[May 25, 2022] On one very hot, very sunny, very dangerous morning one day in the Iraq desert, my Soldiers came upon an unusual geological formation near a small village. We were searching for dirt fill to build walls to protect a new combat outpost. My Soldiers were about to discover something that our ancestors knew – that there are no shortcuts in whatever you do and that there are also no shortcuts in life.
“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.” – Helen Keller
The unusual formation jumped up from the desert floor to about two yards high, flat on top, and about two acres in area. It was perfect for what we needed. Our Soldiers began immediately excavating. After a short time, one of our engineer equipment operators came to me with a vase that was uncovered. It was simple and unadorned. It was the kind of vase you might find in a trash pile behind a modern shop selling vases. It was a clue to something more substantial.
A few minutes later, I was asked to see an unusual object in the diggings. I recognized a piece of human skull straightaway. It was very old, white from long being buried there. I promptly halted the excavation. We had not done our due diligence by asking the local villagers about the area or using test pits to look for valuable objects. In times of war, shortcuts can be dangerous, leading to greater problems. In this case, we uncovered an ancient burial area and had violated the hallowed grounds.
By this time, I knew that most Iraqi citizens rarely had reverence for “old” buildings or objects from ancient times. Their interests were on the here and now; yesterday was the past and meant little except for a few religious symbols and texts. An ancient burial ground had no value. Who were those buried there? No one could tell us, and the villagers permitted us to continue with our work. Instead, we chose to stop.
There are no real shortcuts in life. The older I get, the more I realize the truth to this statement. Yes, on occasion, we can take a shortcut and perhaps get away without a penalty for a limited time. However, life doesn’t work that way. Shortcuts are a betrayal of sorts. It tells us that our standard ways of thinking are somehow deficient. Taking shortcuts is the beginning of a corruption of our beliefs and standards of behavior.
Enjoy the fruits of your labor. Live a life of responsibility and truth. And avoid shortcuts when you can.
Please purchase my book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq” (September 2021), on Amazon (link here).