February 10, 2009

A Forced Relocation of Values: What the Soldier Saw

When they went into attack they used to wear their blankets as capes, slit in the middle, plunged over their heads and blowing out, trailing about them in the wind. He loved that. That was as close as one came in this war to an heroic stance, to a banner, to a suggestion of flair or gesture. Of course, it was not for the sake of image, or even warmth that they wore them so, but rather in the superstition or belief that they created an indefinite and distributed target. Often, after an assault or firefight on patrol, they would count the holes in their blankets and marvel -- how was it possible to remain so invulnerable! And I suppose that was partly it, a way to press closer to the myth of immortality, of one's own state of blessedness and magical survival. Each throw of the dice that left you in possession of the field and unscathed built the incredible and sacred odds within which you breathed, and walked. The air was keener, sweeter in your nostrils in that time -- each choice, each insignificant choice, no longer insignificant.

He remembered once, advancing across a field under a cordon of fire where the sporadic tracers floated like fiery bees in a soft net in the air about them; and as they advanced in a staggered line up a broad slope of golden field at a slow walk, firing assault fire, the wind took their capes and wove them around them from their shoulders in dark and sinuous veronicas, as though each of them was passing by his own dark and deadly beast. Afterwards, he would think that in all his life he had never seen anything quite so beautiful.

--Robert Gajdusek, Resurrection