The Warrior Hero: Reality and Myth

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The Warrior Hero: Reality and Myth

Post by noman » Fri Mar 09, 2007 9:39 pm

I’ve got to hand to JCF associate AJ. I thoroughly enjoyed her recently published book-

A Myth in Action: The Heroic Life of Audie Murphy (2006)


In many ways I’m probably typical of most Campbell fans. I tend to think of the Hero Cycle in terms of ancient myth or fairytale - or else some of the fantasy stories in modern film. Even when I do think of the Hero in real life it’s a religious leader or a creative artist, a scientist, or perhaps a scholar such as Joseph Campbell.

But where does one find a real hero in the classic sense? A literal, warrior hero? One that answers the call, leaves his home and travels to a place of horror to do battle, slays a menacing dragon, and then returns home with all the honor and the glory of a mythic hero. AJ’s answer seems elementary to me now. You take the greatest war of all time, the world’s darkest hour, and find the greatest hero of that war.

AJ writes:
P27 In our own time, especially during the last thirty years, we have attempted to deny the reality of the archetypal “warrior” hero, because of our knowledge of the total devastation another major war would bring. War in our time is a terrible and fearsome happening, but rejection and repression of the warrior archetype, which is a psychological reality within each of our own mends, will not eliminate war. Repressing the aggressive side of human nature doesn’t get rid of it. It is merely removed to what Carl Jung called our “Shadow, “ the parts of our personalities we don’t want to see or have recognized.

Refusing to accept our Shadow qualities may very well cause us to externalize our aggression and project it onto others. Refusing to admit that as humans we are naturally aggressive creatures might also prevent us from recognizing the danger from outside our own communities when it is present. The warrior must be remembered, upheld as an essential part of our selves and our culture and retuned to a place of honor, if we are to survive.

- Ann Livingston Joiner, A Myth in Action, (2006)
In case anyone reading this is as clueless as I was about the life of Audie Murphy before I read AJ’s book, I’ll offer a brief sketch of his early life:

- Audie Murphy was born in 1924-25 to a poor Texas family. His father and mother did not provide well for their children and he had to learn to fend for himself at a very early age. Sometimes he would have to go out in the Texan wilderness and hunt just to feed the family.

- When Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941 he was too young to enlist so he had his sister forge a birth certificate so he could meet the minimum age requirement.

- He was quite the runt, five-foot five and slight of build. AJ says he had to stuff his backpack with tissue paper in boot camp because he couldn’t handle the 60 lbs of gear.

- They tried to give him a non-combat position because of his apparent lack of stamina but he insisted on a combat position. He managed to get through boot camp, and served in North Africa, Sicily, the Italian mainland, southern France, and Germany.

- During his 27 months of overseas service he experienced all the horrors of war and watched many of his friends die in battle. He also fought two bouts with malaria and one of gangrene for a bullet wound to the hip.

- Audie Murphy was the most decorated soldier of WWII.

You might think of such a real life hero as someone who, coming from a poor Texas family, probably didn’t have a lot of morals or a lot to lose, and took the opportunity to make a hero of himself in an ugly war. A tough guy, with a flaring temper - a General Patton-like character without the benefit of officers training, who found his niche because he loved to fight and loved war.

Nothing - could be further - from the truth.

He was a selfless hero, unassuming of his hard won heroship, who had but two primary interests: to end the war, and to protect the lives of the men he served with.

From AJ’s book:
P95 Charles Owens, recalling his own first days with Murphy as his commanding officer, indicates why his men thought so much of him. “We could hear artillery fire in the distance. And we were wondering what in the world was going to happen to us, you know. Fresh recruits from the states…. And he said, ‘Now there’ll be times when you’ll be scared to death. I’m always scared when we’re up front. Don’t be ashamed of it.’ And he said, ‘there’ll be times when you’ll want to cry. There’s nothing wrong with that….” Owens went on to say Murph was “different from other officers. He’d sit in a foxhole and just talk to us about personal things. You know, you’d never do that with any other officers. And we’d cover up with the same blanket.

P94 Horace Ditterline remembers his first day in action and being sent to Lieutenant Murphy’s company. “I was scared to death. Murph was just a second lieutenant…and he WAS A LITTLE KID. I mean, actually. He [looked] about 17 and I was 27. And I thought, ‘What are YOU doing telling ME what to do?’ but I soon got the feeling that he was our company commander and God bless him, I’d do anything I could to help him.”

- A Myth in Action, Ann Livingston Joiner, (2006)
Like all soldiers, Murphy had to learn the art of war by experience,
P81 “If I discovered one valuable thing during my early combat days”, [Murph says], “it was audacity, which is often mistaken for courage or foolishness. It is neither. Audacity is a tactical weapon. Nine times out of ten it will throw the enemy off-balance and confuse him.”
- Audie Murphy

- A Myth in Action, Ann Livingston Joiner, (2006)
By 26 January 1945, Audie Murphy had already attained war hero status. But what happened on this day would lift him to mythic status for the ages.

AJ writes:
P98 On this particular day, however, even though the artillery was slowing down the enemy advance, especially of the tanks, the infantrymen kept coming. The two tank destroyers that had been assigned to him were both disabled, but he noticed that one of them still had a .50 caliber machine gun intact on its turret. It was also on fire, but that fact did not detain Murph. Carrying the field phone with him, he climbed onto the tank destroyer and began to rake the approaching Germans with it. In between bursts, he continued to call artillery in, closer and closer to his own position, responding to the headquarters lieutenant’s anxious questions with humorous barbs. When asked how close the enemy was to his position, he responded, “Hold the phone and I’ll let you talk to one of the bastards.”

- A Myth in Action, Ann Livingston Joiner, (2006)
From the Congressional Citation:
Lieutenant Murphy ordered his men to withdraw to a prepared position in the woods while he remained forward at his command post and continued to give fire directions to the artillery by telephone. Behind him to his right one of our tank destroyers received a direct hit and began to burn. Its crew withdrew to the woods. Lieutenant Murphy continued to direct artillery fire, which killed large numbers of the advancing enemy infantry. With the enemy tanks abreast of his position, Lieutenant Murphy climbed on the burning tank destroyer, which was in danger of blowing up any instant, and employed its.50 caliber machine gun against the enemy.

He was alone and exposed to the German fire from three sides, but his deadly fire killed dozens of Germans and caused their infantry attack to waver. The enemy tanks, losing infantry support, began to fall back. For an hour the Germans tried every available weapon to eliminate Lieutenant Murphy, but he continued to hold his position and wiped out a squad which was trying to creep up unnoticed on his right flank. Germans reached as close as 10 yards only to be mowed down by his fire. He received a leg wound but ignored it and continued the single-handed fight until his ammunition was exhausted. He then made his way to his company, refused medical attention, and organized the company in a counterattack, which forced the Germans to withdraw.

Five minutes would feel like an eternity in a gunfight – especially when alone and greatly outnumbered. This twenty-one year old fought off six tanks and scores of infantry for sixty minutes! Talk about facing the dragon.

But AJ’s book is much more than a retelling of the story of a real life hero. It is relating the ‘real life’ experience to the ‘Hero Cycle’ as presented by Joseph Campbell.
P89 The knowledge gained from seeing oneself in the face of the enemy is one of the most important elements of the message of the returning hero…

Campbell continues, referring to studies by Geza Roheim, “Whatever is killed becomes the father,” and from this crisis arises “the irresistible impulse to make war: The impulse to destroy the father is continually transforming itself into public violence.” Eventually, if the hero is to conquer the dark forces, he must become aware of this unconscious projection

It was not only the individual warrior, Audie Murphy, who carried this unconscious projection with him in World War II. All of America was at war with “The Fatherland.” And much of our culture is tied up with the language it speaks. The English language itself developed out of Germanic roots, so Germany, in many senses, was a “father” image to the country.

- A Myth in Action, Ann Livingston Joiner, (2006)
I’ve never heard of this approach with Campbell’s ‘Hero Cycle’. Rather than looking at fairy tales or the mythic tale and seeing how it relates to a real life, she takes a real life hero and shows how it relates to the fairy tale image - and Campbell’s Hero Cycle.

And she does it with stunning affect.
P138 One of the lessons that Murphy learned during the war was that there are positive values even in the greatest evil, and he came home to see that there was also great evil in what was purported to be the “world of light.” “War brings out the very best in a man, “ he would say later. “You have everything, and you know that you can depend on the guy who stands shoulder to shoulder with you,” and again, “War taught me how to get along with people, not to be selfish. War is a pretty good course in public relations.” Conversely, he pointed out that fear often brings out the worst. Murphy clearly understood a psychological truth. War itself is evil, but warrioring is an essential part of being human.

- A Myth in Action, Ann Livingston Joiner, (2006)
It is uncanny that Audie Murphy died accidentally on Memorial Day weekend 1971. A true-life hero had died, to be sure. But in my mind, it was just at this time that America witnessed a much more profound death, and one that we are still struggling with: the death of the warrior hero.

Great book AJ.

- NoMan
Last edited by noman on Sun Jul 20, 2008 3:26 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by A J » Sat Mar 10, 2007 12:26 am

Wow, NoMan,

Thank you.

As I was writing the book I wondered if I was putting the message across.You have really summed up the intent of what I was trying to say.

I am so pleased that you saw it.

AJ
"Sacred space and sacred time and something joyous to do is all we need. Almost anything then becomes a continuous and increasing joy."

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Post by Martin_Weyers » Wed Mar 21, 2007 10:47 am

Hello Noman & AJ,

as usually I'm entering a book discussion without having read the book, apologetically! So thanks, Noman, for sharing a brief summary, that sparks interest in the book.

Talking about warrior heroes of the past, I suppose most warrior heroes have been pretty much idealized. A mythic war hero may historically be based on a pretty rude character, while in our imagination that person has become a selfless hero. History has become a myth, and while some famous characters of the past, like Charlemagne or Napoleon, were everything else but selfless heroes, there are certainly uncounted actual heroes no history book knows about!

I guess the usual distortion of history that you may find in Hollywood war movies serves two purposes: In addition to political reasons, these movies try to keep the warrior hero alive in our imagination. On that note, even the propaganda on TV is Janus-faced - while sincere journalism on one hand serves the ideals of truth and justice, on the other hand they may help killing the archetype of the warrior hero!

Of course that doesn't mean that war and propaganda are something desirable. However, some years ago I was thinking about a new thread Democracy = Mediocracy? - that may sound a bit provocative for some but I'm wondering if peace and democracy possibly automatically lead to degeneration and decandence until a new state of disintegration, war and chaos calls for new ideals and heroism. Is that due to the disregarded warrior archetpye within us? Or due to the disregarded dark side of the goddess? Maybe it's only because all those distractions and poor egoistic purposes most people are living for can be wiped out only by a catastrophe. Is there a way to save democracy except to challenge it?
Works of art are indeed always products of having been in danger, of having gone to the very end in an experience, to where man can go no further. -- Rainer Maria Rilke
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Post by noman » Sat Mar 24, 2007 2:47 am

Thanks Martin for answering this post. I didn’t expect much of a response because most people aren’t familiar with Audie Murphy. People my age (b.1958.) think of some songwriter Hollywood cowboy Audie Murphy – and don’t know the war hero Audie Murphy.

I rented the film, To Hell and Back (1955) and it is a pretty sad attempt at a biography. The worst part was the scene I described where Audie climbed onto the burning tank and fought off the enemy for an hour. In real life it was 14 degrees Fahrenheit that day. They made it look like it was 72 degrees out. In real life his men were ordered to retreat. In the film they were right there with him. In real life he was on that tank for an hour. In the film he was there for a couple of minutes.

I think of the modern era of film making as starting with Laurence of Arabia. From that point on there are films that are just as good as some of the films we watch today. But movies from the 40’s and 50’s are too ‘fairy tale land’.

But the difference between myth in movies and biography in movies can be seen by comparing Rambo to Saving Private Ryan It doesn’t mean everything in Saving Private Ryan is an accurate description of what war was like for these people but it gives a pretty good general description.

What happened in America around 1972 was something we in America still call ‘Vietnam’. We were pulling out of Vietnam under Nixon. We went from 250,000 troops in ‘Nam to 30,000 troops in the four year period of his first term, 1968 to 1972. As horrific as the war was for the Vietnamese, the actual war really wasn’t too traumatic for Americans. They say 50,000 American soldiers died in a ten-year period. We kill as many civilians each year on our highways. I know that is no comfort to the people who lost loves ones in this war – war is always traumatic. But – the psychic cost of this war to Americans is absolutely immeasurable. Even thirty-five years after it ended it still invokes the most vicious and heated debates.

People hated Bill Clinton in the 90s and hated John Kerry and in 2004 because they voiced their opinion against a war that ended over twenty years earlier. In a debate in 1972 Kerry asked ‘what makes you think we can accomplish with 30,000 troops what we couldn’t accomplish with 250,000 troops?

The Vietnam War was and is a tremendous trauma. But it doesn’t have much to do with the suffering of the actual war. We don’t get passionate about the 50,000 or so people who die each year on our highways. It propts me to ask where this passion comes from. My answer is that there is a powerful mythological reason – a psychic conflict that we just can’t come to terms with. And I don’t want to speak for AJ but I think she put her finger on it with her book.

To try to state the conflict as clearly and as simplistically as possible:

a.) There are those that hate war, hate violence and destruction, and hate people who love it and who celebrate the warrior hero. They believe the world would be fine if everyone simply refused to fight. They believe the soldier should be ashamed of what he does.

b.) There are those who love war, and hate the stupidity and naivety of those who believe we can solve all of our disputes without war. They hate people who not only fail to appreciate a soldier that puts his life on the line but denigrates the soldier for it as well.

Of course I’m playing this up to make a point. But you can’t believe the passion. I’ve found that people are most passionate about what they are attempting to suppress in themselves. And that’s why I say there is an inner conflict operating.

Young people buy most of the movie tickets. During this era of the Nixon presidency popular films were, Easy Rider, Bonny and Clyde, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Godfather, The Wild Bunch, Papillion, and The Getaway. These are all films about people playing against the establishment. Making heroes out of outlaws. For a warrior hero we have the film Patton which shows him as a rather demented character who loved war and loved war glory more than anything – and had no compassion or concern for the loss of life.

Some of the people I described in category (b) above absolutely love Patton. He’s where it’s at when it comes to being patriotic. But this is a really sick and distorted version of the warrior hero. That is why I said it was about at this time that the warrior-hero died in our consciousnesses. When the warrior hero tried to make a comeback in the late 80s it was in the form of Rambo who starts off as a rebel, anti-establishment guy in the first film, First Blood. But turns into a corny mythical war hero in the second. He goes back to ‘Nam and makes things right – meaning that he gives respect back to the American soldier that lost it during the 70s.

I don’t think it was until the release of the film Saving Private Ryan that the true warrior hero, in the character played by Tom Hanks, is reinstated in its proper form.

“I don’t think this is a good idea,” asked one of his men, “considering our objective.”

“Our objective is to win the war,” answers Tom Hanks.

It’s a hell of a job to be asked to do. But there are those who do it, and do it well, because they know it needs to be done – not because they want to be in a ticker tape parade.

From what little I know of Audie Murphy, he was one such soldier. He was like General Bradley in the film Patton who said to Patton, “I do this job because I’m trained to do it. You do it because you love it.” Or like Paul Baumer, the main character in the novel and filmAll Quiet on the Western Front. The author of All Quiet… says:
This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped shells, were destroyed by the war.

-Erich Maria Remarque,Im Westen nichts Neues, (1929)
I think you’re right Martin. War and war stories are Janus-faced. But that just seems to be the nature of war. That was the theme that Campbell spoke of when talking about Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita and how he lost heart before a great battle.

I don’t know how the idea of the warrior hero relates to democracy. It seems all nations or tribes have warrior heroes. I don’t know how to ‘save’ democracy or if it is worth saving. A balance of power and a political voice by the governed seem desirable. But I also know that different cultures and economies have different priorities than what I am used to. I don’t know about politics. I just don’t know. You’ve heard a first from NoMan today – admitting there’s something he doesn’t know. 8)

- NoMan

The Man he Killed

Had he and I but met
By some old ancient inn,
We should have set us down to wet
Right many a nipperkin!

But ranged as infantry,
And staring face to face,
I shot at him as he at me,
And killed him in his place.

I shot him dead because—
Because he was my foe,
Just so: my foe of course he was;
That's clear enough; although

He thought he'd 'list, perhaps,
Off-hand like—just as I—
Was out of work—had sold his traps—
No other reason why.

Yes; quaint and curious war is!
You shoot a fellow down
You'd treat, if met where any bar is,
Or help to half a crown.

- Thomas Hardy
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Post by Lizpete » Thu Apr 19, 2007 11:39 pm

Okay, I am going to spoil this thread and I'm sorry. I'm just responding to the topic subject as titled.

Um, WWII was now a long time ago in hopefully this age of peace (or transition into it.) I'm sure a brave fighter is an excellent role model as well, but... Could we think of a warrior in a different way?

A young child in Japan wrote a famous essay saying that he fought a war using pencils and erasers. Now he was in a different context indeed, (and tragic too) but somehow the idea of a warrior using paper, pencil and eraser appeals to me.

It is the way of our legal system. Even our graduate educational system, I believe. And the foundation for this internet board system too, yes? I keep thinking of the Devil and Daniel Webster.

Bushido- rules of politeness and respect in carrying the sword and the title. Western knights had chivalry. US military has a lot of rules on conduct. Court proceedings and debates generally have rules of order...

Forgive my disruption. Please go back to your original discussion.
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Post by noman » Sat Apr 21, 2007 11:34 am

Lizpete,

In my opening post I explained that, being typical of most Campbell fans, I usually think of the hero in terms of an artist, scientist, or religious figure. But heroes come in different flavors. I recommend reading Thomas Carlyle’s book on heroes. In this book he describes different kinds of heroes.

Thomas Carlyle

Carlyle’s writing was part of the standard undergraduate curriculum in the 19th century but has since been replaced by other authors. But he has a great description of the importance of real life heroes and how they shape a culture. He said that England would sooner give up its India possession, the jewel in its crown, than give up William Shakespeare.

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Post by Clemsy » Sat Apr 21, 2007 2:37 pm

But heroes come in different flavors.
Well said. I would add that the particular flavor associated with warriors also isn't confined to warriors. The one who willingly sacrifices his life for others is particularly powerful. The 'willing sacrifice' is one of our most powerful ideas, stretching back time out of mind, as it were. Christ didn't invent it.

Audie Murphy didn't die... but he very well may have. Odds say he probably should have.

Professor Liviu Librescu, the 76 year old Holocaust survivor who was shot to death blocking his classroom door to save his Virginia Tech students meets the criteria, no?

Why? What is it about humans that can override the survival instinct for someone or even something other than an offspring? Empathy? Compassion? The 'better angels of our nature?'

Whatever it is resides higher up than the stomach, and reminds us that we are capable of better than what we see all too much of.

Don't we all wonder whether or not we would pass the test? Don't we wish we would? Don't we call it a 'good death?'

As a middle school teacher who regularly deals with very borderline personalities, this is a well worn wonder.

As to the warrior concept in particular, let me tell you that, as the parent of two boys, the warrior element is certainly hardwired into the species and needs to be nurtured and channeled with care.

It is my very own and distinct opinion that there is significance in the fact that those who promote war the most are most often those in no danger of participating and who have no experience in war.

Those who do indeed know first hand tend to be the voices of restraint.

Cheers,
Clemsy
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Post by A J » Sat Apr 21, 2007 4:15 pm

Lizpete wrote:Okay, I am going to spoil this thread and I'm sorry. I'm just responding to the topic subject as titled.
....
A young child in Japan wrote a famous essay saying that he fought a war using pencils and erasers. Now he was in a different context indeed, (and tragic too) but somehow the idea of a warrior using paper, pencil and eraser appeals to me.
....
Forgive my disruption. Please go back to your original discussion.
Lizpete,

I don't think you disrupted or spoiled this thread. You made some valid points. Audie Murphy would agree with them; so do I.

I like to think of myself as a warrior working with paper, pencil, and eraser, too.

AJ
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A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living
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Post by AndrewT.O. » Sat Apr 21, 2007 5:01 pm

I grew up in cultures where the literal warrior hero is still somewhat revered, with positive and negative consequences.

My family moved to Uganda in the very early 90s. After years of oppression, intermittent civil war and rebellion, a popular government had finally taken office (in 1986). These men and women were hailed as liberators. Many of them had become guerrilla fighters even before the reign of Idi Amin (in the 70s). This constant, almost background fight had created a kind of "rebel culture". It was not, in the 70s and 80s, uncommon to hear of someone "going into the bush" to join some rebel army in its fight to topple this or that dictator. Rebels were, as the case may be feared or loved, but almost always honoured for their bravery. "Going into the bush" itself became a noble act, a point of pride.

Myths and legends were spun around the persons who led this last successful rebellion. Tales were told of how the National Resistance Army began with a couple dozen men and fewer guns. The names of these original fighters, like the Apostles of Christ, the Companions of Mohammed, the American Founding Fathers or the Arthur's Knights, were remembered and taught, and often evoked during national ritual.

However today Uganda's view of the NRA in particular and rebellion in general is soured. Twenty years on, and the same old faces are still there. The same men are in power (or at least a nucleus of them). Political life seems as stifled as before, although the human rights abuses are largely a thing of the past. The people have therefor lost faith in the warrior's purpose. They do not doubt his military skill, but people no longer believe that the warrior is part of a better system. Sure he goes out into the dark places and fights the good fight, but what does he bring back? More of the same stuff he destroyed in the first place.

As I look around my new home (America), I see much of the same disillusionment, although perhaps since American war is historically in foreign theatres, people are not as aware of their feelings about it. If the Warrior Hero is to redeem his image in America, he needs a war from which he can bring back something Americans want and can tangibly experience. Not since World War 2 has this happened (I humbly accept correction. I love AMerican history but I am understandably not fluent in it). People need to feel like they need the violence to happen. That is why in the section of America that is pro-war in Iraq, there is a certain amount of fervour that others may have difficulty understanding. Two myths are saying two different things. One myth is saying the war is pointless, the other is saying the war is like World War 2. I am not passing a verdict on which is correct (not the place for it), but I believe that in this fundamental question - is his fight worthy - lies the key to understanding America's love of the warrior (or lack thereof).
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Post by A J » Sat Apr 21, 2007 6:20 pm

Andrew,

You have made some sound points. It is always good to hear from newcomers to this country. You bring a fresh and objective perspective.

Yes, the warrior can be a negative influence, and much of the answer to the dilemma does lie in the worthiness of the Cause.

I think Clemsy is on to something when he writes about his sons, and the warrior concept being "hard-wired" into them. My own son was born during the war in Vietnam, during a period of my own life when I was focusing on the negative aspects of warrioring. I decided that he simply would not be allowed to play with guns. It seemed to be working, but when he was 14, he and his friends acquired some camouflage jumpsuits and "high-powered" water rifles, and spent their free afternoons playing wargames in the near-by woods. By this time, my thinking on the matter was more balanced, so I didn't try to stop him. (At 14, I doubt he would have been as easily influenced, anyway,) We have discussed those circumstances many times since. Fortunately, he has a solid grounding in his opposition to war in general, but enough "warrior within" to stand up for himself and others - generally with words and "pencils."

Today, I fear that repressing that warrior instinct can lead more to projection, and therefore even more violence, than it leads to peace. That seems to me, IMHO, what "Holy" wars are about.

I enjoyed your post. I am glad you have made America your new home.

AJ
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A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living
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Post by AndrewT.O. » Sat Apr 21, 2007 6:33 pm

AJ, I agree that warrior nature is hardwired. And I subscribe to your hypothesis on the violent consequences of suppressing/denying (shadowing?) it. Definitely holy war smacks of projecting all hostility onto the other to the point of making them a devil.

My people have a saying "the animals are dancing as you. The gods are dancing as you." Here dancing means playing you in a show. The idea is that the instincts we see in animals, and the nobility we ascribe to gods are both present in the human being, and the trick to life is learning when to let one rule you, and when the other.

I am very glad to be here in America. I have lived in so many places, and the experience has served to scramble whatever symbols/archetypes are in my head. That's made me believe America is the place for me, since it seems to be about pieces from different cultural puzzles coming together to make a New Thing on this earth. I love it.
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Post by noman » Mon Apr 23, 2007 3:10 am

Welcome Andrew.

You’ll find America has many faces in a way. And yet it is homogeneous in other ways. But I think it is only fair to compare America with other industrialized countries and not Nigeria or Uganda. Somehow that just isn’t fair. Economic health makes all the difference in the world. But when a nation has it – it is taken for granted. (Just like our personal health)

What stuck me when I first flew overseas to London is that the police did not have guns. They carried only radios. I tried to imagine a cop without a gun in New York City. America, generally speaking, is much more violent than other industrialized countries. We will have more murders in one year in just one city than Japan will have in their entire country of 130,000,000 people.

When Euro-Disney opened in Paris I heard the French suggest that they have a mock gangster bank robbery with machine guns. That isn’t something Americans would expect to see when they take their children to Disneyland. But I can understand why the French would see us that way. We must have five times the violence in films as other countries. We celebrate violence more.

I don’t know the how or why of it. But America seems to have a certain Wild West – love of violence. Our favorite sport here in America is the seriously violent game of American Football.

And recently, Cho Seung-Hui, a Virginia Tech senior majoring in English, shot 32 teachers and students to death before killing himself, in the deadliest campus shooting in U.S. history. It could happen anywhere – in any industrialized country. But it happens here in America more often.

But as I said, America has many faces. And when you combine our high tech with a love of violence the prospects look pretty grim. You can’t fight a war anymore with muscle and courage - only with intelligence and high tech weapons. And how much honor can there be in launching a tomahawk missile off of a ship, or a smart bomb from an aircraft?

I fear that we can’t live without war – and we can’t live with it because of our technology. I think that’s why you get a ‘schizo’ attitude about the invasion of Iraq. We don’t really know how to deal with it.

But there is one thing that makes this invasion – or more generally – the war on terror, different than any other war we’ve fought; it has religious overtones – and that is the scariest part of it. Fighting for resources is never as vicious as fighting for a mythology. Mythological battles have no limit. So when it comes to conflict, better the animals be dancing as us than the Gods – to twist your metaphor a bit.

- NoMan
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Post by Vissi » Fri Apr 27, 2007 1:50 am

Good evening,

AJ, hearty congratulations on your work. What an accomplishment!

Andrew. welcome to these conversations and also to America. May you find the peace of home here.

NoMan, eloquent statements. As we've discussed previously, my experience of America is that this is a land of many cultures, each contributing a verse to the song we all sing. All our ancestors have been immigrants here, even the indigenous peoples whose wisdom of this land stretches back farthest in memory. When we discuss the war in Iraq or the war on terror, are we willing to admit that these fights are, in essence, conveniently scaled economic engagements that line the pockets of the military industrial complex and do little to advance the true causes of freedom or humanity? We ask for the heart's blood of our soldiers and their loved ones each day and yet fail to match the nobility of their sacrifice by openly admitting who gains through their pain. And, each day, I personally mourn the killing of minds, bodies, and spirits that is done in my name and in the name of deities who are, in actuality, the source of love.

In Iraq, America has the diplomatic opportunity to rise to the level of true greatness and function as a peacemaker (a little play on words acknowledging your Wild West comment) to bring sectarian strife to a close through advancing dialogues between the various factions. We could easily disarm the insurgency by oiffering them political legitimacy and involving them in the peace process as well.

My perception is that the courage required of the warrior is to love more rather than less. Can anyone find a lack of courage in the fire and fury of Gandhi, of Sojourner Truth, of Cesar Chavez? Seems to me, there is formidable strength in tempering the rush and rise of passion into a creative force rather than into one that destroys. We've tried beating plowshares into swords perhaps it's time to mold swords into implements that enrich and honor life?

Love first, Save the earth, Peace,
Dixie
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Post by Clemsy » Fri Apr 27, 2007 6:12 pm

Interesting, Dixie. Your post brought to mind one of the valuable gems I garnered from Castaneda's don Juan books:

A warrior must be impeccable.

Impeccable is a powerful word:
1. faultless; flawless; irreproachable: impeccable manners.
2. not liable to sin; incapable of sin.
Sounds idealistic, but shouldn't we always strive towards the ideal? The names you mention certainly did.
Give me stories before I go mad! ~Andreas
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Post by AndrewT.O. » Fri Apr 27, 2007 6:47 pm

noman wrote:Welcome Andrew.

You’ll find America has many faces in a way. And yet it is homogeneous in other ways. But I think it is only fair to compare America with other industrialized countries and not Nigeria or Uganda. Somehow that just isn’t fair. Economic health makes all the difference in the world. But when a nation has it – it is taken for granted. (Just like our personal health)
Thanks for the welcome noman. My ten years here have made me feel quite at home.

I was not comparing America to Uganda as much as I was referring to certain common ground in human attitudes that exists no matter where we are on the planet. I've spent most of my life travelling in many places, and there are some inescapably humna attitudes that, to me, seem to be at play here in AMerica when we talk about warrior perception.
noman wrote:What stuck me when I first flew overseas to London is that the police did not have guns. They carried only radios. I tried to imagine a cop without a gun in New York City. America, generally speaking, is much more violent than other industrialized countries. We will have more murders in one year in just one city than Japan will have in their entire country of 130,000,000 people.
noman wrote:uot;]When Euro-Disney opened in Paris I heard the French suggest that they have a mock gangster bank robbery with machine guns. That isn’t something Americans would expect to see when they take their children to Disneyland. But I can understand why the French would see us that way. We must have five times the violence in films as other countries. We celebrate violence more.

I don’t know the how or why of it. But America seems to have a certain Wild West – love of violence. Our favorite sport here in America is the seriously violent game of American Football.
And in that sense, if you will, America has a lot in common with pre-industrialised nations, especially the ones where a certain kind of "frontier spirit" still exists.
noman wrote: But there is one thing that makes this invasion – or more generally – the war on terror, different than any other war we’ve fought; it has religious overtones – and that is the scariest part of it. Fighting for resources is never as vicious as fighting for a mythology. Mythological battles have no limit. So when it comes to conflict, better the animals be dancing as us than the Gods – to twist your metaphor a bit.

- NoMan
From my short experience with the world, it seems there is always a mytho-religious aspect to war. Joseph Campbell himself even suggests this when he talks about the role of media in warfare is to transform the enemy from a "thou" to an "it". To demonise them. While this can be done in many ways, the religious one is the most powerful.

I do not believe this current war is especially more religious than many others, at least not "on purpose". The setting (middle east) has a lot of judeo-christian connotations, especially when seen in through the prism of the arab-israeli conflict. But these things cannot be helped in some ways.

To my mind, the more significant ideological battle in this war is the one taking place here in America. Those who are for this war and those who are against it are basing their stances on irreconcilable mythologies/ideologies. There seems to be no point of understanding. Each sides see demons and angels, but doesn't agree with the other about which is which.
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