In my previous post, I talked about the possibility of glory in war. I alluded to this being an inherent reality of human nature. At sometime, I’ll have to delve into the concept of the warrior ethos in more detail. But that’s for another time. War can be glorious, yes, at least in parts. But I’d be remiss if I left it at that. That is certainly not the complete picture, after all.
War is tragic.
This is the more common refrain. It is certainly more in line with our modern zeitgeist. It’s the default setting, it seems, for all education about war. But for all of that, I don’t believe it is fully or deeply understood. For one, I believe that a complete knowledge of war’s tragedy requires an understanding of its glories, as I discussed before. But, like much about being human, attaining true wisdom of this is a process. And here I’ll simply mention that it isn’t necessarily obvious just how horrible it is to lose a child – a victim of war, perhaps, or a still-young participant – until you hold a child of your own. Sure, there is an abstract sadness to the death of children, or young people. I just think the empathy isn’t fully realized until it is learned.
At least not for me.
I was at a funeral for a young child. A girl, less than two years old. It was a cold day in Saskatoon. The funeral parlor was filled with mourners – but Death was undeterred by this solidarity. The anguished mother was as a skeleton herself, her skin translucent with grief. But only now, and having just tucked my young son into his bed, can I truly conceive of that terror.
So it is with death. It’s inevitability never finding a comfortable spot in our minds. War is an occasion to hasten that inevitability. That the ethos of the warrior seeks those occasions is difficult for most people to understand. Maybe it’s Todestrieb. I think it is actually more about life, than death. In any case, the tragedy of war is that it is not conducted by old men, but by the young. And when the young die, whether in glory afield or not, they take with them an incalculable Hope and Joy.
And the world, its light already dimmed, darkens still more.