Running toward the fire

A long, long time ago, I went through Infantry School in the United States Marine Corps, where they taught us how to “locate, close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver and/ or repel enemy assault by fire and close combat.”

Marines study such things, and they purport to be the best in the world at it.

And in Infantry School, they taught me that if you are walking along, and suddenly your squad is ambushed, the thing you have to do is turn and run toward the fire.

You won’t want to. You will want to run away from the chaos – it’s only human. But if you do that, you will die. Guaranteed.

The only way to survive is to override your instincts and run toward the fire.

I think there is a lesson there that is applicable far beyond war zones.

* * *

I was telling this anecdote to a friend the other day, and she said that the fire wasn’t just when you are being attacked: The fire metaphor works in other circumstances as well.

“When you are in a world of shit, some of your friends will run from it to save themselves. And others will run toward the fire, instinctively, to save you.”

I told her I wanted the second kind of friends.

“Oh, I do too. But the problem is, you don’t know who will run toward the fire until there is a fire.”


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