Hope this blog finds you all well.
I have given a thought to this post and what we should start with. I wanted to talk today about how we view ourselves as men, as soldiers, and as Americans. I will start with my favorite writer of all time- Ernest Hemingway.
By looking at Hemingway and other writers I have been able to find my “own voice.” By telling you about other writers and writing as a craft I will be able to teach myself. “To teach is to learn twice.”
On Writing Well
William Zinsser is a wonderful writer, editor and teacher who has taught at Yale and Columbia University. His one book “On Writing Well” acts as a companion to “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White. Both are essential guides for the struggling writer.
Zinsser wrote another book called “Writing To Learn.” The book is a vital tool for everyone who wants to write clearly about any subject. The idea is to use writing to learn.
On Writing Well
I will use these emails to talk about writing, culture and the war we have all been affected by. What history will probably call “The American- Afghan War.” All of you are veterans of it. By exploring it we can learn why we there, what happened and where we are going. This is history in its purist and most beautiful form.
Before we go there and before we teach I have something deep and troubling to talk to you about. Its about Bruno, the war and its seductive hold on me.
Grief and Agony
Bruno’s death combined with the acquittal of the bastard who murdered a close of friend almost broke me inside. The two events are completely separated. They are forever linked in a larger narrative in my mind called “The War Experience.”
A Soldier Grieves for his friend
The day after Bruno died I started to feel a Zen experience of being physically and emotionally outside of any event that was happening around me. I would have a chorus of screaming and explosions going off in a movie loop in my mind. I have had a dull headache for almost six years.
I thought time would make some things seem better. There has been a softening but the dull ache has grown into a solid pain. It almost felt like I was having a stroke (a bad metaphor).
In the first year there was a light ringing in my ears. It seemed like I was really starting to understand what had happened. The emotional pain was like a blood clot forming on my brain. My inner ear had a ring and I had picked the smell of Afghanistan wherever I went.
My head seemed to be spinning as I tried to make sense of the horror of what happened. The tragedy of Iraq (Phil’s murder) and the violence of Afghanistan (Bruno’s death) all came together. I felt like a heavyweight boxer had punched me. I could never seem to get my mind straight. I would forgot why I was in places, what I had to eat the day before, and what was happening.
In the second year I began to feel more and more like a stroke victim who couldn’t put his condition into words. I felt tongue-tied, slacked-jawed and mildly retarded trying to explain what happened. I could only say I was, “F*cked up.”
By year three I felt like I was full-on on hypomanic episode. The ringing was still there, but now everyone had too much to say- everything came in too fast.
I would try to take everything in but it would be too much. On top of all this I had decided to go back to Afghanistan to make sense of it all. In old idea that by returning to the scene of the crime you can decipher what had happened and why. I spent those two years in a mental fugue.
Following the mania in the fourth year there was a depressive crash. With it came deep and profound questions that, in truth, have no real answers or at least answers that seem to satisfy what had happened and why.
After a few months of being in the spring of 2012 I had months of insomnia followed by days of blackout sleep. I just wanted to sleep, and not get out of bed- just to rest, just a timeout from life is what I seemed to need.
In the fifth year I continued to ask myself difficult questions. What is the point of this?” What is the meaning of this? Can someone tell me? To be honest no real answers have ever come.
I better cut this one off. God Bless you guys.