A note on “the tenderness of the warrior”

14 Jun

(See Magnificent Turks and the Origins of this Blog)


In a book that’ll startle you out of all facile pacifism and easy hawkishness at once, A Terrible Love of War, Jungian analyst James Hillman talks about an urge that comes over many at those times when, as per Hobbes, life has become “brutish” and “short”:

“When these stark truths are steadily before us what comes to our hearts and habits is not more brutish nastiness only, but frequent instances of civility, decency, fairness, and kindness, because the soul recognizes these virtues to be supremely important when limned against the normalcy of “Warre.”  This surprising fact, though seldom and imperfect, has been witnessed in reports from concentration camps, combat soldiers, prisoners of war, and other under extreme duress where the conditions of the day were solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

These civilized virtues arise as from the underworld of death rather than as preached moralities to be imposed from above.  [emphasis mine]

Later in discussing Stephen Ambrose’ book Band of Brothers (subsequently an HBO series as well) Hillman notes that an astonishingly high but he feels not accidental number of the paratroopers that served in E Company of the American 101st Airborne Division and saw some of the in the most brutal combat in western Europe at the end of the war — landed at Normandy and fought their way to the Alps and Hitler headquarters — ended up becoming high school teachers.


Somewhat tangentially, someone once said, though I can’t remember who: “No bride tending to that final perfect draping of her veil or geisha having her obi perfectly folded and tied is as engaged in as deep an aesthetic rite of  life and death as a Marine putting on his dress blues.”  The feminine heart at the depth of so much that’s hypermasculine…and death-related, or like Hillman says, the beauty and virtue that arises “from the underworld of death.”

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com


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