Saturday, March 24, 2012

Another Way, Part 3

This is the last in a series of reflections on the individual warrior's approach to inter-personal violence. You can read the previous parts here, here, here, and here.

The first stage in a warrior's development is when his primary motivation is the challenge presented by the enemy. Through proper education, however, he will have other loves, and hopefully some of these other loves will supersede (without eradicating) his love for adventure. Then he can enter into the second stage, which is where he really doesn't care about the enemy at all, but primarily about what he is protecting. This is the stage described by G. K. Chesterton in the words, "The Christian soldier fights, not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him." This is sufficient to make a warrior a just warrior, though it has its possible abuses. But there is another stage yet.

My first clue that there might be another stage came from the life of Miyamoto Musashi. Musashi was the greatest swordsman in the history of Japan, and the author of "The Book of Five Rings." He fought in over sixty duels in his lifetime, killing all of his opponents, and also survived four major battles. After his last duel, in which he killed his opponent with nothing more than a wooden oar he had carved into a rough sword shape, he gave up dueling to the death. Although he fought a few more times after that, he did not kill any more, and simply demonstrated his unmatchable superiority, before letting his opponents go.

According to one legend, in the later years of his life he was meditating on a river bank in the company of his friend who was a Buddhist monk. While they were sitting there, an adder came winding his way up the riverbank towards them. The deadly serpent took no notice of the monk at all, slithering right across his lap, so at one with his surroundings was he. When he came to Musashi, however, the snake reared back, hissed, and made a wide circle around him before heading on his way. Musashi lamented that for all his power, he could not enjoy the peace and unity enjoyed by this simple monk. It is said that the monk was also able to defeat Musashi in a mental duel, using only a fan.

The idea that such a masterful warrior (who certainly could never have been accused of any semblance of gentleness) would renounce his life of bloodshed and practice the martial arts only for spiritual enlightenment was astounding to me. But I saw parallels with many other stories of famous warriors (Sir Lancelot being the most famous) who, having acheived undeniable superiority over all other warriors of their time, abandoned the martial life to pursue religious life. And it made sense. Certainly it would be the most skillful fighter who figured out first that no matter how good he was, it still did not fulfill him deep down inside.

The second clue, tying into the first one, came from reading the pacifist posts of @SirNickDon here on xanga. I began to see the deep points of contact between his pacifist vision and my Way of the Warrior. Because, of course, he is absolutely right, God does love every single person in the world, including the murderers and child-rapists. He longs for their good, and works for their healing, and it is a tragedy for them to die in their sin (fortunately I cannot judge their souls.)

So the third step in the evolution of the just warrior is to see the enemy as God sees Him, which means to love him; to pray for him as he cannot pray for himself; to respect his humanity, even though he fails to respect his own; to work for his healing with all your strength.

But this does not change the charism (if I may use the word) of the Warrior. It only throws it into terrible relief. The Warrior is not charged with punishing the evildoers of the world, but only with protecting the innocent. However, in order to protect the innocent, the guilty must be restrained and sometimes they must be restrained physically, and sometimes the only way to do that is with lethal force.

Central to the position of the committed pacifist is the belief that we are not qualified to judge which human life is more important than any other. The spontaneous sympathy we feel for an abused child and consequent disgust for the abuser is essentially an illusion. In God's eyes they are both equal.

It is here that I have to broaden the view a little bit. While it is quite certain that God loves both the abuser and the abused equally, it is also quite certain that He does not treat them identically in the long run. It is also quite certain that He calls us to treat them differently, i.e. to protect the victim and restrain the abuser. There is a tension here between the eschatological reality of the Kingdom and the physical reality of the fallen world we live in. It is somewhat analagous to the role of marriage in the Kingdom. Here on earth marriage is a gift, a glory and a calling. In heaven they neither marry nor are given in marriage, and all Christians, of whatever calling, are called upon to remember both of these truths. The balance of the Church in some ways depends upon there being two separate groups of people, each committed to living out a different aspect of the nature of human sexuality. The vast majority are called to live in married life, remembering that it is only a temporary arrangement. The few are called to live in celibacy as a foretaste of that eternal arrangement (whatever it may be) while still remembering that marriage is a holy and beautiful expression of the same gift.

In a similar way, all people are called upon to confront the reality of abuse in their lives. For many it is not dramatic physical abuse, but the challenge remains the same. In the reality of the world we live in something must be done to stop these things from happening. They must be resisted, and sometimes physically resisting them is the only way to stop them. At the same time, n the eyes of God, the abusers are just as precious as their victims, and this too must be remembered and lived out in the world. It is from this that I believe the charism of the committed pacifist arises. It is the need to bear witness to the deeper understanding, and the promised Kingdom. So I essentially see the two charisms, the Way of the Warrior and the Way of Pacifism, not as competitive but as mutually necessary and supportive.

The contribution of pacifism to the Way of the Warrior is that it deepens his love and respect for the enemy. It makes him realize that, when he has to kill some bad man to keep him from doing bad things, in truth the man was not born to be bad. He was born to be good. He was born to know, love and serve God, called to unimaginable glory and beauty. The fact that a human being was killed is a tragedy but it is not the worst tragedy. The worst tragedy is that he wasted his life, squandering countless opportunities for good in pursuit of power, pleasure, or hatred. The tragedy is that he was wounded so fundamentally that all his choices summed up led him to this end, the wreckage of all the he was capable of. The warrior's act of killing him is simply the end of a long and heartbreaking story, and in a way can be seen as a last act of respect for the man he might have been. It prevents him from doing anything worse to himself (which in and of itself is not a justification for killing, but merely an alternate way of looking at something justified on quite other grounds.)

So essentially all wars are family quarrels. When I intervene as a warrior I am restraining my brother to keep him from hurting a younger sibling. If I had to, I would kill him, but only if that were the only way, and always with the realization that I have killed my brother.

Those are the three stages I have seen so far. I don't think that is the end of the journey, however. After all, I'm only 27.

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