To Fight You Need an Enemy
To Fight, You Need an Enemy
by Art Ticknor

                     
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One of Richard Rose's frequent admonitions was that males on a spiritual quest need to become fighters.

In Whistle, the James Jones sequel to The Thin Red Line and the third volume of a trilogy starting with From Here to Eternity, a passage caught my attention both because I'd never come across anything quite like it before and also because it applied to the topic of becoming a fighter.

soldiers in jungle A squadron leader, Prell, is back in the States after having been badly wounded in the legs while leading his squad on a reconnaissance mission that ended badly. The doctors want to amputate his legs to try to save his life, since the wounds aren't healing. Prell would rather die than lose his legs, but he seems to have lost the will to recover.

His old first sergeant, Winch, is shipped to the same hospital. He hears about Prell's condition and arranges with the hospital administrator to delay the amputation. When he visits Prell for the first time, Prell – who heard that Winch had called him a glory-hound and that's what led to casualties on his mission and his own condition – asks Winch if he's come to gloat. This triggers an intuitive reaction in Winch, who replies: "Still looking for sympathy, huh. Still hungerin' to be appreciated by everybody." Seeing Prell's reaction to this, he continues: "They'll give you a pension. And a leather leg. So you can go down to the American Legion on Saturday nights and show the boys your stump and tell them how you fought in the war in the South Pacific. Just don't tell them about your squad."

Prell reacted with: "You son of a bitch. I'll kill you when I get out of this." Winch grinned. He realized that what Prell needed was enemies, that he wasn't complex enough to fight without an enemy in front of him. Winch would be that enemy. Within a few days, Prell miraculously began to heal.

Where is the enemy to self-realization, to self-definition? We eventually find that the battle ground is within, and the enemy is within. In Notice, Rose named some of the faces of the enemy: Lust, Laziness, Pride, Weakness, Procrastination.

Have you engaged the enemy?


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