Dying By the Sword

If we live by the sword, we die by the sword. Because we eventually get old.

In youth, aggressiveness and fast-twitch reflexes are enough. In middle age, it becomes a matter of fighting smarter, and then picking your battles. There will come a day when even that’s not enough.

That’s true in a more general sense with other forms of competition. With money competition, we tend to peak older, as being smart, and picking our battles, has a good return on investment. With sex, we tend to peak younger, because the physical and psychological equipment required to compete in the sexual arena wears out quickly. Yet the same principle applies. Money competition ends with the heart attack. Sexual competition kills the spirit before the body; but despair is not a formula for long life, and the body will follow soon enough.

“I will fight no more forever,” said Chief Joseph. Because he was an old man when he said it, it doesn’t matter if he said it in victory or defeat, as the outcome is the same.

For men who have gone to war have the benefit of a certain perspective. Many find they have had enough of killing before they are fully adults. Likewise, the unavoidable task before each of us is to resolve, at an age young or old, to step off the karmic merry-go-round. To rise above the cycle of betrayal and redemption. To find a little farm. To ride off on a motorcycle. To become a spouse. To mark out a corner of the world, perhaps with a picket fence, where we can live out what’s coming to us in peace.

It’s not that we have nothing to do, or that we seek to do nothing. If we are alive, we have important work to do. As to what that work might be, that’s a different conversation for a different day. The point is, there’s a “step one” involved. That’s true whether we live by the sword literally, or symbolically.

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