Saving Private Ryan

Saving Private Ryan 1998

The mission is a man.

As U.S. troops storm the beaches of Normandy, three brothers lie dead on the battlefield, with a fourth trapped behind enemy lines. Ranger captain John Miller and seven men are tasked with penetrating German-held territory and bringing the boy home.

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christopherromo, Chamber and Jon call this movie movie a favorite
Jon wrote:

For those 20 first minutes of epicness, it deserves to be a fav'

ronprice9 wrote:

86 Fitzroy Road
Rivervale WA

25 December 1998

Dear Friend

This is a letter I will probably never mail but I must write it anyway to get a few things off my chest. I suppose what I write was precipitated by watching a recent movie Saving Private Ryan, starring Tom Hanks. The movie showed, possibly better than any has since movies started their journey a hundred years ago, the horror of war. With the aid of the best in sound technology and cinematography and a gripping storyline the eyes, the ears and the emotions were mixed and stirred as they never have before in a war movie. As is so often the case with film, description was wonderful; analysis was lacking. The audience was left, as it so often is, to figure out the whys and wherefores.

This letter, as a result of the intensity and emotion of the film, may be equally intense, overly emotive, over-the-top as they say in Australia. But I trust this letter will convey a slice of truth as did the movie. Some notes, some musical themes, in this poetic autobiography that I send in the form of booklets of poetry like this one, are created and played for the listening ear of a future reader whom I have in my mind’s eye. And that is an essential part of this poetic opus: finding reflections of myself, my religion, the realities of life, everywhere I turn and conveying them in print.(J. Hatcher, George Ronald, 1984) Here a future reader will find impressions of the battle from an individual soldier during the earliest years of the tenth stage of history, 1963-1998.

We all know about the terrors of war, we citizens of the emerging global civilization. These sorts of wars have an enemy, guns, swords, uniforms, bullets, tanks, aeroplanes, all sorts of military paraphernalia. As far back as civilization goes wars were obvious, blatant, clear-cut, although often complex in their logistics and battle plans as well as other features of what were often long and tortured affairs.

But the battle, the war, of which I write and which we are all engaged in this final stage of history is not in this category, not based on military materiel. It involves a destruction far more drastic and terrible than any of the ones I have described briefly above. This battle does not have a ‘front’, as the wars had which we are used to describing in this century, or in those more limited engagements of previous and recent centuries. The battle now is everywhere and it is often, usually, not visible to the senses. Sometimes, of course, it is visible. Sometimes people die in one of literally hundreds of ways from one of thousands of causes. But most of the deaths are spiritual and most of the battles not visible to the outward senses by, say, interested observers.

One of the reasons I will never send this letter is that my own particular battle is just one of millions now. Mine is really no worse or no better than most of the others; or to put it more accurately, it is difficult to measure, to quantify, the individual soul’s battle. There are marginal and sometimes extreme differences from person to person, of course, but they are impossible to judge or place in any hierarchy. If some of these individual ‘battlers’, as they are called in Australia, ever wrote to you about their battle, their story would be different than mine: we all have different battles. But these battles, these post-modern wars, are infinitely more complex than those of yesteryear. Many people would not even begin to see their lives in these quasi-militaristic terms, as days lived in a war zone on many fronts. They would simply not use the language of war. They see life as a game, as theatre, an exercise in winning and losing, a play on a stage. Some would see it filled with meaning and others with no meaning. But either way, the notion of life as a war, as a battle, would be foreign to them. This is partly due to the seductive, insinuating nature of the process.

But it is not foreign to me and this is what I write about in this letter. This letter will serve as a representative of one that I’m sure millions might write, millions of often stoic souls who battle on and on year after year each fighting in their own way for the truths they have espoused. I tire of this old-born war. After thirty-six years of pioneering, three years of getting ready for it and six years of watching it from the sidelines back in the 1950s, I think I have dried out. Like this dry dog-biscuit of a land, Australia, I have had all my juices sucked out. I feel as if I have lived life to the full, recognised and embraced the ocean of this Cause and thrown my whole life into its service.

I have drowned.1 My imperfections, as long as your arm and nurtured over many years, do not appear as epically egregious as once they did. The angels, I imagine, yawn at their mention and my sense of shame in all likelihood bores these angels to death, although it probably protects me still from even more shame. My suffering, now and over the years, is so ordinary, banal, trivial. However much it has made me the man I am, it seems to have lost its currency, its flavour, its spice, its enriching function, beyond a certain minimal function. And so I, a sorry soldier, with my camp in ruins, speak from a weariness of battle far prolonged, as a bird weary of flight. The shining names of others on scattered tombs no longer appears as radiant, as they once did. They have become overly familiar and not as sweet as their remembrance once was. A legion stretching to horizon’s end, they have, I trust, by now entered the Garden of Paradise, they who are champions of the Peerless One.

But all is not a sad tale. I find aspects of this war, this set of endless skirmishes and engagements, enchanting in some ways. I have even become enamoured of some of the very intransigence of the enemy’s army. Their implacability, their very immoveability, is an aphrodisiac, though fatigue makes me call truce each day. I make my own noose each day out of my failings and I stroke the face of the traitor: for how can one describe one’s infinite failings which one lives with so finitely year-after-year? I seem to love the enemy and seek the Friend. The joy I possess is an inward one and it is difficult to share except indirectly. That is why I write so much poetry. It is as if I write it to my Lord, for the world does not seem to want to listen, or to write to me: nor would I want it to most of the time.

And what is this war-like tempest that blows year after year tearing down the very foundations of the earth with its subtle and not-so-subtle terror? What is this mighty wind of battle whose origins I can neither perceive nor probe? What is this rampant force that silently fills my ears with jingles, the Ten Top Tunes, the most wonderful classics, sports highlights and tinkling trivialities as millions die in the blazing cross-fires of life on battlefields that have no guns, trenches or signs of military might? As I feast on the fleeting and the false I am delivered from greatness. I endlessly magnify the mediocre, the ignorant and the second rate. The very complexity of it all makes it difficult to define the excellent. In these early years of this tenth stage of history, as the Guardian defined the years after 1963, a great maelstrom blows and blows.

My trouble, indeed society’s, seems rooted in our souls and, however much analysis we pour unto our problems, the answers elude us. For they are immensely complex both for those of us who are the promoters of this Cause and those billions of souls who will one day embrace its message. For there are a million questions in this complex jungle of modern life.

Some of the ocean’s turbulence I can no longer face. I have swum in its pearl-promising waves before. I know of the adventurous excitements and the wet dangers. I want to turn back now to a sun-warmed sand and leave the waves for another day, a future time. I can not swim in some of these great pools any longer; the poisoning stone fish frighten me. I feel like a frightened bird who has torn his pinion and bloodied his head. I want to go home and ‘neath the shade of protecting wings I want to nestle forever. The sea always asks more and in some of these watery escapades, in some of these wild and mounting waters, I no longer want to sail. I can no longer even look upon the frothed treachery that laps on some of the sea’s shores. I say prayers now, but only lines, never finishing.

My prayer book feels like an overworked horse that I must leave alone to rest out in the pasture. I tire of the language, the words used year after year to say and do what must be done year after year, again and again. For what we must do seems to repeat itself again and again. The same story is told over and over in its labyrinthine forms, unvarying. Now I face the long wait for the salient dove to bring that living twig. Devotion feels like a lean provision for this journey now. This devotion brought me far and now I must go the distance on the heart’s thin soil with a fatigue whose name is so ancient as to have no name.2

For many years I have identified intimately with the Guardian who, by at least the 1940s, was worn out from the burden of his labours. But he carried on until his passing in 1957 at the age of 60. Of course, I carry my own burden, much smaller than Shoghi Effendi’s. I am currently making some adjustments in my employment and residence in order to carry this burden more effectively into the future. Life seems to be a series of such adjustments until the Lord relieves one of the burden and its accompanying weight, responsibility, pleasures and joys.

I feel He has given it all to me. I have been blest with the ocean, but I must swim alone in the sea. Always there is “the work” upon which to expend my energy. This “work” I feel is partly my reward for coming this far in the battle. This is the deepening, the understanding, the insight, the sweeter pleasures, the joyous even tearful end of things. It is an end that possibly, probably, would not have come had there been no war. For war is productive of much good and my days have tasted a sweet new life, a spiritual springtime filled with the fresh leaves, blossoms and fruits of a consecrated joy. Had there been no war there would not have been this consecrated joy. I no longer have to do everything, as once I did; I can and do find joy in some of the work. I have found my corner where I can watch the tempest blow, where I can deal with a manageable chunk of the war. But from some of the action, some of the fronts on which the war is being waged, I must retire.

Swift would I be, though, Lord, if Thou wouldst but call, for You are my aim, my hope, my all. I have chosen death, Lord. In this old-new born war I know there is no escape. I’ve seen my candles fail, my petals rust. But I have found a golden seam of joy, consecrated joy, seemingly imperishable joy. This inner brightness, inner light, can be found in my poetry, along with the rusted petals, the failed candles and the story of my retirement frm some of the battlegrounds.

1 Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, Four On An Island, George Ronald, Oxford, 1983, p.41.
2 Roger White, The Witness of Pebbles, George Ronald, Oxford, 1981: several poems.

Ron Price
25 December 1998

Let the whole world know what you think about this movie. Just first.