5/27/2002 Memorial Day


We Should Learn Wisdom From Our Losses


Today we celebrate Memorial Day. For any young person or immigrant who doesn’t know what we are memorializing, it is all those who died fighting in wars for the United States.


People from my parent’s generation knew plenty of their friends and relatives and acquaintances who never came back from WWII. Since then we’ve had numerous wars and conflicts including Korea, Vietnam, and, thankfully with relatively few lives lost, Iraq and Afghanistan.


I disagreed with the reasons behind the Vietnam war, but for those who felt it was the right thing to do, and those who were never really sure but simply got swept along in the events of the time, and who lost their lives in the process, we honor their sacrifice today.


Perhaps it’s that it’s about the ultimate sacrifice, but I really can’t think of anything to say other than, “Thank you”.


The best thing we could do to memorialize these deaths is to have as few of them as possible in the future. Let’s not get into any more wars because we’re too slow in making the transition to renewable energy and away from oil, or because of avaricious international business practices that create masses of alienated, angry people we eventually have to go to war with. That would honor these deaths by showing that we’ve learned, where possible, to avoid needing that kind of sacrifice.


We hope from these sacrifices we learn some wisdom. Here are a few of my favorite wisdom quotes:


“The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.” Proverbs 16:31.


"Knowing the present you mirror the past." The Book of Tao, 14.


“Perhaps it is because the wise do not exist for themselves that they find complete fulfillment." The Book of Tao, 7.


“The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.” Thomas Paine.


"Temperate discussion... and mutual forbearance where there is a difference of opinion, are too obvious and necessary for the peace, happiness and welfare of our country, to need and recommendations of mine." George Washington.


“It was all done by Christ and Gandhi and St. Francis of Assisi and Dr. King. They did it all. We don’t have to think about new ideas; we just have to implement what they said, just get the work done.” Cesar Chavez.


To end on a lighter note: It seems the wise always have a sense of humor. I don’t know if these were originally intended in humor but they always cracks me up, and they make a good ending line:


“The people who live extravagantly are apt to be snobbish, and the people who live simply are apt to be vulgar. I prefer the vulgar people to the snobs.” Master Kung (Confucius).


"When civilization grew, names began. With names, one should know when to stop." The Book of Tao, 32.