I was lucky enough to have a chance to see the Anglo-Saxon Hoard that was discovered few years ago in a field in Staffordshire, England. It was magnificent. More than two hundred of the exquisitely crafted pieces of gold and garnet treasure had decorated the hilts of swords. This was proof of how high the tools of war – and the prowess of the men who wielded them – were valued. I imagined how they would have glittered in barbaric splendor, riding together, raising their weapons with the fire of gold and the blood-red garnets shining on them. I thought of those warriors, with their pride and their mastery of battle. But, I thought of all the death and destruction those weapons represented, the culture of battle and conquest that required such symbols of power and wondered if I really understood. If I could ever understand.
There is something in us that seeks out and responds to the extremes of conflict. We appreciate and reward those who push themselves farther than can be believed – who hone themselves into objects of power. They first fight against their own perceived limits, and then set themselves to conquer the limits the world sets before them. Those that succeed become lords of men, hallowed, revered, adulated.
This, I think, is the spirit of the warrior – the one who comes again and again to the wall of failure and does not surrender to it. This is the spirit of battle that I think all humans should experience if they truly wish to understand themselves. We can never know who we are until we surpass it, look back and *see* what we were, measure how far we’ve come, wonder at how much farther we have to go. It *is* a struggle – hard, exhausting, painful. To fight against who we are, to take the next step towards who we may become, to weep with the impossibility of it, again and again. And yet to keep going despite it all.
That is the way of the warrior. That much of it I believe I understand.
But there is something missing. All that beautiful treasure and the skill, power, and prowess it represented, had been carelessly stripped off those weapons of war, stuffed in a hole in the ground, and forgotten for 1,300 years. The incredible craftsmen who made it, and those mighty warriors who earned the right to carry it – completely unknown and utterly forgotten. Perhaps that is simply the way of time – to roll like a wheel over the world, obliterating what was to make room for what will be. But how are we to know ourselves in the wake of such destruction? Must we endure the repetition of slash-and-burn tactics, that leaves a vast mess and shattered lives to clean up before any sort of painstaking progress can be begun again? Before artists and craftsmen have the peace and luxury to create their masterpieces that may once again be carried into a war that can only have one ending? Is that the only wheel we will ever know?
I believe in the need to battle against our own limits, to fight against the pull of inertia and despair. But I suspect there is more we need to know than that. Along with the art of war, we need to understand the art of surrender. Not of giving up out of frustration, or giving in to weakness and self-pity, but surrendering to that which we cannot control. Accepting that we are not all-powerful and all-knowing. Relinquishing our deeply cherished hope that we are *enough*.
We are not enough, and all the fighting in the world will never make us so. Only by giving up who we are and what we think we want, will we open ourselves to everything else that is possible. *We* are not enough, but the universe is. Once we surrender to that, all the battling will seem as nothing.
War is too costly to glorify. Honor and courage are too valuable to waste on a battlefield steeped in blood and hatred. There are better ways to wage war, and more important things to fight for.