My pet rock Seymour has requested the floor for one of my last blog entries of 2005. Forgive any typos, as Jane is doing the typing. I'm just a bystander on this 'un:
Long before I gained the title of 'pet rock', I was geologically grounded on this place you call Earth with certain unalienable rights. But since I didn't know what that meant before becoming a pet rock, I never knew what I was missing. Oh sure, I was conscious of my surroundings; of the passage of day and night; of the change of the seasons, the weather, or when a dog was using me in lieu of a fire hydrant. But I had no knowledge of/appreciation or head-scratching consternation for the 'human experience'.
Then came April 2000 -- which I only became of aware of because that's what the calendar on the wall said -- and I got a first impression of that 'human experience': my eventual 'owner', so to speak, used me as a door stop while he moved in.
Talk about being taken for granite. Schmuck.
But he made up for it by not only not returning me to the bitter conditions outdoors at the time; he gave me a room with a view. A name. A far better living environment. And access to the 'human experience', through not only his own life, but through access to his TV, radio and computer. He brought me a friend -- an original ear of Iowa corn named Jane, and one of the three current loves of my life, along with a couple babe writers from Japan and Texas he knows online. He even allows me access to what he calls his 'icebox', and to use his credit card to order pizza when he incinerates the kitchen while boiling water.
Well okay, so I'm not supposed to be using the credit card. But the bottom line is he's pretty easy-going (aka, a sucker, easy mark, pushover, et al.) about things. Most things.
But when it comes to politics and world events, he isn't so laid back. He gets worked up. I never saw him so silent one morning in September, 2001, as we sat listening to something over his radio that stunned him. And then angered him, as he made some analogy to a morning 50 years before, in a place I'd never heard of. And spoke with fire and conviction that "now as then, it's a blatant act of war". He regretted his chronology and feels guilty that others serve on his behalf, but that's him.
In so far as a pet rock can, I've studied the human dynamic. Yours is a curious species. Capable of some of the greatest inventions in world history, like the TV and the microwave; and some not-so-great inventions, like the rock crusher. When natural disasters occur, you are magnificent and compassionate in response to the victims of the disaster.
At the same time, members of your kind are responsible -- through differing religions and ideals, hate, greed, mistake and misapprehension -- of creating the greatest man-made disasters, like war. My benefactor oft-times refers to this as the biggest irony in human absurdity: with your intelligence, you are as gifted in killing each other and breaking things as you are in creating a more advanced, 'civilized' world.
Perhaps it's what he notes is your original primal program awaiting a badly-needed universal upgrade of your accumulated wisdom software; but he also says that it must be a universal upgrade, for as long as the lowest common denominator of primal urge exists, competition will remain inherent in the human species.
That seems to be the way the world works in the human realm. And doesn't. But as he quotes one history writer* with hands-on experience from the field of human conflict, "His (man's) task is moral or immoral according to the orders that send him forth. It is inevitable, since men must compete. Since the dawn of time, men have competed with each other -- with clubs, crossbows, or cannon, dollars, ballots and trading stamps. Much of mankind, of course, abhors competition, and these remain the acted upon, not the actors. Anyone who says there will be no competition in the future simply does not understand the nature of man".
At any rate, I watch and listen to much of what he does; yet I don't get worked up the way he does, for while I don't grasp the broader nature of the human world in the ways he sees, feels, thinks, interprets, and reacts to it, I have the luxury of not having to. Duty, honor, country, liberty, death and taxes are just words to me.
As for the future, his concerns aren't mine: I'll still be here when he's gone. Though, without access to his credit card and delivery Chinese food. That'll suck, but I digress.
But those words I just referenced mean things to you humans. Especially in this particular nation. I know, from listening, that most of you were every bit as upset and angry as he was that morning in September, 2001. Some of you remain so; some, apparently not.
Among the wide spectrum of reactions and follow-ups across the human dynamic in this country, a core of you did more than just voice your righteous indignation or dissenting opinion about the event: you went and did something affirmative about it.
And are still doing it.
And doing it in places I know of only through your news, and what I can glean from TV, radio and the computer. Places far away. Places where rocks like and unlike me, watch as the drama of the human experience is played out, to ends yet to be determined.
A curious subset of humans, too: while you know that a minority, albeit a loud one, of your countrymen and women do not support and believe in what you do, and knowing that death or life-altering injury may await you in this effort, you volunteer to go and serve, anyway. You serve on behalf of those who can't or won't go. You serve on behalf of differing opinions and political labels. You serve on behalf of a nation, a flag, an ideal. You serve on behalf of those who served before, and those who'll serve in your wake. You serve on behalf of your families and friends. You serve on behalf of people you'll never meet, never know. You serve on behalf of a foreign people who were once considered your enemy; now, you serve to help them find a better way to live their own lives, without the tyranny that preceded your coming.
But perhaps most importantly -- and to this pet rock, most illuminatingly -- you serve on behalf of your comrades in the field with you: someone who, before the military, you might not have even bothered to meet and greet had you passed them on the street. Now, you'd die rather than let them down in the heat of conflict.
I find that says so much about the bottom line of the human dynamic. Especially in a unique society like this one.
Much as I find irony in so much of the various and conflicting passions and absurdities that comprise the human condition, what I find in people like those of you who serve voluntarily as you're doing now in Iraq and Afghanistan, is something that causes me a feeling of respectful humility and awe of such people.
Even being the rock that I am, it chokes me up.
So much I have learned about the human species these past five years. My take is thus: as day passes into night, so comes the twilight and shadows of the day now done. It is necessary that this be so; for in the passage of twilight, comes the promise of a new day. In the twilight of the year soon done, a seed of promise prepares to spring forth in the minds and hearts of a great and varied multitude of the human experience. May it be for all who seek peace and the freedom to live as you do in this wonderful country, a promise of the best yet to come, both here and beyond these splendid shores.
I hope that this promise holds especially true for those who serve, on behalf of the rest. If I may paraphrase a celebrated statesman from some sixty five years ago, "never before in the history of human conflict has so much been owed by so many, to so few".
True or not at the time, I'll bet he knew it wouldn't be the last time such would be the case.
A very Happy New Year to all, and God bless those who serve in the American Military.
* T. R. Fehrenbach, from This Kind of War, page 455