Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lone Survivor - Page 107 and I QUIT!

The weekend of my 40th birthday my husband and I hiked the trail to Wallace Falls, near Gold Bar, WA. The first hour or so was absolutely gorgeous and wonderful. The trail danced in and out of sunlight and shade, taking us through deep forest that felt like a fairytale, showing amazing vistas of moss and ferns and flowers and so much green. But then we hit the steep parts of the trail and I realized I was woefully unprepared for the climb.

I tried to pace myself. But my muscles were screaming. I gritted my teeth and kept going, but was not having much fun. I scrambled my way over rocks and pulled myself up by branches as the trail went up and up and up. Finally, winded and aching, I sat down and quit. I said I'd seen plenty of waterfalls in my time and it just wasn't worth it to go through that much pain to see one more. I was done in. I sent my husband on ahead to finish the climb without me, telling him he could tell me all about it on his way back down. I was not about to go another step.

About that time some hikers coming back down from the falls came along and said to me "Oh no, you CAN'T quit here - you are almost there! Come on, it really is worth it! You will be so sorry if you let yourself miss out this close. You can make it!"

So, a bit rested and encouraged by these enthusiastic hikers, I got back up and finished the climb. They were right. It was worth it. It was a breathtaking view.

Ever since that day I've given quite a lot of thought to when, why and under what circumstances I am willing to endure pain/difficulty/struggle to achieve a goal and when, why and under what circumstances I am more likely to quit.

I believe some pain is there to make us stronger, and enduring that pain is ultimately for our own good. There are other kinds of pain that are there as a message to change course quick for our safety and best interest, screaming out "hey, dummy, take your hand off that hot stove!"

The trick is in sorting out which is which.

As I was reading Lone Survivor, I disliked most of it. But I was determined to hang in there and keep going. It would get better, I kept telling myself. It would be worth it in the end. Right from the start I didn't like it. Four or five times I put the book down for a few days. But each time I would pick it back up and try again. I was trying to endure this book about endurance. But finally, I decided to throw in the towel. Having made it only to page 107, I'm ready to bail out of this book. I quit.

As the author goes about describing his Navy Seal training, it has been all about enduring extremely grueling tests one after the other without one bit of encouragement and withstanding levels of pain that to me would be spirit breaking.

It seems like he wants the reader to be impressed by how tough he was. Frankly, I wasn't all that impressed. All I can say is, testosterone is a scary thing.

I get it that our military has a need for turning men into killing machines that will follow orders no matter what. I get it that I am personally safer in the world because there are people like the Navy Seals who are willing to become warriors, disciplining their bodies and minds to endure excruciating pain and lay their lives on the line. I get it that based on the need for that our military justifies this sort of treatment of soldiers and sailors. But I HATE it. I hate everything about it.

I don't really think being able to withstand torture makes someone better or stronger. Yes, it makes them better prepared for horrible, ugly battles. And we live in a world where those battles are fought far more often than I want to know. But I'd rather read about someone who used diplomacy to resolve conflict than how they trained men to blow people away.

It is a hard reality of this world that we need to train some of our sweet young sons into hardened soldiers. But I am not happy about that and I will not read any more of this book. I do not see the merit of enduring this book. I see no beauty waiting for me at the end.


  1. Very interesting. I love that everyone gets something completely different from the same book. I guess that's the purpose of book clubs, though, isn't it?

  2. Wow. I appreciate your thoughts, as honestly (and I'm skipping the book) I had exactly the same concerns. It's a side of life I don't need to investigate, you know?

  3. You are correct. There was no beauty waiting at the end. I had the opposite feelings though. I got a total adrinalin rush reading about the training. I totally was ready to join the military just to see if I could endure hell week.

    When I watch movies I don't watch movies that are sad, traumatic, scary, etc., etc. I don't understand what the point of a movie is if I can not escape reality. I don't know why I don't have the same rule for books.