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.
The 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.