Knowing Ourselves, and the Warrior Ethos

I’ve heard it said by many other writers that they often come across a work, or an idea, or a story, that they wished they had written themselves. This week, that happened to me. After a long hiatus on the blogosphere, I wrote what I thought was a quite reflective piece on the connection between knowing yourself – your identity – and the training of a warrior. I rambled on about so much cultural evidence that betrays how little we know ourselves nowadays. I shifted into another tone altogether about how those who have spent time training to fight know themselves better – that the strength from training is both a catalyst and a result of knowing oneself.

And then, while I was getting my oil changed, I happened upon all the things I wished I had written myself. So, rather than bore you with my own stuff, I present to you – former Marine, historian, re-creationist of ancient battles, and novelist Stephen Pressfield, from his series of essays, “The Warrior Ethos”:

The hardest thing in the world is to be ourselves. Who are we? Our family tells us, society tells us, laws and customs tell us. But what do WE say? How do we get to that place of self-knowledge and conviction where we are able to state without doubt, fear, or anger, “This is who I am, this is what I believe, this is how I intend to live my life”?

How do we find our true calling, our soul companions, our destiny?

In this task, our mightiest ally is the Warrior Ethos.

Directed inward, the Warrior Ethos grounds us, fortifies us, and focuses our resolve. As soldiers, we have been taught discipline. Now we teach ourselves self-discipline. As fighting men and women, we have been motivated, commanded, and validated by others. Now, we school ourselves in self-motivation, self-command, and self-validation.

The Warrior Archetype is not the be-all and end-all of life. It is only one identity, one stage on the path to maturity. But it is the greatest stage – and the most powerful. It is the foundation upon which all succeeding stages are laid.

Let us be, then, warriors of the heart, and enlist in our inner cause the virtues we have acquired through blood and sweat in the sphere of conflict – courage, patience, selflessness, loyalty, fidelity, self-command, respect for elders, love of our comrades (and of the enemy), perseverance, cheerfulness in adversity and a sense of humor, however terse or dark.

Amen, Mr. Pressfield. And now, because this was the best visual representation I could find of these ideas in action, here is a war dance from the Royal Tongan Marines, the nation whose armed forces represent the highest ratio of warfighters to general population in all of Afghanistan.

Rachel Parker