The Pocket Knife

“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.” 

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

When I was 13, my only living grandfather gifted me a pocket knife. This wasn’t your run-of-the-mill, bargain bin utility knife. This was a limited edition die-cast Harley Davidson knife—in the shape of a Heritage Springer motorcycle. It came in a neat little case lined with felt and fit the curves of the motorcycle perfectly. This was not a knife meant for gutting fish or whittling sticks. This was a knife meant for display.

It was the kind of knife you would see on the shelf behind a bar, under the glass countertop of an antique shop, or maybe used as a sort of midlife crisis paper weight/envelope opener. As a 13 year old kid who cared little about motorcycles—I had no use for this knife. However, it meant a lot because of the man who bought it. A man whom to this day, I know little about—even though I carry his last name.

So I kept the knife as a symbol of that relationship—an aloof father figure who showed up one day with a gift. The knife sat on a shelf for many years—before being packed up—finding itself in various closets and shoe boxes. Until this past summer, when I found the knife buried in the basement.

I thought about what the knife meant to me—my grandfather long since passed. I thought about the utility of the knife, of how it was just another souvenir from my past. I thought about how long I would carry it with me. Someday I would die and pass the knife on along with all the other junk. All of the clutter that we accumulate over a lifetime—vita obstantia—a life of debris.

The knife became a symbol of all the things we think are ours—but we’re really only borrowing.

I thought about all this and I decided that, along with my other childhood obstantia—I would sell the knife. However, I would use the money from the sale of the knife to buy something meaningful. Something that I could actually use. Something that would illicit that same memory of my grandfather. And so, after keeping the knife for over 20 years—I sold it, and I used the money to buy a book.

In a way, this book is like a pocket knife. It’s small enough to carry with me wherever I go. It’s words will help me develop a sharpened mind, a sharpened perspective—a sharpened philosophy.

Sometimes in the process of defining who we are, we have to write our own history.

Many years ago, my grandfather gave me a pocket knife. To this day, it’s something that I carry with me. Something that I hope to one day pass on.”

A friend recently asked what I planned on leaving to my son. What sort of legacy would I pass down? This is a question I’ve had since before Ashley even became pregnant.

Sure it would be nice to gift my kid a great wealth some day—to leave him with more than what I had to start with. But physical wealth is fleeting and fades with time. For me, the real wealth lies in how I choose to live my life, the example I set, and what sort of tools I leave behind.

Some of the richest men I’ve known—died with nothing.

What sort of legacy do I plan on leaving my son? I think I’ll start with my grandfather’s pocket knife.

1 Comment

  1. Very well written. I can’t wait for you to sit down and write a book one day. I love your thoughts about how all our stuff is just borrowed and not really ours and not really as meaningful as we like to think.

    Liked by 1 person

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