Sunday, May 30, 2010

Battles of Heart and Mind

Memorial Day is more than just the beginning of the Summer tourist season and a great excuse for an extended weekend, beer, and barbecuing. It is a day meant to commemorate those who have died in service for this country—or rather, those who have died for the cause of liberty. I agree that there are many things wrong with our world today, especially politically speaking, but if the idea of memorializing veterans fills you with pessimism as to the purpose of their deaths, let me remind you that there were days of glory once.

To be sure, the masses at any given moment have always been largely a selfish group, consumed with their present plight and unable to see clearly the glorious future won of present suffering and sacrifice. However, every era of human civilization has its cast of heroes, who shape the course of history. Whether they are divinely guided or whether their own reason enables them to take the longview, may well be a question that is not answerable. One thing is certain though, through the actions of heroes, the human race is carried to higher levels.

Certainly, the veterans of physical warfare, remembered at Arlington National Cemetery and other places, are the most obvious heroes to memorialize. However, there are many more unsung heroes: those both of ages and battles past, and of present battles fought in everyday life. I'm talking about the battles of heart and mind. Many people live in the grip of ignorance and fear. Many more live with a knowledge base that keeps them afraid. To do anything of significance, fear must be overcome.

This is mankind's greatest battle. It is only most obvious and most unavoidable in physical warfare, but it is no less present in the mind of a young professional who conceives of a brilliant idea to change his industry. In the mind of an artist, fear can stop the very buds of imagination like an unexpected freeze. Whenever something significant comes to light, it always brings change. Change is uncertain, change can be bloody.

However, physical wars are rarely (if ever) started suddenly in a time of peace, however the papers may read. Wars are—with no exception I can think of—the result of individuals delaying confrontation and change. Physical wars are the inevitable results of political turmoil and dogmatic stubbornness, which is allowed to go unresolved. Free thinkers know it doesn't stop there, however. These problems aren't quarks of political and social systems (though they might exacerbate the situation), instead they are flaws in individual character.

When people of like minds come together, they must be careful not to bring like flaws. If they do, the flaw becomes compounded into a significant blind spot. These blind spots, in turn, cause turmoil which each party in the conflict blames on the other. Therefore, the more groups (political, social, or religious) that are founded on developing individual character, the less flaws will exist in the world. Less flaws, less turmoil—more peace.

On Memorial Day, let us also remember the brave souls fighting to do what is right—no matter how small the act. There are different stumbling blocks for different people. We each wage daily wars against our personal vices—something which goes unsung. I know you're fighting that battle, and I appreciate your efforts.

Never give up the good fight.
1776 - An intensely interesting account of American history, lush with quotations from actually letters written by the people who where there—Generals and privates, alike. It begins in 1775 with the rebels preparing for a siege on British-controlled Boston, continues through the Declaration, and ends after Washington's famed crossing of the Delaware River.
The Anatomy of Peace - This is a remarkable book which brings to light the deepest issue behind all human conflict: the heart at war. When our "way of being" toward others is not founded on a heart at peace, we create conflict in all of our relationships. The challenge is accepting that we are to blame for many of our problems, but we also hold the solution.

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