Last night I attended an open-air performance of a theatrical adaptation of Thomas More’s Utopia. I think that one could safely describe what my friend and I experienced as a tour de force. During a rather debauch banquet scene the grace preceding the meal was replaced by the chanting of a range of wholesome quotes. The character of Thomas More did not quite have the Cardinal’s buy-in and thus it quickly turned into a Kafkaesque screaming match between the two in which More favoured a quote that is often attributed to Plato, “Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Rather fitting, I thought.
Plato, or whoever said it, was in my (and Victor Hugo’s) opinion right, “Those who live are those who fight.” In other words facing battles comes with the territory of being alive. It is after all, in the words of George S. Patton, “Better to fight for something than live for nothing.” I also love James Joyce’s take on this, “Your battles inspired me – not the obvious material battles but those that were fought and won behind your forehead.”
Ah, the battlefield of the mind and heart. Sun Tzu rightly pointed out that if you know your enemy and yourself (and that sometimes these are one and the same) you can fight a hundred battles without disaster. I also agree with Jean-Paul Sartre that a lost battle is a battle one thinks one has lost, and thus we are twice armed if we fight with the faith that victory is ours. However, it is also good to heed the advice of the Iron Lady herself and to keep in mind that you may have to fight a battle more than once to win it. Or as Henry David Thoreau puts it, “All endeavor calls for the ability to tramp the last mile, shape the last plan, endure the last hours toil. The “fight to the finish” spirit is the one characteristic we must possess if we are to face the future as finishers.”