Like most of us, I’ve never really been tested.
I have never fought in a war. I’ve never had to fight for my life. I’ve never taken a bullet for another. I’ve never had to gnaw through a limb to ensure my survival. I have never had to defuse a bomb to an ominous soundtrack. I’ve never shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.
I don’t know what it’s like to fight for something which might cost me my life. I have never had to weigh up duty against the need of my kids to have a living, breathing parent. I have never found a cause I was willing to die for.
I feel quite strongly that toilet paper is far too expensive, though I would hardly call this a conviction. I most certainly wouldn’t die for it.
I would die for my kids, of course, but this is a fairly hollow claim as I live in a society where the chances of me ever having to actually fulfill any such notion are pretty slim. A parent in Mogadishu says that, then it bears some serious weight. You live in a three bedroom house in the suburbs of Western Sydney and it becomes less so.
There is some primal element, some primordial nature that makes men want to be tested. There is some hidden part in all of us that ponders what would happen to us in a gun fight, of how we would cope when faced with the imminent launch of a nuclear missile upon innocent civilians and the only thing that could stop it was you and a twelve foot jump which no one else would dare. There must be aqn inherent worthlessness in that, a sense that we are not enough. Of course, we may just be show ponies and, having run out of tricks which inspire even the slightest bit of awe from those around us, are desperately searching for something which might elicit a slight sense of curiosity toward us.
Perhaps we live comparatively; holding our own experiences up to those which have preceded us, which surround us, whether they be fictional or not. We often watch movies and in that moment where the young, but eager soldier makes a fatal mistake which leads to him, his friend and his friend’s dog getting killed, we assure ourselves that we would not have followed such a foolish action. We know, comfortable in our popcorn laden arm chairs that our decision would have been a righteous one, resulting in the saving of entire nations and the attention of attractive people of all kinds, everywhere.
Of course, there is not a film realistic enough to truly depict the horrors of war, the sheer insanity of killing nameless enemies or the ever present and arbitrary sensation of waiting to be shot. It is unimaginable. Maybe that’s why our mind drags us there, why it casts us in the role of hero, in an attempt to understand something most of us, thankfully will never experience.
For these aren’t fictional events. There are, there was, there always will be wars, there will always be conflict, there will always be life or death situations. We, the general public will just never have to face them. You can’t help but feel just a little inferior, just a little like your life has less meaning, perhaps less import than those who have witnessed death first hand, who have experienced such a ferocity of life.
There are people, right now, who are placing their lives in danger, giving aide and medical help, distributing food rations and tending to sick children in some war torn hell hole, somewhere in the world. Right now. It is not me and, presumably as you are reading this, it is not you either.
I feel inadequate by their conviction, as I, obviously, do not have it. If I did, I would be there. I feel slightly shamed every time I pontificate about the state of the world and how we don’t do enough about it.
In its own strange way, my mind tries to placate this feeling by imagining me as a tall, skinny, very badly trained version of James Bond. This is, in actual fact, of very little help to anybody.
I am tested every day. We all are, in the only ways that really matter. Do we care and if so, how do we manifest it? It is the only test there is. We shouldn’t bother with exams and the endless cycle of academic testing in schools. We should be doing the only testing that matters to kids, to any of us; what do you care about and how can you live through that? You answer that one right and the world is yours.
I will probably never wrestle a metal toothed, Russian super spy to the ground, thus saving Antarctica from melting, which is a damned shame. But it is probably for the best.
Instead, perhaps I’ll try to do better every day, try to tend to my own little corner of the world. If each of us did that, soon there wouldn’t be any corners left. It would spread like wildfire.
Which would, of course, leave more time for fighting ninjas…