On Shame and the Courage to Retreat.

I wonder if the great warriors ever felt ashamed. They must have learned the art of war somewhere. Though success must build upon success, especially in that line of work, in order to die another day, I wonder if they ever wished that they were not so brutal, so efficient.

Even Achilles must have sighed, enough.

There is, indeed, a shame to not knowing where to stop, the realization that you have taken too much of what is not yours to take. Sometimes the only honorable thing to do is to retreat as resolutely as you first set out. Did the heroes just as furiously surge the battlefield within? Did they retreat into themselves and show no mercy to the enemy they knew by their own name? If they were the men the bards sing them to be, I like to think they did.

I know the men and women in the stories never lived the way we understand it. Nymphs and druids, gods and centaurs, never walked this earth with the grace the poets wished they had. But the wild chases they embarked upon are the rippling reflection of the yearnings we all feel. Their stories call us back to the knowledge that we are inescapably within ourselves; our lusts, our loves and hates, children and families and work and leisure are all part of whatever ourselves is. How we escape who we are and how we retreat into that same self is proof of our courage. We should be ashamed to do anything less.

© 2015 Anna-Christina Betekhtin, All Rights Reserved.

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