Killing Faith

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I set up my writing materials on the picnic table at Abó, one of New Mexico’s more obscure Pueblo ruins.

This had been my Sunday ritual for a year or more. I was both seduced and inspired by the crumbling red rocks of the former Spanish Mission church. The rocks that are as red as dried blood; as red as the passion of a savior.

I’d been so enthralled by the tumbling rocks, in fact, that I wandered well off the path several times and was caught, reprimanded, and placed on probation by Officer Lopez, who was protector of the sacred Indian ruins.

It was a humorously embarrassing moment. He wanted to restrict my presence there; I fought for compromise. Eventually we agreed that I must check in with him at the Visitor’s Center each Sunday before entering the grounds.

I wanted a solitary place to pray and seek peace. He wanted to enforce justice. We coexisted for a few weeks with the tension of warriors. But I softened one day and decided to attempt a truce of faith.

As he was making his rounds one Sunday morning, I inwardly willed Officer Lopez to come to the picnic area and talk with me.

I gathered up all the juju and prayer power I could, placed it in a mental bouquet, then set to work typing.  Within thirty minutes, I heard him call out, “Hello Jayni!”

He waved.  Asked how I was.  Faltered a bit.  I coaxed him on with conversation.

We talked for nearly half an hour.

I learned that he was a marine for five years.  Officer Lopez stated that when he was in the Marines, he and his buddies wanted to go to war…wanted to kill.

I have never met anyone who actually wanted to kill people.  Someone who was excited and eager to not just exercise his military training – but wanted to kill.  His body vibrated as he spoke those words.  His face animated.

I am awed.

I crave to crawl behind this man’s militant majesty and find out how it feels to want to kill.

What animal instinct inspires a person to be excited about killing?

What is the thrill within the kill?

Why am I intrigued enough to pursue the conversation further?

Why do I want to learn about raw emotion at this coarse level?

Because it is pure – clean – honest. Untangled from the bullshit psycho-spiritual labyrinth I’ve walked my entire life.

This man knows who he is, what he likes, what he wants, and takes it without apology.

I’ve spent a lifetime apologizing for myself and trying to understand why I exist.

Of course his surefootedness grabs me.

It’s simple and solid.

It offers stability and a point to rebel against.  And rebellion has always empowered me.  I was my father’s little anti-soldier.

 

But now I want to be neutral and understand the operations of my former enemies.

I don’t want enemy lines drawn.  I want lines erased.  But I also want my own truth to emerge.

I listened to Officer Lopez speak with such strong conviction.

I wonder if I will ever be able to stand even half as self-assured and state my beliefs.

I may not agree with his faith, but I admire and envy his rootedness.

His rootedness reminds me of rocks.  Of the rocks he protects.  Of the rock I want to be protected by.  Of some rocks I’ve known and wanted to live under or on the edge of.

He’ll live long in my memory .  .  . as I keep practicing the art of crawling into the light and exposing my lies and my truth.

6 responses »

  1. This post is fascinating, Jayni. I’ve often wished I could talk to a military person about things like this. Most people I know who’ve been soldiers haven’t actually been in active combat, and the ones who have don’t/didn’t seem to want to discuss it. I only know they’ve been involved in combat because other people have told me. Brava to you for being so open minded and wanting to understand. So many of our problems come from shutting out people who feel differently than us, but listening, as you did, is, IMO, the key to peace.

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    • Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Mary. The whole business of warfare is beyond my comprehension in so many ways . . . this man offered me a learning curve, for sure! I heartily agree with you that listening, especially to those who make us uncomfortable, is the source of finding peace. And the beginning of stretching that inner peace into external peace, I like to hope.

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  2. Fascinating, isn’t it? How much his rugged rigidity could be influenced by the land he’s been assigned to protect. How donning a uniform transforms personae. Fascinating to ponder which comes first. From within? from without?

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      • Perhaps there’s another essay from within this then? In my family are men who change from sweet loving fathers into unrecognizeable sargeant-types when they don their uniforms. And in the fictional world of books and TV shows I read and watch, men (and women) like this are taught to become different personae in order to “protect.” Given the headlines these days, so many wonder who or what they are protecting.

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  3. Yes, Debra, you may be right . . . another essay may well be nesting within this one! It’s a topic that I’m been spending a lot of time watching and observing. In both celebrity and anonymous statuses. It’s extremely fascinating to me and very edifying. The uniform concept is not necessarily militant; it’s also one’s own chosen uniform of self-identity that emerges over time. It’s sometimes conscious and manipulative; other times unconscious and harmlessly cruel. So much to learn about us human creatures!!

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