Saturday, May 25, 2013

I love a man in uniform

Yarrow can be used medicinally to stop the flow of blood from wounds. It always blooms in DC right around Memorial Day. 

I have one tattoo: it's the word Shalom, which means peace. It's a very particular kind of peace, a lasting peace in which everyone is cared for, the hungry are fed, the ill are healed. Shalom is not a ceasefire. It's a word that describes the deepest and most profound ideas of peace. I long for this kind of peace from the bottom of my heart.

That said, I have an intimate relationship with the military. I know living members of the army, navy, air force, coast guard, and national guard. I know many marines, in part because their DC barracks is about 5 blocks from the chateau. Some of these people are clients, some are neighbors, some are friends.

Though the decision to serve is not something I understand - and am incapable of personally - I admire these people tremendously for their courage and valor, for their willingness to adhere to a very strict and restrictive culture and environment in order to perhaps put themselves in situations in which they might be killed, or forced to kill others. I honestly can not imagine a military life. The soldiers I know are very brave, moreso than I can imagine.

Likewise, I have a very intimate relationship with dead soldiers. To be scrupulously honest, I am forced to admit I made friends with the ghosts before becoming acquainted with living troops.

Washington DC is one of the most haunted cities of my experience, not that I've been to that many cities, should say. A rather hefty percentage of DC ghosts are the dead soldiers. They are everywhere.

I have a lot of theories about why there are so many. Some theories revolve around the obvious: Arlington National Cemetery and the Pentagon are within the original diamond of the District, though are now officially part the Commonwealth. I also think that the monuments dedicated to various wars and conflicts draw the ghosts here. I think they're seeking healing, perhaps release. It seems natural that they would gather at the places where they're honored, queued up or just standing around wishing they could still smoke cigarettes as they did before they were killed. The dead soldiers here are always waiting for something to happen.

I honor living and dead soldiers every day of the year, also on Memorial Day weekend, of course. I look forward to walking around Arlington Cemetery tomorrow afternoon. I will pay my respects and listen to the ghosts' stories.

One of the ancient Chinese terra cotta warriors (they visited National Geographic a few years ago) whispered to me, Battle is a confluence of two mighty rivers. There is chaos and destruction! (Yes it's true - I even have intimate relationships with ensouled sculptures of soldiers. My soul connection to the military runs very deep.)

My interpretation of what the terra cotta warrior said is that fighting, warring, is a perhaps unfortunate but inescapable part of nature. We are part of nature, after all, not separate from it, as some people believe. The energy that makes the confluence of mighty rivers chaotic and destructive resides in our human hearts, along with all the other stuff that makes us human. As we enact the sacred dramas of our lives, we must dance every piece of our human nature.

I guess.

I wonder if its possible that we could take in this truth, work with it instead of always denying it, blaming it on the bad guys, I wonder if that would help us alter our approach to wars and warring. Maybe if we accepted ourselves as violent and territorial (as well as artful, loving and good), we would ramp down our love of big, destructive weapons, devise ways to work out this part of our natures without laying waste to landscapes, innocent bystanders and ourselves. We do some of this through sports and games, but it doesn't seem to be enough.

With love and respect - and confusion, too, because I can't imagine it - I honor all who ever were crazy or brave enough to pick up a weapon and walk onto a battlefield. I really do.



Pam said...

I am against war in all forms Reya.
If I had to contribute in previous conscripted theatres of war it would have been as stretcher bearer, though I don't know how a little 5'2 woman would go with that!...probably as a man I meant. I relate more to the Quakers philosophies, in fact the recent destruction of the beautiful mosque at Aleppo (Google the pictures, it's heartbreaking) has made me more determined to fight against the destruction of antiquities, and continue to support and recognize the fall-out, physically and mentally of the effects of war.
Unfortunately by humans making themselves 'king-pin' the perpetrators arrogance is outstanding ie Cambodia's intellectual 'cleansing' -Taliban's denial of education for females and destruction of the 1,700 year old Buddha of Bamiyan statue.
We should be much more than this, but guess the peace-makers have been voicing that in various forms, since heavy clubs hit foes Neanderthal craniums!

Steve Reed said...

I don't understand military service either. In fact, I think there are many ways to serve your country, and it's unfortunate that military service is often the only one that gets publicly acknowledged. (Admittedly it's the most dangerous.)

I think humans DO acknowledge our destructive side. I think most of us are aware of it. How to turn from it, and continue to keep turning from it, is the question! (That's where the eightfold path comes in. :) )

Steve Reed said...

Actually, on rereading my comment, what I really question is the whole notion of "serving your country." What about serving humanity? Or the earth? Now THAT I could buy into.

Reya Mellicker said...

Me, too, Steve.

In exchange for infrastructure (such as it is these days) I think it's OK to serve your country. But by getting killed? What does that serve?

I think we project our human tendency for violence on others. "HE STARTED IT!" The feud between the families becomes a battle between the clans becomes a world war.

Hey, we wouldn't be sending drones out to kill people except those people are BAD and VIOLENT. There's always a bad guy.

I dream of shalom.

Reya Mellicker said...

Pam I think the view of Neanderthals has shifted - they were really almost like us in every way, not as dumb or brutal as we used to say. We even project our violence on extinct species!

We wouldn't be so violent if dinosaurs had not walked the earth!