Article Overview:   What is a Chariot of Vigilance?  Would you race the Beast of Terror to win the safety and security of your children, and the Children's Children's Children?   The movie Ben-Hur symbolizes the ability of an Arab-Jewish coalition against the Beast of Terror.  Find out how you can champion the battle against the Beast.


Monday--March 3, 2003—Ground Zero Plus 537
A Lesson From Ben Hur On The Chariots of Vigilance

Cliff McKenzie
   Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

GROUND ZERO, New York City, Mar. 3--I watched Ben Hur yesterday, for no other reason than to escape, momentarily, the madness of world events.
      Earlier in the day I had traveled up from the East Village to Central Park West, where I met with some friends as I do weekend mornings.  We usually have coffee or breakfast, and share about the week's adventures.

      Some are actors, lawyers, socialites, musicians, news people, salespeople, retired teachers, truck drivers and one is a former B-25 WWII pilot.

We focus on a universal theme "What's good about today?"

       We come from all walks of life, ethnicities, social, political and sexual preferences, and use our differences as symbols that we can overcome them if we agree to focus on a universal theme:  "What's good about today?"
       The group has been meeting for years, over sixty to be exact, and I stumbled into it about ten years ago when I was visiting my daughter in New York from California.   We meet for about an hour in a formal round robin discussion and then break and drift into small groups at our individual option to chatter about events, mostly personal.   There is a rule that we avoid "current events" in our formal discussions and talk about our evolution as human beings, or, the struggles we engage in to achieve that growth.
       Few us know, or wish to know, each other's last names.   Our relationship is limited to our humanness, not what we are, or pretend to be, or wish we were.   This allows us to not be trapped by social structure, or to feel intimidated by one another.  We're just evolving beings regardless of age, color, race, religion or how much money we have or don't have.
       It's like taking a warm bath on a cold night.   You feel refreshed afterwards, as though you were "part of" rather than "separated from" the throngs of human conflict, and the challenges of judgment.
       I tried unsuccessfully to break the "rules of non-engagement."    One of the members, a successful defense attorney who a decade ago was crawling on his belly in desperation looking for his sense of human value, has a penchant for current affairs.  When I walked into the meeting room where we assemble at 8 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, he was talking with an actor preparing to go to Europe for a three-month gig in Edward Albee's play, The Ghost.

Discussion of current affairs was taboo

       I was eager to share my article of the day regarding the destruction of Al Samoud 2 missiles by Saddam, and had an urge to get the lawyers take that Saddam had 385 SA 2 rocket engines and only about 100 Al Salmoud missiles.    I thought it rather evident that Saddam was playing games about destroying his missiles, and wanted to confirm that reasoning.
       When the conversation between the lawyer and actor fell into a pause, I proposed the question to the lawyer:  "Do you think its odd that Saddam has 385 rocket engines and claims only 100 missiles?   Do you think he's got some missiles buried in the sand?"
       The lawyer, a nice guy as lawyers go, gave me a innocuous smile as though I might be an ant crawling up an elephant's ass, and replied, "I'm sure he does," and then returned to the conversation with the actor about Vienna, where the actor was going, and his appreciation of Albee.

  My conversation attempted  to eclipse the importance of the day

         I sat heavily in my chair, slightly rebuffed because I knew I had brought into the room a burden and tried to dump it on those who came to free themselves of the "worldly events," at last for an hour or so.
        It made me realize the importance of taking some time off the narrow paths we walk, and enjoying the respite of the wide highway of life.  
        The meeting's theme was on trust.  "How can we learn to trust without feeling violated?"
         Each of the approximately thirty present shared his or her take on how the issue of trusting another backfired, and betrayal set in, igniting resentments and sometimes a thirst for revenge.
         The solution seemed to balance one's trust with others in relation to degrees of risk--what might happen if that trust was violated, and would the consequences be worth it--i.e., could you handle it if the bonds were broken.

 Climb the Tree of "no boundaries" and you can't get hurt

         I happened to have some experience with trust, and cited a book I had read called No Boundaries, in which the author suggested that all "expectations" were battle lines, and that trust was the formation of an expectation that someone would comply with another's side of the bargain, and when he or she didn't, the expectation of trust created emotional shrapnel.   Thus, if one had the least expectations of another, or, non at all, then one couldn't get "hurt" if another violated the bond.
         It sounded good, but ultimately is impracticable unless you are a Buddhist monk.   But the philosophy softens human experience by reducing the demand that one's expectations and his or her trust be fulfilled.
         After the meeting, I opted not to engage in the coffee clutches that followed, and instead, strolled through Central Park toward the subway, and made my way back to the East Village.   
         The meeting had been good for me because I have an increasing expectation that the world should be cast in a different mould, one far more Vigilant than its current state.  I found myself coiling up inside, becoming more and more frustrated at the insanity of nations, and the constant bickering and back biting of nations seeking to jockey for power in a world where the immediate issue is resolving Terrorism, or at least, agreeing to resolve it.
         In my mind, the world was once again dancing in circles, going in no direction.  More and more nations were falling off the alliance ladder.  I saw them as hyenas, more and more selfish in their designs to ravage the spoils of conflict rather than pay the high price of Vigilance  that Terrorism demands.   The refusal of the Turkish Parliament to support U.S. troops infuriated me.  I formed the expectation that even though it cost  us $15 billion in promised loans and aid, Turkey would allow us to use its bases to launch a Northern assault on Iraq.

Each delay increases the Beast of Terror's strength

      I wanted the War On Terrorism to get off the chopping blocks.   Each day we danced with the Beast, in my opinion, whittled away the urgency to contain the Beast.  Each delay, each attack on unity to fight him, gave him time to stretch his muscles and renew his enthusiasm that the world was far more Complacent than Actionable.    Delays broadcast a message to other Terror Leaders such as Kim Jong Il of North Korea.  The more he saw chunks of flesh being bitten out of America's watchdog, the more he pressed to cook up a vat of Terror Weapons to maximize his threats, to bolster his power of Fear, Intimidation and Complacency over his neighbors and the world.   Kim had boasted that if America attacks North Korea, he would unleash "hell" in other parts of the world.   He was holding the gun to the world's head while Saddam offered the diversion.
        Being a small Voice in the wilderness, I have to scream louder than most in hopes of being heard over the cacophony of opinions.   I get hoarse, and often feel frustrated that what I have to say falls on deaf ears, or no ears at all.
        My "straw in the wind" attitude brings me to the brink of Complacency where I feel like Sisyphus shoving the eternal rock up the hill, only to have it roll back again and again before I reach the peak. I think of myself in these dark moods as a grain of sand blowing over some Arabic desert, so miniscule that even a Hubble Telescope ten feet from me couldn't pick me out of the dust.
       That's when Ben Hur came to my rescue.

Ben-Hur to the rescue

       Because I get up at 4 a.m. each morning to research and write my story--to place my grain of sand on the sea of sand--I take a nap during the day, at least two hours.   I flip on the television and let it lull me to sleep.   I happened to see Ben Hur was on the Turner Movie Channel, and began to watch it.
       It is a majestic movie.  It is 221 minutes in length, and epic in nature.  William Wyler directed it.   It stars Charlton Heston as a rich Jew named Judah Ben-Hur, caught in a moment of time when Jesus Christ was crucified.    Heston becomes a gladiator, racing chariots after being cast out of his home by his former Roman childhood friend, Messala, played by Steven Boyd.   He is befriended by a Roman naval commander, Quintus Arrius, expertly played by Jack Hawkins.

Ben-Hur and Messala:  friends to foe

      But the movie turns from a powerful epic of human conflict to one of political Vigilance when Heston meets an Arab, Sheik Ilderim, played by Hugh Griffith, bent on beating the Romans in a chariot race.  Judah Ben-Hur seeks revenge against Messala for putting his mother and sister in prison, and agrees to race the Arab Sheik's prize horses against his nemesis, Messala.
       It is in the meeting between the Sheik Ilderim and Judah Ben-Hur that I sat upright and chose not to sleep.

The Star of David

      Sheik Ilderim warns Judah to not seek revenge by killing Messala, but instead urges him to beat him in the chariot race.   He gives Heston a Star of David, the symbol of the Jews, to wear while he is racing.  He extols the virtues of an Arab-Jew coalition against the Romans, and how Roman Terrorism of the land--ie, their rule by Fear, Intimidation and Complacency over the Jews and Arabs--will be diminished if Heston is victorious.  
       The dialog in this scene is superb.   It promotes the alliance of the Jewish and Arabic people at the grass roots level against the Beast of Terror represented by Roman rule.
       It seeks not to promote violence but instead victory over violence.   There is a gleeful spark in Griffith's eyes as he "sells" Judah Ben-Hur on becoming a symbol of leadership, an icon of Jewish-Arabic unanimity against the Romans.
       Later in the film, following Judah's victory, Pontius Pilate summons Heston.   He offers him Roman citizenship, explaining to him how Rome's power dominates the land, and that if Judah refuses to join the Romans, he will be become a "victim of power."
       I thought hard about the dialogue between these two powerful sources--an Arab and a Jew.   The movie, depicting a story nearly 2000 years ago, rang true today.   In the Middle East, there is an enemy as fierce as the Roman Empire stalking the land.
       It is Terrorism.
       It has no particular face, and wears no particular national colors.  Like Rome, it is ubiquitous, omniscient  It is the Beast of Terror--the Fear, Intimidation and Complacency that pits one nation against another, that forces the worst rather than the best out of human beings.

Ben-Hur seeks revenge for the plights of  his mother and sister and  himself at the hand of Messala

      Sheik Ilderim commands a vista of perseverance against the Beast that Judah Ben-Hur cannot fathom.  All Judah wants is revenge, blood, an eye-for-an-eye.    He had been brutally violated by his childhood friend who forced him to commit a criminal act and ultimately become a slave plus the imprisonment of his mother and sister.  He wants blood.
       But Sheik Ilderim sees another vision--one of unity and Vigilance between the two.  The Arab-Jewish front, he says, will bring Rome to her knees.  It will crumble Rome's power by showing that there are "Sentinels of Vigilance" who are willing and capable of standing up to the Beast of Terror, who do not fall victim to the Beast's shadow that casts Fear, Intimidation and Complacency on a land.

Ben-Hur races the Sheik's "children" for the Children's Children's Children

      Metaphorically, the Sheik's "children" are his beautiful, powerful horses.   They symbolize the "children of the land."   It is for their future, and the future of peace and prosperity that he urges Judah Ben-Hur to win the battle with his hate and rage through racing not through "war."
       Today, the Middle East is riddled with the same poisons left from Roman conquest.   The same Fear, Intimidation and Complacency illustrated in this mid 1950's film mix with potential of Courage, Conviction and Right Actions for the Children's Children's Children.
      Judah Ben-Hur finds faith in dark caves of a leper colony where his mother and sister are condemned to death.    He finds the Courage to overcome his Fear, the Conviction to overpower his Intimidation, and the Right Actions that quash his Complacency that only hate and revenge will salve his torn soul.

Ben-Hur finds faith in a leper colony

      I believe that one day, when the Children of the Middle East become more important than the power of "states of nations" that comprise it, peace will fall upon the land.
      This is also true in Asia where Kim Jong Il, as the Roman Empire once attempted, seeks to bully the people into accepting him as a power source, fearful if they don't comply with his demands he will unleash his legions of mass destruction.
     If history has any meaning, then the ability of opposing forces to act as one to rid the land of the threat to future generations must win in the long run.   Even Pontius Pilate affirms in the scene between himself and Judah Ben-Hur that Rome's power today may not last, and that nations with great power make great mistakes.
      But there is a higher power than the present.  That higher power is the future of all the children of all lands--to be free from perpetuation of Terrorism.
      Saddam Hussein's thirst for power, or Kim Jong Il's, or Osama bin Laden's, or the next Terrorist who pops up on the radar screen, will hope for division and derision among states and nations.   He will feed off the hate and desire to revenge one people have brewed against other people, and that hate and revenge will blind those, as it almost did Judah Ben-Hur, from a greater truth.
       I recommend that all world leaders take 221 minutes out of their lives and study the movie and its dialogue.   Especially the scenes between the Sheik and Ben Hur, and between Pontius Pilate and Judah.  The message is clear--there is a solution to the Beast of Terror.  It isn't violence, it is victory over violence.

Climb into the Chariot of Vigilance

       And, for the citizens of the world, I suggest each take the same time to review the film.  Don't wait for the politicians or world leaders to arrive at a solution for the future.   Climb into the Chariot of Vigilance.   Race the Beast of Terror.
       Victory can be yours if you wear the Shield of Vigilance, and take the Pledge of Vigilance and its Principles to heart.
       Long live Ben-Hur.  Long live Vigilance.




Mar. 2--Crushing Al Samoud Missiles--Or Breaking America's Back?

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