“Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily. Every day when one’s body and mind are at peace, one should meditate on being ripped apart by arrows, rifles, spears and swords, being carried away by surging waves, being thrown into the midst of a great fire, being struck by lightning, being shaken to death by a great earthquake, falling from thousand-foot cliffs, dying of disease or committing seppuku at the death of one’s master. And every day without fail, one should consider himself as dead.”—Tsunetomo Yamamoto.
“I don’t want to die here. If I’m going to die, I want to die in Ireland.”
“You already did die in Ireland, man; just like I died in Iraq. Our bodies just haven’t figured it out yet.”—from an overheard conversation between an Irish-American and an American combat veteran.
There are three things in this world that can make you feel Godlike.
One is to save a life. This brings a sense of immense satisfaction and pride.
One is to create a life; this too brings feelings of satisfaction and also joy.
One is to take a life. And this one is different.
Given that you took said life to save your own, that of your family or loved ones or other innocents, and that you took every measure available to you to avoid the situation, you’ve committed no crime.
With a very few exceptions, the resulting effects on your psyche will be the same; you will feel exhilaration (a by-product of adrenaline), the thought that you are now capable of doing anything, and you will feel, sooner or later, self-disgust.
Because when you kill someone, you kill yourself.
You’ll still have the same thoughts and memories as you had before, but they won’t mean much to you, because that was the “you” before you took a life. That person no longer exists.
The only people who do not suffer this fate are either psychopaths or a very few women and men who have the presence of heart and mind to realise what they’ve done had to be done, and are able to move on with their lives.
I’ve met too many people over the years that have had to take lives; most of them were male soldiers. All but two suffered extreme PTSD afterwards; most of them denied that such a thing existed, but they drank too much, took too many drugs, lost their jobs, their wives, their families. Some recovered to a degree; some did not.
The two that did not seem to be suffering from PTSD were both extremely humorous, kind people (actually they were all humorous, at times, anyway), and just had a miraculous way of putting it all behind them, staying busy, and moving on with their lives. That’s better than feeling Godlike; that’s feeling human.
Very few of the women I’ve met that took a life seemed to be suffering from PTSD; they were mostly women imprisoned for killing abusive partners; they regretted the fact that they were in prison, of course, but described it as a walk in the park compared to what they’d gone through previously.
I asked each and every one of these people if they’d had any regrets for taking a life. And each and every one of them said “No.”
Some were telling the truth; others were lying, not to me, but to themselves.
The reason that they were lying to themselves is because they’d been lied to their entire lives. Most of them had been told that “violence doesn’t solve anything,” and they instinctively knew this to be a lie.
Violence can solve problems, and the lie is one of omission.
Violence can solve problems.
But only for a while.
Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily.
Just perhaps not in the way that Yamamoto’s advice was intended to be utilized.
He never killed anyone.