“We wage the war we are.”
I probably use this quote from W. H. Auden more than any other, in this venue and also in my day to day life. And, yes, it is very telling for my life is, and always has been a war zone most of these sixty-three years. Of course, I carefully contained this warfare inside my canned-Christian veneer. Yeah, I kinda identify with Ben Carson!!!
Auden was an astute observer of the human heart as are all great poets. He made this poetic observation in recognition of his own conflicted heart and his poetry revealed recognition of the turmoil that rages inside the heart of all human beings. Yes, “most men live lives of quiet desperation” but Auden knew that beneath the surface of this “quiet desperation” warfare was simmering, mercifully kept under control beneath the social veneer. Well, most of the time anyway!
Why? Where does this conflict come from? Simply stated, we are spiritual beings temporarily confined within a mortal body. And, a spiritual being is infinite by definition and does not really fit inside what the philosophers call the world of “form. To illustrate, I am now so very aware of just how I want everything! I don’t want to deal with privation and on some level it even angers me! Why should I have to want anything? Who dares to get in my path at Wal Mart, or cut me off in traffic, or fail to laugh at my jokes, or scoff at my literary acumen? How dare them? On some level I have the narcissitic illusion that the world is my oyster and though I cover it up with this carefully contrived social veneer, I often catch gut-level, reptilian brain, unmitigated hunger surging in my heart. I want it all!
Though this is a literary exaggeration, it is an honest reflection of “waging the war” that I am. For, I do have these frustrations and fears and now realize I’ve had them all my life but have kept them carefully pent up, knowing that to do otherwise would not be prudent. And this “prudence” is what makes us human as without social sensitivities we would all be at war with each other literally. But at some point in our life, it is imperative that we find private venues where we can air these “grievances” about life and hopefully discover that an individual, or group of individuals, can assure us that they are fighting the same battle. I have been blessed with these venues.
The current terrorist crisis in France is an illustration of what happens when we cannot recognize our own internal warfare. Until we can own this internal conflagration, we will always see it “out there” and seek to obliterate it. “We wage the war we are” often by battling that vast category we call “them,” a convenient category comprised of those qualities of our own that we do not wish to own up to. Yes, this is true for Daesh but also for “us.”