113. A man in Nashville in Search of the Matador Spirit.

Joshua Smith was a young man of unwavering faith. He said he believed life had a simple formula: God rewards people who practice good behavior. “Up until the crisis I had never drank a drop of alcohol or said one cuss word,” he said. “I was a preacher’s kid,” he said. “A good one. I believed my success was a result of that. But I was wrong”

“The financial crisis in 2008 changed all that,” he said. “I was doing everything right and I believed my success was a result of  that good behavior. Then I lost almost everything and I was left wondering what anything meant.” 

We met Smith while visiting his club and restaurant in downtown Nashville, The Standard at The Smith House, a members only club in the tradition of the legendary University Club of New York.

We were seated in the club’s library when Smith entered and introduced himself, as is his custom. Making polite conversation he said he had just returned from Spain.

Not one for polite conversation I asked him pointedly, “What took you to Spain?” He paused and considered the question. He chose to answer truly instead of socially. He said, “I went to Spain on a quest. I went to see the matadors.”

He was hunting, he said. He was searching for that thing the matadors own–an ability to find meaning not by avoiding difficulty but by meeting difficulty head-on. He told a bit of his personal story and explained how a loss of faith led him on a search for meanings. He said, “I was self-righteous. The crisis knocked that out of me.”

He said it isn’t like he doesn’t believe in the things he was taught as a young person but that he now knows life isn’t a simple matter of cause and effect. He said good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. He told us he was on a quest to learn how to be a good person despite circumstances. He said, “I went to Spain in search of the Matador’s spirit.”

The following summer we accompanied Smith as he trained with freinds in California.


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