I spent several hours on making cleaning and scheduling shifts for the bar and dropped them off at the restaurant after school. Since I was near I stopped by a bookstore. I started in the religion section, moved to the philosophy, then biography, then military history and history to psychology and then witchcraft (why can’t we be with the rest of the religions?) and then to the poetry and mythology section. I picked up several books, held them and read a page or two, thought buying them, and put them back.
One of the first books I picked up was one in the military history section. It was titled ‘what we were asked to do’ or something like that. I flipped through it. It is a collection of one and two page letters and essays and such by veterans of recent/current conflicts. I read one from a Iraq War vet who is only 22 and yet he writes as though he is ‘so much older’ than the other college kids around him. He writes of his startle response getting laughs in the dorm and having to wear headphones on 4th of July and stay indoors.
I was moved to tears reading it. It pulled my own emotive strings and I felt his uncertainty, knowing what it feels like, and I put the book down and went into the bathroom to weep, not wanting to let such hide but to let them come out and heal. It didn’t last long, only a minute, and I went back outside with red eyes, a badge of honor in my heart, for I’ve earned my right to weep and I do so openly. We do not have rituals of grieving.
I ended up buying a book I’ve wanted for quite some time, the Robert Fagles translation of “The Odyssey”. I am half finished with his translation of “The Iliad” and next on my list is his translation of “The Aenid”. I’ve read it in various places that “The Iliad” the book for soldiers going to war and that “The Odyssey” is the book for soldiers coming back home. Striking, to me, that the last book in “The Odyssey” is Book 24: Peace. Also striking to me is that it all ends in peace, but that the book of peace ends in a fight and another slaying, yet that at the very end it is temperence. The peace is found when Odysseus is filled with the strength to fight and does so, striking a mortal blow, and yet also tempered to stop by Athena, though Zeus would have them continue on.
The peace that comes is not from laying down arms, nor of killing everyone, but in stopping when what is needs be done is done. As warriors come back from fighting, perhaps we would do well to honor our warrior selves and to keep ourselves ready for what fights come our way, and yet to know that we have the power to stop. We have the power to stop.
I cannot offer too much by way of insight right now, for I’ve not yet finished “The Iliad” and haven’t begun “The Odyssey”.