Sunday, December 11, 2011

What sword would you die on?

"In difficult ground, press on; On hemmed-in ground, use subterfuge; In death ground, fight."  - Sun Tzu

"For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."  - Jesus (Matthew 6:21)

Where is your heart?  What sword are you willing to die on?

Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" is oft quoted by generals, CEO's, athletic coaches, computer obsessed hermits, and other wannabes of all stripes.  You have certainly had bosses who embodied the mind of Sun Tzu, and you bear the scars to prove it.

Sun Tzu has much to say about victory. As a morally inadequate leader, he used his most astute observations about the human condition to make decisions about how to manipulate his own men to win in battle, with little or no regard for their lives.  Hence the above - inscribed for the successful to consider, or for the morally inadequate, like Sun Tzu, to use to their own advantage.

Know that there is TRUTH in what Sun Tzu said.  Each of the above is what will occur, if you consider examples from your own life, when you are cornered.  

In difficult ground, the instinct is to press on.  This is why parents send their adult children mercifully out into the world to make their own way, even though what they would prefer is to keep them home near the fire.

On hemmed in ground, your native savvy for survival will chemically elevate your brain to its highest acuity, its sharpest edge.  When there's only one way out, you get smarter, really quick.  You will find it easy here to recall examples from your own experience.

Only in death ground will you fight to the death, and should.  In death ground, your "fight" instinct will by your very nature kick in unless your will to live has already been impaired by other conditions, such as depression or learned hopelessness.  Fight or die.

Sun Tzu knew these things, and deliberately put his soldiers on Death Ground when he knew he needed them to fight with all they had.  Still, you can use his observations for what they are worth, which is a lot.

These conditions are actually simulated in everyday life all the time.  The question is, what do you consider to be difficult ground, hemmed in ground?  

What do you consider to be death ground?

Where is your treasure?  What is worth dying for to you, even figuratively speaking?

There was a terrific special about Sun Tzu on the History Channel this week, equally as informative as Thursday's edition of the X-Factor, which I will address later.  To illustrate the Death Ground Theory of Sun Tzu, the commentator referenced the Battle of Normandy.

Here goes Amateur History Lesson 1A, straight from the only slightly informed brain of this hippie historian. Please be forgiving as you read, considering that my primary concern in high school was the history of social movements and related policies, not the classic Presidential and military history to which high school kids are normally treated.

So, carrying on, it appears that in 1944 the best option for landing on enemy territory dictated a beach attack, which would leave American troops on Hemmed In Ground. Eisenhower scrupulously concealed his plan with subterfuge. He diverted Hitler's attention to a fake fleet of blow-up rubber tanks, planes, jeeps - the works - all of which he kept elsewhere, to trick Hitler into thinking the attack would occur not on the beach at Normandy, but at Calais.  


Eisenhower's forces deflated and moved the decoys repeatedly in the dark of night to simulate what would occur with real inventory, going so far as to use rollers to simulate the tracks that would have been made in the dirt as they moved.

On D-Day, faced with the tack-tack-tack of bullets pelting the shells of the very tanks that temporarily shielded their faces, American troops confronted the reality that they would soon step out onto occupied soil, sitting ducks, even in spite of the decoy maneuvers.  The front line was sure to die.

No retreat was possible.  Death Ground.

Line after line of men was cut down. Lifeless or dying bodies - bunkmates and brothers - stacked up in the doorway, steaming, as the men at the back awaited their fate, or their destiny.  Horror crouched mere inches from their faces, the hot stink of blood thick in their nostrils.  

Their response?  To storm out with guns blazing, penetrating deep into Hedgerow Country.  From Death Ground to Hemmed-In Ground: their destiny.

In the Hedgerow Country, where centuries of dense growth blocked even the fiercest tank penetration, only hand to hand, gut to gut combat was possible: knives, guns, garottes, bare fingers.  Nazi soldiers lay in wait in the darkest corners of the maze.  Each boy's consciousness had to achieve its highest level of acuity to survive, had to remain on highest alert, shot with adrenalin.

Eisenhower, with his men blocked as they were by the now accursed hedges, bombarded the nearby Caen to lure the Nazi forces out of the labyrinth and into the light.  Subterfuge.  Victory.  Unimaginable loss, and incomparable courage.

It causes me to wish I'd paid attention to the World War II unit more closely.  American balls out courage is demonstrated there in remarkable ways.

As we watch ourselves, and our friends and neighbors, it's clear, sometimes painfully so, where their - where our - treasure lies.  In daily life, rarely do we find ourselves lying in wait behind a pile of dying soldiers, committing our souls to a cause so large our brains cannot grasp it in the moment.  Our fight or die instinct presents itself in more mundane ways most of the time.

We have instincts waiting for a cause, and we choose our causes every day.  This is how our small worlds are shaped.

Example: on the X-Factor (Fox Network) this past Thursday, little Rachel Crowe, just thirteen, was eliminated from the field of musical competition only five short steps from victory.  She had sung her heart out, week after week, throwing it all down, fight or die, against people more than twice her age, for her treasure.  

Music. Performance.  To be herself.  "If I were a boy."  Treasure.

When the news was announced that this would be her last night on the stage before millions, only a moment of shock flashed over her face.  In an instant, she melted to her knees, then to the floor.  Then, the heaving gasping sobs came, then a bawling noise like a child whose mother has just died.

Then, standing, she faced her mother.  No one had died.  Yet she confronted her:  "Mommy, you promised me.  You promised I would win."  Still fighting, mindless of the national crowd, fighting to the death for her treasure.

But then a shift came.  Out of the corner of her eye, she saw judge Nicole Scherzinger, so abject herself that she couldn't speak.  Scherzinger had been the one who could have saved her to sing another day, but instead had thrown her to her fate, on the other side of the hedgerow from her treasure.

But what did Rachel do next?  Did she attack, garotte, stab the one who threw her dream on the ash heap?  

Not at all. Instead, she turned to her greater treasure: the compassion that resides in her child soul, and then to its twin in her judge, her friend.  She momentarily set aside her loss, not so large and permanent after all, and turned to what really mattered - to comfort her grieving friend, to thank an audience and a fan base who had loyally supported her - a true princess, if you remember the tale.

It was not so different with fifteen-year-old Drew Ryniewicz the week before, who upon her elimination simply said through her grief-stricken sobs, "You need to know that Jesus loves you.  That's what I really came to say."  Treasure.

Where is your treasure today?  The answer to that question daily shapes the outcomes of your life.  The answer shapes your soul, and its destiny.

Make a conscious choice about what your treasure is today.  Know that, in the end, you will likely be called to die for it, either literally or figuratively.  Are you ready?  Are you willing?

What sword do you want to die on?  How will you instruct others, with the manner in which you choose to lay your life down?

Comment below, and tell us.

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