Phalanx 2/20/23

Thoughts with Richard Bleil

The Phalanx was developed by the ancient Roman empire.  The solders stand shoulder to shoulder all holding large shields to create a wall that was impenetrable.  The wall was three soldiers deep so if you managed to breech the first layer, you had two more with which to contend.  Spears were held to protrude between the shields to make it dangerous to charge the wall as many soldiers would impale themselves on the spears as they charged too quickly and haphazardly. 

In theory it was a powerful technique.  In practice, it was rife with flaws.  The number of fighters were inherently cut by two-thirds as the men in the second and third row could do nothing but stand in support.  Because the situation was stressful, and very hot especially for the second row, as the first wall fell, the second wall of soldiers were already exhausted, and their efficiency significantly diminished, as was the third.  Don’t misunderstand, it was a challenge to breach that first line of soldiers, but once they fell the battle was usually over. 

Sometimes the toughest walls are weaker than they appear.  A stone standing against ocean waves always appears powerful, and yet each new wave wears it down more, dulling the sharpness, reducing the stone to rubble.  No matter how strong we feel we might be, we have our limits.

I was surprised as I discovered myself unable to stand up to the pressures of stress as I once had.  In my youth, I couldn’t be phased by any type of emotional upheaval or insults.  When I was the director of the forensics lab, I was under a constant barrage of criticism and lies by “poison pill” employees who, credit where credit was due, were superb at swaying the opinions of the other employees and of my own supervisor.  Eventually, I felt each barb and cut as if the weapons to create them was salted.  My threshold to deal with the barrage declined, and, as a result, I did make my mistakes. 

In a society replete with greed, dishonesty, envy and lack of concern for others, it feels as if we’re under ever-increasing emotional assault.  Our honor is questioned, our enemies paint a picture of us that is false and diminished from reality.  We can stand like a phalanx of one, but our resources will be weakened as we do. 

Fortunately, there are ways to replenish our strengths.  First and foremost is our support network.  Our families and friends are there for us, if they are true anyway, and will support us.  They will lend ears to allow us to release the steam and heat from the center of our phalanx.  They will give us encouragement and advice, if we need it, to add to our armor against the tide.  Sometimes I feel so very much alone, but when I remember those that love and believe in me, and more so when I open up and let them into my ranks, my strength returns.  My power is replenished.

There are things we can do for ourselves as well.  In the height of my stress I eventually made it a point, every weekend, to take a drive through the Black Hills.  I had no agenda, and when I was so inspired, I stopped to walk, to breathe in fresh air, to clear my mind while cave spelunking.  I refueled my lines with the refreshment of being alone and new experiences. 

My spirit was refreshed as I took up meditation.  Each night I would calm my mind and my body before bedtime.  I found I slept better and was better refreshed for the upcoming day.  Spirituality is a very personal thing.  Some turn to prayer, and I even have friends who turn to spell crafting.  Whatever replenishes the spirit is as valid as any other technique, and is subject to insult by nobody else. 

You are not alone in the battle.  You have the strength to carry on, and the courage to do so with honor.  Remember that as you seek an external path to accomplish what you so desire, you also need to find the inner path to do so in a way that makes you proud.  Not your boss, not your family, not your friends, but you because nobody’s opinion of you is greater than your belief in yourself.  Victory without honor is no victory at all.  It’s not about winning the race, but how it’s won.  In the end, you will carry with you to the future how you won, not just that you won.  Those who won against me did so without honor, by using deceit, and without honor.  I lost with honor, they won with shame.


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