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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 13, 2018

12 Practical Tips To Stay Fit For Christmas

12 Practical Tips To Stay Fit For Christmas

Christmas is approaching fast, and lots of people not only tend to ruin their usual diets, but they also gain a few extra pounds. Based on studies, the majority of people tend to gain additional weight during the holiday season that starts at the Thanksgiving Day and ends with the New Year celebrations. Excessive eating is claimed to be the main cause for the additional weight gain, but it is also due to lack of physical activity and exercise.

A lot of individuals out there tend to set aside their fitness routines during the holidays since they believe that they do not have enough time to perform their workouts. And because they feel guilty after the holiday season, most of the gyms and fitness centers are packed with fresh members. Always bear in mind that you can still enjoy the holidays and stay fit at the same time. If you want to stay fit during the holiday season, especially during Christmas and the New Year’s Eve, here are some useful tips that might help you:

1. Eat Before Heading Out

First, it is best that you eat something before heading out to visits, trips or family dinners. By doing so, you will no longer be tempted to eat a lot or overindulge yourself since you have already eaten. Skipping on meals is not a good idea either, because you will only be forced to eat more later.

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2. Select The Treats

Make sure to select the treats that you eat in a wise manner. You should choose something that you can only enjoy during the holiday season and not something that is readily available all the time.

3. Avoid Skipping Meals

Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast! Even though it can be tempting to skip on certain meals, believing that it will make up for the treats you consumed in the previous day, don’t do it because it will only lead to counterproductive results.

4. Drink With Moderation

It is best to regulate your drinking since alcohol, coke or other juices will only add more calories to the ones you already eaten!

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5. Be Active

You should still perform your fitness routine whenever possible and if you can’t do that, simply walk more, park your car some distance away from the store or just use the stairs!

6. Get Out Of The House

Make the holidays a family affair and plan outdoor activities where everyone is involved. Even a snowball fight in the backyard will burn a lot of calories and will keep the children entertained.

7. Don’t Skip Your Strength Workouts

Always remember to perform your strength training in order to maintain that muscle mass you worked hard to get. You might be tempted to use lightweights and just do some cardio, but you can burn just as many calories by lifting weights. And with all of those extra stakes you had on the holiday meals, you might even gain some extra muscle. And this is much better than gaining some extra fat.

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8. Set Realistic Goals

You should set realistic exercise objectives. Aim for at least half an hour per day and you will be very happy when you will achieve that. If you plan one hour or more and not achieve it, you will only end up disappointed.

9. Enjoy Yourself

Also make sure to set realistic diet plans! Trying to restrain yourself totally from some foods will only make you eat more. Feel free to enjoy the treats that you really love, but in small portions.

10. Drink A Lot Of Water

This can satiate your appetite as well as keep you hydrated at all times. And it will also prevent a possible hangover if you overdo it with alcohol.

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11. Eat Less And More Often

Distribute your meals evenly throughout the day, and do not eat everything at once.  Instead of having 2 enormous meals, have 5 small ones.  Eat your dinner earlier and have a nice walk before going to bed.

12. Prioritize Your Workouts

Try to do them early in the morning while everyone else is still sleeping. This way you will also avoid remarks like “Oh, come on! It’s Christmas…”

So there you go! Twelve simple tips that will help you avoid gaining weight during the winter holidays, but will also allow you to enjoy yourself and have a great time with your loved ones.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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