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Gunslinger and Samurai
The Gunslinger and Samurai represent a double-edged sword (pun intended). They appeal to our fantasies of independence and the power to defend ourselves and right wrongs, yet they also carry the historic weight of savage, predatory evil. On the one side are all the heroic characters portrayed by John Wayne, Gary Cooper and others--standing up to injustice and holding off the forces of evil single-handedly. The Lone Ranger and the figures of wandering samurai warriors in the films of Akira Kurosawa also epitomize this fiercely independent warrior that the American and Japanese past seem to share. And on the other side are all the selfish, evil thieves and killers who embody our worst nightmares of lawlessness and unchecked male dominance. Somewhere in between are the ambiguous Crime Fighters and lone wolf Gunfighters epitomized by Clint Eastwood, whose heroism is often tinged with anger, vengefulness, and more than a little sadism.

The shadow Warrior distorts or abandons ethical principles and decency in the name of victory at any cost. What can be a virtue--heroic indifference to risk and pain--becomes contemptible when the indifference is directed not at oneself but at others.

The Warrior archetype is just as connected to the female psyche as to the male. Women have long been defenders of their families, and the Amazon tribe of Warrior Women has become legendary because of their ability to engage in fierce battle--even sacrificing part of their female physique to facilitate warfare. Loyalty to the family and tribe is among the Amazon's notable characteristics, along with nurturing their young and transmitting lessons of power and self-defense. In today's society, the Warrior Woman has emerged in its glory once again through women who liberate and protect others, especially women and children who need vocal and financial representation.

The concept of the spiritual Warrior has been pioneered by Dan Millman (The Peaceful Warrior), the Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chögyam Trungpa (Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior), Prof. Robert Thurman, and others. They direct us to use the classic Warrior virtues of heroism, stoicism, and self-sacrifice for conquering the ego and gaining control of our inner lives.

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