ugly

A professor, giving a lecture on the ancient history of war, brought up the ancient Greeks. Of course.  I don’t believe people can talk about the history of war and neglect Homer’s battle for Troy.

This professor had the same priorities, but he mentioned another teacher who—when speaking of ancient Greek history—preferred to talk about war as little as possible.

It’s so ugly. Let us rather speak of the beautiful thoughts and art that Greece created.

Edwin Starr’s song says it, “War—what is it good for? Absolutly nothing!”

Starr and this second professor are in agreement. Skip that part.

However, ugly as it was, all the greeks were engaged in war. The Spartans, of course, but even the Athenians were at it pretty much constantly.

I take war seriously and would avoid it as often as I can.

But just like the architects who made the structures that are glorious ruins now, I know that some support structures are required. What does it take to hold up this roof? They would not know if they didn’t make the attempt and learn.

Did the structure of those glorious works of art require the load bearing pillar of battle to spring into existence?

Is there an ingredient or a catalyst in the art of war that made the beautiful possible?

I am reminded of the speech from the movie The Third Man: “in Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”

Unappealing as it is, if war is part of what led to great things, I want to understand it. What is it made of?

There are realities to how the sausage is made. Being ignorant and refusing to ask questions leaves me open to traps.

Any student of warfare could tell about dangers in blind spots.

Ugly scary stuff is usually the part I don’t look at. That’s exactly where I need to investigate.