My last post was about the books I’ve been reading by Conn Iggulden that tell the story of Genghis Khan.

Today these books gave me one of those moments when you sit and think about your life. Most of my life I’ve sought enjoyment. In work, in play, even I guess in rest. This has often meant me seeking relaxation or time to read. But in Conn Iggulden’s Genghis’ view, life was about proving something, about building a reputation and keeping it, not only for a man, but for a nation.

The scene that made me think so hard starts with Kachiun, Genghis’ brother, asking why the great Khan doesn’t just settle down and enjoy what he has already won.

There are three passages I love in Genghis’ long explanation of why he will continue to ravage the Arab lands which he has conquered.

In the first, he explains what a peaceful life would do to the Mongolian people:

If we all live to eighty in a green field, without ever holding a bow or sword, we will have wasted the good years. You should know the truth of that. Will our grandsons thank us for a peaceful life? Only if they are too afraid to take up arms. I would not wish a quiet life on my enemies, Kachiun, never mind my own family. Even cities only prosper when there are rough men on the walls, willing to stand and die so that others can sleep in peace. with us, we all fight, from the first yell to the last breath. It  is the only way to take pride in who we are.

In the second passage, Genghis says why be bothered to attack the Arab lands in the first place:

I came to these lands because, when a man threatens me and I look away, he has taken something important from me. If I fight and die, all he can take is my life. My courage, my dignity remains. Shall I do less for the nation I have made? Shall I allow them less honour than I claim for myself?

In the last passage, Genghis explains why his view is different to everyone else’s:

All I have done is see through that lie. I always fight, Kachiun. Kings and shahs depend on people remaining sheep, too afraid to rise up. All I ever did was realise I can be a wolf to them.

So. Where do you sit? Are you a wolf or a sheep? I know the wolves are out there, even though they are economic rather than warriors. But if there’s a wolf at your door, are you willing to rise up and challenge it?