Bathing in Blood:

An unexpected confluence arises in two stories of two very different men. The story of Lieutenant Cathey's family contains a tale of a promise made that could not be kept:

James Cathey received his officer’s commission three years ago and had been deployed in East Timor and twice to Okinawa before going to Iraq. He graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder in May 2004 with a degree in history and another in anthropology after three years. He married Katherine on June 23, 2004.

His family said he had been named Marine of the Year in the division and was on the Super Squad for his battalion twice.

Katherine quoted a card her husband bought before he left July 21 for Iraq with the unit he joined in April.

"He said, 'I'll promise you one thing: I will be home,'" she said. "'I have a wife, a new baby to take care of and you guys are my world.'"
There is no doubt that he meant every word of it; but there are powers in the world stronger than a man's heart. One such power met up with another man, unlike Cathey in every way except that both were Americans:
When Timothy Treadwell, a boyish-looking minor eco-celebrity, went on Letterman in 2001 to tell the world how he spent a substantial portion of his time living in the Alaskan wild, an arm's length from foraging grizzly bears, Dave asked the obvious question. "Is it possible we'll open the paper one day and see you've been eaten by these bears?"

The audience roared. Treadwell looked genuinely taken aback by the suggestion.

"No," he stammered.

At the end of his 13th summer among the bears, federal park rangers found the majority of Treadwell, and his girlfriend Amie Huguenard, in the gastrointestinal tract of a male grizzly.
They are alike, I suppose, in one other way: both believed what they promised. And perhaps in one more way: both were, each in their fashion, brave men.
He camped between fox dens; we see the docile pups perpetually pawing at his tent and running away with his hat. When the bears start sniffing at him he gently pushes them and growls. They lumber away.
The author of the National Review piece means to scorn Treadwell as a madman, or a fool. It is true that Treadwell lacked understanding of a central point, one Cathey surely understood, and which was laid out plainly by G. K. Chesterton. Yet the NR piece does not understand the principle either.
Nature worship is natural enough while the society is young, or, in other words, Pantheism is all right as long as it is the worship of Pan. But Nature has another side which experience and sin are not slow in finding out, and it is no flippancy to say of the god Pan that he soon showed the cloven hoof. The only objection to Natural Religion is that somehow it always becomes unnatural. A man loves Nature in the morning for her innocence and amiability, and at nightfall, if he is loving her still, it is for her darkness and her cruelty. He washes at dawn in clear water as did the Wise Man of the Stoics, yet, somehow at the dark end of the day, he is bathing in hot bull's blood, as did Julian the Apostate.
Catholicism addresses the problem by swearing itself to the light. It warns its members to avoid the darkness. Yet it is aware of this truth, as all wise faiths must be: both natures are real. Catholicism chooses one side; other faiths embrace both. But only the fools deny either part. Treadwell was not a fool to believe that he could play with grizzly bears. He was a fool only because he thought they would always only play with him.

The NR piece is just as foolish, in the other direction.
It's easy to dismiss knee-jerk environmentalists as dopey because of this — as easy as it is to laugh at Timothy Treadwell, or hold him in contempt, as many did. It's less easy to contemplate the possibility that your doting little Terrier, the one you make kissy sounds at every day, would eat you if it got hungry enough.
It is not so. Nature is no more cruel at base than she is kind. She is each at turns. Consider:
Demonstrating his loyalty, another Border stood guard over his dead master for days after the shepherd died while in the hills with the flock.
Or this story, from Japan:
The people from the hospital, upon hearing of his death, where not able retrieve the body for over three hours due to the dogs loyalty to its master. In the end the body had to be retrieved through a window to a vehicle. The faithful dog showed its loyalty by attacking anyone who came near his master and did not partake of food or drink. Even after the body had been taken away, the dog laid on the masters bed for over 3 days without food preventing intruders to enter. The neighbors who had witnessed the event of the dog’s loyalty were moved to tears and considered the dog to be better than human. This Baekgu has once again displayed the superiority of the Jindo dog.
Or, if you want to think on cruelty, consider Buddy:
Buddy, the dog that stole Alaska's heart, had made international headlines in March when he led search parties to the body of his dead master Bill Hitchcock, 45. Bill had been killed by a falling tree, and for 12 days the grieving Labrador stayed by the man's body in the remote wilderness of Knight Island.
Buddy was killed by us, not nature. His adopted owner found him aggressive and, after the dog bit him, had him put down.

One last example, from our nearer neighbors. Jane Goodall awoke the world to the nature of the apes with her work, finding them kind and gentle giants in their forests. That was the case during her long time with them -- until one day, when they suddenly and purposefully began a genocide.
It began as a border patrol. At one point they sat still on a ridge, staring down into Kahama Valley for more than three-quarters of an hour, until they spotted Goliath, apparently hiding only twenty-five meters away. The raiders rushed madly down the slope to their target. While Goliath screamed and the patrol hooted and displayed, he was held and beaten and kicked and lifted and dropped and bitten and jumped on. At first he tried to protect his head, but soon he gave up and lay stretched out and still. His aggressors showed their excitement in a continuous barrage of hooting and drumming and charging and branch-waving and screaming. They kept up the attack for eighteen minutes, then turned for home, still energized, running and screaming and banging on tree-root buttresses. Bleeding freely from his head, gashed on his back, Goliath tried to sit up but fell back shivering. He too was never seen again.

So it went. One by one the six adult males of the Kahama community disappeared, until by the middle of 1977 an adolescent named Sniff, around seventeen years old, was the lone defender. Sniff, who as a youngster in the 1960s had played with the Kasekela males, was caught late on November 11. Six Kasekela males screamed and barked in excitement as they hit, grabbed, and bit their victim viciously--wounding him in the mouth, forehead, nose, and back, and breaking one leg. Goblin struck the victim repeatedly in the nose. Sherry, an adolescent just a year or two younger than Sniff, punched him. Satan grabbed Sniff by the neck and drank the blood streaming down his face. Then Satan was joined by Sherry, and the two screaming males pulled young Sniff down a hill. Sniff was seen one day later, crippled, almost unable to move. After that he was not seen and was presumed dead.

Three adult females, Madam Bee, Mandy, and Wanda, at one time had belonged to the Kahama group, along with their offspring. But Mandy and Wanda eventually disappeared, as did their young, while Madam Bee and her two daughters, Little Bee and Honey Bee, were beaten by Kasekela males several times. Then in September 1975, four adult males charged the old female, dragging, slapping, stomping on her, picking her up and hurling her to the ground, pounding her until she collapsed and lay inert. She managed to crawl away that day, only to die five days later. The assault on Madam Bee, incidentally, was watched by the adolescent Goblin and four Kasekela females, including Little Bee, who had become associated with Kasekela by then. Four months after Madam Bee was killed, her younger daughter, Honey flee, also transferred to Kasekela.

By the end of 1977 Kahama was no more.
The truth of this world is that the darkness is real. But the light is also real. Both joy and murder exist. In every second of your life, either one can reach out to touch you.

You must be prepared for either, at every moment. The best kind of man will be prepared for both.

It is not wrong to play with grizzlies: it is glorious. Yet you must be prepared to deal with them when they have done with playing. If you are going to live boldly, you must love to swim in clear water, yet not fear to bathe in blood.

This will not save you, for death is the one certainty. Yet it might let you live wisely and well, and defend for a while the things that you love.

And it may be that, after you are gone, men will remember.
Cattle die, kindred die,
Every man is mortal:
But the good name never dies
Of one who has done well.

Cattle die, kindred die,
Every man is mortal:
But I know one thing that never dies,
The glory of the great dead.
The road of the hero leads only to the grave. Yes, that is true.

Show me the road that leads elsewhere.

No comments: