“Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life.
Now, take what’s left and live it properly.
What doesn’t transmit light creates its own darkness.”
- Marcus Aurelius
What is Life?
Is it simply the time elapsed between birth and death? Is it a metaphysical concept that unifies our individual reality with that of others? Is it the bio-mechanical processes that keep our bodies functioning? Is it the all-encompassing, moment-by-moment flood of sensory inputs and cognition that frame our own reality?
Let’s accept that it is all of those concepts, and more.
How, then, do we begin to derive meaning from life? How do we survive it? How do we adapt to the actions of others, while remaining in control of our own reality? How do we thrive in times of volatility, chaos, and uncertainty?
These are all valid questions, at once discrete and interdependent. Philosophy or religion can answer the question of meaning. Combat, outdoorsman, and fitness skills can answer the question of survival. Mindset management and experience support mastery of self-control. “Skill stacking” brings together many domains of knowledge, experience, and willpower to create the alchemy required to turn pain into progress.
Since the dawn of the age of Man, we have wrestled to one extent or another with various aspects of “life”. However, we can trace a general continuum of what it has meant within a given time period. During the age of pre-civilization, “life” would have broadly meant simple survival — kill or be killed, eat or starve, procreate or die off. The philosopher Thomas Hobbes called this state warre: “every man, against every man.” So, too, was it a battle of survival for man against nature. Weather, disease, pestilence, and predators all did their best to thin the human herd.
Over time, Man began to figure out that interdependence led to a higher-order existence. Pack hunting of prey produced more protein for the collective, enhancing nutrition and physical skill. Defense against predators and marauders became more practical and effective. Procreation led to pair bonding and the nuclear family structure, adding the concept of “lineage” to the growing lexicon and complexity of Life. Less-capable hunters began to focus on adding value in other domains, giving rise to animal husbandry, agriculture, astronomy, language, arts, religion, and science.
From Chaos was Order born. From warre arose a more meaningful Life, richer and more dynamic than the simplistic fight for survival that had once comprised the existence of Man. Trade became the focal point of tribal concern, first as a means of supplementing production of essentials by exchanging surplus goods with other tribes; then, as civilizations matured, trade arose as a motivational force for exploration and discovery. Systems of communication, supra-national frameworks of law, and common business practices were settled upon in order to facilitate smoother trade.
Yet, as the world grew smaller and more reachable, the scale of conflict escalated. Supply chain and transportation carrying capacity increased in speed and scope, concurrent with new technological developments in war-making tools and machinery. See, from the beginning of what we might call “economy” (the exchange of goods and services for other things of value), there has been a “carrot and a stick”. Conflict of interest resolved through economic cooperation (trade), or enforcement of will through violence. And as much effort as Man expended in adding value to his human experience through trade, we have spent equal amounts of treasure and time in becoming more proficient killers.
We have further made enormous advances in science and technology that prolong our lives and make them more convenient. The average individual in a developed country now seeks comfort at the expense of resilience, and occupies his attention with cultural baubles and amusements. It has never been easier to be lost in a morass of self-destructive habits and mindsets. We feel are at once busier and more hollow than at any time in human history. And there is a counter-intuitive reason:
We have forgotten what it means to survive.
Technology and centuries of cultural refinement have robbed us of the need to derive meaning from struggle. There is seemingly always a shortcut or a hack that achieves what once took great effort. Microwaves introduced frozen, processed foods into our lives, relegating cooking and preparation of whole foods to being non-essential. Mechanized agriculture has fed an exploding global population, but shrank the pool of farmers and ranchers who tended their animals and fields with meticulous care. Chemicals have built our modern world, with untold second- and third-order consequences to our human and ecological health. The hazy moral and ethical fog of modern intersexual and political dialectic is decoupling our biological wiring from the cultural institutions that have traditionally served to channel those urges into social order.
And though it might seem that I am building up to a Luddite’s manifesto, I am not. All of these fragility-introducing components of modern life are more or less permanent. We simply must acknowledge the dual reality that we are biologically and emotionally wired to find and refine our purpose in struggle — yet live in a world that shields our bodies from pain, while attacking our psyches relentlessly. Recognition of this duality is descriptive, however.
What must follow, then, is prescriptive.
A new book in progress, The Seven Survivals, will introduce the practitioner to a holistic path to living a better life — to survive when there is only Life and Death, to smoothly navigate the hyper-complex interdependent modern world, to thrive in the chaos following a civilizational collapse.
The practitioner will learn how to construct an integrative mind, forge an iron will, and learn the physical, interpersonal, and practical skills that unlock a person’s best life.
The skills and theory encompass seven interdependent domains (or “survivals”) of the modern person’s world, each of which is inextricably linked to the others:
This is no mere praxeology, nor an ideology, or a simple tool, or whatever conceptualization is convenient to the marketing narrative.
It is a framework, a coherent progression from observation informed by first principles, to theory, to practical skills development and reinforcement.
Joining me in this book are an incredible cast of contributors, each subject-matter experts in their own “survival”, but all aligned towards the common goal of helping men and women build well-rounded lives of purpose.
We (myself and the incredible contributors) write this for one person: that man or woman who desires to step from the darkness of fear and inaction into the light of an actualized, content life.
To live with confidence and competence, and stand boldly as a sovereign individual before God and man.
To hope that tomorrow will be better, and be prepared when it isn’t.
To know — not believe, but know — that they will survive.
More to come…
Dum spiro spero,