Keeping current in wellness, in and out of the water
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Step away from the battle, place your weapon on the ground
Look intensely at this serious enemy you think you have found
How does this stranger offend? What makes this human bad?
Your history with prejudice is rooted in a deeper cultural
From which you now must free yourself in order to find some relief
Break with the past and change the scripted outcome before it is too late
The masters of war have gathered armies before.
The youth have been sacrificed in other generations to satisfy the desires of rulers greedy for more power, control, wealth.
As times change value comes and goes, while control is more elusive.
The digital reality of our big data and big vulnerability sets us up for conflict and invasion by enemies.
The new definition of war and the lowered probability of peace has altered the course of history.
Ancient weapons of ignorance and separation are still in use. Placing blame is still the most common excuse for leadership.
It is futile for us to worry or vex ourselves about our fate. Sadly, it is in the hands of some dangerous hombres.
The soldiers scrambled down the rocky terrain and spread out to hide in ambush. They had a secret mission to intercept a currier who was carrying supplies to the enemy general in the field. It was uncertain when the delivery would be made, but they had reliable intelligence about the location. A spy had infiltrated the opposing camp to listen in on planning and strategy conversations. Espionage was rather crude in that era, and extremely dangerous. The young man who had been sent to gather information had to remember it and relay it in person to a contact. This required regular escapes from the camp, as well as returning in secrecy to his tent after the clandestine meetings. He was chosen for his speed and his ability to make his way in the dark in silence.
He was never raised to be a spy. His family was famous for long distance running and athleticism. His brothers all joined sports teams and became stars. He planned to follow in their footsteps, but had been drafted into the army when the war broke out up north. He did not want to go, but since his family felt strongly that he should, he agreed to join the military effort. His politics had not yet developed, but he suspected that the war and strife was absorbed by the poor while seeming to benefit the rich. He did not really believe in defending this state of affairs, but was caught in a trap. He hoped that the war would somehow liberate him. He longed to leave the island and never return.
As the afternoon died he made his way through the woods to meet his contact at the prearranged time. He only had a short window of time because he would be missed if he was not back for dinner. He felt scared this time. Something just felt wrong that day. As he snuck around the bend to the appointed meeting place he was shot in the back by his own brothers in arms. The arrow that pierced his heart was shot from the bow of a counter-spy who had infiltrated his platoon while he was busy in the opposing camp. He died instantly.
Please join writers from around the world each Thursday at Sue Vincent’s Echo for an inspirational photo. Find these stories and poems on twitter using the hashtag #writephoto. This diverse group interprets the photo with great creativity and insight. Read, write, or comment to join the party.
I have a special treat for my gentle readers today. My good digital friend Marjorie Clayman is my guest today. We probably met on twitter, being a little silly, but over the years I have come to really appreciate Margie’s attitude. She spends a great deal of her time crafting hand made items of the useable sort, which she donates to those who need it the most at the time. She is not only a powerhouse of crafty artful blankets and hats, but also is pretty crafty as a wordsmith. She works in public relations, so words are her stock in trade. Margie adds her own personal commitment to a better world to all her communications. She brings us a story about war and the way it leaves lasting impressions. Without further ado, I bring you Ms Clayman:
The other day, in honor of the 100th anniversary of the US entering World War I, I attended a commemorative event filled with speakers and musicians. One of the singers sang a song called “Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag and Smile, Smile, Smile.” The singer, in a laid back tone of voice common to folk singers, talked about how the song had been written by two brothers. One of the brothers, Felix Powell, performed the song for soldiers all along the WWI front. The song became popular again during the Second World War and resurfaced once more during the Vietnam War.
You are thinking that this is a feel-good story at this point. You might think that even more so when you learn, as I did via this article (http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/features/chapter-and-verse-the-surprising-story-of-the-song-pack-up-your-troubles-in-your-old-kit-bag-2124620.html) that the brothers submitted the song to a contest as a joke. They thought it was a dud. When they won first price they thought it was hilarious, and Felix decided to take that opportunity to win some fame. What are the chances?
Sadly, however, the story did not end happily for Felix Powell. This is not a story of rags to riches, per se. Rather, this is a story about the humbling and very real impact of gruesome warfare.
When Powell first got to the front lines, he felt really good about himself, as anyone would. His song was hopeful. Cheerful.
“Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag, And smile, smile, smile, While you’ve a lucifer to light your fag, Smile, boys, that’s the style. What’s the use of worrying? It never was worthwhile, so Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag, And smile, smile, smile.”
Powell was giving these boys a happy message while they tried to survive, far from home.
As the war dragged on, however, Powell began to see just how tragic trench warfare was. He visited battlefield after battlefield, and it dawned on him that these boys were dying. Thousands of them were dying. They were undertaking the ultimate sacrifice, in fact, and he was strumming away at them asking them to smile smile smile. According to the singer at my concert, as well as the article posted above, Powell began to see the contradiction between his light-hearted message and the world he and these boys were actually living in. He became filled with regret, and he never really was the same.
Powell pursued some other writing opportunities after WWI, but he had a rough time of it. When the Second World War broke out and the song gained popularity with a new generation of fighters, you can imagine him grimacing. Now his song was going to be used to make light of more young men marching towards death.
In 1942, Powell, who had entered his town’s Home Guard, dressed himself in his uniform, took his assigned rifle, and aimed at his heart. It is a shocking mark of how much his experiences had impacted him, and perhaps how much regret had come to overshadow any level of success he had ever enjoyed.
I found this story to be deeply moving. Many entertainers, of course, have gone overseas to try to cheer up the troops. You never really think how that impacts those celebrities, though. How can you perform with joy and verve and cheer when you know that you are trying to raise peoples’ spirits who could be killed on the field? It puts war itself, as well as entertainment tied to war, into a very real, and oft overlooked, perspective.
Our era in history may become known as the time of willful blindness. We have access to information from all over the world instantly, but people prefer to keep blind spots in place to protect status quo. As individuals and as institutions we choose to stay in the dark because we either have no confidence in evolution and change, or we may benefit from the circumstances as they stand.
Can you think of an example of willful blindness that has played havoc with your life? Can you remember choosing to stay blind yourself rather than standing up for the truth? I am pretty sure all of us have stood on both sides of this line. The saddest reason for staying willfully blind is a belief that one person can not change the course of history. The desire to be ignorant is more dangerous than we might want to believe.
When I was a freshman a the University of Texas at Austin in 1968 I was an idealist. I was a folk singer, hum dinger. I protested the war in Viet Nam and civil rights atrocities. We thought that an egalitarian, high minded society was just around the corner. We thought the empire of fascist evil would end as soon as Barry Goldwater died. We knew less about world affairs then, but we knew that war was not only the only true sin amount nations, but also unconstitutional in the way it was being waged with no declaration. Since 1968 the United States has been at war with at least one part of the world all the time. Peace has not been achieved, and civil rights have been all but forgotten. Now we have the for profit prison system to mass incarcerate people of color, and laws designed specifically to feed that system. Our war on drugs has produced an epidemic of cheap heroin and an addiction crisis.
I was too young to march on Washington in 1963. I was busy living as an ex-pat petroleum princess in Venezuela. I spent a lot of time listening to Radio Havana because it was the only station that we got with a strong signal on the radio. I usually turned it off when Fidel went off on his speeches, but I liked the music from Cuba. Back in those days Venezuela had a natural contempt for Cuba and Fidel, and dependence on oil companies for their entire economy. This worked very well for the preteen petroleum princess, but not so well for the impoverished worker class. Like the historical Buddha I was exposed to suffering I never could have imagined in the world. The really interesting part was that my parents had no problem with the semi slavery and obscene show of wealth we enjoyed. I didn’t either until I thought about it. Now my own country has almost the same level of income disparity I observed in 1963 in Venezuela. The hippies have not yet accomplished our mission. I wonder if in the chaos and violence of this time, so similar to 1968, we might finally see the ship come in. The whole wide world is certainly watching.
“That until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned: That until there are no longer first-class and second class citizens of any nation; That until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes; That until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race; That until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained; And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes that hold our brothers in Angola, in Mozambique and in South Africa in subhuman bondage have been toppled and destroyed; Until bigotry and prejudice and malicious and inhuman self-interest have been replaced by understanding and tolerance and good-will; Until all Africans stand and speak as free beings, equal in the eyes of all men, as they are in the eyes of Heaven; Until that day, the African continent will not know peace. We Africans will fight, if necessary, and we know that we shall win, as we are confident in the victory of good over evil.”
Haile Selassie address to United Nations Oct 6, 1963
Many music fans may think that Bob Marley wrote the lyrics to the popular song War. The song was created to immortalize a speech given at the UN in 1963. We are farther from the dream of lasting peace around the world than we were in 1963 because technology has served good and evil with equal measure. Now war moves faster and can potentially do much more damage quickly. I always loved this song and the idea that a tiny man from Africa delivered this truth, eloquence, and enlightenment to the United Nations. It was prophetic.
It has always made me feel uplifted because as I sing along I get louder and more committed as we arrive at the part about the victory of good over evil…right over wrong, yeah. I am one of those who fiercely believes in that victory in the long run. At this time I am having problems envisioning how the good is going to mange this conquest. Most people in history were dragged into war, forced to fight, because it is insane to take these violent risks. The ease with which the youth now is being convinced to start and end a private suicide war shows how far out of control this war/peace balance is. We must find ways to support compassion and fairness on earth because our futures depend on it. Jah, Ras Tafari, gentle reader. Keep the faith, baby.
Strange alliances are being formed after the Paris attacks. An interesting turn of events is the war declared on twitter by Anonymous.
Three days later Anonymous is teaching people how to hack ISIS and has published guides on how to do it. This is a new phase in avenging strategy. Not too long ago wars were declared by heads of state and fought by nations. ISIS initiated war in order to create a nation, and recognizes no borders or boundaries in their avenging. The avenger archetype has always existed in history. I sometimes feel a bit of avenger at work in my personality because I am highly sensitive to injustice. I do indulge in both self righteousness and indignant feelings on behalf of all mistreated sentient beings.
The new world of avenging made available through hacking, retweeting, and blogging has opened up many healthy avenging options that do not involve violence or terrorism. Now it is possible to use hashtags like #OpParis to openly attack enemies. Digital trash talk and taunting will continue. I wonder how much effect this digital line of attack will cause. Since social media has been used so well to radicalize new fighters it makes a lot of sense to me to work to shut down those propaganda opportunities. Since both groups are avengers without borders they are well pitted against each other. It is a heavyweight fight. I plan to hide, watch and retweet for the side of justice because I am more of a poet than an avenger. Perhaps I will dedicate some poetry to #OpParis to show my support. How do you view this new style of warfare, gentle reader? It has the feel of a video game, but it is completely real.
Many of my ancestors came to North America seeking refuge. Most of them had religious problems in the old country that caused their exodus. My Irish family fled the potato famine in the 19th century. I don’t think any of my family came to escape war. When I consider the conditions on a sailing ship in the 17 or 18th century I am amazed that so many survived the journey across the ocean. The earliest arrivals had the most difficult time establishing their culture and society on land that had previously belonged to native peoples. The European settlers conquered the continent and took control of all natural resources to create comfortable lives for themselves. Slave labor was one of the practices that made the cultural dominance swift and complete. The Europeans enslaved Africans and made war on the native people to “win” and develop the land we now occupy. In some places a natural alliance between slaves, former slaves, and native people developed based on strong mutual distrust of the ruling culture.
In school the manifest destiny business is taught to children as if European culture had been sponsored by European God to spread across the North America. Very little mention is made of the treatment of the tribes who opposed the conquest. By the time I was born we had taken all the land we would claim, but had not yet made Hawaii or Alaska states. We still have territories around the world, including in the South Pacific. Our political reach extends beyond the boundaries of our nation in obvious ways. Our military and our intelligence community reach across the globe. In the name of defending democracy the United States has made many enemies. In the precarious balance of worldwide power we play the role of peace keeper. In this role we have fought and are fighting wars on other people’s homeland. No matter which side eventually may surrender the residents who must flee or live in a battle are the real victims of these wars.
Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The refugees arriving in Europe will not be stopped until the war that they want to escape is contained. The situation is complicated and strained in every way. We can see no winners anywhere from London to Afghanistan. Chaos and suffering are moving across very large landscapes with no remedy in sight. There is not enough money, infrastructure, or housing to deal with the crisis that will continue to flow into Europe. This is the most serious issue in the world right now. Containing the disaster and stopping the violence deserves all civilization’s attention. Compassion is the only responsible response.
In our dreams characters, including ourselves, play grand archetypes. Last night as I dreamed military factions were fighting it out in a prolonged battle. The warrior rarely appears in my dream life so I have considered it as a signal of some kind of change. The dream did not really upset or frighten me. In fact, after a while awake I fell back into sleep and dreamed about the same theme for a while again, which is very rare in my life. I normally do not go back to sleep, but I felt there was a story I needed to finish. Nobody won the war and I believe there were more than two fighting factions, sort of like Syria today. The warrior is an important archetype without which we would all be too vulnerable. Protection is something everyone needs, from within as well as from others.
In yoga the warrior pose is a wonderful strengthening posture. When one masters it one truly does feel like a warrior and a hero. To be a warrior archetype does not always mean to be a soldier or professional in the business of protection. The best attributes of this archetype are skill, strength, discipline and self sacrifice in the conquest over ego. The best warrior is stoic and possesses a tough will to conquer. The worst warrior is indifferent to the suffering of others. The shadow practice of this soldier in the dark is trading ethics for victory at any cost. The hero as well as the heel are contained within the warrior archetype. Loyalty and invincibility are identified with this character. Mercenaries and gunslingers are also part of the tribe.
I wondered today if thinking about my ancestors and the Civil War in the United States might be part of this dream’s arrival. I have been studying and considering how my family moved from Selma, Alabama to East Texas after the war and bought property with gold. They traveled by oxcart to get there. Both my 2nd great grandfather and his father-in-law were in the war, the older man conscripted to make steel in Birmingham Alabama to provide munitions to the Confederacy. The Confederate money was worthless after the war, so I wonder how they managed to have enough gold to buy property in Texas. Many southern cotton farmers had moved to the area, so the majority of the population was black, as a remnant of slavery and cotton. My people were religious and donated land for a church in the area. I have been thinking about what it is like to fight in a war like that and be on the loosing side, then move to a new place. They had to handle a lot of change and hardship during one lifetime, and the period after the war may have been as difficult as the war itself.
My relationship with this dream is asking me to be stronger and more disciplined. I have done very little self-sacrifice or tough willed commitment during my time on earth. I know few soldiers in my real life, and have no contact with war and the risk of loosing a loved one. As war explodes around the globe I stay relatively insulated until someone new invades Tucson. We all depend on cops, soldiers, and sailors to keep us safe from harm, but I normally give them little thought. War is hell, and most of us defer that hell to warriors and prefer not to know much about the details. Historical wars seem to me to be linked to spiritual warfare. How do you relate to the warrior archetype? Do you take the role of protector in your life? Who protects you?