This morning I was sitting in my easy chair reading the paper, my CLWD (cute little white dog) cuddled in beside me when suddenly I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. I looked up and outside the patio door; I saw a real life battle began. It was a battle over territory. The valiant warriors waved their battle flags, first one, and then the other and the battle began. It grew in intensity, each warrior determined to prevail. The battle raged for all of five minutes but in spite of their gritty engagement, not a drop of blood was spilled. It was over as quickly as it started. I could not tell what the defining moment was, but one of the warriors withdrew as the other stood waving his victorious banner for all to see. I was utterly amazed.
The warriors were about two inches long, seemingly equal in every way, yet one had some advantage over the other. What the advantage was I simply could not tell. Here in Florida they are commonly called false or Florida chameleons because they change colors from green to brown and back again depending on what background they find themselves on. Actually, they are not chameleons at all but are Anolis carolinensis, or green anoles. The battle that they engage in is one of head bobbing and flashing a red throat fan or dewlap. When the battle is between two anoles of differing size it is easy to predict who the winner will be, but when they appear to be equal in size the outcome is beyond me.
While my tiny warriors battled in almost microscopic scale, I wondered what it must have been like for them. They certainly didn’t see each other as two-inch lizards, I am sure one must have appeared as Godzilla to the other, and while no blood was let, their battle was as real to them as that played out on any battle field. My tiny warriors live in a plant that sits on our patio, which can only supply a finite quantity of bugs. When bugs are in short supply as they surely are in the winter, the one that has primacy over the territory eats and the secondary does not. These battles really are a matter of life and death and not to be taken lightly.
I am fascinated with the struggles that are around us all of the time; struggles that we hardly notice as we go about our daily routines. As I observe them, and I try to on every occasion, I am reminded of the struggles between people. Just as the anoles fight over who controls territory, so do we. All of the wars of history are about who is in control. It is easy to forgive the anoles for their battles since they are hard-wired for them; but it is much harder for me to forgive human beings for such stupidity since we have the capacity to learn and discover ways to prevent the necessity of struggles for power.
Consider for just a moment the trillions of dollars that have been spent on wars, then of greater importance think of the men and women who sacrificed on the fields of battle. Not just wars fought on well-known battlefields, but also the battlefields in our cities. What are the battles all about? They are about control of the territory, whether over the possession of land or determination of ideology.
I am not so naïve as to think that wars are not going to be fought and that some are necessary. Nevertheless, I hate the senselessness of war. I spent time as a warrior in the United States Army, but after learning the myriad ways of killing and wounding another human being, I chose to become a combat medic. Fortunately, I was spared from putting my skills to use.
Human ingenuity and creativity are capable of feeding the entire world, we are capable of providing medicines to every person who is ill, we can provide clean water and the resources for indigenous peoples to have the necessary resources and education to adequately provide for themselves thus ending poverty and hunger.
I am not a pacifist, but having spent 30 years as a minister and studying human development I am thoroughly convinced that we have evolved in every way, but socially. Oh, some of us are more sophisticated than others. Some of us are more enlightened than others. Some of us are more intelligent than others. However, as a species we are still as primitive as we always have been. As a theologian, I have an explanation for our pitiful state. It is found in the creation myth. After Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, God’s punishment yielded the inability to evolve socially, not as individuals, but as a species. Legend, myth or truth; it doesn’t matter we seem to be stuck. To quote a famous saying, “nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom will rise up against kingdom…” (Jesus of Nazareth, circa 34AD)
As I finish this musing my tiny warriors are back at it. One day I might catch one and put a dab of paint on its tail, and then I can see which one wins or loses when they engage one another again. I would not be surprised to discover that they won alternately, demonstrating the futility of war.