Pressfield, “Gates of Fire”

 “One night I dreamt I marched within the phalanx.  We were advancing across a plain to meet the foe.  Terror froze my heart.  My fellow warriors strode all around me, in front, behind, to all sides.  They were all me.  Myself old, myself young.  I became even more terrified, as if I were coming apart into pieces.  Then all began to sing.  All the ‘me’s,’ all the ‘myself’s.’  As their voices rose in sweet concord, all fear fled my heart.  I woke with a still breast and knew this was a dream straight from God.

I understood then that it was the glue that made the phalanx great.  The unseen glue that bound it together.  I realized that all the drill and discipline you Spartans love to pound into each other’s skulls were really not to inculcate skill or art, but only to produce this glue…

When I first came to Lakedaemon and they called me ‘Suicide,’ I hated it.  But in time I came to see its wisdom, unintentional as it was.  For what can be more noble than to slay oneself?  Not literally.  Not with a blade in the guts.  But to extinguish the selfish self within, that part which looks only to its own preservation, to save its own skin.  That, I saw, was the victory you Spartans had gained over yourselves.  That was the glue.  It was what you had learned and it made me stay, to learn it too.

When a warrior fights not for himself, but for his brothers, when his most passionately sought goal is neither glory nor his own life’s preservation, but to spend his substance for them, his comrades, not to abandon them, not to prove unworthy of them, then his heart truly has achieved contempt for death, and with that he transcends himself and his actions touch the sublime.  This is why the true warrior cannot speak of battle save to his brothers who have been there with him.  This truth is too holy, too sacred, for words.  I myself would not presume to give it speech, save here now, with you.”

Stephen Pressfield, Gates of Fire, pp. 331-332

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