It was a world of luxuriant decline.
The old mills where people used to work were abandoned, transformed by bankruptcy and neglect into gutted and glorious hulks, like the last few dinosaurs, standing still, silhouetted against the evening sky.
That was where we built our dojo. The rent was cheap, the parking free and the view of the evening sky unobstructed.
All around us the decline was evident but you could overlook it. Life goes on.
The neighborhoods, where the people who worked in those sprawling brick mills lived, were still there. The families were smaller and more fragmented and less sure about the road ahead, but as I said, life goes on.
The rising tide of enterprise and hope that kept the hands at the machines for a hundred years had ebbed. But now there are loans available, credit or debt or whatever, and tomorrow you can figure out what to do about it. Maybe by then the revolution will come and you won’t have to worry about it at all.
It was not always like that. If television and recorded music, the internet and cars are what populates your landscape you will suffocate, look for a way out, and find more of the same, endlessly, and you may not realize that it was not always this way, or that there is another way.
There was a time when a man could walk out into the mountains or the desert and stay there. He knew enough to feed himself and find water and a place to sleep. He knew what to do; there was something urgent he had to do with his heart and mind.
He could walk as far as he needed to. Because of his experience with the rudiments of daily life, and because he was accustomed to the exercise of character and will, he could endure the difficulties.
Heat and silence, solitude and hunger vanished in the magnificence of the land and the infinity of the sky. He was free to achieve his purpose. Even to sacrifice his life to do it.
There was a time when a man could walk across the world,
explore it, face danger and delight, persist, prevail and sail home to tell the tale.
Life has progressed. Now we have cars and comforts and bodies that no longer work. We have dope and porn, data by the petabyte and hearts and minds that no longer work. We have roads that are clogged, jobs that degrade, finance instead of business, schools in chaos and an elite that is vain and addicted to the belief that there is an arc of history and they are, if not masters of it, at least are riding upon it.
They are not. History is what people do. Right now people are confused.
Mastering material makes machines advance. This is not always better for people.
What do we do to stop the decline? The decline of the body and the spirit, the leaching away of meaning and purpose, the sense that we are carried along by circumstance, delegating our choices to experts and our will to – who?
What do we do to reverse the decline, recover our dignity, and rescue the people around us?
The things around us – the tools and intoxicants, the cars, computers, dope, porn, credit, and sugar – came to us because people wanted them. We thought this would be a way to be happy.
Some of the people who brought them into being were exploiters. Some were exploited. Most were both. Some were convinced that material would come to the rescue because they saw poverty and misery around them. Now around the world there is an abundance of poverty and the powerful are absolutely or kind of sure they can find a way to overcome the unintended consequences of the things they have been sure of all their lives.
They are confused about what matters and what could make life better. Or good. Or great.
It is not a mystery and it is not out of reach. But we have to be clear about it and we have to take action.
You have a big neo-cortex. Be proud of it. You grew it for a reason.
Why default to your amygdala? Though all around you people are overusing theirs, why live like a dinosaur in the sunset? It is your choice. If you are willing to live for what is good and right you have to be willing to give your life for it too.
We will all give our lives for something. It might as well be for what is good and right.
The alternative is pleasure seeking and misery.
If we are deceived by our media our schools and our leaders then where do we turn for guidance, how do we learn to use our own senses, reason, love and insight?
What is it we can do with our big cortexes? We can imagine. We can plan. We can see clearly. We can restrain our harmful impulses and unite with good people in a common interest, for a common good.
We can challenge each other and collaborate, focus intently and exceed our boundaries; cultivate our will, strengthen our mind and make our body more intelligent.
One step at a time.
Our new dojo is in a world of simple construction. Intentional, daily, purposeful, practice. Human lives in the natural world.
You are invited.
Post by J. Michael Brooks