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Rambling’s inspired by another

March 13, 2018

Lawdog has, once again, provided us an example of his thought and understanding. This time, his topic relates to how one should face death. Though I suspect my belief system may be somewhat different than his, I tend to agree. There is much to be said for how anyone faces death.

To face your own death, head on, is not to desire to die. Rather, it is to face one’s mortality with the resolve to not die sniveling in the corner of a room, begging the bringer of death, corporeal or otherwise, for mercy (begging the Almighty for mercy is, I submit, an entirely different thing).

It has been said more than once that there are times, for instance when facing an armed villain intent on harming the innocent, when one must accept that he is already dead if he is to have any hope of effectively opposing the villain. Otherwise, one’s natural desire to live might keep you from making the right decision or slow your reaction time.

While there are significant disagreements as to how Jim Bowie died at the Alamo, his mother’s response to the news of his death was mentioned by Walter Worthington Bowie in The Bowies and Their Kindred.

“…it is said when told her gallant son James had been killed by the Mexicans at the Alamo, she received the news calmly, remarking that she would ‘wager no wounds were found in his back’….”

I have noted before that during my military career, I was never some sort of “high speed low drag operator.” There are multitudes of people with far more tactical training and experience than I. That said, my experience teaches me that none of us who have with our without a badge taken the oath, put on the uniform, strapped on the pistol and/or picked up the rifle, did so because we wanted to die. We did not descend into Bad Places to face Bad Men because we sought death. It was simply our job, out duty to carry out, if you will. Those who faced that most dire of circumstance, with honor, did so I submit, because they had carefully considered and evaluated themselves before the event. They did not do it because they wanted to die.

I am reminded of “The Rifleman’s Prayer” which has been attributed to far too many people for me to even take a guess at its origins.

“A Rifleman’s Prayer

Oh Lord, I would live my life in freedom, peace and happiness, enjoying the simple pleasures of hearth and home. I would die an old, old man in my own bed, preferably of sexual overexertion.

But if that is not to be, Lord, if monsters such as this should find their way to my little corner of the world on my watch, then help me to sweep those bastards from the ramparts, because doing that is good, and right, and just.

And if in this I should fall, let me be found atop a pile of brass, behind the wall I made of their corpses.”

It says a lot with which I concur. There are those times and circumstances when we might, indeed, be called upon to do what most of us really (and rightly) do not wish to do, which is to bring death and destruction upon our fellow man. Circumstances, sadly, often ignore what we might desire and force us into what must be. We could do far worse than to face such circumstances, should they come, with resolve to do what we must regardless of the outcome – determined to do what is right, no matter what the cost.

However…

All this deals with physical courage, really. Since it is such a popular word of late, one might make the distinction that the risk of death makes the things above more “existential” in nature. I disagree. All physical risk carries with it the potential to die. That we prefer not to think about it does not change the reality. So, all the above is physical courage rather than some sort of existential courage (if there is such a thing).

Not all we face will require that we decide we are already dead. In fact, most of us will never face such a thing until our lives reach their natural ends. For that, we should be truly grateful.

I submit moral courage is in many ways more difficult than physical courage. Moral courage, if it is to have meaning, must be maintained every waking hour of every day for years on end. It must be there when we are pressured to compromise what truly matters in the interest of that which is irrelevant, when we are encouraged to sacrifice the permanent for the sake of the ephemeral, and when we are told to abandon the real for the unreal. This pressure can be constant and unyielding. It can rob us of our energy and exhaust our resources to resist – which is far too often the goal of those applying the pressure. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, it is one thing to withstand a single time the pressure to compromise what we believe. It is another thing altogether, and much more difficult, to withstand that pressure day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year.

And so, we must do what my dad called “taking a good, long, hard look in the mirror” and decide who we are and what we are all about. Then, we are better able to answer the question: Is this a thing on which I can compromise? Is now the time for giving in? Or is this a cause and a time when there can be no compromise. Must I treat my livelihood, reputation and whatever else I may have that is of value in this world as if they are already as good as gone so that I can make the decision to not abdicate my responsibility to what truly matters?

Regardless of what any of us face, may we each hold true to what matters. May we each make the right decision.

I encourage you to read Lawdog’s post. He expressed a lot in a few words.

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