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The Warrior Spirit

"Is it possible for a warrior ethic to play a positive role in the cause of world peace?"

     The question was raised at Harmony House following our presentation on Chivalry-Now. The warrior connection of chivalry obviously provided a stumbling block for the woman who asked, and perhaps others as well.
     The cultural roots of chivalry as a warrior tradition cannot be denied. In fact, this is one of the reasons why it resonates so powerfully among men, even today. And women too. It represents the warrior spirit, which always maintained an honorable place in human culture—perhaps less so today. Nowadays, we see quite clearly the terrible results of war, the misery it brings, the threat it carries to all the world. Chivalry-Now recognizes this undeniable truth.
     But there is more to the warrior spirit than engaging in battle. There are aspects that provide both inner and outer dimensions to the overall human spirit that would otherwise leave us incomplete. While our just longing for peace and harmony might prompt us to reject anything associated with war, we do so only at our peril.
     Medieval chivalry represented a turning point in our concept of the warrior, at least in Western culture. Although warriors were always valued as protectors of society, chivalry added new dimensions of responsibility and civility. The warrior tradition became more civilized, although the final goal was never really achieved during those difficult times.
     Why is this important? Because the warrior spirit provides a number of qualities that are extremely valuable to our overall humanity. Today's sensibilities might not recognize this at first, so repulsed we are with war and killing and brutality. This is understandable. Warlike tendencies have always been a curse on humanity. The warrior spirit, however, is something different.
     What do I mean by warrior spirit?

  • It is an intensity of life, filled with energy and a readiness to act when needed.
  • A desire to perfect oneself for the benefit of others.
  • An inner determination to protect one's family, neighborhood, nation and world.
  • Fairness, and the sanity to do what is right and good.
  • Doing one's best in everything.
  • Being true to oneself.
  • Honesty. Loyalty. Integrity.
  • Willingness to stand up for what is right, even when everyone is against you.
  • Idealism coupled with realism.
  • A sense of duty greater than one's selfish needs.

While these attributes do contribute to the mindset of a good soldier, they are valuable qualities that everyone can benefit from. Indeed, we are less for the want of them.
     Perhaps the Chinese illustrate this best in their symbol of tai chi, or the Grand Ultimate. We've all seen it. A circle divided by an "S" shaped curve, one side black, the other white, with small circles of the opposite colors on each side. It is also known as yin/yang. Yin, the dark side, representing female qualities, and yang, the light side, representing the masculine. In our Western minds, we tend to look at this symbol as representing two opposite energies, but it is more than that. It is a balance of two energies as one, each containing qualities of the other. A predominance of yin or a predominance of yang throws everything off balance.
     Discarding the warrior spirit in the name of peace throws the human spirit out of balance as well. The good and even profound qualities of the warrior spirit need to be redirected from war for their true value to be understood and appreciated.
     And this is what Chivalry-Now is all about. We recognize the intrinsic value of well-directed masculine ideals to the overall balance of human energies. They can add tremendously to the peace movement by completing its scope of reference. In fact, it transforms a potential opponent into a powerful ally.
     Contending against the warrior spirit is self-defeating. It produces contention, which is the opposite of peace.
     Ignoring the warrior spirit limits the potential of the peace movement, for it continues the imbalance caused by separation.
     Embracing the warrior spirit, and channeling it in positive directions, restores the balance of life. It completes the all-inclusive circle of our best intent.
     The bible tells us there is a time for everything. Despite our strong desire for peace and harmonious relations, we only have to look at what's happening in the world to know that there is a time and place for resistance, for self-defense, for standing up strongly for what is right, for loudly saying no to the commercialism that continually overwhelms us.
     Think of the risks and confrontations incurred by Gandhi, by Martin Luther King, and by Jesus. Each of these men exhibited a wonderful balance of male/female qualities, passive and aggressive, that contributed to the healing of the world. I see the warrior spirit in each of these men, long recognized as men of peace.
     Women of the suffrage movement exhibited this as well. Although history fails to record it, the tenacity and dedication of women to create a better world was always present in the very nature of women, just as it is today.
     Men and women, masculine and feminine, we are all partners in life, each bringing our individual qualities to the table, our strengths, our skills, our understanding.
     The intent of Chivalry-Now is to resurrect the best of masculine qualities, and guide them into harmony with the feminine. Not to eliminate them for past sins. That would not only perpetuate the imbalance, it would deprive us all of something beautiful and well-meaning.
     The warrior spirit does not have to be identified with war. No one hates war as much as the soldier who has to live it. A proper soldier is not given to a sadistic instinct to maim or kill. Their instincts come from loyalty, love of neighbor and country, a desire to protect and safeguard. These are positive, spiritual qualities that touch upon every aspect of a person's life. Jesus recognized this when he said "No greater love is this, that a man sacrifice his life for another."
     There are exceptions, of course. There are heartless killers who use violence to the most terrible extremes. They represent the warrior spirit gone completely bad, energies misdirected in a manner that kills the warrior spirit and replaces it with insanity.
     Back in 2005, I did some technical writing for the government. During that time, I worked with people at the Coast Guard's Research and Development Center at Avery Point. I was thoroughly impressed by the quality of purpose of the people there, both men and women. For the most part, they put their egos behind them, exhibiting all the focus, discipline and cooperation that Chivalry-Now could ever hope to produce.
     The Coast Guard is a military institution. It's purpose is to protect our country, not through military ventures around the world, but by responding to threats of terrorism, natural disaster, narcotics trade, and illegal immigration. They are the only governmental agency that responded to Hurricane Katrina flawlessly, and then refused to take credit for it. They just accomplished their mission as they always do, rescuing people relentlessly until the job was done.
     Here I found the warrior tradition at its finest: men and women who were highly trained, committed to their purpose, and working cooperatively for the greater good. Courtesy was everywhere, at all times. To me, they best exemplified the warrior spirit, although they had nothing to do with killing or with war.
     What do we have when we discard those energies, or rob them of their purpose? A safer world? Universal peace? A new Eden? Or a soulless passivity that scarcely merits the paradise it hopes to find?
     The warrior spirit is a centered consciousness that is open to the world. It is a spirit of honor that does its best to avoid what is bad or hurtful. It intimately knows the benefits of sacrifice, and does its best to avoid gossip.
     I believe that the warrior spirit is in us all, to a greater or lesser extent. It can be used to help rid the world of sexism, racism, and the ethnocentricity that tries to impose its will on other nations. It can eliminate the contentious lack of civility that is now commonplace, while encouraging voices to speak up for what is right.
    
And that's what Chivalry-Now is all about.

 

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