Southern Views

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 as it 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. Suddenly 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.

Anolis carolinensism, green anoles or Florida chameleonThe warriors were about two inches in length, seemingly equal in every way, yet one had some advantage over the other. What the advantage was I simply could not determine. 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. Occasionally they open their mouths and charge, but I’ve never seen one bite the other. 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 my prediction.

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 determines who eats and who 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 these struggles.

Consider for just a moment the incredible trillions of dollars that have been spent on wars, then of greater importance think of the men and women who have been sacrificed on the fields of battle. Not just battles on well-known battlefields, but the battle fields if our citiesand even homes. What is it all about? It is about who controls.

I am not so naïve as to think that wars are not going to be fought and that some are even are necessary. Nevertheless, I hate the senselessness and sacrifice of war. I spent time as a warrior in the United States Army, but after learning the myriad ways of killing other human beings, 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 people education to adequately provide for themselves thus ending poverty and hunger. Yet we cohhse to use those resources on war.

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, except 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. After Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, God’s punishment yielded a lack of the ability to evolve socially, not as individuals, but as a species. So, we are stuck. (Sure, the creation story is a myth, but what better answer is there for the human misery we suffer and foist on others?) Again and again we repeat the insanely cruelty on each other.

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 if it wins or loses when they engage each other. I wouldn’t be surprised if they won alternately demonstrating the futility of war all over again.

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Jack deJarnette

Jack deJarnette

I am a United Methodist Minister who in June 2008, was placed on incapacity leave due to kidney failure.  My kidneys failed due to immusuppression medications secondary to a heart transplant in 1997. The ministry is my second career having spent 12 previous years at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta as Chief Respiratory Therapist and Technical Director of Life Support Systems at Emory University School of Medicine. I  have a wonderful wife of 45 years, two super children, and four grandchildren. My life has been exciting, challenging, and full of wonder as in my early years I was concerned with saving lives and in my later years saving souls I was graduated  from Georgia Military Academy in 1961 (Woodward Academy). I attended Emory-at-Oxford College, The University of Georgia, Georgia State University, and Emory University for postgraduate work. I received my ministry credentials through the United Methodist Church Course of Study at Emory's candler School of Theology. My Theology is primarily Wesleyan and varies with the particular topic under discussion. I refuse to be labeled either liberal or conservative. My politics are moderate embracing what I hope is the best of all parties. I have a deep love for Christ, the Church, and the United States of America. Bev (my wife) and I are deeply thankful to God for the blessings that have been showered on us throughout our lives.

10 Comments
  1. Jack, I just feel we are hardwired to be territorial and competitive. If we weren’t so wired, I’m not sure life would be as good as we think it would without combat, wars, and strife. For sure on a pragmatic level, we’d be overpopulated with a host of ills we can’t imagine.

    1. Jack deJarnette

      Tom,
      I agree that we are hardwired for war. It derives from tribalism which was the most prevalent way of life for ancient humanoids as demonstrated by the tribes being found in the Amazon. Woul dl ife be better without wars, I haven’t thought about all of the implications of that, but certainly overpopulation could be a problem as could the economic impact. Certainly some of our most valuable technologies are the result of war needs.It would be ever so good, though not to have to endure the pain of a lost loved one. My reason for labelling war as futile is my prejudice against it.

  2. I think they’re just wrestling. When the sexes are different, the can be reproduction, which needs to happen for the species to survive, but doesn’t need to be recognized by the participants, especially by creatures whose brains aren’t large enough to register the difference. I once raised a mallard duckling whose gender wasn’t recognized by two male mallards on the adjacent pond either. They kept harassing what I thought was a she, until he flew off with his teal marking several months later. We assume other creatures know what we know and that we know more than we do. Humans fighting, I’m increasingly convinced, is the result of some inept people not knowing how to get others to do for them.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KcAUUOa5xIQ

    1. Jack deJarnette

      Monica,
      Thanks for your thoughts. The sex of anoles, however is pretty easy to distingish the males are extremely territorial . My bad boys were both certainly males, sex was the last thing on their minds. Of course, I agree that they are driven by instinct, not by intellect, but sometimes it is just downright fun to anthropomorphize animals. Isn’t your last sentence really about control which is the basis for my entire premise.

  3. Mark Dohle

    We are not a rational species, though we have the ability to think along rational lines if our emotions are not in play that is. In the Star Trek series, Spock was totally rational, yet I certainly would not want to be like him. We are a messy species and it is amazing we have survived this long. I also think we are controlled by the ‘unconscious’ more than we would like to think. The whole advertising industry is based on that assumption, since commercials are not directed to the rational thinking mind, but towards the irrational unconscious.

    Also, we love war I think, at least the thought of it and today with instant coverage it is a form of entertainment, sort of like watching a hurricane come inland. Horrible yes and sad, yet also entertainment, it is how we are built.

    I guess sports are a way for people to get together in large groups and scream and yell, paint themselves, drink and dance like maniacs and because they are in a ritual place, the sports arena, it is ok. Don’t get me wrong, I love going to games so I can jump up and down, act the fool and be just like everyone else.

    Yet we are called to more, and hopefully when things get bad enough, perhaps as a species we will learn. Though it will mean that even more suppression will have to be used to channel our violent energies…..no more scapegoats…..a writer once said that Jesus was “THE scapegoat, he carried it all to the end without resorting to violence, but forgave everyone…..

    1. Jack deJarnette

      Certainly there are valid reasons for war–reduction of population, economic gains, technological development; claiming, reclaiming, and protecting territory, proctecting life and on and on. If we were humans were rational we could find better ways to solve each of these problems. It is terrible to think about war as entertainment, but I was just reading about the civilians that went out in caravans to watch battles during the Civil War. I don’t think I want humans to be totally rational, but just more so.

  4. Cliff Green

    I see the same phenomenon in my back yard in Atlanta, where we keep a huge hummingbird feeder. This thing has enough nectar in it to feed dozens of those less-than-an-ounce creatures for months, yet when two come along at the same time, they fight over the stuff. I want to yell out the back door, “One of you go to one side of the feeder and the other go to the other side! There’s enough to go around!”
    Instead, one tries to bump the other off, and the fight goes on until one retreats.
    Unfortunately, as human beings, we’re going to go on fighting too. Jack knows this old story, but I’ll repeat it because it may help explain why.
    A young man goes off to seminary and is baffled by what he is hearing. As the weeks go by, he becomes more and more confused by the definitions, abstractions and paradoxes he is being forced to confront for the first time. Finally, he goes to his advisor and admits that he may not have been called to the ministry after all.
    The advisor asked the student for an example of one of the things that was bothering him. “Doctrine,” said the kid.
    “Oh, heck,” said the advisor. “Doctrine is easy.”
    “Oh yeah,” said the student. “If it’s so easy, in twenty-five words or less, give me a definition of The Doctrine of Original Sin.”
    “I don’t need twenty-five words. I can do it in five.”
    “OK. Let’s hear it.”
    The advisor held up one hand and counted fingers: “People are no damned good.”
    And so it goes.

    1. Jack deJarnette

      We have had birds fly into our dutch doors with such force they actually killed themselves. Now that’s futile.

  5. We can’t proclaim that we mustn’t fight if we also claim that we have a right to defend ourselves or to protect what is ours. War isn’t necessarily futile nor is war always avoidable or even to be avoided. It’s easy to say, “I won’t fight” but actually any of us will fight for the right reason or provocation.

  6. Jack deJarnette

    I was not thinking about a proclaimation and agree there will always be wars and the rumor of wars, doesn’t make me feel any less strongly about them.

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