To Live In Peace

The trailer for Hulu’s adaptation of Catch-22 filtered into my YouTube recommendations this week. I was surprised I hadn’t heard anything about it before. I don’t know if America is ready for something that isn’t 100% rah-rah cheerleading for “The Good War”, and this clearly is not.

The only two men I knew who saw combat in World War II were both transformed by their experiences into opposing war for the rest of their lives. The first was a distant relative from England who was an artilleryman with the British 8th Army in North Africa. The other, Bill Hochman, was one of my college professors. He served in the Navy, saw action in the Mediterranean, and survived being torpedoed in the English Channel. Professor Hochman died this month at the age of 97. In 2012, he wrote this essay for the alumni bulletin – “To Live In Peace“.

My Jukai

This morning I undertook Buddhist lay ordination in a ceremony called jukai, which means “receiving precepts” in Japanese. “Precepts” are a series of vows for living one’s life. This ceremony was conducted entirely online through Treeleaf Zendo, an all-online Soto Zen sangha that I’m a part of. The others taking part came from all around the world – Ukraine, Thailand, Vietnam, and elsewhere. Here’s a recording of the ceremony.

I worked at Media Play for a few weeks after I graduated from college. One day I was shelving books and I kept coming across interesting titles that I’d stop and peruse for a bit before putting them back on the shelf. I thought, “Man, I’d love to be able to just have time to read books all day instead of having to work.”

And then the little devil on my shoulder said, “Isn’t that what you were supposed to be doing for the past three years, smart guy?”

Interesting analysis of ancient descriptions of the effects of battle or other stresses to determine whether ancient soldiers were affected by combat in the way modern soldiers are. But the kicker really comes at the 16 minute mark and should knock you right on your ass with what we force young men and women to do when we send them into combat:

“…killing is wrong. It’s fundamentally wrong. And this is what we tell people right up to the moment we say, ‘Oh, right. Here, Atkins, take this rifle and, you see those people over there you’ve never met? Go and shoot them in the face.’

“So, you’re asking someone to do something that’s absolutely against everything that he’s been brought up to believe. You’re telling people to break a taboo and do something they do not want to do. Humans do not naturally want to kill other humans. And so the stress of having to break a taboo on your own, with all this loud noise, when you’re incredibly sleep-deprived, and then day after day after day after day of this is likely to drive men mad.

“In fact, unfortunately, there have been enough wars where people have been in highly stressful situations – in peril, being shelled for day after day – today we can come up with the stat that after 60 days of this, 98% of people will go mad. 98% of people will be driven out of their heads by that.“

The other 2% are psychopaths.