Why do we cling to life so much? What makes this flesh, riddled with veins and arteries, filled out and given a shape by bones, hemmed into the seems like a tailored bodice, so precious? Why do the follicles of hair that sprout from our skin give us so much pride and anxiety? Why do the nails, trimmed with white, define our health and beauty?
We can watch people being slaughtered aimlessly or die victoriously. Some nights I used to dream about being killed, others about killing – what it would feel like to take someone’s life – how hard or easy it could be. What stops people, what enables them to continue? How far must one go before they are desensitized? Is it possible, that the regime Jason Bourne underwent could so effectively erode the indescribable ‘thing’ that gives us our humanity, that one wouldn’t think twice about shoving ballpoint pens into veins, twisting that neck a degree too far, smothering, with the scarf that was an unwanted birthday present, a mouth, that was once attached to a face that had been loved, admired, noticed – at least.
What possesses us to want to learn how to fight? When we no longer live in a hunter-gather society, when the threat of predators can be thwarted by the CCTV cameras that roam over our bodies, lecherous eyes that are accountable to no-one, except the elusive pursuit of ‘justice’, why should we fear? I used to dream about being a marine, a soldier, part of the cavalry, an expert sword fighter. Xena and her cheese wire frisbee were no match for me; neither was Hercules. John Wayne and his pistols, Indiana and his whip, my fingers had tasted the cuisine of salty blood, cracked jaw and solar plexus thrust. And yet I wondered why? Why teach your son or daughter how to shoot that Glock, that shotgun, the AK47. What for? Just-in-case, she said. You never know – he whispered. Safety-first – we cried.
Yet we live in a shoot first never ask society. We ask our soldiers to shoot first and trust. Trust in what? A God who calls for a cease to bloodshed? In fallible man who is a slave to his wallet or penis? The deranged mother screaming for revenge, so her son’s life was not taken in vain?
Yet every vein that carries blood through this carcass does so in vain. For this is neither the end nor the beginning. Whether by the lead bullet or the slow decay of time, Aragorn will die. The splendour and the glory of Kings will pass into the shadows of history, and we will say to ourselves –
Once upon a time – there was beauty, there was freedom, there was life.
But we killed it.