How to End a War

Larry and I

I’ve been following the story of a 94-year-old Ukrainian man from Minneapolis who is under investigation for Nazi war crimes.  He never changed his name or his politics.  He loves his country, lost his wife in a displacement camp, fled to the US and has been living his life as a father and community man—a carpenter (like Jesus) for all of his adult life.

When I was in junior high living in the tiny mining town of Babbitt, I discovered the holocaust for the first time when I read a book titled “Eva.”  I can’t remember the author (let me know if you know who it is,) but I remember the story of Eva caught me right between the eyes.  I had no idea of what mankind was capable of.  I felt like Siddhartha stepping out of the palace doors for the first time.  I couldn’t go back.  I had always been a peacemaker but my efforts went only as far as the playground in my little town.

Since that time, I’ve tried to understand war and what it does to people.  It seems like simple math to me—if we did not spend endless resources on war, we could feed and shelter educate and heal the people.  But human beings are not that simple.

The best book I have ever read on the nature of war was a skinny little book by Dr. Larry LeShan called The Psychology of War.  I was so entranced with his story that we actually went to New York City just to meet the man.  What a mind!

So, Larry says that in order for war to happen we have to step out of a sensory based reality and into a mythical reality.  In this mythical reality there are humans and subhumans—good guys and bad guys—and that it makes perfect sense to remove the subhumans so the humans can get on with the business of living.  He also says that there is something deeply ingrained in human beings that makes us want to be a part of something big and important.  We want a mission, and we want to serve that mission with passion and heart.   It makes us feel alive and filled with a sense of belonging and purpose.  Larry says there is two ways to satisfy this deep urge—one is to find a spiritual path and the other is to go to war.  He also says that following a spiritual path is the road less traveled.

I know this is a simplified version of his complex thinking on the subject, but when you think about it, it is logical.  When you combine this deep urge to be a part of something with a perceived (or real) threat to home, family, children, safety, food sources, etc. it becomes a combustible mix.

The path to war, however, seems to be cut by that movement from a sensory-based reality to a mythical reality.  I wish I could do justice to this topic in a short post, but I can’t.  In the same breath, I do see how easily we step onto that mythical path.  Whenever we abandon our “oneness” and the common good into separate camps of “we against them” we have stepped onto that path.  It doesn’t matter if it is sitting over coffee or in the political arena or on the playground.  And it doesn’t matter if we are standing on the side of “right” or “evil”—the separation is the problem.  I am right—you are wrong, therefore I must work on the side of “right” to destroy you.  It makes me big—and it makes you less than human.  And I can destroy something that is less than human (mythical thinking).

Working for oneness means I see that you are human.  I see your pain and your pleasure and your pursuit, and I understand it because I am also human.  We could work together to become even better humans.

So, back to an old Ukrainian man living out the last years of his life in Minneapolis.  At one moment in his life he was caught in the mythical saga of WWII.  His country was caught between the USSR and Germany.  We don’t know what he did or why.  But in a sensory-based reality, we know that he has lived his life in Minneapolis as a builder, father, husband, and community member.  I say let that stand.

And in this country, we all need to begin calling out the bullshit of a mythical reality where democrats and republicans can’t work for common good, where educators and policy clash, where serious scientists concerned about global warming clash with the corporate economy.  It really is just bullshit.  This is our home (the planet) and this is our family (the people) and these are our children—all of them. Step back into reality–take the high road and be a human being.

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How to End a War — 6 Comments

  1. Jamie, Why do you refer to WWII as a mythical saga? I understand it as a saga; but, why mythical? Help me understand your perspective on this. thanks, Carol

    • Hi Carol,

      I was not saying that the war or the holocaust were “mythical” but only in the context of LeShan’s theory about sensory-based reality versus a mythical reality. When I was asking him more about this, he used The Wizard of Oz as an example. He said that in mythical terms a young girl is transported to another world with witches and goblins and such but in terms of a sensory-based reality, she took a trip, killed a witch and stole her shoes. Just out of curiosity, how did you interpret the comment about a mythical saga. Always good to see if what you think you said is being interpreted correctly.

      It is a very interesting book–see if you can find a copy. Also, thanks so much for sending me information on Eva. I’ll look into it and see if this is the book that touched me so deeply. I’d like to read it again.

  2. Hi Jamie – I’m intrigued by LeShan’s ideas and will try to get that book so I can get the details. Like you I agree that “if we did not spend endless resources on war, we could feed and shelter educate and heal the people.”

    Yes, we “need to begin calling out the bullshit of a mythical reality…”. All I can see in the bullshit list is selfishness. The hope then is that “human beings are not that simple.” It’s their necks and their descendant’s necks they risk.

  3. This issue of people taking or joining into camps and going after whoever is not in that camp is so sad. And it keeps so many things from growing and prospering. The crazy part is that when we are all in it together – then everybody benefits.

    Thanks for the post!

  4. I am very troubled that my dear son, one of the most compassionate, kind people I have ever known, has decided to join the military after he graduates next year. He deeply wants to “serve” and I know he really means that but, I wish I could help him to find other ways to do it. 🙁

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