The Final Battle Cry
I hear you my warrior-friend: I’m tired of the fight, too.
It looks like they’re winning, anyway. And besides, why do I want to win? To keep on living? I could just drop my weapons and my guard and go back home. Why should I be afraid to die with the cause?
What would I do with eternity, anyway?
I’d probably end up like an Anne Rice vampire – elegant, dark, somewhat twisted from the experience, playing with humans for sport, and hording riches like it matters. Come to think of it, that sounds oddly familiar.
That thought flickers at my mind like a candle’s light over a map. Where are we again? What are fighting for? But the candle goes out and the thought loses itself in a tidal wave of exhaustion.
I scan the battlefield once more and think about home. I love my family. I want them to be happy. I’m tired of struggling just to raise them, to support them. I’m tired of hearing that other people have it worse. I’m tired of hearing that other people have it better. I realize suddenly that I have been taught dirty words for dangerous thoughts like these.
I look to my side and see that same look on your face. I realize with a pain that you’re tired, too. We are exhausted with a battle that stretches all the way into the mind. I look around and see a field of tired faces – the faces of people who aren’t sure what to believe any more. We look like zombies, pale and dead-eyed in the light of our own thoughtful distractions. We can’t quite remember – what is it we are fighting for? Is there even a point to all this?
I look across the field and see the odds stacked against us. Even a casual glance says we’re outnumbered. I don’t need to count the forces. I’m afraid to count the bodies. It hits me that we might be the next to fall. This might be our last fight, our last day.
Then again, I think as I wipe a trickle of nervous sweat from my brow, every day could be our last day.
The thought reminds me of a question I keep asking myself: why can’t we live in a world that is more caring, more concerned and loving? Babies and children suffer, women are raped, men are brutalized. Why? How does this happen all around me all the time? How is this possible when I want a world that is caring and understanding, progressive and productive, responsible and supportive? What am I doing wrong? What can I do right? Do I stand by and let this happen, hoping it will never happen to me and my family? Should I care that it happens to others? Is it true that life is just a game of luck and a twist of fate? Is that what explains why some people have so much comfort and others have so much suffering? Or is that we’re all suffering in our own ways? And is that natural?
I wipe my brow again, this time with the hand that holds my battle axe. As my muscles come to life I speak determination into myself: I won’t tolerate this any longer. I won’t allow so many channels to misery in my world. I consider for a minute that this might have been the greatest gift of all – to feel a taste of suffering so that I will know that it cannot be allowed to continue for myself or others. I will fight for a better world and no one can stop me.
Breathing in, I take a dose of cold morning air into my lungs. The inhale sends an icy reminder: winter and death. Yes, those still exist. Discomfort still exists and as long as it does, so too will suffering. I remember Buddhist teachings – accept that life is suffering. Yes, childbirth, death, disease – those will cause suffering. I think back to Hurricane Patricia. I think of how many people, animals, children suffered in its path.
Then I think back to the ISIS refugees, to Malala Yousafzai, to the gang-raped Indian girls, to victims of every day violence, to abused children and animals, to the millions of people who face true, life-shattering, mind-numbing, torturous suffering at the ambitious and unfeeling hands of other humans.
There are fates worse than death. But not all suffering should be treated equal nor should they be accepted as reality. I would hope the Buddhists would agree - I cannot pretend to be blind and I will not continue to be unenlightened. There are creatures - humans, animals, the earth itself - that suffer needlessly because of selfish and cruel motivations.
I think back to my family again – my children, my husband, my parents – and to the family yet to come – descendants that could stretch into centuries or even millennia of time. I don’t want them to live fates worse than death because of an uncaring world.
No – I will face this and I will fight it because I believe something better is possible, even if not in my lifetime. Our thoughts can spread like a virus or a movement.
I think about all the people who aren’t here fighting on this field because they’re fighting their own battle for survival in another place. They’re fighting to stay alive, to hold on to their families. Some of them have already died. Some of them are dying now.
But not me. I’m not done yet. I don’t know what death is exactly, but it hasn’t stopped me yet and it’s not stopping me right now. Maybe first I should understand life. Maybe this battle will help.
The sun’s rays shine spotlights before me, dotting the battlefield in scattered, highlighted scenes of nature. I take a moment to enjoy the goldgreen of the grass in the morning light. I watch a butterfly flutter between the shades of dark and light. Yes, I am grateful for what I have. I am grateful that I can take a minute before this battle to enjoy nature’s gifts. I am grateful for the love and hope in my life. I am even grateful for my suffering because it has taught me to open my eyes and to care.
My mind bursts into a silent, quick laugh as I see myself like a child at recess – fighting to regain control of the playground. No bulleez allowd.
Determination flares through my muscles in a conscious blast of energy. As long as I’m alive, I will fight for my happiness and yours. I fight for love, for beauty, for understanding, and for the innate strength and wisdom of the human spirit. I won’t stop because I can’t stop.
I turn to you - my axe in hand, my face painted with dirt, and my battle cry ready in my throat. I can see you deep in the same thought. Your eyes turn to me and with a determined sneer I let them reflect what I was thinking:
We can win.