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by Michael G. Sabbeth
In Polymnia, the Seventh Book of the History of Herodotus, Demaratus, a betrayed Spartan, warned Persian King Xerxes against attacking the Spartans. “Valour is an ally whom we have gained by dint of wisdom and strict laws,” he said. Xerxes, scoffing, said the Spartans were weak because they are free men under no direct authority. Demaratus admonished Xerxes, “They are the bravest of all. For though they be free men, they are not in all respects free. Law is the master whom they own; and this master they fear more than thy subjects fear thee... It forbids them to flee in battle...and requires them to conquer or die.”
Xerxes ignored Demaratus and was defeated in the naval Battle of Salamis. The Spartans fought for a noble purpose, not personal glory or wealth.
Heinrich Himmler, Reichsführer-SS, commander of the German Schutzstaffel(SS), the Nazi concentration camps and the Einsatzgruppen death squads, expressed an elastic view of noble purpose in his speech to SS officers in Posen, Poland on October 6, 1943: “Most of you know what it means when a hundred corpses are lying side by side.....and at the same time— apart from exceptions caused by human weakness — to have remained decent fellows, that is what has made us hard..... a page of glory in our history... We had the moral right, we had the duty to our people, to destroy this people which wanted to destroy us.”
Like beauty, noble purpose is in the eyes of the beholder. Himmler illustrates the infinite capacity of the human mind to behold the vilest evil as noble. The lethality of modern weaponry dictates that the survival of the human species and much else will be a consequence of the proper determination of the nobility of purpose our professionals in arms are commanded to implement.
Leaders determine what is noble, but they, even if democratically elected, offer no guarantee of wisdom and virtue. Ascribing something as noble is an easy rhetorical stunt, but, in George Gershwin’s words, “It ain’t necessarily so.”
Noble purposes do exist. A realist’s perspective on noble purpose should incorporate criteria to measure its nobility, its consequences and the likelihood it will be pursued. The inherent ethics of the purpose, the existence of power to implement it, the moral clarity possessed by leaders assessing it and the existence of moral will to implement the purpose must be assessed. Those who choose a life of service within the profession of arms are duty bound to understand the morality of their assigned purposes and to make moral judgments among conflicting noble purposes.
In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.” ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning
In Once an Eagle, a seminal novel on military honor, Anton Myrer expressed a noble purpose: “but what excited him (Sam Damon) most of all were the stories of Cincinnatus and Dumouriez and Prescot, of farmers and citizens who took arms to confound tyranny and crush it, who stepped into the mortal breach to save their native lands...”
Of the six purposes cited in the Preamble of the United States Constitution that justify its creation, one imposes a noble purpose on the nation’s profession of arms: provide for the common defense. The Preamble is derived from the classic Greek tragedian concept that the natural state of man is conflict rather than peace
due to its predatory and opportunistic nature. Thus, society has a duty to protect its citizens through deterrence and battle. In Western culture, the mission of the profession of arms is to serve the rule of law and individual freedom.
Augustine of Hippo, generally considered the greatest Christian theologian, asserted: “Peacefulness in the face of a grave wrong that could only be stopped by violence would be a sin.” The premise of the ‘just war’ was that the evil of war could be justified only if war could prevent greater evils.
"Evil is never done so thoroughly or so well as when it is done with a good conscience." Blaise Pascal
Moral clarity, the intersection of the rational and the ethical, allows nobility of purpose to be judged on its own ethical integrity. A fighter pilot in Gulf War I was instructed to shoot Iraqis fleeing Kuwait. Deductive reasoning compels that the mission to get Iraqis out of Kuwait had been accomplished and the rationale for shooting them no longer existed. The pilot requested a change of orders. The granting of modified orders negating the instruction to shoot acknowledged a noble purpose premised upon sanctity of life, among other virtues.
Either a purpose is noble or it is not, based on reasonably objective criteria discerned by scalpel-like questioning: does the purpose advance ethical principles such as Autonomy, Justice, Sanctity of Life and individual liberty and personal freedom? Himmler’s didn’t. Neither did Mohamed Atta’s, the Egyptian hijacker who piloted American Airlines Flight 11 into the North Tower on September 11, 2001.
The absence of moral clarity leads to moral confusion and false moral equivalencies, risking an Orwellian linguistic dishonesty where the narrative of the enemy defines the noble purpose. Moral clarity must distinguish between reasoning and rationalizing; between rational and sophistic rhetoric.
The nobility of a nation’s purpose is a function of its power to actualize that purpose. As power drains, what is noble becomes malleable. John Keegan, the great military historian, observed that a nation without a military is in a sense no longer a nation. Author Mark Steyn noted that “in a more general sense, nations that abandon their militaries tend also to abandon their national interests: Increasingly, instead of policies, they have attitudes.”
When nations lack the power to address serious issues, they become consumed with trivial ones, where, for example, concerns for windmills trump concerns about Iran’s nuclear weapons. The nation becomes a bystander in its own fate.
Executing a noble purpose requires power. Nations promised fortunes in aid in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami in Sumatra, Indonesia. As food and goods piled up on docks, to be stolen or to rot, the United States military saved lives because it had the power—helicopters and pilots—to reach stranded and wounded people. If you’d wanted to donate to a useful charity to save lives, you’d have given your money to the United States Navy.
In the absence of power, a nation may, at best, mask its impotence by couching its noble purpose in narcissistic moral preening. The most assertive action almost any nation can now take to confront savagery around the world is to get a UN resolution expressing concern.
Moral will is the distillate of several qualities, including ethical character, the capacity to analyze facts and, through logic and reason, evaluate foreseeable consequences of actions and inactions. Character, however, is the most salient attribute of moral will. The essence of moral leadership is the ability to inspire loyalty and confidence through force of personal example; the difference between the officer yelling "Follow me!" as opposed to "Charge!"
Moral will in its most honorable incarnation is duty but duty does not define its boundaries. The most motivating force in war is not country or flag but protecting your buddy. ‘Leave no soldier behind’ is the quintessential expression of moral will.
Moral will is the willingness to risk all for a noble purpose. U. S. Army Ranger Sergeant Leroy Petry, the second living soldier since the Vietnam War to receive the Medal of Honor, saved the lives of at least two men in his unit by lunging for a grenade before it could kill them, amputating his hand. "It's not courage," he said. "It was love. I looked at the two men next to me that day and they were no different than my own children or my wife. I did what anyone would have done." Anyone would have done? If only!
Moral will directs behavior. It demands that the exigencies of the present not be cravenly ignored. It demands a credible deterrence against those that desire to undermine you. Rather than having perverse mesmerizing awe for the aggressive self certainty of those inflicting harm, the exercise of moral will effects an unalloyed commitment to defeat them. The nation that lacks moral will acquiesces in barbarism.
Lack of moral will degrades into moral confusion, undermines confidence in noble purposes and can lead to appeasement, the appearance of weakness and possibly the preemptive compromising of those values the arms professionals have sworn to uphold. Moral will enables a nation to have the right enemies and the right friends. You can be liked by all or you can be a great noble power. You can’t be both.
CONFLICTING NOBLE PURPOSES
Noble purposes often conflict. A soldier’s work is inherently conflicted among obligations to the object of the conflict, the welfare of the men and the broader ethical context of the mission. If these conflictual choices are not recognized and their resolutions deliberated, there is nothing for the professional in arms to profess.
Conflicting noble purposes are evident in innumerable choices and decisions such as those pertaining to the release of prisoners from Guantanamo, the use of drone attacks, the concern for collateral damage as a factor to limit or reject lethal action and the rules of engagement.
We nobly aspire to be a nation of laws, not men, yet when decisions are made on the basis of bureaucratic legalisms, risks increase that released prisoners will return to kill Americans. The noble purpose of avoiding or reducing what is euphemistically called collateral damage is undermined when those targets are spared and, thus, allowed to kill more innocents. When the rules of engagement give greater value to the lives of enemy fighters than one’s own, its nobility of purpose begins to dissipate like smoke at a campfire.
The inherent conflicts among noble purposes are ineluctable and elude the consistent application of the same solutions. In harmony with the Greek tragedian sense, leaders must be adaptable and, with grit and nobility of character, struggle to find new solutions. However, consistent principles should guide leaders to find resolutions on a case by case basis. Classist and military historian Victor Davis Hanson advocates pragmatism and prudence but acknowledges that for them to have moral value, pragmatism and prudence must be wrapped in an ethos that defends the nation and its core values of individual liberty and personal freedom.
But what is strength without a double share Of wisdom?
A discussion of noble purposes and the profession of arms should raise the kinds of questions informed engaged citizens must ask if they are to gauge and hold accountable the moral integrity of their society and the arms profession that defends it. Noble purposes should be premised on a commitment to truth, for the greatest evil is done by those who believe lies. Noble purposes should advance the principles of individual liberty and freedom. They should be identified unambiguously and vigorously defended without apology or equivocation.
Noble principles are not self-executing and ethics are not self-actualizing. Thus, leaders of moral character must be cultivated, nurtured and rewarded. Paraphrasing Thomas Sowell, ignorance draped in confidence is a dangerous quality and a leader’s ignorance conveyed through brilliant rhetoric will lead to national disaster.
If the leadership chain fails to interpret and advance noble purposes and allows them to morph into philosophies contoured by momentary convenience and expedience, then noble intent becomes polluted like a toxic chemical seeping into an aquifer, subverting the mission of the profession of arms.
The kinds of questions a society and its arms professionals ask—political, military, cultural, financial—illuminate their level of courage and honor. Noble purposes are more likely identified and achieved when leaders are not, in Edmund Burke’s phrase, “intoxicated with admiration at their own wisdom and ability.”
Those who have dedicated their lives to the profession of arms can best realize nobility of purpose through ruthless introspection of their wisdom, character and moral will. Spelunking into the labyrinthine caverns of their souls to confront the tyrants within may be the noblest purpose of all.
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by Michael G. Sabbeth
IT IS ONE MATTER TO UNDERSTAND THE HISTORY OF AN ART; TO GRASP ITS DETAILS, MASTER ITS THEMES AND APPRECIATE ITS WHIMSICAL RIVULETS. IT’S QUITE ANOTHER TO TIP TOE INTO ITS HISTORY AND WATCH IT BLOSSOM INTO THE FUTURE. I HAVE BEEN FAVORED WITH MANY VIBRANT EXPERIENCES BECAUSE OF MY RELATIONSHIP WITH SAFARI MAGAZINE AND A FEW OTHERS, BUT I SAY UNABASHEDLY THAT NO WRITING ASSIGNMENT HAS AFFORDED ME THE EXPERIENCE OF BEING PART OF HISTORY’S FLOW AS HAS WRITING ABOUT THE ENGRAVERS OF BERETTA’S HIGH GRADE GUNS.
"BELLE ARTI" and BERETTA
The history of Italian engraving is a subset of the develop- ment of structures to advance the Italian language and art. For example, Dante Alighieri (1300), considered the ‘father’ of the Italian language, was the dominant force to have books written in an Italian language rather than in Latin. The Italian ‘language,’ however, was actually an array of several dialects. Regarding the engraving art, from the 1200’s through the 1500’s, Italy could boast of notable artisans such as Giotto. These artists, however, were solitary craftsmen that worked alone and independently, just as writers wrote in different Italian dialects. They were often secretive about their tech- nique and tools.
Beginning in the 1500s, a new structure variously referred to as ‘scuolas’ (schools) or bottegas (small shops or studios) or
academies flourished that institutionalized the apprentice system. Prior to the bottega institution, no structure existed to identify, train and promote the practitioners of the arts or to establish quality standards.
The academy system that began to flourish in the early 1500’s specialized in painting, engraving and sculpture. Collectively, they were referred to as the “Belle Arti” or the ‘beautiful arts.’ Significantly, the bottega/academy system implementated the Italian cultural philosophy that methodi- cal disciplined teaching within a defined structure was vital for cultivating and sustaining the arts.
Illustrative of this unifying structure is the Italian linguistic academy “Accademia Della Crusca,” the most prominent academy in the field of language. Founded in 1583, it served to unify and protect the evolving coherent Italian language first conceived by Dante.
The bottega system germinated at the time that Beretta was established. Fabbrica d’Armi Pietro Beretta considers its ‘‘birth certificate’ to be a receipt dated October 3, 1526 from the Doge of Venice to master Bartolomeo Beretta of Gardone, Brescian territory, for 185 arquebus barrels.. Thus, Beretta’s ‘birth’ was contemporaneous with the institutionalization of promoting the fine arts. These two phenomena, one artistic, the other corporate, have sup- ported and elevated each other for a half millennia up to this moment when the engrav- ing art is at its zenith and Beretta has become the art’s dominant patron.
The Art is in the Blood
“Un artista ce l’ha nel sangre,” Giulio Timpini told me. My skillful interpreter, Chiara Pivato, from Beretta’s marketing department, translated: “The art is in the blood.” Giulio Timpini knows whereof he speaks. Past director of the Beretta engraving bottega, he and his family have been engravers for Beretta for two hundred and fifty years.
During our interview Giulio referred to the concept “sensi- bilita,” by which he means the spiritual dimension of the engraving art, that which resides in the heart, the blood and in the soul of the artisan.
The rigorous training of elite engravers encompasses three foundational techniques, which Giulio poetically analogizes to the three classical art forms. The first and most fundamen- tal engraving technique is the use of the hammer. It is com- parable to the basic sculptor’s technique applied to stone. Both employ the same strength, motion and body position.
Bulino is the second technique taught. The engraver uses the fine burin or graver (actually, dozens of different ones) and the loop, a magnifying lens, to remove steel millimeter by millimeter from the object’s surface. Pressure from the hand rather than from a hammer strike guides the graver and makes the cuts.
The bulino technique yields those soul-stirring scenes of ani- mals that have the spark of life and landscapes so vivid you sense the whisper of the wind. Giulio compares the bulino technique with painting and the graver to the painter’s brush.
The engraver employing the bulino technique will usually be seated while the engraver applying the hammer technique will almost always be standing, and will usually walk around the vise with the precision of a ballet dancer to make the cuts.
One of the most daunting bulino applications is the techni- ca chiaroscuro, the darkening and lightening of the steel’s sur- face. The luminescence of oil paint seen in the works of the finest painters such as Caravaggio and Titian is replicated tri- umphantly by the engraver by minutely altering the depth and angle of the removed steel.
Oreficeria, the inlaying of gold and other precious metals, is the third technique. The skills are derived from crafting gold jewelry, the art that led to the careers of many of Italy’s earli- est engravers. The multiple facets of the engraving art can thus be understood as the synthesis of the arts of the sculp- tor, the painter and the jewelry maker.
A minimum of five years is required to become reasonably skilled at these three techniques. Transforming technique into art, however, requires mastery of another artistic dimen- sion – the knowledge of the animals, their habitat and phys- iology and the knowledge of landscape, terrain and sky.
To realistically reproduce the charging lion, the mallards against a misty sky, or indeed, your spouse, your home, your dog or your jet, the engraver must become an artist. The artist must also master the classical styles; Baroque, Romanesque, English scroll and the deep chisel cut. Also to be mastered are what Plato referred to as balance and proportion, not only within the objects themselves but balance and proportion within the physical constraints imposed by the borders and shapes of the object.
The Beretta studio has about fifteen engravers. Their work day begins at about seven in the morning, when the natural light flooding into the studio is bright and direct. Employment openings are rare. A new engraver is hired onl
every five to ten years. Each artist has his or her own artistic strength – scroll, birds, animals, gold inlay. “I let them create,” Giulio says. “Each artist must follow his own path.” Giulio discerns each artist’s passions and strengths and assigns high grade gun projects based on those individual talents.
Beretta’s ‘Cathedral of the Mind’
The artist that works on a vast canvas can illustrate more of his skills than the one confined to working on a small surface. Giulio lyrically analogizes the opulent opportunities on the large canvas to a cathedral. “If you work within a cathedral, the artist can do many things.” The cathedral metaphor also applies to working for a large successful company such as Beretta, where more opportunities to express artistic talent are offered.
“Working for Beretta,” Giulio says, “is like having a cathedral. There are so many different guns and artists and subjects. The artist has the freedom to express what is inside him.”
Chiara helped Giulio refine and clar- ify his ideas and imagery as he strug- gled to express thoughts he said he had not previously expressed. Their faces were luminescent, as if transported to another world as they interacted as flu- idly as an elegant pair of ice skaters.
Making a premium gun is a great responsibility. On all aspects of the pre- mium guns, Giulio has always worked closely with Ugo Gussalli Beretta
(Beretta’s CEO), who he refers to as his mentor. Giulio explains that Beretta has given him the possibility to build a cathedral. With a flourish he adds, “It is the same as when the Pope asked Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Ceiling.”
Giulio shared that he could have earned more money leav- ing the valley and moving to Milan or Florence. He stayed at Beretta, however, because of family and history. “You don’t forget your origins,” he said. “Would I leave?” he asks rhetor- ically. He shakes his head. “No, I will miss my cathedral.”
In addition to its bottega engravers, Beretta contracts with the finest independent engravers. I visited several in Italy and had the serendipitous good fortune to meet with Ken Hunt this October at the third Grand Masters Engraving Program in Emporia, Kansas sponsored by the Glendo Corporation.
Bottega Giovanelli is located high in the mountains in Magno, about ten kilometers further up the valley from the Beretta facilities. The morning of my visit the air was clean and clear and as crisp as chilled apples. The building’s interi- or and exterior are adorned with murals, sculpture and pho-
tographs. The bottega employs about two dozen engravers, one third of which are women. Master engraver and Giovanelli manager Dario Cortini greeted me and Jarno Antonelli and gave us a leisurely tour of the spacious, multi-level offices and work areas.
Directing our attention to different gun actions as we walked through the studio, Dario explained the la tec- nica della linea, where very fine thin lines – molto fine – were used on the game scenes to control the light, a technique mastered by Durer.
Dario identified some advantages of the line technique. The engraver is less likely to make mistakes employ- ing it and the lines are less vulnerable to wear than are the fine points
employed in the tecnica puntino. “It is an honor to be selected by Beretta,” Dario said. It is
the most important firearms maker in the world, he added. No other maker has Beretta’s influence and prestige. But as an artist, more important to Dario than Beretta’s prestige is its philosophical relationship with the engravers.
Beretta doesn’t tell him what to do. No one tells him any- thing like, ‘I need two pheasant, a Labrador Retriever and an elephant to go!’ On behalf of all of its engravers, Dario told me how Beretta allows the engravers to engrave in their own style, asking their opinion about what they can do best. Dario then made arguably the most powerful statement an artist can make: “Beretta trusts me.”
Giacomo Fausti greeted me and Jarno Antonelli like old friends in the main salon of the Creative Art bottega. I had met Giacomo the previous year at the Grand Masters Engraving Program. Creative Art is the second most important bottega that does work for Beretta. Founded only eight years ago, Creative Art has catapulted to the highest world renown. Many of their best engravers started with Giovanelli and many had been students of Giulio Timpini.
Mingling among the busy engravers, I noted several Giubileos, exquisite DT 10 sporting target guns, one 687 EELL covered with magnificent pheasant and yelping dogs and a pulse-raising SO 6 EELL titanium action boasting gold inlays that prompted thoughts of a second mortgage.
Allowed to take the action from the vise, I studied its sur- faces with the respect and care of an angler delicately hold- ing the soon-to-be released trout.
I inquired how the engraver achieved the striking dark shading of the head of a charging elephant engraved on a double rifle. Giacomo explained it is done with meticulously fine cross-hatched lines that capture the light. No ink is used.
My last visit in Italy was with Mauro Dassa of Incisioni Dassa. I have known Mauro for several years and consider him a friend. He is at the top of the craft and is imbued with -a contagious passion for the art. He has engraved many Beretta premium guns, including stunning new SO 10 mod- els, during a relationship that spans several years.
Mauro works with his uncle, brother and father at his airy, scrupulously neat bottega in Collebato, which means ‘beauti- ful small mountains,’ a mid-sized town about one-half hour’s drive from the Beretta offices. I chatted with Mauro amidst the background din of the staccato tapping of his brother’s and uncle’s hammers striking their chisels.
The studio’s several polished wood cabinets overflowed with books on art, engraving and travel. Photographs and small sculptures adorned the shelves like birds in a nest. Desks are covered with calendars and folios featuring its work.
One of the great joys and privileges of this assignment was interviewing Ken Hunt at this year’s Grand Masters Engraving Program. This article gave me the justifica- tion to ask specific detailed questions about the style and technique of this unsurpassed masteroftheart.
Beretta had asked Ken to engrave and adorn one of the surprise ‘birthday’ guns for Ugo Gussalii Beretta. “Of course, it is an honor,” Ken said, “to be selected to create this unique gun for Mr. Beretta.”
Since it was a dominant feature of the birthday gun, Ken patiently explained his unique methods for coloring the gold in exquisite hues and then applying it to the action and the barrels. He described the process as just like painting. The action must first be prepared to secure the gold so that it would withstand the contraction and expansion of the steel
from firing tens of thousands of cartridges. “No one else has used this technique,” Ken said.
Almost all buyers of Beretta high grade guns in the United States work with Peter Horn, the vice president of the company’s retail division. One of the reasons for Peter’s prominence is his close relationship with the elite engravers.
He knows their schedules, he knows their styles and he knows how to align their rep- resentations with the customers’ personal artistic preferences. Peter insightfully notes: “Working with the master engravers in and around Gardone is equivalent to
walking amongst the master painters of the Renaissance.” A unifying theme always effervesced to the surface in any conversation I had with these independent engravers: that Beretta is the dominant artistic force in the valley. Beretta sus- tains the engraving art. It has done so for five hundred years and I expect it will continue to do for so for as long as people value the art of the gun.
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by Michael G. Sabbeth
Tom Bryant exited the shooting cage and manipulated a small device hooked on his belt. “I was losing concentration,” he said. “My blood sugar was a little high.” He infused insulin from his pump into his tissue, then wished me well as I stepped into the cage. I’ve shot with Tom for years yet had not known he was a Type I Juvenile Diabetic.
Diabetes is a pernicious disease that requires constant vigilance. Because superb information is readily available on the Internet, I do not address the disease’s severe pathology. This article describes metabolic processes relevant to shooters and offers suggestions about how they can achieve peak performance through proper preparation and treatment during a shooting event.
Carbohydrates – sugars, starch and fiber – are our main source of energy. Digestion breaks them down into sugars called ‘glucose’ when in the blood stream. Insulin, a hormone, enables glucose to enter cells, primarily muscle cells, to be used for energy or to be stored as glycogen in the liver and kidneys for future energy use. Blood sugar is the sole energy source for the brain.
For most of us, insulin is produced in the pancreas and released into the blood as needed as the glucose level rises. However, the pancreas of a person with Type 1 diabetes cannot produce insulin and, thus, the diabetic cannot process glucose for energy. The Type 1 diabetic must inject insulin from an external source to prevent blood glucose from rising to levels that can be fatal and to process it for energy.
A person with Type 2 diabetes produces insufficient insulin or is resistant to insulin and, thus, does not process glucose efficiently. As opposed to the Type 1 diabetic, the Type 2 diabetic has available various and less drastic treatments –exercise, weight loss, medication, sometimes insulin injection –to more efficiently process glucose. Many people with Type 2 diabetes remain undiagnosed for years because the symptoms are common among non-diabetics.
Normal blood glucose levels range from 90 to 110 milligrams of glucose per deciliter of blood (90- 110 mg/dl). The challenge for the Type 1 diabetic is to infuse into the blood stream the amount of insulin appropriate for the blood glucose levels so that a normal blood glucose range can be maintained under an array of physical and mental conditions. Hypoglycemia occurs when excess insulin causes the blood glucose level to drop below the normal range. Hyperglycemia occurs when the glucose level rises above the normal range because insulin in the blood is inadequate. In either instance, significant consequences will occur that, in the extreme, can be life-threatening. Severe consequences of mismanaged diabetes – for example, foot numbness or ketoacidosis
(poisoning the blood when inadequate insulin causes fat to be burned for energy) – are beyond the scope of this article.
How I Feel and Why
Blood glucose levels affect every function of the body and mind. An array of symptoms become apparent when the glucose levels are out of metabolic alignment. I wrote previously that Br yant noticed he was losing his concentration. Loss of concentration and focus can result from one or more causes, and when causes compound, the consequences quickly become detrimental and substantial.
Low blood glucose levels prevent the cells, including the brain, from receiving adequate energy. The body thinks it is starving. The person will feel weak, lethargic and unfocused. High glucose levels, the result of inadequate insulin, indicate that glucose is not entering the cells and generating energy. Symptoms such a dizziness, compromised vision, thirst and excess urination result.
Relevant to shooters, high glucose levels affect the eyes and diminishes concentration. Dr. Boris Draznin, Director, Adult Diabetes Program at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, explains that elevated sugar impairs the small vessels in the eyes and gets into the lenses, drawing in fluid and swelling them. Light penetration and vascular oxygen levels are diminished, compromising their functions and causing inaccurate information to be sent to the brain. Mental stress caused by impaired eyesight, somewhat similar to that caused by chronic back pain, for example, compounds the physical causes of sub-optimal performance. Blood sugar levels play a key
role in shooting because focus and concentration are vital. Br yant told me his vision is best and, thus, he shoots best, when his glucose levels are between 110 and 120mg/dl. He begins to get shaky below 90 and loses focus, just as concentration is compromised at high glucose levels. Br yant said he can ‘shoot through’ when he is low on energy but he can’t fight through bad vision. He cannot see well when blood sugars are high and when low, vision is compromised because he sees spots and flashes.
Mark Haywood is a long distance cyclist, a superbly fit athlete and a Type 1 diabetic. He experiences excessive urination and thirst when glucose levels are high. These symptoms not only negatively affect performance but also affect preparation for performance.
Dr. Shari Fox, a Denver endocrinologist, explains that at
high glucose levels, excess glucose overwhelms the kidneys and enters the urine. Osmotic pressure in this abnormal metabolic state pulls water from cells into the urine, increasing the need for urination and creating dehydration. A person feels thirsty because the osmotic pressure from high sugar concentrations signals sensors in the brain that there is not enough available water in the blood.
Another deleterious consequence of dehydration is decreased blood volume makes blood thicker – a higher concentration of red blood cells – and more resistant to flow, leading to poor circulation. The thirst and urination that result from hyperglycemia the night before a shooting event will affect sleep and concentration and undermine shooting performance.
With an understanding of the endocrinology of the disease, the diabetic shooter can now better understand why trying to reduce thirst and, perhaps, fatigue, by drinking a sugary energy drink will exacerbate rather than reduce the diabetic symptoms. Thirst and fatigue will increase because the blood sugar will spike. More insulin will be required to counter the high sugar levels, which then risks low glucose levels from excess insulin, continuing the destructive cycle.
Mark Haywood emphasizes the need for ‘tight control,’ the ability of the diabetic to keep glucose at normal or near-normal levels at all times. Tight control enhances a person’s sensitivity to small changes in glucose levels, enabling the diabetic to take small actions to achieve normal glucose levels rather than dramatic ones, thereby reducing the risk of a trampoline effect of repeatedly bouncing from high to low.
Doing and Attitude
All calories are not equal. They have different effects on insulin production in the non-diabetic and different insulin process requirements for all persons. Thus,diabeticshootersshould become familiar with the Glycemic Index (GI), a sliding scale that ranks how different carbohydrates influence insulin production. Knowing the insulin response of a food helps predict blood sugar responses to insulin.
In the non-diabetic, foods and drinks with a high GI trigger a significant insulin response from the pancreas. In the diabetic, high GI carbohydrates require more insulin to be injected in order to process them.
In general, food with a low GI, and thus, a lower insulin response, are preferable for diabetics because they can be processed into energy with smaller amounts of insulin.
This results in a more normal metabolic state, sustained energy and consistent mental alertness.
Here’s how to apply the GI to the diabetic shooter. As a snack, it is preferable to eat the same amount of carbohydrates in the form of a peach (GI 28) than jellybeans, (GI 80). Similarly, if thirsty, it is preferable to drink water than a sugary energy drink.
A consistent disciplined routine is key to the diabetic’s success in life generally and in shooting sports specifically. Preparation is important, as illustrated by the need to control glucose levels the night before a shooting event. Mark Haywood takes notes on his blood sugars before, during and after every athletic event and reviews them to replicate all the variables that were successful in controlling his glucose levels. He then can make adjustments for future treatment.
Tom Bryant’s food intake is routinized and consistent. In the morning he eats a peanut butter and honey sandwich and drinks coffee – always with the same amount of sugar. “If I take too much insulin in the morning,” Bryant said, “I tank bythetimeIgettotheshoot.”
Bryant integrates many variables into his pre-shooting and shooting routines – how many hours he must travel to the range, whether he will walk or use a cart, whether the shoot is half a day or a full day. He starts a shoot with his blood sugar a little high, knowing it will drop into normal range as he walks around.
He brings snacks of dried fruit, granola bars (low GI) and commercial low-carbohydrate drinks containing electrolytes. He checks his blood sugar level several times during the day and carries about fifteen grams of a high GI carbohydrate – glucose tablets, candy – just in case he miscalculates and goes low.
The insulin pump has been a blessing for Bryant because it keeps the glucose levels smooth and additional insulin is easy to infuse. He told me, “I am a master of no will power! Now I can eat whatever I want and just shoot up a little more.” He’s been a diabetic for more than half a century, but, he told me, “I’m better than I’ve ever been and having more fun. The pump has made it possible to compete at a higher level. I’m thankfulforwhatIhave.”
Colleague Steve Bieringer is a Type 1 diabetic, a cyclist and part of the legal staff of the American Diabetes Association. He emphasizes the importance of a positive attitude. He ignores the dismal advertisements of the dangers of diabetes. He’s motivated by positive reinforcement derived from the success of people despite their diabetes. He told me, “We’re ordinary people going through life having been dealt a bad hand. You work and take care of yourself and your responsibilities. That’s motivating. I won’t allow diabetes to undermine what I value.”
Diabetes, especially Type 1, is a difficult disease that demands near constant attention. However, with control and preparation, there’s no reason why diabetes should interfere with your fun or compromise your shooting performance. Type 1 diabetic Gary Hall Jr. won ten Olympic swimming medals. Type 1 diabetic Jay Cutler quarterbacks the Chicago Bears. Hundreds of Type 1 diabetics successfully compete in Iron Man Triathlons. Don’t let diabetes prevent you from getting your gold medal.
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Hunters are accused of lacking compassion, of being heartless uncaring murderers of beautiful animals. These accusations are among the most vicious in our hypersensitive culture, comparable to saying someone is a racist or doesn’t recycle. Hunters’ neck hair sticks up like striking cobras as they try to fend off the assaults. “My money preserves habitat; my money manages game animals! I care!” they soulfully cry out. Hunters are correct yet they lose.
I have seen pro-hunter / pro-firearms debaters, who have more brains in their urine samples than their opponents have brains, lose the debates. We have the facts, logic and morality on our side, yet we lose! Why? Because most hunter advocates have not learned this important skill: how to fight back by evaluating the consequences of anti-hunting policies using the language of the attackers. When we use this technique, we undermine the attacks and turn the tables on the attackers.
Do hunters lack compassion? An examination of three situations shows conclusively that hunters have compassion and anti-hunters do not.
1. The brutal winter of 2008 in Gunnison, Colorado risked the deaths of a majority of deer and elk. Government agencies, hunters and businesses contributed money to buy and distribute food. Appeals for assistance to so-called ‘animal rights’ groups, PETA, HSUS, among others, were rebuffed. The rationale of the refusing organizations: they would be saving the animals only so hunters could kill them later.
2. In 2014, under the auspices of The Dallas Safari Club, an auction was held to hunt one mature non-reproducing black rhinoceros in Namibia. The proceeds of the hunt would fund anti-poaching programs, clean water facilities, protect younger vulnerable rhinos and provide food for the villagers. This auction was viciously attacked by anti-hunters with tactics that included death threats to DSC staff and to hunters.
3. The demagoguery following the death of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe created a “Cecil Effect” of losing hunters, revenue, food for orphanages and the need to cull two hundred lions which generated no revenue but which increased poaching.
What can we learn? Increased animal deaths, poverty, poaching and revenue loss result from the anti-hunting policies. But more profound lessons can be learned. Compassion, born of Latin roots, has two components: a feeling of sympathy for another coupled with a desire to alleviate the suffering. Compassion, then, requires both empathy and a desire to act on that empathy.
You see the problem with compassion? Compassion, a noble concept in theory, is easily abused and manipulated because it doesn’t require anyone to do anything! You can be judged as compassionate based on feelings alone. Compassion can be morality on the cheap. As Aristotle wrote, “It is easy to be moral in your sleep.”My key point: hunters are accused of lacking compassion because they kill animals, yet the anti-hunter smugly views himself as compassionate without any regard to the destructive real-life consequences of his actions and beliefs. In the examples above, more animals died and more animals will die (and human suffering increases) as a direct consequence of the so-called compassion of these anti-hunting pressure groups. But the anti-hunter does not care! Reality and truth are irrelevant. Feeling good is more important than doing good. Keeping animals alive is the measure of compassion for animals. Hunters possess true compassion. But we need to make the best arguments to show why we deserve to win the debate.