The first rule of fight club is you do not talk about fight club. But that certainly wasn’t the rule throughout most of human history. As soon as writing was invented, it was immediately put to use as a tool for glorifying success in battle. Egyptian pharaohs used their scribes to endlessly document their military victories. And they were all victories. There’s an old joke about pharaohs: they never lost a battle; they just kept winning them closer and closer to home. Trust me, if you’re an ancient history geek, that’s hilarious.
The glorification of war is fairly universal, but as I discussed last week, I’ve begun finding subtle references to a more rarified form of combat. Instead of armies clashing on broad plains, I’m finding references to single combat that is more important than wars, which is baffling to me. What kind of small-scale combat is more important that societal political survival? These references are subtle, cloaked in euphemism and mythic language, but I find traces of them everywhere. In some cases, similar names are repeated in widely varying cultures across the globe, a circumstance that is, according to current theories, impossible.
I am somewhat worried that I am falling victim to the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, which is a psychological tendency to find what you’re looking for. For instance, if I told you that there is an unnatural recurrence of the number 19 in the world, you would soon begin to notice 19s everywhere. They were always there, but now they leap out at you in disproportionate numbers. I must be cautious to avoid this trap, but it’s beginning to seem like these ancient societies all had some kind of secret fighting clan. Bizarre, I know.
But most surprising of all, to me, is that as I read these accounts, I feel a pull inside me. My pulse quickens like I’ve just gotten a spike of adrenaline, but inwardly I remain calm and still. There’s a draw to these activities that I had not previously recognized in myself. I recognize it now. I also recognize its usefulness in my dangerous situation. I must develop it. Wish me luck.