Question for you: Do you know what started World War I? If you’re like me and didn’t pay close enough attention in history class, my guess is you’re having a hard time remembering the answer. If I were to ask you what started World War II, I think most would be able to answer quickly…Hitler. He invaded Poland and thus began his wicked scheme to eliminate a complete race of humans known as the Jews. In the meantime, Japan thought it would be a great idea to catch the US off guard and they bombed Pearl Harbor…in hindsight…bad idea. But, back to my original question, what started WWI?
The identification of the causes of WWI remain controversial. Consensus history would point back to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria by the Bosnian Serb nationalist Gavrilo Princip, who had been supported by a nationalist organization in Serbia. Makes sense, right? I mean, why wouldn’t an assassination of some Archduke from some small country start a World War? Others argue that other forces were at play including territorial and economic competition, the growth of nationalism, and the power vacuum created by the decline of the Ottoman Empire. Still more theories center around unresolved territorial disputes, the perceived breakdown of the European balance of power, convoluted and fragmented governance of the Great Powers of Italy, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Austria and Russia. What a mess!
Ultimately, the War that started on July 28, 1914 and ended on November 11, 1918 left 17 million dead and 25 million wounded. The US entered the war in 1917 after Germany resumed submarine attacks on passenger and merchant ships. That was enough to push President Woodrow Wilson to seek the approval of Congress to join the War. The US lost over 116,000 brave soldiers to the battle. And all for what? Again, history is conflicted. But the main result (dare I say ‘victory’) was the collapse of the alignment of the Great Powers. No longer would they work together nor trust each other.
As the war concluded, soldiers were sent home from Europe to their various destinations, and a little known fact is that the mass movement of soldiers and refugees to their respective homelands aided in spreading one of the world’s deadliest influenza pandemics, known as the Spanish Flu of (you guessed it) 1918. Worldwide, it is estimated that over 500 million people, or one-third of the world’s population at the time, became infected with the virus. Of those infected, it is estimated that over 50 million people died from the disease.
A war, started by un-agreed upon catalysts, ended up spreading one of the deadliest diseases of all time. Cause and Effect. In this case, the cause, still debated…but the effect, unmistakable.
What about you? What war or battle have you been engaged in that by the time it was over, you didn’t even know how it started? No, I don’t mean wars with guns and tanks. I mean the kind that starts in your mind. A meaningless side comment your spouse or a situation at work that went wrong pushes your mind into unimaginable places. Your imagination soars with all the ways you’re going to get even, but you’re too scared to say it. So it festers. Then you imagine all the things you’re going to do to that person. Your heartbeat rises as you think of all the bad things they’ve caused you. You lash out at your spouse, your significant other, your kid, your co-worker…and the battle ensues. He said this! She said that! You didn’t do this! Why did you do that! How could you! You’re such a ______!
And with that, the effect etched in the history of time. You can’t take your words back. You meant them…at the time. Then, you see the reaction of your foe. They are hurt, taken back, wondering how you got so mad. Their face sulks as they walk away. Either way, you feel terrible. How could you let such a small thing become such a large battle? And, at that point, you don’t even care about the Cause anymore. All you want to do now is … is to repair the relationship. Words said, wounds inflicted, scars to heal.
“How could all of this been avoided?!?!” you cry. “Why did I make this such a big deal?” “Why didn’t I just let it go, it just wasn’t worth it.”
Yet, its too late. The Effect now needed to be dealt with.
But, it can be avoided, can’t it? It doesn’t have to be such a big deal, does it? We can let it go, can’t we?
May we take the time to identify the Cause of the battles we choose. Some battles are certainly worth fighting…but many are not. May we release the tension of the insignificant wars in our minds. May we choose peace. May we choose kindness. And as we let go, may we embrace the Effects of serenity, peace, and abundance as we focus on the important, and in so doing, avoid the battles of unknown Causes. Knowing full well that the Effects sometimes, just isn’t worth the war.