I had heard rumors that Latin IV was going to be hard. The students that endured that class before me had fear slithering out of their mouths; stories of three hours' worth of homework trickled down to my ears.
The Latin IV class at my school is something that could be taken out of a myth. Even when a student isn't in Latin, he or she already knows what awaits the ones who dare take the class: hours of homework, hard tests, and an intense teacher. Not one word is said about how fascinating the class actually is-personally, I had taken it on a whim. I thought that since I had taken it for the past three years, a fourth year was logical; it was what made sense.
But on the first day, that ridiculous mindset of mine was crushed. The teacher prefaced the class by revealing the difficulties that we were going to meet. He explained it by connecting the Latin to our lives (a common theme that would be prevalent through out the year: see here).
Aeneas, the protagonist in the Aeneid, the first work that we were going to translate (and the source of many of my long, sleepless nights), endures a terrible, harsh storm that Juno calls for as the Fates prophesy that a race brought from Trojan blood will take down Carthage, her favorite city (not to mention she has a hissy fit because Paris didn't choose her as the best goddess out of Venus, Minerva, and herself).
He told us that we were also going to undergo that storm.
* * *
Aeneas is the leader of the lone survivors of the Trojan War. He is the one chosen by fate to lead the Trojans to Latium, where it is fated that the empire of Rome will flourish.
The storm that comes to the Trojans is extraordinary. Winds from all directions ravage the ships; waves from the deepest parts of the sea overturn them; clouds take the sky away and take even daylight from the Trojans-all they are left with are the thundering sounds of lightning and the creaking of their ships.
Alone, Aeneas cries, wishing to have been killed during the war. He does not show this side to his troops, as this would have surely made for a loss in morale. However, Neptune notices the storm that was stirred without his say, and immediately, he stops it. The Trojans then reach shore, tired and weary.
In a contrast to his despair during the storm, he rouses his troops, using the difficulties they had gone through to empower their desire to live:
"Friends and companions,
Have we not known hard hours before this?
My men, who have endured still greater dangers,
God will grant us an end to these as well.
You sailed by Scylla's rage, her booming crags,
You saw the Cyclops' boulders. Now call back
Your courage, and have done with fear and sorrow.
Some day, perhaps, remembering even this
Will be a pleasure. Through diversities
Of luck, and through so many challenges,
We hold our course for Latium, where the Fates
Hold out a settlement and rest for us.
Troy's kingdom there shall rise again. Be patient:
Save yourselves for more auspicious days."
(The Aeneid translated by Robert Fitzgerald)
My teacher claimed that the class would be hard. He also claimed that we would encounter many more storms over the course of our life. But those storms that initially may seem impossible to overcome may one day turn into a valuable lesson: you can get through storms, and after, you might even look back at them for more motivation. Because at the end, you'll get what you worked so hard for, after enduring and enduring.
* * *
Over the course of the Spurs' nineteen-game winning streak, I had desensitized myself of the feeling of difficulty, and perhaps many of you did too. Each game the Spurs played seemed effortless. The ball was alive, zipping from side to side, and open looks came in bunches. No lead was ever too big, and the Spurs piled the points on. No team was ever too skilled, and the defense locked the other teams down.
But yesterday was different, and the storm raged on. The passing lanes grew tighter, the whistles were swallowed, and fatigue hammered the foundation of skills and finesse that this team had built. Kevin Durant thirsted for his quota of twenty-five points, Russell Westbrook had his face, and Kendrick Perkins displayed his everlasting scowl. During the game, I stubbornly wished for another blowout.
As you all probably know, I never got the blowout I wanted. Instead, I was left with a slight feeling of anger: the invincible persona that the Spurs had built was torn apart in front of my very eyes. Each run that yanked at my emotions was stopped. Defeat deflated indomitable beat that the Spurs marched to.
But the Spurs never wanted to build that invincible persona in the first place. It was a figment of desire that surfaced in my heart. As much as I held that streak dear, I realize that it couldn't have gone forever. Adversity is a constant in this adventitious world.
As such, one must take adversity on-endure it-and not remain idle or linger. To be consumed by a storm is a fruitless enterprise.
The Spurs have endured their fair amount of storms, and they have a hardened captain to lead them. The storms that have shaped them thus far have prepared them for their destination.
So ignore the naysayers and the doubt creeping into your head. Ignore the fear that the Thunder have placed in your heart. Ignore the referees and the ways they greatly affect the outcome of the game.
Each time they've encountered a problem, they have always set sail to their Latium: the NBA Finals. Believe in the San Antonio Spurs.
Because once they get there, it will be so worth it.