Warriors of the Human Spirit Part 1: A new hope!

Johnny Sertin imagines a new kind of warrior in the first of a series of three blog posts exploring a more-than-military metaphor

My youngest son is called Jedidiah, though we all call him Jedi. In our family this is pronounced Jeddy, not Jed-i. But to read off the page, he clearly takes his name from a more famous character known to billions around the galaxy!

Jedi has a very fertile imagination and can often be seen impersonating his namesake.

Anything that can be adapted from its utilitarian purpose into a lightsabre or blaster, will be. Whether it’s a swing-ball pole, sticks from the local woods or an old hockey stick, a weapon is forged to fight the good fight, warding off the zombie apocalypse in his imaginary world.

This is not a quiet recreation, in fact it’s not recreational at all, it’s a sincerely felt mission! You hear him before you see him as the noise of swooshing sabres and stun blasts announces his presence!

A new hope?

One of my favourite delights is to watch him from my bedroom window, charging around outside, twirling and leaping over garden furniture in hot pursuit of imagined foes or building a fortress to ward off attackers, all accompanied to the soundscape of whatever fantasy he is living in on that particular day. This kid is going to be strong in the force as the years go on!

Due to Covid-19, we are living in a time when creative energy, personal agency and dare I say, ‘a new hope’, are needed. What needs to awaken in us to recapture some of this warrior spirit of humanity?

Warrior is a term that has been historically co-opted to represent those engaged in activities to defend democracy and fight to overcome an enemy in physical combat. It has a very alpha male character attached to it.

I make no judgment of that but prefer to widen the paradigm beyond historical warfare. Being a warrior should not be a word merely to describe one type of warfare.

A different kind of warrior

Doing a little research, I discovered the concept of a warrior in indigenous cultures went much deeper than physical strength and virility. Nor was its gender exclusively male. To be a warrior needs reclaiming with new descriptors.

The apostle Paul – a famous character from the Bible with an incredible story – reflects towards the end of his life: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). Perhaps one way to see what it means to be a different type of warrior is to live by these three ideas.

I’ve picked Paul just because I know a bit about him from my training as a priest. But you could pick any number of women or men from ancient or recent history across all sorts of faith traditions or none, who emulate these ideas. So,

  • Keep the faith: Maybe to be a warrior is to be the guardian of a faith or set of assumptions that sees a world that is good, beautiful and true. Seeing a living, vibrant place that carries the imprimatur of benevolence, a warrior abides in and champions this personal, social and natural world. This guardianship is not a mindless show of allegiance to doctrinal position. In the words of Miroslav Volf, it is to be first a seeker, not defender, of truth. Warriors appreciate they stand on the shoulders of tradition but not traditionalism. The latter is what suffocates the body into rigor mortis, the former awakens the body to regenerate for the time it lives in. Yaraslov Pelkin said it best: “Tradition is the living faith of the dead. Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living!” Warriors are led by a value-driven way, but those values are not static, they live and breathe within a relational framework. As such they are somewhat situational to the context of time and culture. A warrior as seeker of truth has responsibility to lean into the times they live in, vulnerable and courageous to explore life beyond the known world.
  • Run the race: Maybe to be a warrior is to learn how to grow and sustain a way that empowers you to ‘finish the race well’. A warrior dedicates their life to becoming their fullest self and not slump or become domesticated on the journey.
    It’s worth thinking about this metaphor of running. It is essentially a form of exercise. Very few people think of running as transportation. Running is that which we do to keep healthy and stay sharp. To let endorphins be released that generate surges of energy, creativity and build resilience. Running also affirms that we are a body as opposed to having a body. It places our consciousness back into an embodied self. This is really important to grow a balanced intelligence to our life. It is well documented that terms such as ‘what does your gut tell you?’ are not just colloquialisms. There is neurological evidence of brain cells located in both the gut and heart. To be a warrior is to have found this integrated balance between the head, heart and gut and to exercise this way of living in a more-than-cognitive expression of being human. To train all aspects of our intelligence is to grow a wisdom that empowers us in the chaos to see clearly and lead.
  • Fight the good fight: Maybe to be a warrior is to fight for a vision of good on whatever front you are called to work. A work seeking not only to profit but make space for flourishing, in ourselves, society and the environment. The job we do is not always synonymous with our work. Our work is defined by stewarding the gifts we have discovered to serve the world. It will not always be our job but should always be our work. Sometimes the work we do is a side hustle, something we invest in because it has grown out of an inner work that has fertilised our imagination and creativity. This is the good work we birth in the world in pursuit of another richer world to come.

Johnny Sertin is pioneering mission adviser for CMS, helping to establish regional training hubs, and a pioneer priest in Earlsfield, south-west London.

Look out for part two, coming soon.

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