An ex-Army Ranger once told me:
“You’re a wartime general in a peacetime army.”
I feel less like a general and more like a lower-ranking soldier, but his statement resonates with me. It’s true: I feel like a highly-trained commando who did a few tours, got wounded in combat, and is now recovering back at home. All those fighting skills we learned, what use are they in civilian life? And once we got used to the risk, the adventure, the excitement, the danger, the importance, the effectiveness, the sense of purpose, the camaraderie, the heroism, the misery, the victory, even the death…life in peacetime seems flat, dull, monotonous, monochromatic. We have a sense that it shouldn’t, but it does.
War is about fighting a threat to life. As such, it is just as integral to the way this cosmos functions as peacetime is. Life implies war because there are many forms of life competing for resources. Life grows indiscriminately, slowing down only when it encounters obstacles. It responds to adversity with flight-fight-or-freeze. It may deal with obstacles by shifting (moving its growth to another location), fighting (intensifying its energies until the obstacle is overcome), or waning and dying (investing its energies elsewhere).
Although in many ways I was conditioned to respond to threats by fleeing or freezing, the warrior spirit is still alive in me. I know because I feel it burning. I want to fight. I want to fight for freedom. I want to invest my greatest abilities and lay down my life for Life itself. I want to join the fray, enter the ring, get called up. I want to be where the action is, on the front line, behind enemy lines, wherever the risk and danger is.
America has been a great nation in many ways. It has been a land of freedom and opportunity for lots of people (but of course not all). I respect those who fought and continue to fight to protect this nation, and I’m grateful to them for their sacrifices. I have benefited in innumerable ways from being born in America. And yet I myself could never fight other human beings simply for America’s sake. Sure, Americans have as much right to defend their way of life and place of life as any other nation, but I think that war between nations arises from a limited perspective in which one’s nation is one’s only ‘real world’ and one’s compatriots the only ‘real people’ – a form of tribalism. The reason I couldn’t kill another human being for America’s sake is that I don’t believe that America as a nation or an American as a person has any more right to live than any other nation or person. I believe all people, regardless of ethnicity or nationality, have the divine right to life, love, liberty, and the pursuit of more life, love, and liberty.
Likewise, Christianity has been a great religion in many ways. It has promoted charities, liberties, and justices of many kinds. It has increased Life’s freedom to live. Growing up in a non-resistant sect of Christianity (Mennonitism), I never seriously considered fighting for my home country, but I certainly channeled the warrior spirit into fighting for my home religion. I became a spiritual commando, an elite missionary warrior sent abroad to fight the forces of evil. I was commissioned and sent to enlarge the “kingdom of God” by translating its constitution and law code and convincing the natives to adopt them. It was important to convert people to Christianity, not only to save their souls, but also to combat the ever-growing influence of our religious ‘enemies’: the Muslims, the Eastern religionists, the New-Agers, the Neo-Pagans, the atheists, the agnostics, and now the ‘nones’. Like I said, I did a few tours in that army, in that fight. But I can’t do that any more. Christianity’s a legitimate religion, and if someone wants to convert to it from another faith, good for them. But I don’t think Christianity has the divine right to exist any more than any other faith, and I don’t think any Christian has the right to attack or ‘kill’ the ‘foreign’ faith of another person. I now believe that all religions and their adherents should have the right to thrive and evolve in their unique contexts, to maximize their inherent qualities and assets and minimize their inherent flaws and liabilities.
The war I want to fight is not against another species, or nation, or religion – for all animals, countries, and faiths are expressions of Life’s creativity. No, the war I want to fight will have to be on behalf of Life itself and all its multitudinous manifestations.
Even if an animal like Homo sapiens sapiens should attain an unprecedented level of freedom, consciousness, and power, it should – in my opinion – use those gifts not only for its own benefit but also for the benefit of all species of biological life.
Even if a civilization like that of the West should attain an unprecedented level of freedom, consciousness, and power, it should use those gifts not only for its own benefit but also for the benefit of all species of sociopolitical life.
Even if a religion like Christianity should attain an unprecedented level of freedom, consciousness, and power, it should use those gifts not only for its own benefit but also for the benefit of all species of spiritual life.
Let’s fight a war for Life itself in all its manifold forms. Let’s stop pitting humanity against the animals, one tribe or nation against the others, one faith or philosophy against the others. All ‘creatures’ – whether biological or cultural – are equally deserving of love, care, protection, and freedom, so they can live up to their innate evolutionary potential that is their birthright by virtue of being the progeny of a Living Cosmos.