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The Forever War and The AJATT Way

This entry is part 5 of 17 in the series The Art of War of Learning

The Forever War is a 1970s military science fiction novel by Joe Haldeman. I actually found out about it in Japanese first, when it was referenced by 岡田斗司夫 (OKADA Toshio) under its Japanese title, 終り無き戦い (おわりなきたたかい, The Endless War / The War Without End / The Unending War).

Briefly, The Forever War is a work of hard science fiction that accepts and incorporates the relativistic effects of high speed motion, namely time dilation (or, as it’s known in Japanese, 浦島太郎効果, うらしまたろうこうか, The URASHIMA Tarou Effect) . If I recall correctly, the book inspired OKADA when he was writing the anime トップを狙え (Aim for the Top Gunbuster) back in the 1980s, with the same team that would go on to create Neon Genesis Evangelion, at Gainax, the studio he founded.

The Forever War was inspired by the author (Haldeman)’s real-life experiences as a conscript in the Vietnam War, participating in a conflict he rather rapidly discovered to be meaningless — both morally and strategically bankrupt — while also feeling ill-at-ease with the hedonistic hippie youth culture back home. Both the real-life Haldeman and his semi-autobiographical protagonist (Mandella) know that the war is B.S., a total racket — but the only people who can understand him and how he feels are his fellow grunts in the military.

And literally none of that is the point here. The point is this. You are in a forever war, an endless conflict, a continuous engagement, a cyclical relationship. Your opponent is entropy. Physicists currently believe that entropy is likely to win the overall war, at least in this Universe, but that doesn’t matter. This war doesn’t have to suck or be meaningless. Because we get to choose and enjoy every battle in it.

You will never stop needing to tidy your room. You will never stop needing to brush your teeth. You will never stop needing to improve your Japanese. There is no final goal state: the only alternative to progress is decay. But you can enjoy the living heck out of every moment. There is no true finish line except death, but there is a new start line every day (every hour, every minute, every second), and we can timebox us some useful milestones and virtual finish lines and create winnable games within games within games.

We can help little pockets of beauty and order to blossom in a Universe somewhat tending to disorder [I know that associating entropy with disorder is a slightly shallow, immature and pop-sciencey interpretation of the concept, but I rike it rike that, so there 🙂 ] . We can help and let ourselves experience joy and laughter and wonderment.

We are here not to “win” but to enjoy a sense of wonderment, not to defeat but to dance, not to “reach” but to move, not to sneer but to smile, not to reign but to rule, not to finish but to continue, not to dominate but to increase, not to stand but to rise, not to gloat but to grow, not to despair but to improve.

That is the point. That is the AJATT way.

Series Navigation<< War! What Is It Good For?What Being In A Forever War Means For You >>

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