The Gift of Men


I do not often think upon death. Neither do most young men; after all, as our elders are so fond of reminding us, we think we are invincible. Yet, as a recent and rather good article over at RoK points out, the only absolute certainty in life is that we are all going to die. The only variables concerning death are the how, and the when.

Most people do not think upon death because they are frightened of it. They fear the end of consciousness and of being. They fear the Long Dark, in which all thought and motion ends, and all that we once were abruptly terminates, while the mere mortal shell that contained our souls withers and crumbles into dust.

But I contend that our fear is misplaced. It is not death itself that we should fear. The true object of our horror and loathing should be living a life without purpose.

In his legendarium, J. R. R. Tolkien- or, as I call him, simply "The Master"- referred to the limited lifespans of men as a gift. He was right to do so. The immortality of the Elves sounds wonderful to those of us with limited time on this Earth- but I believe that immortality would in fact be a dreadful curse.

Imagine watching the world change all around you, yet remaining ageless. Imagine growing bored with everything that this world has to offer- and if you have ever truly thought about it, you will realise that there is so much that this world of wonder and riches has to offer that no man could ever be foolish enough to think that he could experience it all in his lifetime.

Imagine watching those you love grow old and die around you, while you remain untouched.

It would seem to me that immortality is in fact a terrible curse, disguised as a gift. The fact that we are, all of us, doomed, makes every moment more precious, more vital.

A Good Death

To understand why a wasted life is to be avoided, it is worth looking at how cultures both ancient and modern treated death.

The culture of ancient Sparta practically revolved around death and glory. Their entire way of life focused on the art of war. And they were extraordinarily good at it; even in the declining years of Sparta's power, their reputation as soldiers was so formidable that the greatest military leaders of the ancient world, Philip of Macedon and his son, Alexander the Great, refused to mess with them.

A full-fledged spartiate citizen could only come into the fullness of his rights and responsibilities as a member of the homoioi of Spartan society by proving, by feats of arms and personal courage, that he was willing to sacrifice himself to protect the Spartan state. To the Spartans, the noblest death of all was in battle. In the Spartan mind, notions of retreat and surrender were anathema.

Spartans who died old and infirm in their beds were not honoured; only those who died in battle were given headstones. To them, a life filled with martial vigour and honourable combat was a life well-spent.

But a life of hedonism and debauchery was, to them, meaningless. They viewed the more artistic and philosophical Athenians as degenerate, weak, and soft, and with good reason. To Spartans, life was to be lived for Sparta.

The Vikings had a similar attitude toward death. Their concept of the afterlife centred on the endless feast in Valhalla, the home of fallen warriors who had lived well and died gloriously, covered in blood and guts amidst the screams of dying men. Their legends held that the valkyrja would descend from the heavens onto battlefields covered with the slain, and would take with them the souls of the greatest warriors who had fallen on that day. Those men would sit in the Allfather's golden hall, eating and drinking and making merry endlessly every night, and then marching out and fighting against each other every day.

To become an einherjar, a warrior who would stand at Odin's side during the final cataclysmic battle of Ragnarok, was considered the greatest honour that a man could achieve, in this world or the next. But to die weak and infirm of old age in one's own bed was considered shameful indeed- a fate reserved for women and slaves, not men.

Lastly, consider the warrior ethos of the samurai of Japan. Now, as with all other warrior cultures, there has been plenty of romanticising of the samurai code of bushido and everything that it meant, but there is little doubt that the basic goal of bushido was to enforce honour, discipline, and a code of proper conduct upon the warriors of feudal and Imperial Japan. They lived and died by that code of honour, and often took it to considerable extremes; for a samurai who betrayed his code of honour, the only acceptable atonement was his own death.

A Worthy Life

These cultures were all, in their own way, violent and appear to modern eyes to greatly undervalue human life.

I contend that this is a superficial interpretation at best.

In reality, no matter where and when and how you look, martial cultures- whether we talk about the ancient Spartans, the samurai, the Roman legions, or the Marine Corps- believe that it is entirely acceptable, and indeed necessary, to spend lives to achieve an end.

What is never acceptable is to waste lives.

Whether lives were to be spent in defence of the state, or defence of personal honour, or defence of God, or defence of one's very way of life, the ultimate aim for these men was the same: dedication and sacrifice in the name of worthy causes.

Wasted Years

In our modern age, we would like to believe that we have moved beyond such a parochial understanding of life and death. We would like to think that modern civilisation, with all of its comforts and technological marvels, is all we need in order to live happy and fulfilling lives.

We do not stop to think of the uncomfortable reality that our civilisation is at best a thin and often flaky veneer designed to cover up the baser instincts of Man. And we certainly do not wish to remember that this veneer maintains itself, however poorly, only through the fact that there are hard men willing to make hard choices in order to defend our way of life.

As Western civilisation plunges ever deeper into the abyss of its destruction, that veneer is being rapidly chipped away. And as our Time of Testing rushes to meet us, we are each of us confronted with a choice.

Either we can insist on closing our eyes to reality, and pretending that all there is to life is an endless cycle of hedonistic pursuits of toys, possessions, alcohol, meaningless sex, and even more meaningless company spent in desperate association with those who we know, deep down, could never be relied upon to defend themselves, never mind us.

Or we can face up to reality, and choose to live with a purpose.

For God, Country, and Family

One does not have to take up arms and become a berserker or seek death in plague-infested hellholes in the Third World in order to achieve such a life. A good death requires only that a man must have the courage to live his life for a purpose.

A man who dedicates his life to raising strong, dutiful, honourable sons and feminine, gentle, loving daughters will find his efforts rewarded a hundredfold in his old age. When such a man dies, his legacy of honour, compassion, and strength will live on through those he has sired.

A man who dedicates his life to defending his his tribe, his people, and his country, from all enemies both foreign and domestic, is a man whose legacy will live on long after he is dead. His people will remember and honour him, even unto generations that have no idea who he is.

A man who dedicates his life to serving the Almighty, to understanding His works and will, and to spreading the Word of His Truth, is worthy of honour and esteem. Such a road is a hard path to take, filled as it is with penury and hardship; yet the fact remains that Western civilisation as we know it today would never have been possible were it not for the great sacrifices made by countless monks and friars and priests whose bones have long turned to dust, but whose works live on with us to this day.

In fact, all such men will transcend death. They will have achieved immortality, through their words and deeds.

For a life lived on such terms, what fear does death then have?

I remember reading somewhere that the greatest Hell a man can face is to be lying on his deathbed, gasping his last breath, only to look up and see just before he dies, the man that he could have been standing next to him. That, to me, is what should terrify each of us about death.

So find your purpose in life. Don't waste it following the orders of some fool that you don't respect, working as a wage slave for some giant corporation. Don't waste it pursuing endless sybaritic pleasures of the flesh. Don't waste it listening to the endless emotionally overwrought tirades of the dyscivic progressive Left.

Instead, spend your life in service to your friends, your family, your country, and Almighty God- so that when you die, your achievements in this life will live beyond you.
So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your lifeSeek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide. Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none. When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision. When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way.
Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.
 -- Tecumseh

Comments

  1. P.S. Ever seen 47 ronin? Yes, it's got keanu reeves, and despite billing he wasn't really the main character... but it underscores a point of Japanese honor foreign to many especially many postmoderns who already lack any concept of such.

    They broke their oaths to do what they saw needed to be done, and then accepted the punishment decreed for breaking their oaths, proving that they were both able to recognize and act to forward a greater sense of good and tight and honor, as well as accept the consequences of violating their oaths to do so.

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    1. Yeah, actually, I did see it- sometime last year if I recall. I honestly rather liked the film, flawed and silly though it was. The story of the 47 Ronin is one of the most important ones in the Japanese canon, and as you say, it underscores the importance of both doing what is right, and accepting the consequences of one's actions.

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