“We all fight on two fronts, the one facing the enemy and the one facing what we do to the enemy.”
–Joseph Boyden, Three Day Road, p. 301
Three Day Road is about two Oji-Cree soldiers who fight for Canada in the first world war. They survive the fight with the enemy on the battlefield, but they lose the war to the other enemy, the one that lurks on the inner front.
It is only *I* that holds others as “enemies.” No one is born into this world as my enemy. I create that story. My prejudices are my own, whether they appear to be generated by others or not. How do I know this is true? Because not everyone treats everyone else the same way.
In my martial arts training, we speak of our “enemies” as opponents. We offer respect to our opponents by bowing to them because having an opponent helps us to discern our real enemies – our thinking. It is very difficult to best an opponent if you think of that person as an enemy. To fight and survive you must be clear. You must be engaged with what is happening, not your story of what is happening. The moment you forget this is the moment you stop fighting your opponent and start fighting your enemy and is the moment your opponent has beaten you. Truly, you have beaten yourself. A bout with an opponent, whether it is in dialogue or in the dojang, should lead us back to confronting our enemies and they, as Pogo said, are us.
There is no relationship between winning or losing on the mat and in the mind. You can lose a bout on the mat but overcome one more prejudice in the mind. And, like Boyden’s characters, you can win on the mat but what is unconfronted in the mind will destroy you. For me, peace is the when I eliminate my true enemies – the thinking that imprisons me. And so, I bow to my opponents for their helping me discover what it is I need to confront in myself.