Cumulative Days Riding: 172 Cumulative Days Blogging: 157
Today’s Mileage: 5 Total Trip Mileage: 1144
As I climb on the bike today my thoughts are with my family, friends, students and fellow pilgrims who have shared words of encouragement with me as I experienced the mixed emotions associated with sending my eldest son off to his active duty station and most likely war.
Yin-Yang: Symbol for the Chinese concepts of harmony and complementary opposites. Acceptance of apparent contradictions as each phenomena is seen as containing some element of it’s opposite. The universe is seen as moving in cycles that contain underlying harmony, this understanding is essential to understanding life and change.
I realize that any discussion about the military and armed conflict always draws mixed and sometime strongly held reactions from people. This is even more the case when I consider that I am part of a very liberal and pluralistic faith and have reached out to a wide circle of open caring people who value compassionate relationships. I realize that questions of the use and existence of the military raise deep concerns for many people.
I find within myself an ongoing struggle between my positive memories of the military and my knowledge of the destructiveness that military service can visit on soldiers (I have worked with many PTSD survivors from WW2, Korea and Vietnam), and the innocent civilians who get caught up in the conflict (I heard horror stories of collateral damage from Vets). I have received several strongly negative comments about my recent Facebook and Blog postings. Many of them expressed the belief that the world would all be better off without a military and conflict/war.
I whole heartedly agree that humankind and our planet would be better off if we could extinguish this incessant drum beat that has appeared throughout human history, leading our young men (and now young women) off to war. Ideally I dream of a world where there is no anger, no bullying, no hatred, no racism, no killing, no conflict. However, I am a realist and while I sometimes let myself dream of idyllic times, where we all coexist in peace, I realize that there are reasons why we need a social institution called the military.
I believe we sometimes need to grab our shield and spears and man the ramparts in defense of our ideals and of higher good. I recognize the danger that arm conflict can get wrapped up in ideology, the whole argument about a “just war” troubles me when it is tied to religious principles. Far too many people have died in the name of God, as each side hurls the label of “heretic” at the other.
As a Psychologist I ask myself what motivates this apparent “need” for a military. I believe the military can serve two different but valid functions, one within the individual members (intrapersonal needs) and the other within a culture or society (interpersonal needs). There is a great deal of variations in how these needs manifest themselves, also they may differ across time (as evidenced by the fact that the US attack on Iraq represented the first time our nation attacked someone who had not first provoked us… now what was that all about?)
Some of the Intrapersonal needs comes about because of inner conflict, between parts of ourselves, or because we find our “world” under apparent attack (our idea of right and wrong challenged by gay marriage, abortion, growing numbers of minorities). These frustrations can lead to a “lashing out” at others who are different from ourselves. I tell my students that there is a great deal of misunderstanding about what a “jihad” represents. It is my understanding that we are to undertake a jihad against those forces within ourselves that block us from achieving a connection with the divine. As often happens in religious and political undertakings (crusades, liberation movements, cults) the enlightened purpose behind a movement is lost when egotistical and self-serving motives take over.
We all struggle with conflicting inner forces, we all have a dark side! I believe the critical thing is to find a balance between our inner forces. Until we can find this balance inside ourselves we will not find it in our exterior world and our relationship with others. My son struggles, as I have struggled, in a constant yin and yang balance between desires and ideals. The military with its multitude if new experiences and new views helped me find my balance, I hope that it might do the same for my son.
Another dynamic that comes into play are Interpersonal needs. I have repeatedly lamented the dichotomous thinking that we see so prevalent in our society. This form of thinking manifests itself in the “win – lose” and “us versus them” arguments spewed forth by “hot heads” on both sides of the political and religious spectrum. What is particularly problematic about this form of thinking is that when one group (political party, race, culture or church) chooses to take this perspective, seeing everything as warfare or a win or lose game, it puts great pressure on other groups to assume the same stance.
Peace and harmony between people only works if both sides decide that this is the overriding goal. True peace and harmony is not imposed on vanquished by a victor it is a choice made by both sides to compromise and find common ground. When one side amasses an arsenal the other side has to respond in like. I do not believe that the response must always be in the direction of a stronger force, if you have leaders with foresight and a greater understanding, the response can be one of compassion and a measured strike at those directly responsible (the actual terrorist or the individual despot leader) you do not have to destroy a whole country. If you mean to counter a radical ideology you do not need to demonize a whole religion or ethnic group.
Examples of the “Yin and Yang” of life abound all about us. You see it in nature, in the lives of animals, in our inner self, in our community and our nations. Let us never cease striving for balance for a healthy perspective, for a lessening of conflict and an acceptance of differences. Let us never cease the struggle to be loving caring compassionate beings!
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