I have fought for what I believed in for a year now. If we win here we will win everywhere. The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for and I hate very much to leave it. And you had a lot of luck, he told himself, to have had such a good life. You’ve had just as good a life as grandfather’s though not as long. You’ve had as good a life as any one because of these last days. You do not want to complain when you have been so lucky. I wish there was some way to pass on what I’ve learned, though. Christ, I was learning fast there at the end. I’d like to talk to Karkov. That is in Madrid. Just over the hills there, and down across the plain. Down out of the gray rocks and the pines, the heather and the gorse, across the yellow high plateau you see it rising white and beautiful. That part is just as true as Pilar’s old women drinking the blood down at the slaughterhouse. There’s no one thing that’s true. It’s all true. The way the planes are beautiful whether they are ours or theirs.”

These are the thoughts of protagonist Robert Jordan from the novel, “For Whom the Bell Tolls” by Ernest Hemingway as he believes that he is about to die.

Robert Jordan is an American “dynamiter” in the Spanish Civil war just prior to WWII, supporting guerrilla forces in the Spanish mountains. He is there to recruit local fighters to help him blow up a bridge, which would serve to spark off a significant offensive by the Russian Army.

The book deals with a good many facets of war, combat and politics that are unique and genuine on level that very easily made it an instant classic — Robert Jordan has these sorts of reflections throughout, especially about the things he has learned while fighting in the mountains of Spain.

The line that really stands out to me from the excerpt above is this: “You’ve had as good a life as any one because of these last days.” Because of those last days — those last days in combat, fighting for his life, worried about who to trust and who to kill, falling in love with the knowledge that it will end in misery and heartbreak — these are the things that gave Robert Jordan a “good a life as any.” Out of his relatively easy life before in the United States, these terrible things in Spain are the moments that made the whole thing good.

This is a lesson taught in combat. One might live much of his life in a sort of haze — he didn’t know the leaves on a tree could ever seem so green, or that the sound of water on the rocks could ever sound so clear. But when he’s inches away from losing it all forever, he begins to notice those things. He notices the physical things, but also the emotional and spiritual ones. He realizes just how much he appreciates the love and warmth his parents gave him, that he never thanked them for. He realizes that he really did love that girl back in high school in a way, despite everyone telling him that he ought to grow up. His heart aches for all things he’s done and felt, and he realizes that his life was very good.

Of course combat isn’t the only path to this mentality, but standing on the verge of losing one’s life is the fastest way they’ll ever go from the haze and ignorance to a deep awakening that is both troubling and comforting.

These thoughts don’t typically occur during combat (most people are usually concerned with the task at hand, Robert Jordan included), unless the soldier has the time to sit and contemplate at some point. But these feelings are all-too-familiar to many of those wading through the blood on the battlefield, at some point in their lives.