[Author’s Note: this piece picks up directly where Part One left off – hence the rather abrupt opening, which continues on from the last paragraph of the previous part]
Now as for why *that* matters … it is not simply an idle cosmological truth, nor a secondary commentary upon the character of Dyaus Pitar And His Wife (although, as we’ll see in a subsequent piece, … well … you’ll see what I mean) . “War” is an active principle; often regarded as all-consuming of all that is in its immediate vicinity, and then some.
‘Existence’ means ‘War’. Not simply as the default state of affairs and the ever-(re-)infusing character of reality – but also that there is a war on *against* those who would attempt to poison, to despoil, and to usurp it (before prematurely unraveling and thence unmaking the plane should they happen somehow to win it via conquest, because of their fundamental inequality to the task of its maintenance, preservation, and upholding]. There is, therefore, ultimately no Existence *without* War, in both senses in which we can take this aphorism.
Chesterton said thus:
“Barbarians the unknown for the same reason that Agnostics worship it – because it is a fact. Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.
Exactly what the fairy tale does is this: it accustoms him for a series of clear pictures to the idea that these limitless terrors had a limit, that these shapeless enemies have enemies in the knights of God, that there is something in the universe more mystical than darkness, and stronger than strong fear.”
Now, I do not cite the above in order to proffer the somewhat false hope that the War can ever be, in a sense, “Won”. It is not that kind of conflict. “Winning” is, ‘holding the line’. It is, to quote Les Miserables, “One Day More” – and then *perhaps* staging such an efficacious counter-assault that some form of miniature ‘golden age’ is implicitly kicked off as the immediate wake of its leading edge. For this is, truly, the Last Stand in history – a Last Stand that has been going on since almost the first moment that anybody *could* stand [as we can perhaps addeuce from the references in both Hindu & Nordic mythology to the ‘Avenging Sons’ , Vali and Indra, almost straight from birth proceeding to Their appointed crusading/revanchist/retributive posts; Athena, too, fulfills the requisite elements of this typology – being born (‘mind-born’ in a different sense to the more usual Sanskrit theological imputation of the term) fully arrayed and gloriously proficient in Her panoply of war].
But rather, because there *is indeed* a moral-mythological principle to be adduced from all of this. And if you look closely, there is some resonant reflection of it contained even within those words of Chesterton.
For if the immanence of Divine Order and thence the DevaRajya , the Reign of the Aesir, and Righteousness in general terms, is under constant *attack* (whether active and brazenly obvious or surreptitious and insidiously implicit) … then it must be defended. Constantly. And with escalating veer and vigour, as the blood-drenched tide of oncoming filth and degradation rises ever higher.
If there is to be a “limit” to the “limitless terror” which Chesterton spoke of, then that “limit” – in no small part – is *you*.
If there are to be “knights of God”, as Chesterton proffered as the “shapeless enemies[‘]” enemies – then some of these knights, in a literal or figurative sense, are *you*.
Now it is not in everybody to be a *literal* (or, rather ‘mytho-literal’) Indo-European equivalent to what Chesterton had cited as the “knights of God” – the *direct* combatants amidst the fray [on that note, my mind recalls the Slavic term ‘Bogatyr’, which *looks* as if it combines both Indo-Iranian and Germanic/Nordic elements referring to a Lord, a Deity, a Warrior … although this is likely a ‘false friend’ in one or possibly both portions]. And it is generally only the Gods, the mightiest of the mighty, to be found at the वीराशंसन [‘Virasansana’ – a term which might, perhaps, translate figuratively into English as the ‘Forlorn Hope’, in the military sense; ‘where the fighting is thickest’ – where the greatest Veer would wish to be, a great position of honour, both pre and post-mortem] .
But that is not and should not be regarded as any sort of barrier to making your contribution. As the old proverb goes – “it takes all sorts to make an army”. Or, to illustrate this principle via recourse to mythology – during the course of the construction of the bridge that would allow Lord Rama’s army to make its way to Lanka [thus presaging Alexander the Great’s somewhat similar exercise carried out against Tyre], it was observed that in amidst the mighty Vanaras who were bearing great boulders to cast into the surf, a small squirrel was darting to and fro carrying pebbles. This was regarded somewhat disparagingly by some, who scoffed at the squirrel’s presumption that it had a meaningful contribution to make in amidst the far physically larger and stronger Vanaras, who were already (and occasionally literally single-handedly) ferrying tonnes of rock for the bridge at a time. This did not dissuade the squirrel, however, who is reported to have earnestly kept attempting to do its bit to help – as much as its comparatively meager strength would allow. Even being directly insulted by a Vanara on grounds of its alleged superfluity and the purported comical insignificance of its efforts could not dissuade the squirrel, who responded to such barbs with vocal protestations of its piety (towards Rama) as the cause of its need to assist and matched saliencies of physical exertion which turned words into tangible action. In fact, the only thing which *did* manage to stop the Squirrel, was its being physically assaulted and flung through the air by an irritated Vanara – whereupon the Squirrel is reported to have landed at Rama. Who pointed out to all assembled that quite apart from the noble virtue demonstrated by the little squirrel’s indefatigable determination to make whatever contribution it could, as being the essence of piety – that in fact, what the Squirrel had actually been doing, between its diligent gap-filling with the pebbles, and its shaking off of the water, salt, and sand it had picked up by running across the beach each time to the construction site … was providing the cementing which bound the structure and gave it much of its its resilience, cohesiveness, integrity and strength. In recognition of this, and in thanks, Lord Rama then placed a mark of His Divine Favour upon the Squirrel – the three pale lines which run longitudinally down the fur of the Indian Palm Squirrel’s back.
A more succinct summation of the above was pointed out by one of my devotees –
Squirrel: “Tiny, I am, Lord, and so I carried only pebbles.”
Rama: “Tiny, you are, and yet you did the giant’s work.”
A beautiful thing, it brings tears to my eyes.
And as for the manner and form of one’s contribution to the over-arching Dharma-Yuddha effort, the Squirrel once again guides the way.
The prime essence of the contribution is the *piety* – both as intent, and as action. The prime expression of the contribution, is from you according to your abilities. And in the War of All, all have *something* to offer. For is it not written that even the man who has nothing can still have faith? Is it not written that even the man who has nothing can still offer up his life? And by that I do not mean dying. Dying is easy. As Terry Pratchett once put it – “You can die for your country or your people or your family, but for a god you should live fully and busily, every day of a long life.”
This provides both an extension and an implicit counterpoint to the most eloquent words of Chesterton in the course of The Man Who Was Thursday:
“Are you the new recruit?” asked a heavy voice.
And in some strange way, though there was not the shadow of a shape in the gloom, Syme knew two things: first, that it came from a man of massive stature; and second, that the man had his back to him.
“Are you the new recruit?” said the invisible chief, who seemed to have heard all about it. “All right. You are engaged.”
Syme, quite swept off his feet, made a feeble fight against this irrevocable phrase.
“I really have no experience,” he began.
“No one has any experience,” said the other, “of the Battle of Armageddon.”
“But I am really unfit——”
“You are willing, that is enough,” said the unknown.
“Well, really,” said Syme, “I don’t know any profession of which mere willingness is the final test.”
“I do,” said the other—”martyrs. I am condemning you to death. Good day.”
For in that passage – although it does not *quite* play out that in the original novel, to put it mildly – we see a notion that has some of the appropriate *essence*, but is lacking somewhat in terms of the *expression*. There is *willingness* there, but the only requirement is that. There is no thought given to the *manner* in which this Will, this Intent, this Piety, this Zeal [and more upon this in the next Part], can actually be made useful, except as a generalized offering of being-towards-Death.
Which is not to say that there is no point nor purpose nor existential-eloquence to such a statement of commitment. Of course there is. Dulce Et Decorum Est Pro Patria Mori , read the lines of Horace – although we generally only recall their far sadder recall in Wilfred Owen’s invocation of them in his similarly titled eulogy of the First World War. And the “Patria” is somewhat under-cut in translation by simply rendering it “Country”, rather than “Fatherland”, or all that is bond up in such a term – the shades of meaning for which you can begin to appreciate via comparative with Sanskrit “Pitrs” [‘Ancestors’], and therefore encompassing so much more than a simple territory-and-political-construct. One Hindu maxim that is somewhat similar in ambit is “जननी जन्मभूमिश्च स्वर्गादपि गरीयसी” – “Mother & Motherland Are Superior Even To Heaven”, and contained within that is quite some deepa mythological resonancy, as I’ve touched upon in a previous piece (suffice to say, it elucidates the seriously important concept that when fighting for Gods, perhaps less for Government, it is often one’s direct-if-distant ancestors that are involved; and one should conduct one’s self accordingly!). But the clearer ‘expansion’ of the concept of Horace is to be found in the far later “Roman” verse of Macaulay [who, for all his *considerable* faults in politics and ‘colonial’ misrule, could certainly turn a decent verse!] –
“Then out spake brave Horatius,
The Captain of the Gate:
“To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his Gods.”
But I have digressed rather wildly, and shall content myself by noting that the fine words of John Maxwell Edmonds adorning the memorial at Kohima are a beautiful summation of almost the apotheosis of Kshatriya-Dharma: “When you go home, tell them of us and say / For your tomorrow, we gave our today.” [I say “almost the apotheosis”, as one can argue that the apotheosis, at least in *some* contexts, is Victory. This is, after all, the ‘higher portion’ of, and even perhaps *above* Kshatriya-Dharma – not simply to be a ‘warrior’, a ‘fighter’, to engage in combat … but to do so with an ultimate purpose; which is the business of the *ruler*. Perhaps note how Odin, is God of Winning – and manages, through a rather wise and long-form gambit, to attain Victory even over not only His Own Death, but the Death of the cycle of the Universe within which He stood/stands. But *that* is another story, for another time.]
The point is – that whereas Chesterton’s amusing thought from Thursday ‘falls short’ for our purposes, is in its ‘flatness’, its ‘one-dimensionality’. Indeed, its effective *teleology* and implicit presumptions of same.
What I mean by this, is threefold. First, while it is a generally accepted certainty that (almost) everybody is going to die (Gods, often, pointedly included, in the Indo-European reckoning of such things) … the ‘trick’ is to make one’s death *mean something*. And, often rather more than that, to make the *life* which leads up to it *mean something* as well. This is particularly the case given the *second* flaw in that quote when taken at face value (which, arguably, it shouldn’t be, except to illustrate the flaws in doing so … *exactly* as Chesterton would have wanted) – which is the presumption that the ‘Battle of Armageddon’ is *itself* an *end point*; rather than, say, an onrunning phase which, while it might have an ‘end’ to it, is nevertheless something which *also* occurs in the present-continuous.
This is the most appropriate way to view the ongoing and quite literally Existential Conflict within which we find ourselves embroiled. It *is* Existence. It is not – or rather, it is not *just* – its terminus. Ragnarok *may* involve one ‘final’ battle [for *this* cycle of creation, at any rate – no doubt, given the rather excellent reference to the surviving Gods picking up the playing-pieces in order to reset the board in the next Cycle, we can truly say that War Is Eternal] , but the Judgement of the Gods is ongoing – and all *sorts* of onrunning, onrushing threads and skeins of conflict ultimately contribute to that Ekpyrosis-Pralaya-Preludium.
So therefore, we have our *third* consideration, for more properly interpreting that Chestertonian sentiment. Namely, that the notion, the concept of ‘Martyr’, does not *have* to mean “dying in service of the Cause” [and not least because, as Patton once observed, a rather important objective of a combatant tends to be to get the *other guy* to die instead]. But whether ‘instead’ (for the moment) or more likely ‘along the way’, *living for the Cause*, and in the course of so doing so, furthering it immensely, as well. It can be a contribution which, while often far less immediately glorious than the proverbial “Good Death” [or, for that matter, even a meaningless-but-flashy one that might happen to be confused for the former from a distance and through weight of eulogistic poetics], may actually contribute *far more* towards said Cause’s temporary or longer-term success. And, given we are facing a conflict which is, by definition, long-running (indeed, *perpetual*) in scope, it does not do to expend resources such as lives and their potential unnecessarily nor prematurely. Losses are acceptable – failure, is not.
In its more extreme expressions, we have the concept of the “Living Martyr” – which is, funnily enough, an official honorific of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard living-legend, Major General Qasem Soleimani. A different yet usefully comparable sense of a similar concept is to be found in the ‘Punarjanam’ [‘Living Reincarnation’] of a Hindu Sant; wherein so powerful is the Sant’s commitment to their holy mission, that they come to literally embody the creed that “Not Even In Death Does Duty End” – reincarnating rather directly within their own form (as opposed to the more ‘indirect’ process of rebirth, which tends to involve a birth (in a different form) as a matter of course) to keep on going.
But as inspiring as these notable instances are, they are but the highest exemplars of the Role of Man within the overarching Dharma-Yuddha conflict [arguably, to the point that they are no longer, really, human – but instead are the sort of heroic legends who’ve immanentized a certain portion of the Realm of Myth out around them and as a core and integral portion of their narrative / metaphysical essence]. The difference between these and more ordinary peoples’ potent-ial contributions are scalar – and yes, of kind rather than merely degree. Yet in terms of their ultimate objective, the distinctions of pathway matter somewhat less than the fundamental unity of *purpose*. We are all, as it were, upon the same side.
And that leads us on to the most salient consideration here. The one that is of the broadest relevancy – to all.
Often-times, the Dharma-Yuddha concept as espoused within, say, the Bhagavad Gita, has been approached allegorically. The idea being that the notion of a cosmological conflict represents a superlative metaphor (rather than supernal, metaphysically resonant, *reality* of the universe) for the tribulations and the consternations of the individual, of their subjective experience within the world. And there is some considerable merit to this approach for some of those individuals – in much the same manner, as I noted in part one, as corporate executives seem to derive some utility from guiding their business affairs via excerpts from Sun Tzu’s Art of War.
But this is an ‘outward in’ perspective, which takes the ‘outward’ metaphor and symbolism of Divine Warfare, and then presumes that what lies ‘within’ it is hollow, to be filled as needed by an individual stepping their consciousness into the role of narrative agonist within the cosmological story. It takes the magnificent and the massive and the Maha of the Dharma-Yuddha, and it reduces it in scale and scope and saliency down to the Mundane.
Which is – to my mind, at any rate – *exactly* the wrong way around with which to do things.
Rather, what is called for, for the ordinary person – and for the extraordinary circumstances we find ourselves in, especially – is going *upwards*, *ascending*, radiating *outward* from *us* to the broader cosmological and mythonarrative sphere. Not the ‘easy’ and ’empty’ approach of taking the concepts of cosmological conflict and applying them as pantomime costume to our humdrum and ordinary day-to-day affairs. But rather, *seeing* how our personal conduct *has an impact* and a *contribution to be considered* to the War of the World.
In my previous efforts in this sphere (you see how this is shaped like itself?) I have often made mention of a vitally important instance from the Shakta annals of Hindu scripture, wherein a particularly cunning demon manages to secure an almost insurmountable advantage for his side in this conflict – by eliminating the knowledge and therefore the practice of sacrificial rites … and thus diminishing the power of many of The Gods (with corresponding catastrophic impacts upon the natural world,and the human world – insofar as these can be meaningfully distinguished between – in train). A situation which the demon Durgamasur takes all possible advantage of, until AdiParaShakti, Devi [Goddess] from outside/beyond the Universe (and therefore not dependent upon nor detrimentally impacted by, the goings-on therein) emanates *into* the universe for the purposes of sorting out the situation … with extreme (meta)physical retributive violence. ‘Ultra-Violent Light’, we tend to call it. And a fine demonstration, also, of the resolute principle of Flamethrower Nationalism. [Viz. – in times of darkness, it is better to light a flamethower rather than simply curse the dark. The flame being the conduit to the Divine, and the means and medium of sacrificial conduct. As well as capable of setting things ON FIRE. “May Agni with His pointed blaze cast down each fierce devouring fiend / May Agni win us wealth by war.” – RV VI 16 ]
And yet, that is not the precise point to which I wish to draw your attention. For everybody *knows* – implicitly, instinctively, innately – that pious conduct of a proper and formalized nature, in accordance with ancient formulae and eloquent, sacred verse … is a prominent way that we have *always* conducted our part in the Divine War. That this is how one comports one’s self if one is, as the saying goes, “On the Side of the Angels” – albeit with the important rejoinder that proper sacrificial conduct often requires a properly trained Priest rather than something simply done off one’s own bat and hoping for the best.
But what is *less* well remarked upon, is the following –
A justifiably famous and well-quoted RigVedic Verse [ RV IX 63 ] runs thus:
“Performing every noble work, active, augmenting Indra’s strength,
Driving away the godless ones.”
It is from a Soma Hymnal, and in one sense, it can be taken as referring to the (omni-)beneficent qualities of the Sacred Soma. Yet that is not how it has generally been invoked in more recent times. You have perhaps heard the maxim “कर्ण्वन्तो विश्वमार्यम”, ‘Krinvanto Vishvam Aryam’. It is, indeed, the legend emblazoned ‘neath the twinned ANSUZ Runes which form Arya Akasha’s insignia. This is the original Sanskrit formulation for a portion of the above verse; and its meaning when invoked today, broadly speaking, is ‘Make the World [or ‘Universe’] Noble [‘Proper’ / Righteous]” er … perhaps we should not append an ‘Again’. Understood as an instruction to the Devotee to be concentrated upon doing pretty much exactly that – their small part (and, in truth, in such a holy mission, while there may be more *humble* parts, I do not think that they are “small” in the pejorative sense. There are only, as the saying goes, “small people”, unequal to the less-glamorous contributions asked of them. If we cast our mind back to the Squirrel – the opposite of him. And it is worth noting that, as Tagore put it … “The fireflies, twinkling among leaves, make the stars wonder.”; while meanwhile, for those who would suggest they are mighty, there is the adapted formulation: “even the Stars Themselves are unafraid to appear as fireflies”.). Or their grand contribution. Whatever should be required of them.
And that is the key point – the one you can, and should, quite literally take home with you.
It is in translation, but it is nevertheless an eminently worthy maxim – it is “Performing *Every* Noble Work” via which Indra, the great smiter of the demonic iniquity, is Empowered; via which His Strength is to be “Augmented” so that it might become truly Insurmountable.
In the most direct manifestation, the Noble Works in question are to be understood as the pious rites via which the offerings – especially of the Soma – are made to the Warrior Lord. And that goes straight back to what I have said concerning the vital necessity of sacrificial conduct , presented within the context of the Srimad Devi Bhagavatam (that is the incidence of the demon Durgamasur erasing the knowledge of the Vedas, and nearly reaping a horrible reward for his iniquitous ingenuity; only halted when Devi appeared Herself, an ‘exception’ to uphold the Rule).
But in this *less direct* understanding, wherein the verse is read as not only a part and parcel of a great Soma Rite, but as a general ethical enjoinment for all (which goes rather nicely with the ‘deepa’ concept of the universe entire being one really, incredibly large sacrificial rite – a concept echoed in the Germanic notion of the World-Mill, and which also finds tangential expression within the realms of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, for good measure; to suggest but a few instances of which we might otherwise speak) … *that* is where we find our Squirrel. And therefore, that also is where we should find *you*, as well.
Doing Your Bit. Playing Your Part. Being the raindrop which raises the sea – the snowflake which, perhaps, maketh the avalanche. And that is, in its own way, one of the most powerful places to be. For if we consider a human with an axe … versus a mountain (and leaving aside the rather important point of various Vedic Gods, equipped with various Vedic Axes, shattering stony fortresses and enclosures with almost contemptuous ease), I rather suspect that it is the beating down of thousands upon thousands of rain-drops, rather than however many swings of the axe an individual of even the strongest mortal caliber can bring to bear, which shall exert the most lasting impact and influence upon the landscape. (Although it is also necessary to note the wisdom, here, of Hercules – and his hydro-powered efforts at cleaning out the Augean Stables. You see what is happening there? The mighty torrents, The Waters perhaps recalled in miniature (and yes, we have Vedic verses upon this, too – but more upon that, perhaps, some other time), being *directed* by a Great Figure, a Hero, a Demigod , and via His Divine Strength and other such faculties, to make their maximum potential impact against the morasses of filth and degradation. It is not hard to see how this applies to the paradigm of being a man amidst men, down here on Earth, and carrying out one’s diligent efforts for the Divine Employ. As The Blues Brothers put it – “Ma’am, we’re on a Mission from God”.)
The Lord of the Rings, predictably, has quite some voluminous spins upon this subject, of relatively ‘normal’ people holding the effective fate of the world within their regular-sized hands – including its pointed positioning of the ultimate saviors of Middle Earth as two .. if not entirely ‘ordinary’, then at least conspicuously overlook-able figures; one of whom – Samwise – was directly cited as being based upon Tolkien’s own personal observation of the essential character of the ordinary British soldier of the First World War. In those cases, admittedly, we have instances of largely unremarkable types who are called upon, and who rise to carry out, *entirely* remarkable acts.
But if my point is all-encompassing, it is also a simple one.
One does not have to be a God, or a mythologized Hero to make a heroic contribution to the War Effort.
One does not have to carry out a heroic (scale of) undertaking in order to make a contribution.
One simply has to do the right thing – the *rite* thing – and do so , preferably, as the implicit, active expression of one’s being. That is to say – what one *can* do, both in light of our aptitudes and capacities, as well as our immediate, personal context. With frequency, and with a quiet fervor, the patterns thus enjoined become the nature of us and of our reality. Actively intended undertakings, which become habits, which become facts or inevitabilities, which reshape both us and the ever-further-expansive world around. Become Reality, with a capital R. And join, resonate, strengthen, with the core moral Fundaments of the Divine Order that are already immanent throughout the Cosmos; the saliency of which, like the roots of the World-Tree gnawed upon by demon-dragons, is constantly under dastardly threat from without.
It is in this manner that that aforementioned RigVedic maxim, and the excellent aphorism of the (RamBakht) Squirrel, really and truly come into their own.
For they demarcate, demonstrate, and display how the most noble conduct of all is not and cannot be the exclusive preserve of the Nobility; the most pious conduct of all is not and cannot be the exclusive preserve of the Priest. The conduct of the Divine War, in other words, is not and cannot be exclusive to the Divinities.
Now lest I be misunderstood most gravely – this is not to displace the concepts of ‘hierarchy’ nor of ‘specialization’; nor to send us all hurtling down some horribly benighted and ‘Cultural Protestant’ esque creed of rendering priests or even heroes ‘obsolete’ at the stroke of a pen. But rather, to point out – Deyk, we would say, perhaps, in Proto-Indo-European – the manner in which the active contributions of ordinary people *support* and *augment* those mighty deeds and magnificent beings and Order to whom we owe our undying fealty.
We often, I feel, overlook this sort of thing in the course of our contemplations about Indo-European mythoreligion. And it is not un-understandable how this has come about. After all, we are uniquely blessed with several continents’ worth of marvelous mythological troves of Heroes, Gods, Legendary Conduct, and all the rest of it. And when we are looking back across the spans of time or we are looking out over there yonder in terms of physical or cultural distance, it is quite natural for the brightest flames, the largest incandescent blazes, to stand out the most and leave the longest enduring after-image ‘pon the backs of our eyelids. Further, while many of us are varying shades and degrees of “religious fundamentalist zealot”, it can be easy to overlook that not everybody has the ability, for whatever reason, to be at a Temple several times a week to make offerings or spend days on end powering through other such considered acts of Devotion. This means that, like the Vanara in the Story of the Squirrel, we are often not looking down, or looking *around* at our own level. And if we are, it is often simply to regard those who are not attempting to live up to our own idealized standards of ‘heroic’ contribution, or the myth-forms of millennia past, as being ‘scenery’ at best, if not non-serious, casual, and possibly even ‘counterproductive’ in their expressed earnestness to take part in our mythoreligion(s).
It is therefore to be regarded as good conduct to pause and reflect upon these lesser-heralded contributions and their enactors. Especially if you are one of them. Not simply as an act of remembrance and gratitude for its own sake, or because the conduct recognized and remarked upon is far more likely to be the conduct which we thence see continue. But also because some of these contributions are our own. Some of these contributors are us. And in the contemplation of that which lies ‘under’ the grand, sweeping gestures which are given justly prominent purview and pride of place within the realms of our mythology – we assist to ensure that these supports are not forgotten about; that they do not fade from active-occurrence in the world around us. We help to avoid potentially dire consequences, as a result; and we also work to ensure that in our own lives and immediate spheres, that we have the ‘fundamentals’ and the ‘basics’ in place – lest even the more exceptional amongst us happen to totter over through either a lack of surrounding support, or through suddenly discovering that they, too, are in possession of a flaw that is perhaps less ‘Achilles Heel’ than it is ‘Feet of Clay’. (Clay, you might note, which could have been baked to a redoubtable hardness with the application of appropriate Tapas [‘heat’, but also ‘penance’, ‘devotional conduct’ and exertion]; a metaphor which is especially salient considering the defect of wet clay being similar to the defect of character – a lack of firmness, of resolve, of adherence, and of control.)
So whatever one’s station, there is capacious wisdom to be had in contemplating these two enjoinments:
The Parable of the Squirrel reminds us that, to quote the old quip, “it takes all sorts to make an Army”. It also shows us the importance of looking beyond the big, obvious ways in which we may make our contribution … for the subtler, less forthrightly apparent, and often both undervalued yet no less vital opportunities for contribution which may have escaped the notice of less perspicacious peers. It may even entail that you shift from your current form of contribution, to something less well regarded or even acknowledged at all, in order to provide a more needed form of support as a result. For that is the properly pious thing to do – whatever it is that is required of us, whatever is within our power to enact or to discharge. And rather than blithely dismissing or denigrating the contributions of others for being different in scope and immediate focus to our own – to instead foster camaraderie through the recollection of the shared unity of glorious purpose to which and through which all fellow-devotees are bonded. (This also goes toward the difference, it might perhaps be suggested, between “Struggling Together” and “Struggling, Together”)
The RigVedic rejoinder reiterates what we have also instinctively known – that underpinning and availing even the mighty actions of some of the greatest above us, are the contributions made by many … including far more ordinary souls carrying out far more ordinary and mundane acts of virtue. As well as the occasional extraordinary ones emanating from perhaps just such unexpected quarters.
In the War of All, there are precious few truly insignificant acts.
There are, however, fathomless excesses of those too insignificant to wish to do anything but.
And no matter what form of contribution you are called upon to make – with deference to the bridge-building efforts of our guide, the Squirrel, it is worth noting that one man can start a landslide with the casting of but a single pebble.