“I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematicks and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, musick, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelaine.” John Adams, Letter to Abigail Adams, May 12, 1780.
These days it is very popular to quote our Founding Fathers when trying to make some point, usually of a political and/or religious nature. I’m not here for that. I like this quote because of its forward thinking optimism, of its respect for education and the arts, and the wisdom to understand that war is not something one aspires to.
There’s this meme going around social media these days. I see it mostly shared by my more conservative friends, many of them of a certain…bent. The quote is usually attributed to Bruce Lee, but I have seen variations of it going back hundreds of years. “It is better to be warrior in a garden, than a gardener in a war.” The meme & quote is usually accompanied with a bit of a backstory, typically somebody speaking to veteran uncle, father or friend. They’re usually talking about the 2nd Amendment, supporting our troops or other things typically associated with some sort of aggression, and the context is almost always that the person is dealing with those who question or disagree with these things. The message of the whole meme is basically a passive aggressive show of force, a declaration of their willingness to commit violence.
They miss the point of the quote. We do not find the warrior on the battlefield, we find him in the garden. The art he is applying himself to is one of growth, of peace. A warrior prefers peace. I think Adams would have understood.