Engineer the Future

by Noble Brown

Western Civilization is a society adrift.

We are completely untethered from our past, and we are sailing aimlessly toward an uncertain future.

It was not always this way. 

***

On December 17, 1903, in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Orville and Wilber Wright completed the first controlled, sustained, and powered flight of a heavier-than-air aircraft. 

On July 20, 1969, less than 66 years later, Neil Armstrong set foot on the surface of the moon.

Imagine, if you will, the generation born in or about 1895.  These men and women, had they survived to the age of 75, would have witnessed the end of the Victorian Era, the rise of the automobile, two World Wars, and more rapid technological innovation than anyone else in history, before or since. 

This is a lifespan that began with less than ten miles of paved roads, total, in all of America, and ended with daily intercontinental commercial air traffic and men in space.

Contrast the 66 years between the Wright Brothers and Armstrong’s one small step, and the 50 years or so since we last left low Earth orbit (think about that – when we last went to the moon was the last time a human being even went as far as leaving Earth’s gravity).

What have we done?

***

As a child born in the mid-1970s, I was still raised with the belief that a fantastic future lay ahead.  I grew up thinking that by now, we’d have flying cars, robot butlers, and hoverboards.  Disease wouldn’t exist.  Teleporters would take us to cities on the moon, and maybe Mars.  Lost and ailing limbs would be replaced with Six Million Dollar bionic improvements. 

What’s better now than what we had in the 1980’s?  We have the Internet.  We have smartphones.  These are incremental improvements over the mainframes and radios of 40 years ago.  The concepts are the same.  Dumb terminals connecting to a central computer.  Useless if they’re disconnected.  In a way, we’ve regressed from the personal computer since the turn of this century.  You wouldn’t imagine using a device without an Internet connection today. 

Certainly we’re not as advanced as we all assumed we would be by now.  The 20th century catapulted us from candlelight and steam engines to lasers and nuclear power.

And then we just stopped inventing cool shit.

We reached the moon.

And then we quit.

***

Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong were both born in 1930.  They grew up in the Great Depression, witnessed World War 2, and fought in the Korean War.  Before they were 40, they’d been to the moon and back.  It was arguably their parent’s generation that had made that happen.  The erstwhile “Greatest Generation.”  The Einsteins.  The Oppenheimers.  The Turings.  The Fermis.  The Von Brauns.  Even the Kings, and the Tolkiens. 

Where have they gone?  What did the Baby Boomers spend their lives doing following the toil of their parents?

***

I’m fact-checking this article as I write it using the Internet, from a wireless connection in a cigar lounge.  One might call that progress, but I could just as easily do this with an electric typewriter and a set of encyclopedias. 

Unfortunately, that’s not an option.  Britannica stopped printing their signature Encyclopaedia in 2010.  Millenials will have no written version of their history if the lights ever go out for good.  And since the Y2K scare, there are more people who believe in that sort of dystopian future than an optimistic one where we have self-drying jackets and shoes that lace themselves. 

We’re content with that now.  We’re fine if the nanotechnology we dream of only exists in movies, and we’re not really sure we still want that robot butler, because he’s just as likely to turn out like the Terminator and try to plug us into the Matrix. 

Inventing intelligent robots is a bad idea, because we’re resigned to them being better than we are.  Exploring space is a bad idea because the aliens we might encounter are likely to enslave us and plunder our natural resources.  Flying cars and lightsabers are a bad idea, because, honestly, how would we ever regulate those things and keep them out of the hands of the terrorists?

We’re scared.  We’re timid.  We’re complacent.  We’re lazy.

And we’re content.  Life is easy.  Don’t try too hard.  Because unlike that generation that suffered the Great Depression, none of us since have had to work much to stay fat and happy.

***

If there’s one thing we’ve mastered since the Space Age, it’s marketing and consumerism.  The Western nations of the first world have raised generations of children weaned on mass media and all the subversive marketing that pays for it.  We’re told what to eat and how to live, even if it is sedentary and toxic. 

And this is what the rest of the world aspires to.

Third-world nations wish they had access to unlimited calories and smartphones and Amazon Prime.  That’s how you know you’ve arrived; when you have a digital refrigerator that knows when you’re running low on high-fructose beverages and orders more for you.   

Meanwhile, our educational system is more concerned with producing politically-correct standardized test-takers than it is in creating thinkers.  So now we’re docile and compliant; dutiful slaves to a system designed to only advance at a safe, incremental pace, giving us convenience in exchange for our freedom and privacy.

Forty years ago, voluntarily wire-tapping yourself would have seemed an absurd notion.  Now our “smart” devices that make life so easy are routinely recording terabytes of data on everything that we eat, watch, say, and do. 

Your life is fully documented on the “cloud,” and you’re OK with this, because social media is a fun way to interact with people while not having to leave your house, and that Amazon Echo will gladly play music and movies for you if you ask it.

***

History is marginalized in our educational system.  It is rarely included in any standardized testing, and as we know, testing is all public schools seem designed to teach.  In fact, the subject of history doesn’t typically stand alone at all; it’s lumped under the heading of “social studies,” a title that diminishes historical emphasis and subversively suggests that the study of socialism is the true objective. 

Schools aren’t alone in this attempt to erase the vital legacy of the West.  Popular media spends more time apologizing for it than exalting it.  The great progress of the Elizabethan and Victorian Eras is treated as a time of villainy rather than a time when science and technology and intellectual enlightenment took great surges forward.

Why?

Why the self-hatred?

Of all the world’s great empires, Britain’s was arguably the least brutal.  We aren’t demanding apologies from the descendants of Mongolia, Persia, Japan, or the Aztecs.  Western empires did more to advance mankind to a better future than all others, and yet the societies they’ve produced now treat them with scorn, and wish only to revise their histories negatively.

Perhaps it is part of a grand conspiracy.  An ideological plot to wreck the West from the inside out. 

Or perhaps it’s simpler than that.

We loathe the generations that came before us, because we know we’ve done nothing to measure up to their example.  And rather than rise to the standard they established, we find it easier to tear them down.

This would help explain why we’ve given up on a better future. 

Because we’re not even able to make a better now, compared to what came before us.

***

Part of the problem is that we’ve lost our sense of wonder and imagination.  It was so easy in the days of Christopher Columbus, when there were unexplored edges on every map just begging to be discovered.  Lewis and Clark had a wild and untamed continent to march across.  Magellan knew the world was round, but nobody had managed to sail it all at once. 

Of course, there’s plenty left to explore.  There’s a whole lot at the bottom of the ocean.  We’ve barely scratched the surface of our own planet – nobody really knows what’s more than a few miles below the bedrock.  And space?  Well, there’s a TON of space left to check out.

But is there anything to conquer?  Is there any treasure to be found?

Perhaps that’s the problem.  We lack incentive.  We don’t see the value.

Space exploration is dangerous and expensive.  So was naval travel 600 years ago, but there was at least the prospect of opening new trade routes or bringing home a precious cargo or establishing a profitable new colony for king and country.

America planted a flag on the moon, and brought back some rocks.  But we haven’t returned.  Because it’s a high-risk, high-cost venture, and there’s nothing else there for us.  We didn’t find anything valuable up there, and we can’t colonize it (at least not yet).

James Cameron funded an exploration of the wreckage of the Titanic at the bottom of a small part of the ocean, but he got a good movie out of it.  Nobody gets excited about exploring a place that you can’t live in or take any treasure from.

But what of the other challenges set before mankind? 

Nanotechnology could make manufacturing obsolete.

Fusion could make the energy industry obsolete.

Robotics could make labor obsolete.

Bionics could make medicine obsolete.

And that’s the problem.

Great progress is disruptive, and the status quo is now represented by global multinational corporate cabals that influence every level of government, media, and the marketplace. 

If you create something truly disruptive, you risk upsetting an establishment that can utterly destroy you in any number of ways.

It’s easier, and safer, for smart people to make a living within the system than it is for them to cultivate the ideas to upset it.

***

Dwight Eisenhower saw this coming.  During his farewell address, he warned us of the dangers of the military industrial complex.  It turns out the problem was much bigger than that, but he had the right idea.  The established corporate machine had infected the government and the script was written. 

It had become too influential to root out.  Too big to fail.  Gone were the days of Teddy Roosevelt the Trustbuster.  Eisenhower’s own successor was the last President to try to contend with the establishment.  He got a bullet in the head for his trouble.

***

There are still ways to disrupt the establishment, and keep your grey matter where it belongs.  History shows us how. 

But you have to be smart about it. Or you have to be lucky.

Martin Luther was disruptive.  He kicked off the Reformation.  He spent many years in hiding for his trouble, and he left most of the heavy lifting to others once he was done nailing his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. 

Socrates was disruptive.  He was compelled to chug hemlock for his trouble.

Julius Caesar was disruptive.  He conquered Gaul and overtook the Republic.  But he didn’t choose his friends very carefully.

Galileo was disruptive.  He spent a decade in prison for challenging the notion that the sun revolved around the Earth.

Alexander of Macedon conquered most of the known world by the time he was 30, but was dead at 32, likely poisoned by a rival.

So how do you disrupt the establishment and change the world and prosper at the same time?

Western Civilization, and its great capitalist economic model, have provided the safe space required for this to happen.

Henry Ford revolutionized manufacturing a century ago.  His descendants are still wealthy for it.  The Rockefellers, Carnegies, and other “robber barons” did much the same.

Bill Gates revolutionized personal computing.  He’s comfortably retired, and leverages his fortune to effect positive change worldwide via his philanthropic efforts.

Steve Jobs would still be creating wonderful technology had cancer not cut him short.  Howard Hughes was also stricken with injury, disease, and madness.

Kennedy enabled NASA and men like Yeager and Armstrong to break everything from the sound barrier to extraplanetary travel.

It was the great republics and their embrace of the meritocracy we call capitalism that facilitated this.

And now it is fashionable to cry for more socialist government and economic structures. Even after so many died under the boot of communism in the 20th century.

***

The window of opportunity is still open.  We still can engineer a lofty, magnificent future. 

But first, you have to believe it is possible.

You have to reject the programming of your primary and secondary education.  You have been raised to be a slave.  A conformist.  A cog in a machine that allows you no ambition beyond rampant consumerism.

You have to become a tireless autodidact.  You have to teach yourself how to think.  How to act.  How to succeed.  There are no methodologies written that will work specifically for you.  None of the great disruptors in history had any training to prepare them to change the world.  They figured it out on their own.

You need to figure it out on your own.

You need to come up with your own vision.  You need to ignore everyone who says it is foolish, or reckless, or insane.

Make no mistake, everyone you know, and everyone you love, will doubt you.  They’re programmed for mediocrity, just as you are.  You will have to be the example.  You will have to be the outlier.

You will have to be exceptional.

***

Engineering is not complicated.  It is difficult.  But it is not complicated.

You cultivate a vision.  You see the endgame.  You identify the problems and obstacles in the way.

Then you work backwards.  Write down the steps it will take to get all the way to the end; to the point where you have changed the world.

It may be a decade from now.  It may be five minutes.  It doesn’t matter.  Map it out.

Then create the process.

***

There’s a great deal of material published on processes and efficiencies.  There’s an axiom that the process is more important than the goal.

This is false.

The goal is everything.  The endgame is all that matters.

The process is important.  But you control the process.  You should design it.  You should apply it.  And you should change it when it needs to be changed.

Whatever you do, do not make a religion of the process.

Your mission is the goal.  By any means necessary.

Have you identified your mission?

***

What future do you want for your children?  Your grandchildren?  Or just yourself?

What does the world you want to live in look like?

That should be your vision.

Take some time to consider this.

Meditate on this.

Then decide upon your mission.

Make it ambitious.  Make it crazy.  Make it seemingly impossible.

Don’t just let the future happen to you.

Engineer it. 

This article appears in Chris Campbell's outstanding anthology, "99 Things Every Millenial Man Should Know"

The Day I Won Woman Of The Year

by Sarabeth Urech

Previously I introduced the concept of the 7 Roles in my life. I believe these are the 7 Roles that builds your worth and makes you worthy. These 7 Roles are not necessarily fulfilled every day, although I do reflect on them often to keep them front and center. Before I brag on my epic Best Day let’s revisit what the roles are:

Corporate Leader: Role model for my women colleagues and driven to rise to top.
Entrepreneur: An active mind has many ideas, so turn them into income.
Matriarch: Build independent skills in my son and not to let Autism win.
Queen: Maintain a comfy home for us all to be proud of.
Athlete: Keep moving and the diet on point.
Angel: Feed my soul and be a good friend by active listening.
Goddess: Make him know I desire him in many ways.

The Best Day

7am: Isaac wakes up. How do I know? I hear Darth Vader through the baby monitor, because for safety reasons he is locked in his room. So that is my cue to get up, get dressed, and go hug my son good morning. I put on a workout outfit because I am determined to do some weights. (Athlete). As I walk out of the bedroom I close the door so my love can try to sleep in; I mean it is Saturday.

Good morning my Isaac, bound and determined to get to the pool as quickly as possible I force him into the bathroom to sit on the potty and then I brush his teeth (which he hates). Then it is straight to the backyard because that is where his girlfriend is or as others would call it, the pool. As soon as I have him settled with a drink and plain Cheerios I am off to get a kettlebell and weights to do walking lounges plus clean and presses. (Matriarch)

Once the workout is done I make some breakfast sausages for Isaac because I always try to start his day with protein. I throw in some laundry and start making lists for our errands the rest of the day. Also, we have a big change happening in our home where we need to have individual spaces for two more children. Though I do not want to give up my office space with a door and my Isaac can not share a room, a genius solution hits me. (Corporate Leader) I wait until breakfast with my love to present the idea and see what he thinks. He awakens, he is also hitting the weights and then looking forward to our morning Bulletproof coffee and sit down breakfast where we can plan the day out.

I start getting breakfast together and present my idea with some supporting statements and he jumps to the same conclusion - then follows with “darling, you are brilliant”. What a way to start the day. (Queen)

As we talk about the day we figure out that we need to hit Costco, on a Saturday, which we really try to avoid especially when we have Isaac. We quickly see it as an opportunity to practice walking in a store with him, which is much easier when you have two adults. Practicing walking is to break his habit of wanting to be in the cart the whole time. Before Costco we will visit Lowe's where, again, we can practice walking with Isaac. So we figure as soon as Isaac needs a break from the pool (because he is hot) we will take that opportunity to transition to the car and start our errands.

Lowe's was to get some basic home/yard maintenance items along with a new hummingbird feeder, because I love hummingbirds and they were boycotting one of my feeders. We had a thorough list in Google Keep, which we both have access to, then we divide and conquer. Quick, efficient and just enough time for Isaac to walk through the store and find the water feature area so he could play with his “side chick” water.

On to Costco, again with a thorough list in Google Keep, where we mostly stayed together and got through the store in record time on a Saturday. Isaac DID AMAZING! Even ran into an Autism mom friend! Isaac just blew me away. I need to continue to break old habits, push him, and prepare him to be an independent, confident man.

Back to the house.

Isaac again makes a beeline for the back door to get to his girlfriend and I start cleaning the house, finishing laundry, and start preparing for the next two stores we need to go to on the other side of town - which is perfect. Of course, I am still building some trust with Isaac around the pool so I grab some rosé and my pool floaty and try to get some sun and float in his general direction. He laughs, throws water at me and I am successful. As I catch up on Twitter I notice my love is killing it (seriously his intelligence is such a turn on). So I get out of the pool, dry off, walk over to his desk and give him a passionate kiss and tell him that his intelligent posts are sexy AF. (Goddess)

Just when Isaac needs a break we see our opportunity to take the drive across town to make some big purchases to see our epic solution from the morning come to fruition. At the furniture store everything is going well, we have picked everything out and now we just need to purchase and set a delivery date. Isaac is walking around being a champ then I see his shorts are wet - MAD DASH to the bathroom, a quick glance at my love who says “ I got this, just go” and by the time I get Isaac changed and cleaned up delivery is set for Monday. All I do is look at him and say “I love you, I love us and you are wonderful”. I love his confidence, his abilities to make and own decisions from the money to scheduling - the fact that I don’t have to be involved in every part of the process is new for me, but it shouldn’t be. Not only does he lead well, I can follow because of his confidence and proven track record of being outstanding in leading.

Next up Cabelas, this is where Isaac quickly found the escalator and then started to lose his patience. It all worked out well, we got in and out with what we needed.

Then it happens, fireworks on my FitBit! 10,000 steps! (Athlete)

Back at home, you guessed it Isaac is reunited with his girlfriend. I invite my love out for a cigar, we enjoy and start reflecting on the day and I start realizing it was an epic day - I may have exercised every role! Well, that’s an article I have to write. (Entrepreneur)

As it gets closer to bedtime I try to wind Isaac down while watching The Jesus Movie, it is not really working on him but I pass out. My love wakes me, “do you want to put Isaac down? Because you are falling asleep”.
I may had been exhausted but I was also stoked to do it again. I felt my worth from thinking about everything I had done along with the encouragement I got throughout the day from my love.

Be Worthy. Know Your Worth.

The Way Of The Sage

 by Noble Brown

“What more accurate standard or measure of good things do we have than the Sage?”
- Aristotle

We love what we do not possess.

That is the conclusion proven by Socrates in Plato’s “Symposium.”  Poor men love money more than rich men. Rich men love the things money cannot necessarily buy.  Men love the feminine beauty of women.  Women love the masculine strength of men.  The young love the confidence and respect that their elders bear, and the old love the energy and potential of youth.

In many cases, that which we love the most is utterly unattainable.  And yet, we seek it.  Man will never be immortal, but we seek paths to immortality in nearly everything we do.  We embrace spirituality.  We bear children to carry on our bloodline.  We create works of art and industry that we hope will last for generations.  We perform acts of heroism and valor that might be recorded in the history books.

That is the nature of love.  The passion that drives us to pursue something rare, elusive, and perhaps even impossible.  It is a selfish urge that can make us do selfless things.  A mother would give her life for her child out of love, knowing that her legacy would carry on.  She becomes immortal through sacrifice.  The same applies to the soldier who dies for his country, or the missionary who is martyred for his faith.

We will spend our lives to make them part of something greater than ourselves.  That is the road to distinction.  It is a reward that we will never see within the confines of our mortal existence.

And we pursue it nonetheless.

***

The love of wisdom is discussed ad nauseam in "Symposium." In that dialogue, it is concluded that when you have attained wisdom, you no longer have any reason to love it.

In most ancient schools of philosophy, those who have attained complete wisdom in a given subject were called Sages.  The Sage was considered the virtuous ideal for that school of thought.  In many cases, gods and Sages were equal; if you reached the point of total enlightenment, and had no further wisdom or mastery to seek, you were a Sage in that subject, and could arguably be considered on equal footing with whatever patron god represented it.

It was an unreachable standard.

On one end of the spectrum of learning were the fools, who had no realization of their lack of understanding.  On the other end were the Sages, who were fully enlightened and had nothing left to pursue.  In between were the philosophers, who were aware enough to seek the wisdom of the Sage.

This is where Plato’s point about love and passion comes back into play.

We love what we do not possess.  In this case, we can never attain the full wisdom of the Sage.

We pursue it regardless.  Passionately.

***

We live in an era of polymaths.  Any fool with a smartphone can peruse the wisdom of giants in any number of subjects.  You can become a student of a dozen disciplines.  There is no barrier to becoming a Renaissance Man in this digital age.

Pick a field.  Pick a dozen.

Then pursue mastery toward the most virtuous ideal possible.  Envision the Sage; the epitome of what is valorous and good in your chosen brand of autodidacticism, and follow the path that will change you into that being.

There are a great many callings present in your life, if you have ears to hear them.  Embrace the mindset that you are a divine creation, fully capable of carving out that eternal destiny.

Follow the Way of the Sage.

You’ll die along the way, and enjoy immortality as your reward.

Everybody Has a Plan Until They Get Punched in the Mouth

 by Sarabeth Urech

Do you start your day with intention? Purpose? You should.

As you wake up in the morning and start thinking through all of your roles it’s important you think about what you NEED to have your #bestday. Hopefully, most days are straightforward and routine which is in itself a lifehack. Other days you need to prepare for deviation from the routine, which may include interacting with strangers, having a confrontational conversation, or just first time experiences. The important part is that you have the discipline to prepare and think about what you need to have your #bestday, and then make it happen.

I mentioned roles; do you think about all of the roles you play? If you don’t, they may grow stagnant, underperform, and instead contribute to having the #worstday, everyday.

Here are some roles I play:

Corporate Leader: My day job. Note, I do not say "employee" or "worker" or anything like that - the idea is to assign labels that also point to an objective. My goal is to make C-suite. Not be an employee or junior manager. Each day I need to have a goal that drives me closer to this end state.

Entrepreneur: The side-hustles. The average millionaire has *FIVE* different sources of income. So it's OK to pursue more. The point is to be fault-tolerant in our revenue streams.

Matriarch: This is apex-motherhood. I don't want to just be a mom; I need to be an exceptional mom. A role model for other mothers. My son Isaac is on the Autism spectrum and I need to be his advocate and pursue with absolute exceptionalism.

Queen: I want to build a home to be proud of and I do not take my homemaker tasks lightly. I am the stewardess of the kingdom. From a home improvement project of some sort to doing the laundry.

Athlete: The physical fitness tasks. Preparing for a race, roller derby bout, learning new skills like archery, and in general finding new physical challenges. Overall I need to improve my strength, speed, and flexibility. Then the obvious, most difficult part - optimizing my diet.

Angel: A divine being. I need to feed my soul as well as my body. This can be yoga, meditation, Bible study, church, et cetera. This includes my role as a friend and daughter/sister/aunt.

Goddess: Last, but not least, a lover. Being his muse. Keeping the relationship exciting and healthy.

Each of these roles deserves a thoughtful approach and if done well the ending result is fulfilling because I know I planned it to be my #bestday.

When I am prepared for the routine day, I call that #lipstickready. That is feeling I get when I put lipstick on; it usually is the last thing I put on and it finishes the look making me feel ready. On the flipside if I have a non-routine day ahead of me it is more of a #warpaintready day - mentally prepared for what is ahead, expected and unexpected.

Being #lipstickready has been studied by MIT; to read more check out a Medium article by Dekera G. Rodriguez (@dekerag on Twitter), where she clearly outlines how routines free up your brainpower to make important decisions.

Getting #warpaintready is a bit different. This requires preparing for what you have control over and being ready for the unexpected. As the famous philosopher Mike Tyson (@MikeTyson on Twitter) said “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Are you going to be #warpaint ready for the punch in the mouth?

What is the one thing that can throw you off from being #lipstickready for your #bestday?

Do you have #warpaintready lifehacks?

Tell me about it in the comments below, or on twitter at @OfficialSBug

Find Your Way

 by Noble Brown

“It is said the warrior's is the twofold Way of pen and sword, and he should have a taste for both Ways. Even if a man has no natural ability he can be a warrior by sticking assiduously to both divisions of the Way. Generally speaking, the Way of the warrior is resolute acceptance of death” – Miyamoto Musashi

Ours is a society filled with distraction. Television. Radio. Smartphones. Social media. Billboards. Video games. And these are just the obvious time sinks. Our jobs are filled with distraction. Our families bring distraction to our doorstep. Our friends seem to exist to distract us.

Some of these are necessary. We can scarcely function without some of these elements and remain part of modern civilization. That is the trap. We feel as if these distractions are essential to our survival. We may even be convinced they are the key to our prosperity.

That is the great lie.

The truth of the matter is that your time is your most valuable asset. It is the very currency of your life, and you have a limited amount to spend. Are you spending it on your own divine purpose? Because that is the key to true prosperity and happiness.

Every moment you spend on something other than your divine purpose does not aid your prosperity; it aids someone else’s. You give that lifeblood to another when you become distracted. That time on Facebook? That’s Mark Zuckerberg’s prosperity you’re enhancing. Those hours wiled away at World of Warcraft? You’ve enriched the shareholders of Activision. Binge watching 2 seasons of Daredevil? The CEO of Netflix sends his regards.

It is not your purpose to consume. It is not your purpose to spend the precious hours of your life on another’s creation.

What is your purpose? What is your ambition? And what is The Way you must follow to fulfill your calling?

The exact answer is entirely your own to discover. However, every man’s purpose shares one or more common threads. We are called to create. We are called to learn. We are called to protect.

In fact, you almost certainly have some idea what your purpose is. What you may lack is definition. Deliberate introspection will solve this, and this is an undertaking we all have to embrace. Once your purpose is defined, and you have given a name to your Way, you’ll do a better job staying on the path. You’ll know exactly when you’ve strayed, and you’ll know immediately if something is part of The Way, or if it is merely a distraction from The Way.

Miyomoto Musashi found his Way after several years of reckless behavior, missteps, and near-death experiences. The Way of the Sword gave him purpose and peace of mind. In it, he found discipline, and accountability. And he learned that The Way was not merely limited to the mastery of the martial arts. He applied the lessons he learned to all aspects of his life, and became a more complete human being because of it. From it, he was able to master writing, art, and even architecture.

Musashi vigilantly eschewed distractions that threatened to impede his mastery of The Way of the Sword. He established himself as one of the greatest swordsmen of his time, yet he never entered the service of a daimyo. He remained a ronin his entire life. And he never married. He shunned attachments and obligations that might have otherwise distracted him from his purpose.

Through The Way of the Sword, Musashi discovered not only how to destroy, but how to create. He discovered balance and harmony in nature, and thus cultivated the same in his own soul. He was never particularly wealthy. He never held a lofty title. He authored only a few brief books, and only gave those to an apprentice shortly before his death. Regardless, his impact on his own culture, and his influence around the world, persists even nearly 500 years after his death.

It is unlikely that Musashi himself would have ever claimed to have truly mastered The Way of the Sword. And that’s the point; if The Way had an end, then we might reach it at some point in our short lives.

Define your purpose. Find your Way. And then follow it, until your time runs out.

All You Have Is Your Fire

 by Noble Brown

Irish singer and songwriter Hozier, known for his soulful lyrics infused with a blues rhythm, has a number of singles more popular than “Arsonist’s Lullaby.”  But this one is my favorite of his, because it speaks to me in a way most other contemporary music does not.

No, I’m not a pyromaniac.

Alright, maybe I’m a little bit of a pyromaniac.  Aren’t we all?

But I digress.  Pyromania is not the appeal of the song.  It’s the notion of being driven by an obsession that can just as easily destroy you as make you great.  The chorus goes as follows:

All you have is your fire
And the place you need to reach
Don’t you ever tame your demons
But always keep them on a leash

We’ve all felt this at one time or another.  The fire.  The place we need to reach.  And the demons that come with them.

The problem is, most of us tame the demons.  We suppress them.  We make them totally docile, and when that happens, we lose the fire.  We’re told that our obsessions are dangerous, that our dreams are unrealistic, and our goals are unattainable.  Civilization does not tolerate demons, because demons are dangerous.

Demons will take you places mortal men were not meant to go.  They’re supernatural.  They’re powerful.  They will submit to you, if you have the will, but they will destroy you if you let them run amok.  They represent our savage nature, and they can make us strong, but they will also divide you from your peers.

Lesser men fear their demons.  Greater ones learn to leash them, command them, and subjugate them to their will.  They discipline their demons.  They drive them through the darkness, into unexplored territory where the weak fear to tread, and through this, they become immortal.  Legendary.  Victorious.

Hozier’s lyrics touch on many parts of the dangers and pitfalls of such an obsession.  In the first verse:

When I was a child, I heard voices
Some would sing and some would scream
You soon find you have few choices
I learned the voices died with me

At first glance, these sound like the tormented thoughts of a madman.  But the notion of “having few choices” is something we can all understand.  We listen to the voices.  We follow them.  Or we kill them completely.  They can only die with us.  What are the voices telling you?  What are your instincts screaming at you to pursue?  Can you make them sing instead?

The fourth verse examines a fixation that vexes all men:

When I was a man I thought it ended
When I knew love's perfect ache
But my peace has always depended
On all the ashes in my wake

This is the point where our passions collide.  At adolescence, we all feel the need to complete one of life’s most basic objectives:  To copulate; to reproduce.  And this is manifested and satisfied to varying degrees in each of us.  Some are content with the copulation.  Others are motivated further; to establish families and have children.  It is a basic and essential instinct, and it is one that can divert us from our personal ambition.

The verse continues with the harsh truth: That this does not guarantee peace.  How many of us have settled for companionship, but felt as if it required us to leave something of ourselves behind?  How many of us have sacrificed our demons to this ambition, only to feel the urge to resurrect them later?

Know your demons before you become coupled, and make sure your partner knows them as well, or you may also be leaving ashes in your wake.

You can hear the full version of “Arsonist’s Lullaby” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XoQvbDROucQ