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The Warrior Philosophe
War is a highly charged, emotional term. Very few among us are truly enamored of war. War engages horrific images of death and destruction. War invokes charges of hatred and oppression. War provokes concepts of misuse of power and brutality, and suffering.
Yet, war is a natural state of being.
While it can be rightly said that our religious and moral guidelines specifically lead us towards peaceful endeavors and co-operative interactions with our fellow humans, it is equally rightfully said that peace is not a natural state for any portion of reality, material or energetic. Peace is static. Stasis is not a normal or natural state of being, down to and including the sub-atomic level. War is not a static condition, war by its nature invokes change, and change is the natural state of being for all material and energetic expression. Nothing in existence remains the same, except change. All lessor expressions of matter and energy are subject to greater expressions of matter and energy. The natural laws such as gravity and the conservation of energy illustrate this conclusively. There cannot be stasis between two bodies of gravity, in time one will overcome the other. There is, and cannot be, stasis between two contrasting expressions of energy, one will overcome the other. The battle between the irresistible force and the immovable object are the natural state of existence for all of reality, originating with the “big bang” itself.
Compromises are evident in nature, certainly planets do not crash headlong into the sun. This is because there are mitigating factors, such as motion and gyroscopy, that serve as an attempt to balance the dance of matter and energy. In the end though, certainly long after we are dust, either the planets will collide with the sun, or the sun will cease to exist and the dance of gravity will no longer be of direct concern in this specific instance. Stasis is not only impossible, but would disrupt the entire process. Peace, in the sense of stasis, is not possible, and is not natural.
If war is to invoke death, then to consider death is to also consider continuation. If we are to believe life began as a simple celled organism (perhaps a single-cell, perhaps not quite “celled”), then that organism required energy to be considered “alive.” That energy had to be acquired somewhere and somehow. Energy had to be taken, captured from some source. Whether that source was solar or geothermal, or perhaps chemical, nonetheless energy had to be captured, converted and utilized by this simple creature.
We are told that in time, simple celled creatures began feeding upon each other. Osmosis, absorption, or some other means, employed the use of consuming one creature for the benefit of another. Few could argue that life does not require life in order to survive. As creatures grew in complexity, the art of feeding became more developed. Fish ate fish. Amphibians ate fish and amphibians. Reptiles ate fish, amphibians and reptiles. And so on. Plants ate sunlight and matter trapped in decayed materials, and made themselves available to other creatures. We call this the “food chain.”
If there is merit to the concept of “collective consciousness” and primordial genetic memory, then war as “eat or be eaten” is our most ancient memory, our most fundamental inherent instinct. While we may attempt to console ourselves that we only eat what we require, nevertheless our actions to provide for our own sustenance necessitate war upon other creatures, who in their own turn have warred on other creatures still. War, in this sense, is an integral part of nature.
War among the animals, including humans, is an ongoing and perpetual state. Greater force envelops and consumes lesser force, greater mass envelops and consumes lesser mass, all in the effort to survive. The question arises as to whether or not this is “right,” when considered in the light of religious and moral philosophy. Denial of the natural inherent state of being of all material and energetic existence cannot confer right or wrong on the matter; it simply is the way things are. If we proceed with the presumption that nature is created, and that nature is “good” (or at least how nature is intended to be), then denial of the natural state cannot confer right or wrong to the issue. Or, more correctly, if any inference can be done, it must be that “war” is “right,” in that as war is the natural state of the creation, and creation is created in the manner it was intended to be, then G-d created war as the natural state of existence for all of nature. And it is good.
It is difficult to see how even “peacefully minded” humans do not war with nature. A human may indeed exist peaceably with other humans, perhaps even all other humans. Yet, the natural portion of the human animal requires war with other creatures, for survival. The food we eat must of necessity require we kill other creatures, whether animal or vegetable. That we personally do the slaughter or not is irrelevant, other creatures die that we may live. This is no different from that of other creatures, who in their own turn must also slaughter in order to survive. To console ourselves believing that we are not committing war against other creatures is to blind ourselves to their perspective. Wolves may indeed live peaceably amongst themselves, but only by waging war upon the lambs that feed them, and feed them well. Lambs likewise may live peaceably amongst themselves, but only by waging war upon fields of grass.
To be sure, “war” as the term has come into accepted modern usage, connotes far more than simply consumption for the sake of survival. War as an art form is thought to have developed about 5 thousand years ago in conjunction with the development of agriculture, metallurgy and walled fortifications. It was here that war most likely began to take the form of slaughter for sport, perhaps with political motivation and instigation. Here is where powerful men wrested with other powerful men for the sake of exerting superiority. Competition was no longer for survival, competition was enacted for its own sake. Later, this would “evolve” into non-mortal combat, such as the Greek Olympiad, for entertainment. But in the beginning of war as an art, the competition was to the death, with the victor taking all, literally.
As society developed beyond the requirements of survival, the concept of consumption expanded beyond food, water, shelter, clothing and fire. Other resources, such as metal and stone, came into play. And tribes came into play, as one tribe exerted force over another, requiring tribute in some form or other. Humans became spoils of war as much as executors of war. Tribes began to vie for dominance over resources, including their respective populations. The victor was free to do with the spoils what seemed fit to do.
No doubt fledgling expressions of institutional religion played a role, developing it would seem side by side and in conjunction with the development of war. The gods of war seem as common from a point beginning about 5 thousand years ago as the gods of the sun and moon, harvest and death. This would seem to corroborate the intimacy that early civilizations had with war, acknowledging war as an integral part of their lives. Even in the infancy of monotheism, G-d was depicted as a warrior and supporter of warriors.
War inspires greatness from within. War inspires courage, selflessness, camaraderie and a sense of brotherhood. War engages loyalty and devotion. War invokes appreciation and gratitude. Warriors understand these things with a greater intensity than most others. We do not know ourselves without a battle to fight, for it is only in the throes of a battle that we can draw ourselves up to our full potential. That battle may not be with bullets and bombs whizzing by, it may just as well be in fighting what we feel is “the good fight.” We are inspired by challenges to rise above ourselves. When things are going as we desire, we have no challenge to overcome, we grow lax and apathetic. We become “peaceful,” static. Our potential growth becomes stunted.
The warrior tradition has maintained societies and cultures around the world and across recorded history. Even in the passive resistance of some cultures, there is still the underlying motivation of conquest and superiority. In what remains of aboriginal tribal societies, the warrior ethic is promulgated and perpetuated. The warrior is seen as the defender of and provider for the tribe. As extended into modern societies, the warrior ethic is often misunderstood by outsiders who confuse the warrior ethic with politics. War is with us, and ever shall be, so long as we draw breath and require food and shelter for our survival. Let us not confuse the issue, warriors earn our respect.
As always, respectful comments are welcome and appreciated.