Mark Twight said it a long time ago (when places like record stores existed) and that cold hard truth remains the same. Read this and then think about it when you go to work, smiling at the inane jokes from your co-workers, rehashing the details of the game of your favorite form of “sportsball”, and just pretending to care when you really don’t.
“You’re haunted because you remember having something more. With each drag of the razor you ask yourself why you piss your blood into another man’s cup. Working at the job he offered, your future is between his thumb and forefinger. And the necessary accessories, the proclamations of success you thought gave you stability provide your boss security. Your debt encourages acquiescence, the heavy mortgage makes you polite.”
Intrigued? Read more here. Better yet read it and then change your life. Uproot it and replant it before you run out of time. Do the things that you care about. Study, train, and get it done.
If art is supposed to be inspiration then Pieter Bruegel’s painting, The Triumph of Death, should motivate you like nothing else. Get it done, make your move, execute. Tomorrow is closer than you think.
Choices are easily made, or unmade. Sometimes we just let events, ennui, or fear, make choices for us. The results of these non-decisions are uniformly bad and they create a cascade of events that serve as stark reminders (punishments) that appear in our lives.
These reminders exist as little insurgents, draining resources and blunting efforts to be free. The longer they last, the harder it is to remove them. Let them last long enough and it will take a herculean effort to be rid of them.
This CIA handbook on how to fight an occupation with slow and deliberate acts (long meetings, rigid emphasis on useless details, etc.) is illustrates the failure to act and make the right pre-emptive choices.
So, no matter what, act on Hamlet’s questions to himself and “take up arms against a sea of troubles and, by opposing, end them.”
Make the choice, fight the hard fight. The clock is ticking and liberation pulls further from view every day that we don’t fight.
If the “journey” is the “destination” then what matters is the workshop and the daily grind. That’s why I love seeing the training instead of the finished product. Especially when the work and the workers are so impressive.
Albert Camus penned an exploration of the absurdity of life titled The Myth of Sisyphus. In it, Camus examined the essential absurdity of life (that we look forward to tomorrow even though tomorrow brings us closer to death).
One of the 4 chapters of the book covered the Greek myth of Sisyphus who was consigned to punishment in the underworld of rolling a boulder up a hill until, right before he reached the top, it rolled back down. Forcing him into a perpetual punishment of never completing his hellish task.
Camus essentially argued that, despite the unceasing toil, Sisyphus would actually be contented because he recognizes the absurdity of his fate and is thus able to reach a state of acceptance. This is similar to the theme found in many religions in which the acceptance of death is the precursor to satisfaction in that it removes all vanities so that one can focus on the joys of life.
We each need our mindless task, a continuing struggle that makes us confront our vanities and fears. This is not a call to sink into negativity but, rather, a call to action. Mine is kendo, specifically suburi and hayasuburi. In my daily practice each swing is done fully with as much as focus as I can muster until I can almost smell the wood of the shinai or bokken and the sound of the strike.
“The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”
In kendo there is an emphasis on group unity in the warm-ups and initial drills. In my dojo (NW Kendo), our sensei is looking for us to have loud and powerful kiai in unison early on so that, by the time we are in jigeiko (individual bouts) our spirit is powerful and the kiai remain loud and sharp because that keeps one’s energy up so as to maintain performance and have a tactical edge over the opponent.
If that sounds esoteric or just not compelling enough, consider this lesson on group unity from Jocko Willink (@jockowillink). When his unit was deployed in Iraq and were going out on a patrol or assignment, they had a tradition of starting up their truck and jeeps at the same time. According to Willink, that sound created a powerful feeling and sent shivers down their spines; creating a sense of power over their enemy.
So start your engines!
Sumi Sensei instructing on kiai:
Life. It’s full of questions and the answers can be approached in multiple ways. In my search I am open to those multiple approaches and this is why I am hooked on a few podcasts and the FX show, Louis. My podcast of choice right now is the Jocko Podcast with Jocko Willink and Echo Charles.
Willink is a retired Navy SEAL but his show covers everything from the expected to the unexpected. Case in point, his recitation and review of the WWI memoir by Ernst Junger, Storm of Steel, was both insightful and touching. Willink discusses a lot of subjects including his military experience, his life now as a consultant, and his love of fitness and MMA.
Polar opposite to that is Louis C.K. who tackles the same subjects through his portrayal of an insightful schlub who embraces and yet hates his life and his persona.
Despite the huge difference between the two, both Jocko and Louis tackle issues that range from the singularity of human existence to the mundane. Their shows help me answer my questions and I enjoy them in the process. Really can’t ask for more than that.
Though Louis really should consider going to a gym…
I don’t know what Mishima’s goal was, and maybe he didn’t either, but his actions signaled his understanding of the many masks that we all wear. Suicide pulled the last mask from his face.
Whenever I get bored or frustrated, I think of Yukio Mishima because he is the example of a truly less-than-heroic person who had nothing special except for an rich mind and inner life and he was able to externalize that life in some spectacular ways, including his own death.
I have no such need to die quickly or even spectacularly but I can learn from someone who did.