18
February

On Love

15 Comments

Pat Roth­fuss recently wrote a beau­tiful blog post on love. Go read it, then come back here. I’ll wait.

The thing I like so much about that piece is Pat’s expan­sive def­i­n­i­tion of what con­sti­tutes love. The problem with cul­ture is that it is in the busi­ness of sketching clan bound­aries. Tribes, states, clubs and even genres define them­selves by neg­a­tive space. They are who they are largely because of who they are not. I’ve never liked that, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t buy into it. I’m an SF/F dork. I’m a writer. I’m an Amer­ican. I’m a mil­i­tary officer. All of those things have fairly strict tribal bound­aries. There are things that people wearing those labels aren’t sup­posed to do.

And they all tell us how to love. In fact, dic­tating what does (and more impor­tantly, what does not) con­sti­tute love is a huge pri­ority of every clan iden­tity I’ve ever encoun­tered. It bugs the hell out of me, because I firmly believe that the more love the world has, the better it is. I want that def­i­n­i­tion as expan­sive as pos­sible. And Pat believes that. And I love him for it.

This makes me think about the mil­i­tary, of course. Writers, doc­u­men­tary film makers, jour­nal­ists, hordes of folks spec­u­late at great length on why we do what we do. I hear theory after theory. Some posit that people join the mil­i­tary because they have no other socio-economic option, or because of family legacy, or to exor­cise demons arising from chaotic pasts, or to feed the fires of a killer instinct. Some ascribe noble virtues, the pro­tean con­cept of patri­o­tism, or to posi­tion one­self for career ambi­tions, future politi­cians or civilian gov­ern­ment officials.

Nobody talks about love.

I’m only sup­posed to speak for myself, of course. But I know plenty of men and women who gladly risk their lives every day out of love. The truth is this: flawed as it is, the United States is a nation free enough and pros­perous enough to give birth to a unique cul­tural fer­ment. There are folks who con­sider them­selves cit­i­zens of the world, who eschew the idea of nation­alism. More power to them. I love this country, and when I say “this country,” I mean the people whose glo­rious striving makes up its ever-shifting iden­tity. I love them with a deep, mad love. They have given me every­thing. I am a writer because of them, I am an officer because of them, the slightest con­cept of decency is due to them. There are legions of doc­tors, teachers, fire­fighters, police offi­cers, artists, polit­ical activists, vol­un­teers and par­ents who have car­ried me, inch by inch, across the years. They have made me the person I am. Without them I would be nothing. Without them I am nothing.

Wil­fred Owen called it “the old lie,” Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. It has never been a lie to me. I love my coun­trymen in their aggre­gate mil­lions. I love them enough to fight for them. I love them enough to die for them.

One of the greatest gifts Iraq gave me was crossing that Bud­dhist line and finally com­pre­hending my own insignif­i­cance. There was a moment in my 3rd tour when I finally accepted the pos­si­bility of my own death, came to terms with it. In that moment, I gave up fear, angled toward meaning. If I was to die, I would do it in a manner that flared briefly with the pat­tern of the person I so des­per­ately want to be. I would go down loving.

I mean no mar­tyrdom or melo­drama in this. I would die to save any of you. No matter who you are, no matter what you believe. I would do it without hes­i­ta­tion. I am not such a fool to think that what­ever I’ve achieved in life makes my long-winded old age more valu­able than yours, that somehow I need more years than anyone else. I am not worth­less, but nei­ther am I some scin­til­lating human jewel, except to the extent that we all are, in our own way. And this, more than any­thing: I would die for you because I can, because I have the training and the ability to make that death mean some­thing, because I can do it effec­tively. I am no weak­ling sui­cide, but rather striving to exist in a state of readi­ness, enjoying a life as I simul­ta­ne­ously accept the flat reality of its end point, my blood singing with the motto of the Air Force Parares­cueman, the Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer: So Others Might Live.

I am not unique in this. I work with men and women every day who qui­etly go about their busi­ness, ready to give up all that they are in heart­beat because, to quote Pat, “this too is love.”

George Orwell is gen­er­ally attrib­uted with the quote “We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit vio­lence on those who would do us harm.”

Look around you, at your police offi­cers, your ser­vice men and women. We are the “rough men.”

And we love you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=19800468 Dan Adler

    We (read: I) love you to Myke. Truly.

  • casz brewster-rothe

    I’m speech­less. Thank you for your ser­vice and for showing that mine also was based in love.

  • casz brewster-rothe

    I’m speech­less. Thank you for your ser­vice and for showing that mine also was based in love.

  • http://twitter.com/PrinceJvstin Paul Weimer

    I know you do. (father was a vet­eran. Older brother was a vet­eran. But I’ve told you that already). And I appre­ciate it, I truly do.

  • anon

    This may or may not be the forum for this, and you may reject any ques­tions asked in this manner, and if that is the case, please disregard.

    I wanted to try and catch you during your reddit chat, but I was working shift that day, and we had what seemed like 15 calls during the time frame you were answering questions.

    See, I’m trying to figure you out. i like the books, but I’m having a tough time with some of your back ground. Your posts and essays make it seem like you were at one time an oper­ator or infantry guy, yet I see that you post Coast Guard reservist as your Mil­i­tary back­ground. Your MOS (or what­ever they may call it in the Coast Guard) states you are an Intel Oper­ator doing some CNA/CND stuff, and may have moved onto some LE/SAR fields, but hardly tip of the spear actions, right?

    I know that this really has no bearing on you as an author, but it gives me some con­text in which to take your posts. Are you speaking for expe­ri­ence when talking about gen­eral ass kickery, or is it an act to sell books?

    I’m not sure why this bothers me, but for some reason it does. Be happy being in intel guy, or go for selec­tion. You can’t be both.

    Also, why no enlisted protagonists?

    Feel free to dis­re­gard this, or call me a dick and be done with it, i’m just curious as to your back­ground, it might help me enjoy your posts or have an under­standing where you are coming from. As it stands, I’m taking it as advice from your pub­li­cist to sell more books.

    • Myke Cole

      I’ve served in oper­a­tional roles in Iraq, and I’ve also done intel, CNO as well as SAR/LE work. I have never claimed to be “tip of the spear,” or an infantryman in any post/essay I’ve written. My pub­li­cist has zero input into how I present myself on my blog. Hope that answers your question.

  • http://twitter.com/Wiswell John Wiswell

    This, too, belongs in the sense of love. The sense of love is much more useful and func­tional than a def­i­n­i­tion, though trickier. Also, well worth expe­ri­encing. Thank you for sharing, Myke.

  • http://twitter.com/Wiswell John Wiswell

    This, too, belongs in the sense of love. The sense of love is much more useful and func­tional than a def­i­n­i­tion, though trickier. Also, well worth expe­ri­encing. Thank you for sharing, Myke.

  • David Walker

    Powerful…thank you.

  • David Walker

    Powerful…thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Justin-Watson/100001430719301 Justin Watson

    While Anon’s crack about your branch of ser­vice and MOS was out of line, it might actu­ally do to include a few more enlisted sol­diers. I’m a cap­tain in the Army, cur­rently com­manding a Field Artillery bat­tery, so this isn’t officer hatred on my part, it’s just that the NCOs and junior enlisted really are where the metal meats the meat by and large. Oh, I’ve seen my bit of combat, but I’m on year 8 of my career and prob­ably in the last posi­tion in which direct combat is likely for me. The sol­diers and NCOs stay on the line pretty much until they make Sergeant Major and end up at brigade and higher headquarters.

    Just food for thought. Love your books. Good post. Thanks for your ser­vice, too. I’m one Army combat arms officer who remem­bers that Coasties still have to put their asses on the line even when there isn’t a war on.

  • Annette

    Dear Myke,
    My son is in reserves and you just made me cry.
    My gratitude.

  • Annette

    Dear Myke,
    My son is in reserves and you just made me cry.
    My gratitude.

  • http://www.facebook.com/patience.mason Patience H. C. Mason

    We love you back.

  • Pingback: Love, and being a jerk about it