"How long shall we sit in our porticoes practicing idle and musty virtues,which any work would make impertinent?"

- Henry David Thoreau, Walden

I took a class in college. It had something to do with the psychology of choice. What motivates the choices of men?..... Reason? Experience? Fame? Emotion?.... Love? Hate? Fear? I guess it could be any one of these things at any given time. The premise of the class has always sparked some interest in me. The question sometimes weighs on me.Why do people do some of the things they do? How do they find courage and strength to do what is right?

I joined the Army when I was 18. In 2010, I found myself in Afghanistan, working on a Civil Affairs team on a small outpost near the Pakistan border in Eastern Afghanistan.. The summer of 2010 was perhaps one of the most intense years in the Afghanistan War to date. That summer I learned a lot of things. A lot of things about me... About life and death... About joy and sorrow. But I can name the day that really changed my outlook on living this life.

One day we received rocket, mortar, and gunfire from the hills surrounding our outposts. One of my teammates and I immediately grabbed our weapons and gear and ran for the roof of one of the buildings. We climbed to the top. We started looking through the scopes on our rifles for any sign of the Taliban on the surrounding mountainsides. We hadn't been up there for more than 5 minutes, searching,when all of a sudden the cracking and buzzing sound of bullets could be heard between us. Seconds later a rocket could be heard flying overhead and exploded outside the compound behind us. I yelled "I think they see us!" and he responded "No shit!" And that second, my buddy and I looked at each other, as if to say "Nice knowing you," and he went back to scanning. The bullets still whizzing by. I was scared shitless.

When everything calmed down and the attack stopped, I couldn't help thinking and asking my buddy, "What makes a man keep scanning,like you did, despite all the things that are going crazy around him?"

He replied, "Simple. You have to accept that you are already dead."

Now, I sat around on this crude statement for quite a while...Perhaps this is a lesson that is as old as time. Perhaps this is the answer to my questions on decision making and finding courage. How much time to we spend worrying on things we have no control over?

If a bullet were to meant for you, could you dodge it?

If we accept our own mortality, we accept also our own life. There is nothing to be afraid of and it is useless to fear what you cannot change. Decisions become easy. So, keep your eye in the scope and keep scanning. Use the experiences of human history to guide you. The battles are raging all around you, but don't be afraid to make your own experiences and grow the more wiser for them. You have a life to live.

"How long shall we sit in our porticoes practicing idle and musty virtues,which any work would make impertinent?"

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Comment by Jeff Wenum on October 26, 2014 at 6:57pm

Andy--good article. I think it's a combination of "whatever". Nobody wants to die, but, they don't want to be seen as a coward(at least in the Corps). We do what we have to do and the heck with the consequences.Also, it's kinda in everyone's own makeup as to how they act on a moments notice.

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