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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 August 20, 2019

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality. (And here’s Why Your Perception Is Your Reality.)

I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

1. The Inner Critic

This is your constant abuser who is often a conglomeration of:

  • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
  • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
  • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
  • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

The Inner Critic is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

Why else would this person abuse you? And since this person is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

2. The Worrier

This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

The Worrier is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it. Occasionally, this person is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

This is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

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This person can be set off by words or feelings, and can even be set off by sounds and smells.

The Reactor has no real motivation and has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

4. The Sleep Depriver

This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

The Sleep Depriver’s motivation can be:

  • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
  • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
  • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
  • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

How can you control these squatters?

How to Master Your Mind

You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

There are two ways to control your thoughts:

  • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
  • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier; and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

For the Inner Critic

When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

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“Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

  • They rile up the Worrier.
  • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
  • They are often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
  • They are a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
  • They are the destroyer of self-esteem. They convince you that you’re not worthy. They’re a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get them out!

Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

Replace them with your new best friends who support, encourage, and enhance your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

For the Worrier

Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tense

Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

“Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

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For example:

If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

“I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

“Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tension

I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

Breathe in through your nose:

  • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
  • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
  • Focus on your belly rising.

Breathe out through your nose:

  • Feel your lungs emptying.
  • Focus on your belly falling.
  • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

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Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

For the Sleep Depriver

(They’re made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

  1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
  2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

You can also use this technique any time you want to:

  • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
  • Shut down your thinking.
  • Calm your feelings.
  • Simply focus on the present moment. 

The Bottom Line

Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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