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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 February 21, 2019

Top 9 Foods for Incredible Brian Health And Brain Power

Top 9 Foods for Incredible Brian Health And Brain Power

Your brain is the most intricate and powerful organ in your entire body. It’s essentially a super-computer with brain power like a Ferrari.

If you have a Ferrari, would you put cheap gasoline in it? Of course not. You want to put in high-octane performance fuel to get the most out of your investment.

When it comes to the brain, many people are looking for the top foods that will supercharge the brainpower to help focus better, think more clearly and have better brain health.

In this article, we’ll look at the top 9 brain foods that will help create supercharge your brain with energy and health:

1. Salmon

Salmon has long been held as a healthy brain food, but what makes this fish so valuable for your brain health?

It’s important to understand that your brain is primarily made up of fat. Roughly 60% of your brain is fat. One of the most important fats that the brain uses as a building block for healthy brain cells is omega-3’s.

Omega-3’s are essential for building a healthy brain but one of the most important omega-3’s for your brain is DHA. DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) forms nearly two-thirds of the omega-3’s found in your brain.[1]

Omega-3’s and DHA in particular help form the protective coating around our neurons. The better quality this coating is, the more efficient and effective our brain cells can work, allowing our brain power to work at full capacity.

Studies have shown that being deficient in DHA can affect normal brain development in children, which is why so many infant formulas and children’s supplements are beginning to include DHA.

Being deficient in DHA as an adult can cause focus and attention problems, mood swings, irritability, fatigue and poor sleep.

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2. Blueberries

Blueberries top the list as one of the most beneficial fruits to maximize your brain health and performance.

Blueberries have some of the highest content of antioxidants, particularly anthocyanins, than any other fruit, which helps protect the brain from stress and promote healthy brain aging.

Blueberries antioxidant content also help reduce inflammation, which allows the brain to maintain healthy energy levels.

Blueberries have begun to receive attention for their connection to brain performance.[2] Studies have demonstrated that eating blueberries on a regular basis can not only improve brain health but also brain performance as well including working memory.[3]

Blueberries not only taste great but are low in calories, high in Vitamin C, Vitamin K and Manganese.

3. Turmeric

Turmeric is a very impressive spice that has well-researched and proven to have tremendous benefits for your brain. Turmeric’s main compound that benefits the brain is called curcumin, which is responsible for turmerics bright yellow appearance.

Curcumin has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-cancer properties.[4]

Curcumin increases the production and availability of two important neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, two important neurotransmitters involved with happiness, motivation, pleasure, and reward.

Curcumin has been well documented to have powerful anti-depressive effects. In one study, it was found to be as effective for depression as popular medications such as SSRI’s like Prozac.[5]

Curcumin has also been shown to:

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  • Increase blood flow to the brain.[6]
  • Increase BDNF production, a powerful stimulator of neuroplasticity.[7]
  • Increase DHA availability and synthesis in the brain.[8]
  • Increase antioxidant levels in the brain to prevent brain aging and inflammation.[9]

4. Coffee

Coffee is the wonderful elixir of energy that many people cherish every single morning. The biggest reason people drink coffee is to get a dose of caffeine.

Caffeine is a natural neurological stimulant that not only gives you energy but also prevents adenosine, a neurotransmitter involved with feeling tired, from binding in the brain.

Many people are surprised to find that coffee actually contains a large quantity of antioxidants called polyphenols, which are important for reducing inflammation in the brain and keep your brain energized. The antioxidants in coffee also provide a neuroprotective effect, protecting the brain from stress and damage. [R]

Coffee can also:

  • Improve alertness and concentration.[10]
  • Help with neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s disease.[11]
  • Reduce your risk of depression.[12]
  • Improve your memory.
  • Provide short-term boost in athletic performance.[13]

5. Broccoli

What was your least favorite food as a kid growing up?

Most likely, broccoli was your answer.

Broccoli may not have been your top choice, but it might be the top choice for your brain.

Broccoli contains a compound called sulforaphane. Sulforaphane has been shown to promote the proliferation and survival of brain cells by reducing inflammation and boosting production of BDNF. It has also been shown to boost neurogenesis, the production of new brain cells.[14]

Broccoli is also loaded with important nutrients Vitamin K and Folate. Vitamin K plays a vital role in protecting brain cells.[15] Folate plays a crucial role in detoxification and reducing inflammation in the brain.

6. Bone broth

Bone broth wasn’t just created to combine with soups, you can actually drink bone broth by itself.

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Drinking bone broth has become one of the biggest trends in the health and wellness industry and for good reason. Bone broth isn’t actually a new thing. Bone broth has been used for centuries as a healing tonic to promote health and longevity.

Much of the nutritional benefits and value of bone broth comes from its substantial vitamin and mineral content. Primarily calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium.

Your gut is called your second brain for a reason. Research continually shows that there is a direct and indirect connection between your gut and your brain. Your gut also houses and stores many important brain compounds involved with optimal brain performance. Therefore the health of your gut is vitally important for your brain health and performance.

Bone broth has become a go-to tool for helping heal the gut and provide the gut with the vital nutrient and resources it needs to heal and perform optimally.

With the vast amounts of nutrients that bone broth contains, it makes the list as a go-to food for your brain health.

Look for high quality, organic bone broth for the best results.

7. Walnuts

Walnuts are one of the top choices of nuts for brain health. Walnuts also look similar to a brain.

Amongst the wide variety of nuts available, walnuts contain the highest amounts of the important omega-3 DHA. DHA, as seen above, is a critical building block for a healthy brain.

Walnuts also contain high amounts of antioxidants, folate, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus, which help to lower inflammation.

Melatonin in walnuts is an important nutrient for regulating your sleep. Having low amounts of melatonin can make it challenging to get good quality sleep and getting poor quality sleep can dramatically impair brain health and performance.

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8. Eggs

For years, eggs were put on the nutritional naughty list; but now, eggs are finally getting the credit they deserve. Eggs can provide a tremendous boost to your brain health and longevity.

Eggs, particularly the yolks, contain a compound called choline. Choline is essential for building the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Acetylcholine plays an important role in mood, memory, and intelligence.

Egg yolks contain some of the highest quantities of choline. This is very important because low levels of choline can lead to low levels of acetylcholine, which in turn can cause increased inflammation, brain fog, difficulty concentrating and fatigue.

9. Dark chocolate

You’re about to love chocolate even more because chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, is great for your brain.

Chocolate boosts levels of endorphins, your brains “feel good” chemicals. This is why you feel so good eating chocolate.[16]

Chocolate also increases blood flow to the brain which can help improve memory, attention, focus, and reaction time.[17]

Dark chocolate contains high levels of magnesium, which has been coined “natures valium” for its ability to calm and relax the brain.

Lastly, dark chocolate has one of the highest antioxidant profiles out of any other food, including popular superfoods like acai berries, blueberries, or pomegranates.[18]

Conclusion

Your brain is a high performing organ and it uses quite a lot of energy, roughly 20% of the bodies energy demands.

In order to maintain a healthy brain, you need the right fuel to ensure that your brain has all the nutrients it needs to perform as well as adapt to the stress of life.

If you want to keep your brain performing well for a lifetime, then you want to make sure you are including as many of these brain health foods as possible.

More Resources About Boosting Brain Power

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: DHA Effects in Brain Development and Function
[2] Canadian Science Publishing: Enhanced task-related brain activation and resting perfusion in healthy older adults after chronic blueberry supplementation
[3] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Cognitive effects following acute wild blueberry supplementation in 7- to 10-year-old children.
[4] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Curcumin: the Indian solid gold.
[5] Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition.: Turmeric, the Golden Spice
[6] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Effect of combined treatment with curcumin and candesartan on ischemic brain damage in mice.
[7] Science Direct: Curcumin reverses the effects of chronic stress on behavior, the HPA axis, BDNF expression and phosphorylation of CREB
[8] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Curcumin boosts DHA in the brain: Implications for the prevention of anxiety disorders.
[9] PLOS: A Chemical Analog of Curcumin as an Improved Inhibitor of Amyloid Abeta Oligomerization
[10] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Effects of Caffeine on Cognitive Performance, Mood, and Alertness in Sleep-Deprived Humans
[11] American Academy of Neurology: A Cup of Joe May Help Some Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms
[12] American Academy of Neurology: AAN 65th Annual Meeting Abstract
[13] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Effects of caffeine on the metabolic and catecholamine responses to exercise in 5 and 28 degrees C.
[14] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Hyperammonemia induces glial activation, neuroinflammation and alters neurotransmitter receptors in hippocampus, impairing spatial learning: reversal by sulforaphane
[15] Oxford Academic: Vitamin K and the Nervous System: An Overview of its Actions
[16] Diana L. Walcutt, Ph.D: Chocolate and Mood Disorders
[17] Health Magazine: Chocolate can do good things for your heart, skin and brain
[18] Chemistry Central Journal: Cacao seeds are a “Super Fruit”: A comparative analysis of various fruit powders and products

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