said that if Vic didn't come back home and marry her, she was going to settle down with another fellow who was courting her.

Vic moved back and the two settled in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Fort Wayne was the closest big city to the township of Celina.

Vic and Valore opened up a chain of restaurants called Vic's Diners and they started making money hand over fist.

Vic built an eleven-room house on a big piece of beautiful land.

He and Valore had two kids, my dad and my aunt.

Vic bought himself an airplane.

And Vic gave seed money to his siblings so they could start their own businesses, mostly restaurants and lumber yards.

Vic had led the family all the way out of destitution.

My antecedents were successful and prosperous Indiana entrepreneurs.

Then the unthinkable happened.

Vic died young, at age 33, from Hodgkin's disease.

The photo above is the last picture that we have of my grandad.

Look how skinny the sickness had made him.

The little boy in the back is my dad.

My pop was only four years old when he lost his father.

Had Victor lived, my dad would have inherited a restaurant empire, and I would probably be living in Indiana working for that family business.

But we lost Vic.

Four years later, Valore remarried and her second husband, Bob, convinced Valore to sell off the restaurants and settle down as a housewife.

That was the end of that.

Since age 4, my dad has been pursuing the lifelong goal of getting a family business up and running, one that can endure through the ages.

My pop is 84 now and he has spent his entire life trying to correct the historical error that was imposed upon us by the loss of Vic.

I've inherited a hero's journey from my father, and I will be damned if I ever give up on getting our multi-generational family business firmly established, so that we can make the universe right for ourselves again.

Now back to dueling.

I realize that what is important to me isn't all that important in the grand scheme of things.

We'll serve thousands and maybe eventually millions of chocolate customers over the course of my career.

We'll help hundreds and maybe even thousands of cacao farm families in northern Peru vastly improve their economic situation.

These are wonderful things, and I am very proud of what we will accomplish.

But the world is big, and time is long.

Our work is a mere pebble in the infinite ocean that is the grand scheme of things.

However, nobody actually lives in the grand scheme of things.

Each individual inhabits their own grand scheme of things.

I look back on two dueling young men and think that their actions were very strange.

To them, though, in their time and place, whatever they were fighting for, their family name, or the love of a woman, seemed like the most important thing in the world.

It felt worth dying for.

They had their own grand scheme of things.

When you think about it, this is a very advantageous set up.

It doesn't matter what the world at large thinks of us.

We all live in our own little world, inside our minds.

My hero's journey lights a white-hot fire inside of me every single day.

The work that I do feels important, at least to me.

This adds tremendous zeal, purpose, and satisfaction to my life.

We can all choose to go on a hero's journey, if we so desire.

As long as it is important to you, it is important work.

Thank you so much for time today.

I hope that you have a truly blessed day!


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