• Eric "Aspen" Marley

Crazy Horse and No Water: What It Means to Be A Warrior

This is an edited version of a Facebook post from March 2020.

I have a problem with the term, "warrior" as it is used these days in a spiritual context. I.e., "prayer warrior," "spiritual warrior."

Looking at my own life, I see all kinds of ways I haven't earned this title, yet I often do things that seem quite warrior-like. People have even called me that, sometimes.

I'm reminded that "doing" is one thing, while "being" is another. When a large group is doing warrior-like things and we participate, we can be lumped into that category. Retreat centers and new-agey teachers are fond of creating followers by bestowing lofty monikers like this on them.

This is unfortunate because a warrior isn't defined by group-think moments, or by mere titles, or by engagement in something from time to time. They're defined by something far deeper, with far greater consistency.

To illustrate, Crazy Horse was a warrior. But he was so exceptional in his life, in his preparations and level of sacrifice for others, that to call his nemesis "No Water" a warrior as well might cause a thoughtful person to ask questions about what the term really means.

They both went on raids and did all the things that warriors were expected to do. And to be sure, a man facing a mortal arrow from either wouldn't much care about the deeper meaning of the title. They were both warriors, to him. But Crazy Horse never wavered*, endured unbelievable privation for the sake of his people, and was brave to the end. The latter found it more convenient to hang around the forts and see what free things the white folks were handing out. No Water sought power from the Whites. Crazy Horse's power came from another Source.

When things were particularly challenging, Crazy Horse would go out alone for days or weeks at a time, including in the winter. They would find him, huddled between blizzards near a warming fire near a boulder, seeking the wisdom that comes from deep solitude. They weren't sure, at times, that he ever ate when he was away like this. He would just be there, huddled under a buffalo robe against the sub-zero winter, considering what to do for his people.

What do I do when things are particularly challenging and I'm away from Ceremony and Community? What is my concern? Is it physical relief from discomfort? Or is it more along the lines of seeking relief from something Greater than I? Do I seek strength to handle my discomfort as it presents itself, making myself stronger in the process? Does a warrior ever self-medicate? Does she ever really take "breaks?" From the books I've read, I don't know that Crazy Horse ever did. He was always in one battle or another - or preparing himself for an upcoming one of some kind.

He was a warrior, then, all the time.

I think there's a subtle difference between the illusion of warriorhood and the reality. Do you see it? It seems that one relies on "the arm of man" (our own) and the illusion of being a warrior. The other seeks assistance from Source and is a warrior even in solitary practice. The "illusory warrior" has ideas about "how to make things better" that have to do with gaining comfort as part of a "soulful" solution (it may or may not be). This course of action inhibits growth. The warrior puts herself in a position to allow deeper wisdom than she has to dictate a course of action. She then follows the instruction and then releases expectations about the outcome; it's not up to her. Comfort, in this case, is secondary to Connection. The Warrior lives for something greater than comfort: Connection to Source. An Illusory Warrior, or a beginner, might seek comfort first and then Source when the time is "right."

One is Crazy Horse. The other is No Water. One is a warrior. One is not.

At least not yet.

* In the one instance of which I'm aware that Crazy Horse MIGHT have wavered, it involved the love of his life. She also loved him, but political gamesmanship and the cultural mores of the time prevented their union.

(photo by Stephen Walker)

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