Monday, June 25, 2007

What Do You Think You're Doing?

What is worth killing for? What is worth dying for?

Believe it or not, those are the easy questions. The kindergarten version of this particular meditation. Whenever you think of self-defense or think of fighting, those questions are part of the equation. They have to be, because trying to work out your moral and ethical issues when someone else is trying to expose your inner workings to the cold air is ...inefficient.

Those questions are easy to ask and easy to answer. Too easy, because they are asked and answered from ignorance and comfort.

First thing, there are no absolutes, no trade-offs, nothing clear. It is never, "I will die to save ten children." The world doesn't work like that. It becomes, "I will risk dying for the chance of saving, maybe, some or all of the ten children." Risk and chance. You might not die. You might not save anybody. Or you might die and save nobody (an aside to the professionals- dead poeple don't save anybody.)

But it's not even that. That's still too clean. Because it might not be dying. When you think, "What would I risk dying for?" Take time to ask, to substitute paralysis and blindness for dying. Waking up in the same prison cell every day for the rest of your life. Waking up screaming from the same nightmare periodically, forever. Remember that dying also includes orphaning your children...

(And that's the other side, what got me thinking about this today. When you pull the trigger you may shift a human being from being to not-being, turn a person into a corpse, erase a history and turn it into meat- but you are also creating orphans and widows, who will become what they become in response to your action which may be decided and finished in the space of a breath.)

If those are off the table and it goes well for you then civil suits and legal entanglements and blood-borne disease are all out there. Or the face of someone who flashes before your eyes periodically, clutching his throat and trying to scream. Memories.

Even dying isn't what we think, not what we've been told. Some give up, sure. But the noble and heroic death, the manly eyes slowly fading as light passes and a look of satisfaction passes to the cold pallid lips...

There's pain and fear and thirst and screaming. But that's not the worst. The worst is being beaten- you gave all you had, everything you were and it wasn't enough. As your body slips closer to death, whether bleeding out or under blows you are helpless, utterly helpless. The warrior who wanted to take his stand against the world is mewling, begging and bargaining with god for one more breath of air or one less drop of pain. As helpless as a baby. In that instant, everything you thought you knew, the story in your head of who you are, is shattered.

This just barely scratches the surface. As you train, as you teach- what do you think you are doing? What are you training for? Living and dying? If only it were that clean.


Anonymous said...

Damn Rory, I thought I had it resolved in my mind to you brought up all this crap. : ) Reminds me of the great line in the movie Body Heat when Micky Rorke says something to the effect "when you plan something, a hundred things can go wrong. If you can think of just 50 of them you are a genius, and my friend you are no genius." Thanks for bringing up about 10 more to add to my 50.


Anonymous said...

They say there are no atheists in foxholes, but I don't know, personally, any warriors who are religious - who, even in defeat, embrace death and hold no regrets. There are cultures who do embrace death, seek death and for whom victory and defeat mean nothing because, for them, just the struggle itself brings paradise. Must be nice to be so ego-free and happily fatalistic. Perhaps these cultures have the only true warriors.