I recently read Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried. It was a perfect gift as it provided a small break from my investing addiction.
There were so many complex themes about the human condition. While this short blog will not do the book justice, (which is sadly ironic given that a sub-theme was for memories that never received their due) below are some preliminary notes.
The book reinforced my belief in the need for a life philosophy that incorporates unfairness, cruelty and randomness. That's not to say we should all be bitter. Far from it. It’s just important to have a tool kit that can handle the whole picture.
The "do-onto-others" view is only part 1 of a broader philosophy. Reading Harold Kushner's "When Bad Things Happen to Good People" is in some ways an equally critical second chapter. In particular, I mean Kushner’s conclusion that there is no morality in the laws of nature. The holiness is found in that the laws of nature are upheld no matter whom you are – sinner or saint.
By no means am I criticizing these troops, but I think that these men largely adapted to the sudden death and inescapable tragedy of Vietnam through mind-tricks that remedied the immediate tension while leaving longer term scars. A solider dies after taking a piss and he's termed "zapped while zipping." A best friend dies, and a man shoots a baby buffalo in anger. These behaviors are not uncommon and rhyme with both prior and subsequent wars. I do not criticize these actions, after all I was not there and I have never experienced such horrific tragedy up close. But that’s why I enjoyed the book so much. It gave me a between the ears perspective of what they lived through. They used the coping mechanisms at hand to deal with the dark side of life. There it is.