There are two important instances of ringing the bell that I can think of.
The first one is rather known – it ‘s when the aspiring SEAL guys can’t take the Hell Week abuse but aren’t simply allowed to say, “I am out, I’m going home”.
They have to go to the center of the camp and ring the heavy bell three times, and this means – “I can’t take it anymore”.
And almost all of the quitting happens within the first two days, did you know that?
The men that stay came from all walks of life. I heard a SEAL instructor say this: “don’t judge the book by its cover, prepare to be surprised.”
And I appreciate the psychological aspect of it.
It’s real, and it says there is a hierarchy in the world and you just placed yourself in it.
But there is more to come, you can change the way you are – the race is long.
And in the end – it’s only with yourself.
The second ringing of the bell has a personal meaning to me in a totally different dimension. I was an altar boy once; I would ring the big bell in the church waking up a small village on the other side of the iron curtain in Eastern Europe.
It was a long time ago.
For a boy of maybe eight at that time, it was some experience to climb up the dark tower (no windows) find the thick rope and pull it with all my might.
Then I heard the clear, loud sound of a heavy iron bell that was cast centuries ago.
It was there then and it still is. It will be there after I’m gone.
It was deafening me, and when the big bell rung my whole world was in suspension and after it was all done I was afraid to go down about as much as scared of going up earlier.
I wasn’t able to articulate very good what was going through my mind as a small boy, but something was seeded in my brain then.
And with time I understood. “Do one thing every day that scares you.”
And to be clear, it doesn’t work for everybody in life. It tends to be a risky proposition, because one may fail faster then succeed. Life is not fair.
But “shit, at least you tried” - and that’s Lana Del Ray’s lyrics.
She really says – “keep it real, and handle the consequences. What else is out there?”
Besides, that’s how you know that you have a life.
Tom Kubiak is the author of The Traveler