Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Call of Duty

by John Boodhansingh of Zero Mindfulness

Updated 3/4/21: [“Ignorance” section completely rewritten and “Fearlessness” section partially rewritten.]



When we think of people such as firefighters, police officers, soldiers, and so on, we often think of characteristics such as “bravery” and “courage.”

While at times these may be accurate descriptions, I’m going to suggest that many times they’re not.

The reason for this is that the outward behaviors of those who are brave and courageous can appear strikingly similar to the behaviors of people who are prideful, wanting, ignorant, fearless, and/or supernaturally fearless.

Pride

It seems that pride has two very different connotations, so much so that we probably shouldn’t be using the same word for both traits.

Negatively, pride can be understood as arrogance. As in, I’m better than you because I’m bigger, better, faster, smarter, stronger, etc. This is a problem since it’s self- and/or exclusive-group-centered as well as being very dualistic and unhealthily competition-oriented.

Positively, I see nothing wrong with a general sense of pride. There’s nothing wrong with saying, for example, I built this, and I feel good about my work.

Where pride applies to the point of this article is when it’s negatively-oriented; when it’s focused in a “this is who I am/we are” mentality that’s underlined with needs to be good enough, to prove one’s worth, to validate one’s self as relevant.

When someone is prideful, and especially when embedded deeply, there is an internal fog such that there is a loss of perceptual acuity as to what they are truly experiencing. In some cases, this could be described as a “Tough Guy Syndrome”—the prideful one becomes lost in needing to be a certain way and may go so far as to put their life on the line in attempt to get what they want.

Wanting

Wanting is similar to pride in that it, too, is underscored by a need to be good enough, to prove one’s worth, to validate one’s self as relevant.

Where wanting differs from pride is in whom the object of wanting is sought: pride is more often found in a non-familial group setting while wanting is more common to family.

For example: A man enters the police force and later has a son. This son, seeking his father’s love and approval, also enters the police force. Later he has a son of his own. This son/grandson, on seeing his father’s behavior and how he seemingly receives love and approval from his own father, comes to believe that if he joins the police force then he will also gain his father’s love and approval.

None of them ever realize, if in fact it’s true, that their fathers will love and approve of them exactly as they are regardless of whether they join the force or not. Nor does it occur to them, if their fathers do deny love and approval, that they don’t need the love and approval of their fathers for survival, to be happy, or any such thing. Yes, it would be nice, preferable, etc., but it’s not a requirement; if their hurt is resolved within, then they can live peacefully whether the fatherly love and approval is there or not.

Whatever the case, son after son willingly become police officers. People see them as “brave” or “fearless,” but truly, they’re doing it for love and approval. They see potential self-sacrifice as the ultimate price for the ultimate prize: father’s love and approval.

This wanting-based behavior is likely more prevalent in families carrying a “manliness” mentality as well as in families with multiple siblings due to sibling rivalry.

Ignorance

When I was in high school, I had the intention of joining the Marines. Enlistment often comes after graduation, but because I’d screwed up my wrist a few years earlier, I figured I’d first  go to college and then join, with the assumption that my wrist would be healed by then.

In my first year of college, which was just a few years after 9/11 and the War on Terror had begun, I met a guy who’d recently gotten out of the army. We were talking on the way to class one day, and he, not approving of the war, said something to me like, “War sucks, man. You take it so lightly now. But are you going to be smiling like that when you get into a firefight and take a hot one in the ass?” Ignorant and (excessively) naive me just laughed off his comment. That’s where the conversation ended since we’d arrived at class.

Although I most certainly should have, I’d never thought seriously about the guy’s comment. I’d never thought seriously about any of that stuff. I’d spent most of my life quite emotionally detached and numb. Furthermore, no one close to me had ever died or been severely injured, so I had no concept for the reality of that type of struggle or death. And I’d long played violent, gory shoot-em-up games, such as Doom and Wolfenstein, wherein health was a medi-pack away, and life and mistakes could instantly be restored from a previous save state—and, of course, IDDQD and IDKFA (…the god-mode and all-weapons-ammo-and-keys cheat codes for Doom… obviously…). Surely, a situation such as the one that guy suggested couldn’t happen to me…

A couple years later, a friend who was in the Marines told me how on his day of graduation from boot camp, when they were being handed their Marine Corp pins, he and others had this idea like, When do we become Marines? Aren’t we supposed to feel different? Shouldn’t this award bring an a-ha kind of moment, with a flood of self-confidence and fearlessness?

My friend soon realized that the completion of basic training and the bestowal of an award don’t mean much of anything to the extent that internal growth and self-awareness must necessarily come from within.

I’m about 99.8% positive that if I’d have gone through basic I would have been waiting for that a-ha moment for years. I was way too fearful and way too ignorant. I was way too caught up in my naive ideas about “how life is.”

I wonder how many other people are in a similar boat, one crafted of fear and painted over in ignorance, perhaps following an imagined call of duty with the belief that life is daisies and in hopes that one day some external source will hand them some kind of self-realization…

Fearlessness

Barring issues of pride, wanting, and ignorance which mask fear, sometimes fear simply has no place. In these situations, we can’t exactly then call certain actions “brave.”

If someone were afraid to leave their house, it might be said that they’re “brave” just for opening their front door. Yet to the billions of people who open their front doors thousands of times each year as they step freely outside, both bravery and fear are irrelevant.

When I was in high school, my grandfathers, both of whom had been in the military, would periodically ask me if I’d ever thought of joining. I’d always given them a most definite no.

Then when I was about 17, I was preparing flags for a flag retirement ceremony for Boy Scouts when the most inexplicable of things happened. Completely out of the blue, I felt what I can only describe as an energetic weight lifting out from within my shoulders, as though an invisible body were leaving my body. I immediately had the thought, I’m going to join the Marines.

In a flash, some heavy fear energy I’d been carrying, but had been completely unknown to me, departed from my body and resulted in a radical shift in my perception.

As it turned out, I never ended up in the Marines, most notably because I’d really screwed up my wrist when playing drums and it never healed.

If I’d have gone into the Marines, I’d still have had an enormous number of fears that I’d have had to deal with; internally, I was a very weak person. However, in light of this fear-energy release that I’d had, it seems to me that I’d still have been able to do what many others could not. And for those things, although people might have called them “brave” or “valiant,” they might not have been that way at all—to whatever extent, just an absence of fear.

(Notice: I’d immediately decided to join the Marines: “The few. The proud.” Out of the frying pan and into the fire: a strong fear departs and reveals a new layer of false ego: pride. If I’m going to do it, I have to be the best.)

Supernatural Fearlessness

On p.120 of the novel Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War, Mark Bowden writes:
He would think about this a lot later, and the best he could explain it was, his own life no longer mattered. All that did matter were his buddies, his brothers, that they not get hurt, that they not get killed. These men around him, some of whom he had only known for months, were more important to him than life itself. It was like when Telscher ran out on the road to pull Joyce back in. Carlson understood that now, and it was heroic, but it also wasn’t heroic. At a certain level he knew Telscher had made no choice, just as he was not choosing to be unafraid. It had just happened to him, like he had passed through some barrier. He had to keep fighting, because the other guys needed him.
This passage from Black Hawk Down so clearly expresses another alternate reason for action: supernatural fearlessness. As much as the actions described may appear “brave,” such a quality may not play any role, or a minimal role at best. For there is something innate to humans that spontaneously arises from within us that pushes us beyond any ego identity, any fear, any pride, any anything that would hold us back.

This has been shown with everyone from soldiers to average folks. It could be that the wimpiest, weakest kid in the neighborhood is out for a walk when he notices a house on fire. Without thinking, he dashes inside and pulls out a 250lb. woman.

How in the world!? we’d think. But sometimes it just happens. The kid wasn’t otherwise brave by any stretch of the imagination, probably couldn’t do a single pull-up, and probably would have floundered about uselessly had he began thinking before acting. When duty called, a "mere" human showed superhuman ability.

Closing Thoughts

If my house were burning and a firefighter came in and saved me, if a psycho broke into my house and was threatening to kill me and a police officer came in and busted a cap in his ass, if my country were under attack by members of a Luciferian shadow government and the armed forces went in and took them out, make no mistake, I would be most grateful. I acknowledge that, whatever the reason, not everyone is fit for these lines of work.

All the same, I question, and I encourage you to question, especially if you are in the lines of work discussed here, what really is the driving factor(s) of what you do?

Is it truly bravery or courage or valor?

Or could it be pride or wanting or ignorance?

Could it be fearlessness?

Or do you experience supernatural fearlessness, as expressed in the passage from Black Hawk Down, on a recurrent basis?

Whatever the case, my sense is that what we call “bravery” is often something different—potentially very different. If I’m correct, it would therefore benefit everyone for those who see themselves as “brave” to self-inquire as to what that word really means to them.

What really is your call of duty?

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