There is certainly no shortage of causes for sleepless nights in today’s world; and no shortage of reasons for developing our own hardiness of spirit and of vision either. And for a fellow who desires to write about resilience… about wild resiliency in particular, as most simply—our love of life, well, there are no shortages of material. What I find myself struggling with at 3:30 AM on this morning is how to briefly integrate a couple of recent news items that are scratching around in the back of my brain.
Take this recent headline from the Nation: The Pentagon Sends Messengers of Apocalypse to Convert Soldiers in Iraq.
The subheading on this Max Blumenthal story reads: “With the Pentagon’s blessings and assistance, apocalyptic evangelists are proselytizing US troops in Iraq.” It then continues:
Actor Stephen Baldwin, the youngest member of the famous Baldwin brothers, is no longer playing Pauly Shore’s sidekick in comedy masterpieces like Biodome. He has a much more serious calling these days.
Baldwin became a right-wing, born-again Christian after the 9/11 attacks, and now is the star of Operation Straight Up (OSU), an evangelical entertainment troupe that actively proselytizes among active-duty members of the US military. As an official arm of the Defense Department’s America Supports You program, OSU plans to mail copies of the controversial apocalyptic video game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces to soldiers serving in Iraq …
But behind OSU’s anodyne promises of wholesome fun for military families, the organization promotes an apocalyptic brand of evangelical Christianity to active duty US soldiers serving in Muslim-dominated regions of the Middle East. Displayed prominently on the “What We Believe” section of OSU’s website is a passage from the Book of Revelations (Revelation 19:20; 20:10-15) that has become the bedrock of the Christian right’s End Times theology: “The devil and his angels, the beast and the false prophet, and whosoever is not found written in the Book of Life, shall be consigned to everlasting punishment in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”…
Left Behind videogame is a real-time strategy game that makes players commanders of a virtual evangelical army in a post-apocalyptic landscape that looks strikingly like New York City after 9/11. With tanks, helicopters and a fearsome arsenal of automatic weapons at their disposal, Left Behind players wage a violent war against United Nations-like peacekeepers who, according to LaHaye’s interpretation of Revelation, represent the armies of the Antichrist. Each time a Left Behind player kills a UN soldier, their virtual character exclaims, “Praise the Lord!” To win the game, players must kill or convert all the non-believers left behind after the rapture. They also have the option of reversing roles and commanding the forces of the Antichrist. (Video preview here).
I woke up with this story disturbing me and thinking of my recent post on Life’s Two Fiery Questions, which led me to looking for this story, original source unknown by me.
A Native American grandfather was talking to his grandson about how he felt about a tragedy. He said, “I feel as if I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is the vengeful, angry, violent one. The other wolf is the loving, compassionate one.”
The grandson asked him, “Which wolf will win the fight in your heart?”
The grandfather answered, “The one I feed.”
Next to this Two Wolves story in my disorganized quote collection is the one below from Wilhem Reich.
It is high time for the living to get tough, for toughness is indispensable in the struggle to safeguard and develop the life-force; this will not detract from their goodness, as long as they stand courageously by the truth. There is ground for hope in the fact that among millions of decent, hard-working people there are only a few plague-ridden individuals, who do untold harm by appealing to the dark, dangerous drives of the armored average man and mobilizing him for political murder. There is but one antidote to the average man’s predisposition to plague: his own feeling for true life.
The life-force does not seek power but demands only to play its full and acknowledged part in human affairs.
Oh but this web between our wildness and our domestication is a tangled one. And now I’ve just discovered the OSU tour (Operation Stright Up) is sponsoring, among their New Initiatives, something they call “Tough Man Meetings,” They are a kind of “Boot Camp for the Soul” designed to “…keep the fires burning long after we’ve gone.”
Ironic isn’t it, this orientation toward power and fear in the name of Life. Also among their New Initiatives is “Launching a Task Force” to increase awareness of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
Many believe that the number of our troops that will face PTSD in the near future will far exceed what was experienced in Vietnam.
What will it take for us to invite our own shadows into the circle of our reverence, to learn that we are our own worst enemy in Life and in this war against terrorism? What will it take for us to learn that we strengthen fundamentalism of any kind when we attack or provoke it, the way you make wasps furious when you hit their nest with a stick?
At the same time, how do we respect and marginalize those who believe the rapture is a viable and desired exit strategy? How do we learn to have the conversations that help us discern the difference between Our Ground of Being… and the story we tell about it—The Power of our Arrival?
What does it mean to orient toward life in times such as ours, to be biotropic, as I reference this inner turning that changes our outer living?
What does it mean “for the living to get tough, for toughness is indispensable in the struggle to safeguard and develop the life-force,” as Wilhem Reich says? Or for, as Lao Tzu says, to be a disciple of life and orient toward softness and suppleness?
That would seem to me, in this dark hour of my night, to be the cultivation of real hardiness and toughness and flexibility and creativity of spirit and vision: this intentional and focused orienting toward softness and suppleness of perception and of heart. That is the hard stuff, the Boot Camp for the Soul.
Ah, but that will require of me the radical affirmation of Joy as the wolf I will feed; it is a feeding of my own feeling for Reich’s “true life;” it will be, as mythologist Joseph Campbell advised, to follow our bliss.