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Warriors, Time, and Death: How Finality Can Help Heroes Grow

Warriors, Time, and Death: How Finality Can Help Heroes Grow

Time, like an ever-rolling stream,

Bears all its sons away;

They fly forgotten, as a dream

Dies at the opening day.

— Isaac Watts, 1674 – 1748

The movie Blade Runner, starring Harrison Ford and Rutger Hauer, came out over 30 years ago but still has one of the most profound monologues spoken in celluloid.

Replicant (cyborg) Roy Batty yearns for more life, and yet each of the robot models programmed by the Tryell Corporation has a pre-programmed expiration date. Roy Batty, model number N6MAA10816, has a life span of 4 years, yet his appearance is that of a 30-year-old male. The replicants are visually indistinguishable from adult humans. They think and act as humans do but are still attempting to understand and process what it is they are “feeling.” We observe their interactions in the movie. It appears they are no different from us.

They “feel” emotions in some sense of the word, just as we feel. The replicants work off-planet in fixed roles. Roy is a military-combat model built to kill. He is fast, intelligent, and skilled in combat — no different from our U.S. Special Operations warriors.

Six of the replicants decide to revolt and Roy rallies his squad to return to Earth, seeking out their genius human creator Tyrell, who is in a sense God, in order to extend their expiration date. They know that they do not want to die.

Special police operatives known as “Blade Runners” are dispatched to hunt them down and kill them. In the movie, Harrison Ford plays a worn-out, retired Blade Runner named Deckard. Deckard locates Roy but ends up being outmatched, playing in a cat and mouse game. At the conclusion of the movie, Deckard attempts to kill Roy after a chase which takes place in the Ray Bradbury building complex. Roy flees and jumps across two building rooftops with Deckard in pursuit.

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Deckard jumps from the same rooftop and slips. It is at this moment that Roy pulls Deckard to safety. He chooses to let the Blade Runner live, all while knowing that he will shut down and die. Roy saves the life of the man dispatched to kill him. Roy begins to shut down, but not before unleashing a touching and totally profound monologue about losing all of his memories, which speaks much on the brevity of life:

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.”

— Replicant Roy Batty

In Blade Runner, all Roy Batty wants to do is live longer. Haven’t all human beings shared his sentiment? Roy is a mechanical construct that isn’t human. Yet in his “dying” moments, this replicant seems to find humanity by showing empathy for Deckard. Roy transcends himself by using his precious last seconds to save someone else. How odd then, if this movie were based in reality, that a machine could love more than some men can. By the end of the movie, Roy has saved someone, acknowledged that he is going to die (power shutting off), learned to accept it, and in doing so becomes “human.”

Roy begins his journey as one of Carl Gustav Jung’s archetypes. The hero archetype is also known by names such as the soldier, crusader, fighter, or the warrior. Jungian psychologist Robert Moore and mythologist Douglas Gillette distilled Jung’s archetypes into four types known, as the King, Warrior, Magician, Lover. For a hero to become a warrior, he must move from immature masculinity to mature masculinity. In a nutshell, and in geekspeak, it is the difference between a fighter such as Luke Skywalker the hot-head and Obi Wan-Kenobi the warrior master; youth works for itself while adulthood works for others.

What we know of Roy is he’s a powerhouse and his domain is the battlefield. His purpose is to kill and he does it well. Roy, in the most basic sense, is a man of action rather than a man of thought. As a fighter, he acts as fighters should — with swift and forceful action.

A young hero can progress into something higher. Military indoctrination (in Roy’s case, it is programming), increased conditioning, and further experience can make a fighter a master over himself. The archetypical hero seeks out likeminded brothers and sisters who will fight as he does. Thinking is the enemy of the hero archetype because it inhibits him from acting swiftly and forcefully.

Yet, a fighter that is all action and does very little thinking is nothing more than a drone programmed to kill. In order to advance from fighter to warrior, a fighter must mature and become something greater. How does a fighter arrive at this place of enlightenment and mastery over himself?

Men Not Machines

Humans are not machines. Killing solely to kill is done by beasts and not by humans. Humans are far more complex than that and they have the ability to be introspective. Certainly discipline keeps the fighter rooted in their skillfulness, but to advance beyond the armor, that shell of protection, means they must look within their body and into their heart. The heart is where a warrior keeps patience, selflessness, love, courage, humility, and compassion, among many virtuous things. Warriors without empathy for others are simply machines without emotions; they are an empty construct that is no different from a wrecking ball. But thinking too deeply can paralyze a person until they can’t accomplish a thing. One side of the house is action and the other side is paralysis. A master has learned balance — when to act and when to sit still.

The internet is populated with millions of memes from social media users insisting that people get off their butts and “Live Your Life,” “Get Some,” or “Carpe Diem.” If someone knew the exact time of their death, would they really bother to seize the day? The writer Anatole France believed that most men are stuck living in a bourgeois compromise where they do not live fulfilling lives and don’t know how to get out of this cycle. Eat, sleep, dream, eat, sleep, dream…

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“We do not know what to do with this short life, yet we yearn for another that will be eternal.”

What is Your Purpose? Define It

If men could live forever, then what kind of life would they envisage for themselves? Wouldn’t it be hell to live forever and at the same time lack a plan for life? Why should anyone need more time?

Henry David Thoreau wanted to escape from the human condition. He disliked the perpetual cycle of waking, working, and sleeping, and so he went to the woods, as he said, “to live deliberately and front only the essential facts of life.” Thoreau wanted to see if he could learn what it had to teach, and not when it came time to die, discover that he hadn’t lived.

The existential living that Thoreau partook of isn’t something everyone can do. This is not because people aren’t willing to, indeed some at their deepest emotional root just do not care, but pondering meaning often means rejecting a certain amount of responsibility. Not all people are as sensitive in nature as Thoreau, or T.E. Lawrence or T.S. Elliot for that matter. Not only were these men thinkers but they were also producers. Not all thinkers are producers. These men were the Magician archetype — they wrote books, plays, philosophies, and were intellectual powerhouses that tapped into human sublimity. Some thinkers of their ilk were often stuck in contemplating philosophies far too much and needed some type of “absurdity” to shake them out of it. What was the absurdity they needed?

Many people yearn to feel alive and escape the life of mowing lawns and going bowling. Is there something “off” about wanting to get out of a simple life? There’s nothing wrong at all with living a sedate life, for in fact many amazing warfighters have come home to retire in peace and raise families, write books, tend gardens, and do other things that bring healing.

So, the issue isn’t that these people have stopped “living.” I propose they understand something that Roy Batty finally understood before he “died.” They understand the intrinsic value of life. I also believe those who have seen some dying are rooted even deeper in appreciating life. Those who feel stuck are feeling a discordance between what they want and what they need. They haven’t really parsed their life down to the bare essentials to find out their purpose in life. Thoreau made the attempt to strip away everything so he was in constant contemplation and reflection so as to live purely.

The reality is that many people stop living and end up spiritually dying. How did this happen? What do warfighters keenly know that many don’t? Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard felt the world had lost its passion.

“Let others complain that the age is wicked; my complaint is that it is wretched, for it lacks passion…men’s thoughts are too paltry to be sinful. For a worm, it might be regarded as a sin to harbour such thoughts, but not for a being made in the image of God.”

How then to get to this place of passion? Death seems to be the great equalizer. It seems to be the “kick in the pants,” the absurdity that for a moment removes sense from the world and injects incomprehension into it.

Death and Meaning

Death takes away great men and weak men alike and does so without prejudice. It strips away all pretensions until the true nature of a person is revealed. If they can use the pain wisely, then they can produce something noble. If they are weak, then they will create only pain. If they can survive this brush with death or the death of a friend, they might regenerate their energy and become something better.

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Death compels thinkers and fighters into motion and forces them to do something, anything, in order to stop them from feeling pain and discomfort, and this is where the learning begins. Contemplation on the worthiness of life seems to bring compassion for others.

Roy Batty, interstellar killing-machine extraordinaire, is humbled in the last few minutes of his life and he realizes that he doesn’t want to die alone. We know this because he tells Deckard how much he has seen in the universe. We know that when someone dies that they are never coming back. It is such a terrible thing to lose someone. But if Roy can share a moment of his life with Deckard, he will have passed along his history.

The legend of Thermopylae, as told by Herodotus, has it that the Spartans indulged in calisthenics and combed their long hair before battle. The Spartans created rituals in order to be closest to the thought and feeling of dying. Ecclesiastes mentions that it is better to feel loss than it is to celebrate joy because those who feel sorrow can learn by its presence.

“It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.”

— Ecclesiastes 7:2

Death seems to initiate empathy. It seem to be the thing that allows us to get out of the mental constructs we build into our minds. Death is a truth that simply cuts away at illusions and forces us to think more humanely. Like living, dying is a natural and unavoidable process, and it can allow us to transcend our simple life — if just for a brief moment. If we use that moment honestly, then we can become more mature than we can comprehend.

Our family, our society, our unit, our customs, our tribe tells us who we are or should be. One of the hardest things in the world is to be ourselves. Death opens a door where there are no longer any pretensions to keep up. The fighter is bare. They see the world for what it is. Life is precious and the dead need to be honored. They transcend from fighter to warrior. Roy Batty transcends from machine to human. Both mature and become anew.

Honor and Rituals are Important

Honoring the dying can be done through rituals. Rituals not only helps warriors express their deepest thoughts and feelings about the most important events in their life but they celebrate the lives of the fallen as well. Rituals like baptisms, weddings, birthdays, and funerals help us to honor others. One of the greatest things a warrior can do is to have reverence for the dead.

These rituals for the fallen help a warrior acknowledge the reality of life and death and opens them up to expressing joy or grief. In Robert Bly’s book Iron John, a fighter mourning the loss of a fallen friend would sit in an ash heap. The rest of the tribe ignored the troubled warrior, who smothered himself in gray, and let him grieve. When the warrior was done mourning, he would then rejoin his tribe.

Those who do not have a fallen brother or sister should find a way to honor others. Doing this will surely help one grow into a warrior; this is something our warfighters know and the character Roy Batty knows too; life is worth living and is not to be wasted. Those who want to honor the dead can go to military memorials or law enforcement funerals to pay their respects.

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Acknowledging death allows a fighter to accept the reality of death and all the things life stands for. Roy does just this as his internal countdown begins. Acknowledging death allows a fighter to accept the facts and the finality of death (whether his or another’s). It spares no one. Better to be with others than alone. If a fighter can do this, then they grow as a person.

Understanding death allows one to understand life. Understanding death means not trying to intellectualize what is happening. A fighter embraces the pain and loss of a friend or of their own imminent loss of life.

Remembering what’s been lost allows them to learn what has been gained. It means recalling the good and bad times; all of the experiences come flooding back. Roy has no one but Deckard to share his story with. Roy begins to recount the things he has done and imparts a portion of his life on Deckard. Going to a memorial is a way to preserve the memory of the dead. Reading the history of the fallen allows the fighter to be imbued with the sparkle of life of those that perished. The person performing the ritual becomes deeply affected by feelings.

Experiencing the feelings allows the fighter to begin anew and become something different. It allows the fighter to ask questions:

What is the meaning of life? Why did this person die? What value can I provide in this world? Why was a good person taken? How can I learn from this? Did I learn from this? What will become of my life? Now what?

If one is honest and sincere with their feelings, they can regenerate. They recover and begin anew. If they die, they pass onto greater things. Til Valhalla, so they say.

I believe if the fighter is honest, they will learn who they are and what they can become. They can state, “This is who I am, this is what I believe, this is how I intend to live my life.”

We all die. No one has a choice in that matter, but we all have a choice in how we live. Don’t waste life on petty things.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via hd.unsplash.com

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Last Updated on December 2, 2019

10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

Plato knew that the body and mind are intimately linked. And in the late 1800s, the Mayo brothers, famous physicians, estimated that over half of all hospital beds are filled with people suffering from frustration, anxiety, worry and despair. Causes of worry are everywhere, in our relationships and our jobs, so it’s key we find ways to take charge of the stress.

In his classic book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie offers tools to ditch excessive worrying that help you make a worry-free environment for your private and professional life.

These are the top 10 tips to grab worry by the horns and wrestle it to the ground:

1. Make Your Decision and Never Look Back

Have you ever made a decision in life only to second-guess it afterwards? Of course you have! It’s hard not to wonder whether you’ve done the right thing and whether there might still be time to take another path.

But keep this in mind: you’ve already made your decision, so act decisively on it and dismiss all your anxiety about it.

Don’t stop to hesitate, to reconsider, or to retrace your steps. Once you’ve chosen a course of action, stick to it and never waver.

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2. Live for Today, Package Things up in “Day-Tight Compartments”

You know that feeling: tossing, turning and worrying over something that happened or something that might, well into the wee hours. To avoid this pointless worrying, you need “day-tight compartments”. Much as a ship has different watertight compartments, your own “day-tight” ones are a way to limit your attention to the present day.

The rule is simple: whatever happened in the past or might happen in the future must not intrude upon today. Everything else has to wait its turn for tomorrow’s box or stay stuck in the past.

3. Embrace the Worst-Case Scenario and Strategize to Offset It

If you’re worried about something, ask yourself: “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Could you lose your job? Be jailed? Get killed?

Whatever the “worst” might be, it’s probably not so world-ending. You could probably even bounce back from it!

If, for example, you lose your job, you could always find another. Once you accept the worst-case scenario and get thinking about contingency plans, you’ll feel calmer.

4. Put a Lid on Your Worrying

Sometimes we stress endlessly about negative experiences when just walking away from them would serve us far better.

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To make squashing that worry easier, try this strategy, straight from stock traders: it’s called the “stop-loss” order, where shares are bought at a certain price, and then their price development is observed. If things go badly and the share price hits a certain point, they are sold off immediately. This stops the loss from increasing further.

In the same manner, you can put a stop-loss order on things that cause you stress and grief.

5. Fake It ‘Til You Make It – Happiness, That Is

We can’t directly influence how we feel, but we can nudge ourselves to change through how we think and act.

If you’re feeling sad or low, slap a big grin on your face and whistle a chipper tune. You’ll find it impossible to be blue when acting cheerful. But you don’t necessarily need to act outwardly happy; you can simply think happier thoughts instead.

Marcus Aurelius summed it up aptly:

“Our life is what our thoughts make it.”

6. Give for the Joy of Giving

When we perform acts of kindness, we often do so with the expectation of gratitude. But harboring such expectations will probably leave you disappointed.

One person well aware of this fact was the lawyer Samuel Leibowitz. Over the course of his career, Leibowitz saved 78 people from going to the electric chair. Guess how many thanked him? None.

So stop expecting gratitude when you’re kind to someone. Instead, take joy from the act yourself.

7. Dump Envy – Enjoy Being Uniquely You

Your genes are completely unique. Even if someone had the same parents as you, the likelihood of someone identical to you being born is just one in 300,000 billion.

Despite this amazing fact, many of us long to be someone else, thinking the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. But living your life this way is pointless. Embrace your uniqueness and get comfortable with who you really are: How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

8. Haters Will Hate — It Just Means You’re Doing It Right

When you’re criticized, it often means you’re accomplishing something noteworthy. In fact, let’s take it a step further and consider this: the more you’re criticized, the more influential and important a person you likely are.

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So the next time somebody talks you down, don’t let it get to you. Take it as a compliment!

9. Chill Out! Learn to Rest Before You Get Tired

Scientists agree that emotions are the most common cause of fatigue. And it works the other way around, too: fatigue produces more worries and negative emotions.

It should be clear, therefore, that you’ve got to relax regularly before you feel tired. Otherwise, worries and fatigue will accumulate on top of each other.

It’s impossible to worry when you are relaxed, and regular rest helps you maintain your ability to work effectively.

10. Get Organized and Enjoy Your Work

There are few greater sources of misery in life than having to work, day in, day out, in a job you despise. It would make sense then that you shouldn’t pick a job you hate, or even just dislike doing.

But say you already have a job. How can you make it more enjoyable and worry-free? One way is to stay organized: a desk full of unanswered mails and memos is sure to breed worries.

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Better yet, rethink about the job you’re doing: What to Do When You Hate Your Job but Want a Successful Career

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Featured photo credit: Tyler Nix via unsplash.com

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