Despite of all this seeming weight, a certain part of ourselves remains unmoored. We don’t lack for tasks, but we do lack meaningful ones. We haven’t made any goals since college. We don’t experience the tension that emerges in “the gap between what one is and what one should become,” because the gap simply doesn’t exist – at a certain point we stopped aiming for anything above paying the bills and checking off to-dos.
We think we want rest and relaxation – the absence of all labor and responsibility – but what we really crave is the presence of meaningful work and interests. We don’t want a complete lack of tension, but a different variety of it.
We don’t need less stress, but more of the right kind.
This piece is a clear manifesto that coincides with my efforts of the past couple years: “Load the arch intentionally!”
Always, in any government, among any people, there are certain forces for evil that take many shapes, but which are rooted in the same base and evil characteristics of the human soul, in the evil of arrogance, of jealousy, envy, hatred; and to certain people the appeal is made to yield to one set of evil forces. To some it is made to yield to another set, and the result is equally bad in each case. The vice of arrogance, of hard and brutal indifference on the part of those with wealth toward those who have not, is a shameful and dreadful vice. It is not one whit worse than the rancorous hatred and jealousy of those who are not well off for those who are. The man, who, either by practice or precept, seeks to give to any man or withhold from him any advantage in law or society or in the workings of society or business because of wealth or poverty, is false to the traditions of this republic.
Wether you love it, or hate it, we get the government we deserve — the government we collectively earn. Each individual one of us, through our minute by minute actions, contributes to the fabric of our society.
If not “I”, then who? If I “check out”, ignore it all, or bury my head in the sand, then that is exactly my contribution to society. “NO!” I say. I’ll stand up for Morality. Ethics. Philosophy. Principles. Rights. The Rule of Law. My goal is not to “rage quit” from this Republic. I will not bitch, moan nor leave. But rather, my goal is to speak up when I’ve something positive to say, to contribute positively to society, and to engage others in meaningful discourse.
Men and women may in the end be forced to admit: “I made a fool of myself,” and still be fairly happy. But no one can possibly be satisfied, and therefore no one can in my sense be happy, who feels that in some paramount affair he has failed to take up the challenge of life. For a voice within him, which none else can hear, but which he cannot choke, will constantly be murmuring:
“You lacked courage. You hadn’t the pluck. You ran away.”
And it is happier to be unhappy in the ordinary sense all one’s life than to have to listen at the end to that dreadful interior verdict.
This blind spot in our perception is why we confidently tell ourselves that we’ll start that business, lose the weight, repair our relationship, get organized…in a few weeks or a few months, because then we’ll have more time. It’s an illusion. It’s a self-deception that allows us to soothe the pangs of our unfulfilled desires with the panacea that now is not the right time. The mirage of the time-filled future can string a man along until he’s 80, has one foot in the grave, and realizes that the expanse of time he imagined would open never appeared.
Without male mentors, many men of this generation have felt adrift, unsure of how to deal with an indescribable but acute lack in their lives.
How did we get to the point where it is possible, as Edward Abbey put it, “to proceed from infancy into senility without ever knowing manhood?”
Many people have had success using these life optimization tools and tricks, and they’re not necessarily a bad thing. Their effect all depends on which of two relationships someone has with hacking:
Hacking approach #1 can be beneficial; every man should have a little MacGyver in him and keep some duct-tape solutions in his back pocket. And if there’s a better way to cut an onion, by all means, go for it.
But hacking approach #2 invariably leads to a life that’s less optimal, not more. The damage results not so much from the actual hacking practices themselves, but from the mindset their pursuit and adoption begets.
~ Brett McKay, from Stop Hacking Your Life1
This is a rather large, long (and I think, well written) series of posts from Brett over at Art of Manliness. Well worth a read in my opinion.
The truth is, that wherever we are in life, we all have pockets of time that we own, and that we could be doing more to actively shape and make the most of. It’s just that so often we default to the path of least resistance. Unbelievably, Americans only use 51% of their paid vacation and paid days off. When we’re not working, and do have free time, rather than pursuing a constructive hobby or side business, we’ll often plop in front of the TV or mindlessly surf the internet. Instead of seeking out good books to read to feed our minds, we default to consuming whatever information happens to pop up in our Facebook feeds. The ironclad rules that governed our childhood are long gone, and yet we still don’t feel fully in control of our lives. We feel swept along by the currents of our responsibilities, so that our lives seem to go by in a unthinking haze – a fog that is ever so often perforated by the question: “Why haven’t things turned out the way I had hoped?”
~ Brett McKay, from The Churchill School of Adulthood: A Prerequisite Class on Becoming the Author of Your Own Life1
Say yes whenever you can and overcome the inertia of rigmarole. One of the greatest impediments to adventure as an adult is the number of your responsibilities, and how said responsibilities sap your willpower. Psychologists have shown that we have a limited supply of willpower each day, that if we use it for one thing, we have less it for another, and that when our willpower runs low, our default answer to everything becomes “no.”
~ from Lesson #5: Don’t Give Up Your Sense of Adventure2
Creating an awesome adulthood involves using your imagination to create a story for yourself, and then taking ceaseless action to bring that narrative to life. It’s like riding a stationary bike that powers a film projector: to create a new world — to project your chosen narrative on the screen of your life — you must pedal continuously.
~ from Conclusion: Thought + Action = An Awesome Adulthood 3
WWII Workout Week concludes with some exercises you can do to improve your posture. While posture is an oft neglected part of physical training programs, it provides a myriad of benefits and can boost both your physiological functions and your confidence.
~ Brett McKay, from WWII Workout Week: Posture Training1
Circa 1946, from the Army field manual FM 21-20. Ten-HUT!
Following “via negativa” may seem like a defensive and risk-averse way to live. But by focusing on what you don’t do, you actually put yourself in a position to be more aggressive with life. The man who has never been arrested, doesn’t have debt, and doesn’t have the drama that comes with bad relationships has more opportunities presented to him and more money, energy, and willpower to capitalize on those opportunities when they appear; the man who has gone though life making stupid mistakes, doesn’t. In other words, you’ll never get a chance to work on the “shalls” if your life’s been wrecked by ignoring the “shall nots.”
~ Brett McKay, from Via Negativa: Adding to Your Life By Subtracting1
Postman argues that our modern concepts of childhood and adulthood (and the gulf between them) were birthed by the printing press. Literacy became the dividing line between these stages of life; adults were competent readers, children were not, and they thus had to become adults by mastering written language.
~ Brett Mckay, from The Printing Press, Literacy, and the Rise and Fall of the Secret Society of Adults1