The Blind General

Some years ago I went on a kick reading classical history. Herodotus. Thucydides. Etc. Driving the Persians out of the Greek peninsula. The Peloponnesian War(s). You know the drill. Fascinating. But maybe that’s just me.

Along the way I came across one particular story. Sadly, I can’t find it again. But it stuck with me, and it strikes me as a good one for this particular holiday.

Here’s what I remember of it: Seems that, in a remote corner of what was then understood to be the civilized part of this planet, many centuries ago, a blind general burst on the scene and led his armies to conquer much of the known world.

He was blind. And he conquered the world.

That’s it. That’s all I remember, except that it was a challenge to think about. What if you had been blinded, or born blind, in that ancient world? Not a very forgiving place, I’d imagine. You’d expect to live a short life begging in the street, or consider yourself lucky to be a house slave somewhere. At least as someone’s property you’d be protected against much of the wanton cruelty of the rest of humanity.

Yet, the Blind General was ruler.

Just about everyone can point to a handicap in his or her life. Too old, or too young. Too many responsibilities. Too many dependents. Too much debt. No opportunity. Obsolete education. No skills. No job. Impending eviction. Impending bankruptcy.

There seems to be a very human trait, when faced with overwhelming adversity, to feel abused, misunderstood, or just plain cursed. To lash out, and then close up and shut down. To lay oneself down and wait to die. It’s so deeply ingrained that it must be a product of evolution. Maybe as a signal to the group of danger. Maybe to conserve energy, until the storm that is outside your control passes.

But you don’t have to. And, since the dawn of civilization, the storms that affect us most don’t just pass on their own.

So if your blood runs cold when you hear someone say, “Count your blessings!”, then try thinking of today as Regroup Day, a day to count your assets, a day to begin planning that offensive. The turkey, or the Spam, will go down much better.

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