War is such a short word. But it sounds about right. I imagine the word was conceived by bloodied men themselves rather than the poets who recorded them. Bloodied men, in my experience, have typically met with a despair about extrapulating with language.
The word comes from longer more germanic words meaning “confusion”.
I think of the type of confusion I feel when I am in love with a particular girl, but we find ourselves at odds about a thing neither of us can give on. The confussion of war does not seem to simply be misunderstandings that exist in the minds of opponents so much as a paradoxical reality that encompasses the two opponents. The immenance of conflict results because of two opposing forces simultaneously drawing them together and pushing them apart. Let me see if I can explain better.
In the bickering of love, it becomes so confusing to comprehend how such love and magneticism can coexist with such incompatibility. It is incomprehensible at times that the one or other does not just simply dissolve the other or one. And words fail us, we can not say or explain that we love in the midst of conflict even if it is truly so. Words can only be cut short, abbreviated, swallowed, to make room for what can only be simple belief in that prevailing love or else simple denial.
The bloodied men feel in themselves that after being bloodied only a kind of silence can explain again the resilience of order and human brotherhood to them, discourse can not.
I have been reading War and Peace. Leo Tolstoy’s greatness consists of many things, but for one, he manages to say something with words and story. I note this only because he, to some extent, was a bloodied man who served in the military during times of war. And in fact he found ways to address military life and war itself, and no less than in what many consider as one of the greatest novels of all time, War and Peace.
And there is a moment in his grand story when the lines of the French army of Bonaparte stand only meters away from the lines of the Russian army. Both sides waiting for the aristocratic generals of each side to finish talking over terms and deciding on agreements. In short, both sides wait for the politicians to give up on their words. And there is a converstion that takes place between what might be equivalent to field captains, one from the French side and one from the Russian. It is more of a taunting contest, and both speak to each other in French. And after they have exchanged their taunts one of the common Russian soldiers marvels at the entirely nonsensical sounds of French and the strangeness of hearing one of his Russian Captains speaking it. He suddenly, in play, mimics the sounds, stringing together a line of total meaninglessness at which both sides suddenly erupt in laughter.
“After it it seemed as though they must unload their guns, blow up their ammunition, and all hurry away back to their homes. But the guns remained loaded, the port-holes in the houses and earthworks looked out as menacingly as ever, and the cannons, taken off their platforms, confronted one another as before.”
I think in this scene Tolstoy captures a peice of that center point between War and Peace where the confusion lies. It is the peace itself, the human brotherhood of a French soldier with a Russian soldier, that makes war what it is, the confussion that it is.
It is not enough to speak only about war or only about peace without also acknowledging the other. Peace is not something we decide on, and it is not bullied by war. We must come to a place where we are not afraid of war, despite its great destruction, and despite how little it leaves us to say in its reference. Despite that, peace is not obliterated. And peace is not some thing that we must manufacture with liberal politics or with an abundance of apologizing words or with anything else we use when we become insecure that war will destroy peace. It will not. War will be bloody. War will leave us, probably with very little to say. But war can not take away brotherhood, and it has nothing to say that can silence peace. We may lose ourselves from the underlying of peace, order, tranquility–and that of course remains always intact as a great tradgedy. But it remains a tragedy founded on the lie that peace itself may not endure.
I can not prove to you that it shall endure, or say enough to explain how it might endure, but if we are sad and quiet enough… hopefully we will not be dissuaded.