Lessons from combat

Sebastian Junger, journalist and military combat analyst says that strong “military unit cohesion has proven to be a buffer for psychological struggles”. 

Also, he reports that wartime trauma is diminished when soldiers feel a greater sense of control. For example, PTSD is more pronounced among lower ranking soldiers than special forces. 

Marry these observations and it gives some explanation as to why marriage breakup and the breakdown of very close friendships have a particular pain which we are not readily capable of managing. Also why it is absolutely critical that we, without condemnation, and band around those going through such traumas. 

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A Bob Dylan Mother Teresa sandwich

“If you ain’t where you are you’re nowhere.”

It’s a line I recall from a Rolling Stone interview with Dylan. 30 years later it’s a warning I am still learning to heed. 

I think many men, me included, can fail to be present. The switch to nowhere is so easily flicked. 

The encouragement is to be present, not diluted by the past, nor the worry or fantasy of tomorrow. 

As Saint Teresa of Calcutta says “…we only have today. Let us begin.”

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Revisionist me

“Don’t wanna learn from nobody what I gotta unlearn”

Bob Dylan’s line from the album “Slow Train Coming” resonated with the young me. It challenged me think critically before taking on ideas and practices and to show some care as to what I exposed myself to.

Now, in my middle years, I am actually enjoying the process of unlearning. There is some pleasure in going back to the basics and to ask myself what I actually know, think and feel. De-cluttering is a good thing for my temperament.

Four things have so far emerged.

First, I am surprised by how many people are privately doing their own version of revisionism but are anxious to not have it known. Membership in a tribe often calls for some ‘group think’ – but more on that in another post.

Second, I feel less compelled to have all the answers. (Oh, perhaps ‘responses’ is a better word than ‘answers’?).

Third, my thinking is now far less clinical and more infused with the beautiful notions of grace, mercy and peace.

Finally, in contrast to what I feared, the stripping away has left more connected with my faith and values.



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Fragile exuberance of the newly converted

We tend to overemphasise the importance of that which we have just learnt.

It’s a good thing too. The exuberance gives a chance for the lesson to work its way deep enough into our being to not be lost.

So when a friend is banging on, with the zeal of an ex-omnivore, humour them. With grace give that zeal some room to work its magic.

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A friend has six kids. He and I joke that the perfect number of children is ‘one less’.

All it takes is for one to be on camp and everything feels so easy. I suspect if it were 10 kids, the perfect number is 9. That is until 9 becomes the norm then it takes 8.

Capacity and strength grow in response to demand. That’s largely why an engaged employee’s earnings outperform inflation.

My capacity to love, serve, be generous and gracious grows to the extent I choose to step in.

Some things are to be endured. But where possible, the practice of love shouldn’t be an endurance, but something actively stepped into – embraced.

And when I actively step into love two things happen. The breaks of resentment are let go so I am less exhausted, and the recipient of my love is more likely to be transformed. 


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A road trip

When Bilbo Baggins is called by Gandalf out of his safe, cosy hollow he finds that wrapped up in the danger, insecurity and unknowing is a life of purpose, adventure and love.

When Jesus walked the earth he kept calling people out of what they knew and to follow him into the unknown.

You could say the Gospels are a road trip.

During his time of documented impact Jesus had no home and kept moving. His place on earth was an unfolding before the eyes of his followers. Very few people who encountered him got what they expected.

I am called out. Called out into a bigger, less predictable life. 

I am inspired by people who step out, love unconditionally, ask difficult questions, and chose to step into new worlds with an open heart.

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Is authenticity scalable?

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