July 12, 2006

Mythologies of War and Peace

Posted in literature, martial arts, mythology, philosophy, psychology, religion, scripture at 8:35 am by Jerry

I just finished Myths To Live By by Joseph Campbell. Most of this book was enthralling. And as my last comment on this book (I commented and quoted two posts ago), I’m gonna quote passages from a chapter in this book called Mythologies of War and Peace:

It is for an obvious reason far easier to name examples of mythologies of war than mythologies of peace; for not only has conflict between groups been normal to human experience, but there is also the cruel fact to be recognized that killing is the precondition of all living whatsoever: life lives on life, eats life, and would otherwise not exist. To some this terrible necessity is fundamentally unacceptable, and such people have, at times, brought forth mythologies of a way to perpetual peace. (174)

I copied the above quote down because it made me think about humanity’s relationship with the earth.

Reviewing the mythologies of war, we have found in both the Torah and Koran a belief that God, the creator and sole governor of the universe, was absolutely and always on the side of a certain chosen community, and that its wars, consequently, were Holy Wars, waged in the name and interest of God’s will. A not very different notion inspired the “Flowery Wars” of the Aztecs for the capture of sacrifices to keep the sun in motion.

In the Iliad, on the other hand, the sympathies of the Olympians are on both sides of the combat, the Trojan War itself being interpreted not in cosmic but in earthly, human terms: it was a war for a recovery of a stolen wife. And the noble ideal of the human warrior-hero was there expressed in the character and words not of a Greek, but of a Trojan hero, Hector. (204)

After reading this page, I was reminded of those times when I read through the Old and New Testaments, wondering about the personal stories of those who are portrayed in the bible as the enemies of God. I wonder, if they had written an autobiography of the journey of their consciences, and archeologists discovered it in our present day, preparing it for us to read ourselves, how would our perceptions of these enemies of God change after reading them?

I’ve also thought about the perspective of an “enemy” when I think about the possibility of me ever having to use the skills I’m acquiring in my Kung-Fu training. Will both Justice and Mercy find its place in my defensive stance? Will I have the physical skill and emotional strength to live up to my philosophical stance of protecting the attacked and the attacker from permanent harm?

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