Michael Meade and the warrior spirit

Michael Meade is a scholar and storyteller who was active in the men’s movement of the 1980s and 1990s, which used ancient myths and stories to illuminate the needs and struggles of men today.  He did this in his 1993 book, Men and the Water of Life, while telling his own story.  He grew up in a tough Irish neighborhood in New York City and was a member of a street gang.

He opposed the Vietnam War, but did not claim conscientious objector status because he wasn’t a pacifist.  He was inducted into the Army and, in basic training, decided he would not obey orders that didn’t make sense to him.   He was put in solitary confinement in a brig in Panama City, where he went on a hunger strike.  His weight fell from 150 to 87 pounds.  At this point he was flown back to the United States.

I found the next part very interesting.

Everyone on the plane was military, some on leave from duty in Panama, most returning from Vietnam.  I was handcuffed between two armed guards.  They were Green Beret sergeants returning from their second tour of duty in Vietnam.  Their job was to escort me back to the States and turn me over to authorities there.  They were curious about my emaciated condition, so I told them them some of my story. 

meadem.men&wateroflifeTheir interpretation surprised me.  They both felt that I was fighting my war while they were fighting theirs.  They were the only people I had spoken to in almost a year who understood my position.

Theirs was a minority opinion.  Many of those on the plane knew who I was and the nature of my protest.  A sergeant from my company announced to the entire plane that I was a traitor escaping from real punishment.  Many of those on board took turns coming over and cursing me.

But the two who were guarding me announced that anyone who had anything to say to me would have to deal with them first.  If anybody wanted to fight, they were ready.  The plane quieted down.

Then my guards told me about their experiences in battle, about firefights and the danger of being blown out like a flame.  I told them of my feeling that I had been standing in a fire.

We talked in images of fire most of the way back to the United States.  They helped me to see that from their point of view there was very little difference between their fire and mine. This helped to contain my fire, it protected me like a salve.  From these two men I learned something about the role of “older brothers” in initiations by fire.

Meade was eventually discharged.   There are different ways to be a warrior.  Friedrich Nietzsche served in the Franco-Prussian War as a medic.  He spent three days and nights in a boxcar, without relief, ministering to six severely wounded Prussian soldiers who suffered from dysentary and diptheria.  He caught both diseases himself, and had to be hospitalized.  His health was bad for the rest of his life.

Michael Meade is still around.  Click on Michael Meade D.H.L. for some of his current writings.  Click on Mosaic Voices Cultural Foundation for his publisher.

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One Response to “Michael Meade and the warrior spirit”

  1. simonandfinn Says:

    Thank you for this post and for the introduction to a very interesting mind! Meade’s blog with Huffington Post is excellent, I particularly appreciated his post: “The Trouble with Genius”.

    Like

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