"He Shifted the Axe for a Better Grip"
One of the young men poised a war-spear for the cast. "Hast thou a god?" [Hay Stockard replied,] "Ay, the God of my fathers." He [Stockard] shifted the axe for a better grip. Baptiste the Red gave the sign, and the spear hurtled full against his breast. Sturges Owen [the priest] saw the ivory head stand out beyond his back, saw the man sway, laughing, and snap the shaft short as he fell upon it. Then he went down to the river, that he might carry to the Russians the message of Baptiste the Red, in whose country there was no god."
This excerpt is from the last paragraph of THE GOD OF HIS FATHERS by Jack London. It's a story about one man who hates God and two men who believe.
Jack London was a great writer but you have to be careful and discerning when reading his stories because he was also an avowed atheist and socialist and it comes through in some of his writings. In this story, his personal atheism and bitterness for God becomes blatantly manifests in the pages. A priest, lifted up in society as the standard of righteousness, recants and is defeated spiritually while Hay Stockard, a mountain man, stands resolved for his God but is defeated physically in battle and killed. I love how Hay Stockard responded to Baptiste the Red when asked if he had a god: "Ay, the God of my fathers," and then he shifted the ax in his hand for a "better grip." This is a picture of a man who knew enough about life that he knew when something was worth dying for. Even right at the very end, when his death was almost imminent, he shifted the ax, tightening down on his weapon of battle, preparing it for one more swing if he could get it; ready to go one more round in a fight worth fighting. Even when the "religious" expert failed to stand tall, this simple mountain man knew what was right and he was prepared to go the distance and fight to the end if thats what it came down to.
Where are the men like this today? The men who act like men, always adjusting their axe in their hands for a better grip in the face of fierce opposition. I'll tell you where they aren't. They're not at the mall obsessing over the latest pair of designer skinny jeans. They're not spending money on getting their eyebrows threaded in hopes of picking up a few more likes on their Instagram posts and they aren't walking around on eggshells so as not to offend popular culture with the truth. They also don't live lives causing other people to feel like they have to walk on eggshells whenever they're around. Real manliness is about intentional living. It's about moderation and a sense of priorities. It's about assessing value so you know whether to buy those jeans to impress your friends or be able to recognize that buying jeans to impress people probably means they aren't people worth having as friends in the first place. It's about selflessness and working to build a future with someone else and a future for someone else. A future that adds value to the lives of your children and their children. No one would tighten their grip on an axe to defend a shallow life built on meaningless gestures and no one should. A man, however, will grip down on his ax and stand firm to defend those things that bring meaning and value to his life.
Take inventory of your life. Find what there is that you have that provides value and meaning to your life. Find out what else could bring meaning and go to work for it. Have a sense of real priorities and you'll find yourself adjusting your grip on life and what matters.
I honestly can't tell if Jack London meant for Hay Stockard to be the hero of this story only because I know of London's personal beliefs. He has, however, become the hero due to his character and his courage. Maybe the point of the story is to highlight the fact that manliness isn't about your prestige or your rank in society so much as it is about your character and your commitment to principle and honor. These are the marks of real manliness.
I highly recommend Jack London, especially for men and boys, because America has a shortage of men and we need to get them back.