I started this WordPress four years ago just as I was finishing up my senior year in high school and preparing to ship out for the Navy. I had many motives for starting this blog, chief of which was my reaction to the culture shock of trying to survive in a school where people were more focused on fighting each other and having sex than succeeding in college and being as happy as normal high school angst would allow. I also started writing because my friends got tired of my mass emails that were directly resulting from my need to actively pursue a greater meaning and understanding of my life as well as my need to express myself through words.
It was around this time I had a conversation with the father of a good friend of mine about the possibility of world peace. At the time, my understanding of the idea of world peace was as vague as the average hippie’s and just as idealistic. “Yes, I’m joining the Navy for money for college. No, I don’t think what we’re doing in the Middle East is the best thing towards peace as I don’t think you can force peace with violence. No, I don’t think withdrawing completely and immediately would be a good idea either. I’m going to save the world. That is all.” That was the extent of my reasoning. Then I shipped out, and found out just how easy it was for me to get bogged down in the trivialness of being on the bottom of the totem.
You see, back when our Navy was young and Naval officers won Glory on the field of battle as well as the field of honor (Dueling: they would take a few paces away from each other, turn around, and shoot once. They would do this until one of them was either dead or was incapable of continuing due to bodily injuries sustained.) Enlisted members, midshipmen, carpenters, et cetera, were usually criminals. The menial labor was considered punishment for crimes. The captains usually ran tight ships, and punishment for negligence came in the form of extreme humiliation and public whipping.
Today’s Navy has taken away the whip and overall has become much softer and gives much better treatment in comparison to the treatment given those criminals at sea, but in my opinion, the honor that is derived from carrying out my cleaning duties and sitting here is about as glorious as being a janitor for the CIA. It is not enough to merely be a part of a “Global Force for Good.” I have opinions, and one of those opinions is that anyone who has opinions about anything, whether it involves something at home or something outside of our country, should do something about them. Don’t complain about society or the whales or your state’s governor or the deficiency of our school systems unless you aim to do something about it. I want to be more than the man who sits at home watching TV with a beer in hand who complains about “The Man.”
Granted, in the scheme of things I have nothing to complain about. For my first orders I was stationed in Italy. I upheld some of the oldest traditions in the Navy, older than even the field of honor. I’m not ashamed that I volunteered my fridge to be brought downstairs at cook outs to keep everyone’s alcohol cold. I was there when the fourth deck of BEQ 1 in Capodichino saw its last party, before everyone was moved off base to minimize the intense awesomeness that our parties endeavored. I’m proud of the endless pubcrawls in Rome and Florence and that I held my alcohol with the best of Americans, and British, and Aussies. Suffice it to say I won’t miss those days. I was dying to live; desperate for the feeling of being alive even at the expense of my own clarity. It was the Josef Green at the time. This is the Josef Green of this time.
I joined the Navy due to lack of direction and lack of money. I often lost sight of my goals, in truth because I had none less vague than wanting to feel alive and not wanting to find myself on my death bed regretting my life. If you utilize the military for this purpose, it is up to you to define how it turns out for you and whether it enables you to find direction and meaning or if it just postpones the inevitability of the moment when you have to make a decision about life and find yourself still at a loss for sure footing. It is easy for someone such as me to forget that the present moment, no matter how dull, is paving the way for a moment in the future in which true happiness is accomplished through achievement. My best friend, Silviu, understood this way before I have and in that regard, I envy him. This moment must be integrated into the strategy towards that moment in the future.
What is my strategy, you ask? Well, as it should, it involves my son. People ask me what I plan on leaving for my son. Do you think someone such as me looks forward to leaving nothing so much as my battered leather jacket or a little money for him to piss away? I arrived at the conclusion a long time ago that once a person is gone, stuff doesn’t mean much, not even their body. Memories mean everything. Ideas mean everything. Empowerment means everything. I want to leave wonderful memories for my son. I want to leave a better world for my son. I want to leave pride for my son. I want to be the rocket that shuttles his own into space and slingshots it towards the stars.
Doing this requires involvement and love, sure, but also something else. It involves a test. Let my life become the testament of my results of that test. Let the test measure me against the dauntless men of genius and action that moved the world on their shoulders. Men like William Eaton who led 1000 ragtag men including American marines, Turks, Arabs, and Bedouins- most of which threatened desertion countless times- across the desert from Egypt to Tripoli (and in less than 40 years, mind you, Moses would have been dumbfounded), with the force of American Naval power deserting him, and brought the tyrant Bashaw, the scourge of Europe, upon whose shores laid the mangled, rotting corpses of exhausted Christian slaves, ultimately to his knees. Even when Eaton finally reached Tripoli, his motley crew was outnumbered 10 to 1. It was his truly indomitable spirit that demanded order through impossible chaos and saw Thomas Jefferson’s intentions through to the end.
You and I complain and quibble over mundane trivialities in the 21st century and begrudge anything uncomfortable because we lack the motivation of honorable purpose. We lack that focusing drive towards greatness. We become too preoccupied with the mud pies of instant gratification. Happiness through achievement does not come without sacrifice or exertion of energy. Even Will Smith’s character in “The Pursuit of Happiness” knew that. And World Peace? Anyone who thinks world peace will come without violence is naïve. Due to the intrinsically varying nature of humanity, there will always be a group of people whose foundation of perception involves not the sanctity of life but in its stead the persuasion of their own agenda through force and violence. Humanity has not progressed in such a way that this fact will change in my lifetime and as long as it is a fact of life, pursuing peace and pursuing safety means being capable of defending ourselves from injustice as well as defending those who cannot defend themselves. That said, do we have the resources and money to fight everyone else’s battles? Not by any stretch of the imagination. As long as there are people who wish for violence, our military branches will always have an honorable purpose, but it will not be the method in which I pursue my purpose. I prefer a more direct road, a road more inviting for my strengths, talents, and passions.
This concludes the rambling, digressing, but well intentioned train of thought of this blog as I make my way from active duty enlisted sailor and into the next phase of my adventure: Fatherhood and beyond.