Hola mi Gente,
I am conflicted about having to be inside a jail for eight hours a day, five days a week. If you’re not vigilant, being inside a jail that much can suck the soul out of you…
The Awakened Warrior
Nothing in life is to be feared; it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.
— Marie Curie
I sold my son on education using the archetype of the Scholar-Warrior. After watching an old Bruce Lee movie, he wanted to learn the martial arts. Having studied Lee’s original art, Wing Chun, myself, I made a pact with him. We would both study with a master if he took the oath of the Scholar-Warrior. Of course, I made the whole thing up. LOL
Actually, there are precedents for the oath of the Scholar-Warrior. Throughout history and across many cultures, scholar-warriors weren’t just fighters; they were often learned men and women who were versed in a wide range of disciplines. They were familiar with poetry and the healing arts, for example. They were protectors not destroyers.
We live in a different age, of course, but I would submit that the times we live in are screaming for more Scholar-Warriors to come forth. We cannot count on our leaders and government to be brave on our behalf; they are beholden to legal fictions (aka Corporations) endowed with the rights of personage. I would say that a failure of courage all around is at the root of most our problems today. Doing the right thing is a reward itself. Scholar-Warriors do not look for credit…
The word courage comes from the French coeur, meaning “heart.” Courage is a power that comes from the integration of the heart and brain. Brave, on the other hand, comes from the word for barbarians and was used by the Romans to describe the daring of the “wild people.”
For me, courage is the willingness to embrace challenge. Courage isn’t a single trait so much as a combination of a range of qualities: willingness, persistence, intent, valor. Real courage faces reality head on and when change is called for, accepts the need. It also calls for intelligence in that it calculates whether the means justifies the ends.
The irony is that seemingly unremarkable individuals commit some of the most courageous acts. Julia Butterfly Hill was only twenty-three when she climbed 180 feet into an ancient redwood. She lived in the tree for two years, saving it from destruction and in the process inspiring a generation of environmental activists.
I tried to teach my son that within each of us there lies a sleeping scholar-warrior and that part of our life’s purpose is to awaken that warrior. Sometimes it takes an extreme situation for the inner warrior to emerge. Many of the heroes we celebrate were initially reluctant everyday people taken by surprise.
I had a friend, Freddie (who has since passed away), who with no thought to his own safety acted on a situation. It was late at night and he was on his way to the corner bodega when he came upon a rape in progress. Without hesitation he tried to save the young woman. The cowards turned on him, beating him so badly that, among other serious injuries, they broke his eye socket, causing him to lose sight in that eye. Freddie was one of the funniest people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and when asked, he said he wasn’t a hero. For him, he was just doing what needed to be done.
I don’t consider myself a hero. I am just a son of the human species who was taught that an injustice to one person is an injustice to all. If I am a scholar-warrior at all, I am a warrior for Truth.
Today, we’re at the political mercy of a relatively small group of bullies. This is how I view most of what goes under both political parties in America today. Much of what they do is based in fear and loathing. A woman once spit at me because she didn’t see me as a human being but as a receptacle for everything she hated. To her I was a thing; I was the “other.” Her fear and ignorance compelled her to see me as a scapegoat for all her frustrations. Bullies bully because they are rarely confronted, growing bolder with time. Push back against a bully, and his or her fear stands exposed. A scholar-warrior can stand up to them.
Lucky Babcock is an example of a spontaneous scholar-warrior. One day she was minding her own business looking out her window when she saw a man throw a woman to the ground and rip her blouse off. Lucky, then sixty-six years old, grabbed her cane and raced down two flights of iron stairs. “I felt like I was flying. I put my hands on the rails and just threw myself down four steps at a time.” She used her cane as a club and drove the man off.
Compassion is a powerful motivator. Scholar-warriors develop a thirst for compassion. The compassionate are the true protectors of the earth, moved enough to take a principled stand to wage war against injustice.
A newspaper editor in Uruguay who agreed to a duel with an irate police inspector announced he would turn up without a weapon. He was challenged after his newspaper reported the officer was involved in transporting contraband. “I am not going to bear arms against another human being,” he stated. He stood convention on its head and as a result, he gained the support of the press, many politicians, and much of the public. The exposure resulted in a power shift that saw a new party formed and a new president elected.
I could tell the stories of countless reluctant scholar-warriors who almost never get any coverage, but they all seem to share the same quality of people who simply did what needed to be done.
If everybody who cared actually participated, the world would change. But we can’t count on other people — only ourselves. If we each do our part, who knows? But if we don’t, I think we know what will happen — it’s happening now. I’ll tell you today what I tried to teach my son not too long ago. The task of the scholar-warrior is to persist in the face of the greatest opposition. Even if our efforts turn out to be for nothing at one level, our actions still create ripples of effect. Courage isn’t risking ourselves for what we believe in, my friends. Courage is letting go of the belief that there’s something to risk.
My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…