From War in Afghanistan to Peace in “The World”: A Difficult Journey - Thomas J Brennan and Finbarr O'Reilly - Shooting Ghosts - Tuesday 12/26

From War in Afghanistan to Peace in “The World”: A Difficult Journey
Thomas J Brennan and Finbarr O'Reilly
Shooting Ghosts
Tuesday 12/26

According to Quora, the first use in English literature of the phrase “Misery loves company,” is in Christopher Marlowe’s late 16th century tragedy Dr. Faustus.

2 things to note about Marlowe’s use of the phrase:  one, it is translated into Latin to make it sound like classical wisdom,– some claim it derives from the philosopher Epictetus —  and two, Marlowe puts it into the mouth of Mephistopheles, the official representative of The Devil.

You know, the original “Liar, liar, pants on fire” guy.

In other words, from its first appearance in English literature, “misery loves company” was presented as a cold, heartless lie.

Usually, when people say “misery loves company,” what they really mean is, “Go ‘way, you bother me.”  Keep your damned misery to yourself.

This is last advice the truly miserable need to hear.  Depressed human beings seek the shadows, the corners of the room, the places where their self-defined failure and shame are hidden from view.

And depression, by and large, cannot be defeated in solitude.  Digging alone into the hole of misery inevitably puts people in so deep they cannot possible escape without a hand up.

Company is actually one of the best weapons for defeating misery.  

And recognizing that, and taking a chance that someone, a friend, a relative, a professional, might be able to hear our sins and still care for us, are often the first steps toward recovery.

There is nothing in this world more depressing than war.  For all its elements of exhilaration and heroism, ultra-close collaboration and clearly-definable victory, war is essentially about destruction and death.  Those qualities may seem most apparent when they’re happening.  But, it’s after the fighting is done that heartfelt awareness of losses absorbed and inflicted takes hold — often dominating, depressing hold.

There is a thought which I had always believed came from one of Christopher Marlowe’s contemporaries, the poet Fulke Greville: “By sharing our joys we make them greater; by sharing our sorrows, we make them less.”

Searching the internet, I could find no attribution for this sentence to Greville, or anyone else.  But I like it just the same.



Thomas James Brennan  is a retired Marine Corps sergeant who served in Iraq during the Second Battle of Fallujah, and as a squad leader in Afghanistan’s Helmand province with the First Battalion, Eighth Marines. He was medically retired in December 2012 and is a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. Since 2012, he has turned to journalism and in 2016 founded The War Horse, a nonprofit investigative newsroom. In March 2017 he broke the nude photo sharing scandal in the military, forcing Pentagon and Congressional investigations that have changed legislation about sexual exploitation across the Department of Defense. Brennan profiled Medal of Honor recipient Kyle Carpenter for Vanity Fair and has been a regular contributor to The New York Times At War blog. His work for At War earned him a 2013 Honorable Mention from the Dart Center at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Brennan was the military affairs reporter at The Daily Newsfrom early 2013 through mid-2014, when he was accepted to the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism. He earned his Masters in Journalism in May 2015. He won the 2014 American Legion Fourth Estate Award for exposing how government sequestration in 2013 hindered mental health care at Camp Lejeune, N.C. and at U.S. military bases worldwide, prompting then-secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to restore staffing and treatment to full capacity across the Department of Defense.

Finbarr O’Reilly spent 12 years as a Reuters correspondent and staff photographer based in West and Central Africa and won the 2006 World Press Photo of the Year. His coverage of conflicts and social issues across Africa has earned numerous awards from the National Press Photographer’s Association and Pictures of the Year International for both his multimedia work and photography, which has been exhibitedinternationally. Finbarr spent two years living in Congo and Rwanda and his multimedia exhibition Congo on the Wire debuted at the 2008 Bayeux War Correspondent’s Festival before traveling to Canada and the US. He embedded regularly with coalition forces fighting in Afghanistan between 2008-2011 before moving to Israel in 2014, where he covered the summer war in Gaza from inside the Strip. He is a 2016 MacDowell Colony Fellow and a writer in residence at the Carey Institute for Global Good, a 2015 Yale World Fellow, a 2014 Ochberg Fellow at Columbia University’s DART Center for Journalism and Trauma, and a 2013 Harvard Nieman Fellow

Shooting Ghosts: A U.S. Marine, a Combat Photographer, and Their Journey Back from War


“The God Shot”: A New Treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Injury



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