(The Eagle’s Gift by Carlos Castaneda)
Don Juan said that one day he realized that he and his group were getting old, and there seemed to be no hope of ever accomplishing their task. That was the first time they felt the sting of despair and impotence.
Silvio Manuel insisted that they should resign themselves and live impeccably without hope of finding their freedom. It seemed plausible to don Juan that this might indeed be the key to everything. In this respect he found himself following in his benefactor’s footsteps. He came to accept that an unconquerable pessimism overtakes a warrior at a certain point on his path. A sense of defeat, or perhaps more accurately, a sense of unworthiness, comes upon him almost unawares. Don Juan said that, before, he used to laugh at his benefactor’s doubts and could not bring himself to believe that he worried in earnest. In spite of the protests and warnings of Silvio Manuel, don Juan had thought it was all a giant ploy designed to teach them something.
Since he could not believe that his benefactor’s doubts were real, neither could he believe that his benefactor’s resolution to live impeccably without hope of freedom was genuine. When he finally grasped that his benefactor, in all seriousness, had resigned himself to fail, it also dawned on him that a warrior’s resolution to live impeccably in spite of everything cannot be approached as a strategy to ensure success. Don Juan and his party proved this truth for themselves when they realized for a fact that the odds against them were astonishing. Don Juan said that at such moments a lifelong training takes over, and the warrior enters into a state of unsurpassed humility; when the true poverty of his human resources becomes undeniable, the warrior has no recourse but to step back and lower his head.
Don Juan marveled that this realization seems to have no effect on the female warriors of a party; the disarray seems to leave them unfazed. He told us that he had noted this in his benefactor’s party: the females were never as worried and morose about their fate as were the males. They seemed simply to acquiesce in the judgment of don Juan’s benefactor and follow him without showing signs of emotional wear and tear. If the women were ruffled at some level, they were indifferent to it. To be busy was all that counted for them. It was as if only the males had bid for freedom and felt the impact of a counter-bidding.
In his own group, don Juan observed the same contrast. The women readily agreed with him when he said that his resources were inadequate. He could only conclude that the women, although they never mentioned it, had never believed they had any resources to begin with. There was consequently no way they could feel disappointed or despondent at finding out they were impotent: They had known it all along.
Don Juan told us that the reason the Eagle demanded twice as many female warriors as males was precisely because females have an inherent balance which is lacking in males. At the crucial moment, it is the men who get hysterical and commit suicide if they judge that everything is lost. A woman may kill herself due to lack of direction and purpose, but not because of the failure of a system to which she happens to belong.