The Noble Habitus: Largesse

Largesse has a number of names associated with it, including charity, liberality, and generosity.  It was considered a noble trait, and therefore knightly, to provide sustenance to the poor and distressed within one’s means, so long as it did not inconvenience the noble.  This traced back to the Roman Empire, where wealthy members of the Patrician class would give small gifts of food or money to the people they patroned. This money would then help the plebeians they patronized buy food, access learning opportunities, and replace damaged togas.  As members of the plebeian class, through industrious work or luck, rose to become nobilite (noble plebeians), they would often also patron those less fortunate or less successful than themselves.  

Thus, it was considered important as a matter of the character of a noble, whether by birth or self-made, to voluntarily give a portion of your wealth back to the people, generally by patronizing those that had some connection to your family, or were working on a project you felt was worthy.  Such patronage was the norm from the classical era though the middle ages, as barons and other members of the noble class selected freedmen to offer assistance to, or provide for artists, philosophers, or other early intellectuals whether or not they were directly associated with the church. In this context, while tithing was still the norm, the noble might also patron a specific monastery or convent that was dedicating its research and prayer to a particular subject.

There is more to Largesse than simple charity, however.  Largesse was also a proscription against greed; while considered one of the deadly sins of the New Testament, that came later, as the groundwork for the Noble Habitus was laid long before the birth of Christ.  Greed would tempt the knight into unworthy behaviour, causing him to conduct himself for the strict pursuance of wealth alone. While this was often forgiven of someone that was not of noble status, after all, most serfs and freedmen were lucky to have enough to eat most years, a knight would theoretically be in a position to have all of his needs pre-fulfilled.  Therefore, while he may not have the wealth of the baron or duke, he was well taken care of and could pursue wealth through righteous conquest and sanctioned warfare, like any proper knight.

Of course, there was a practical side to this theory as well; a knight that was greedy could be bought off, and betray his baron or king, helping bring a rival noble or enemy nation into the lands of his Lord and assist in his overthrow.  Such a knight, promised wealth or lands, which were the same thing in those times, would be considered beneath the contempt of his own serfs, and would likely be subject to invasion and rebuke from the allies of his former Lord. Unlike a normal turnover of land, the former knight, for no matter what title he carried he would have clearly forsaken his honor, would be targeted in ernest to be punished for his betrayal.

The purpose of Largesse was not to prevent a knight from accumulating too much wealth, but rather to remind him that he is responsible to the people he is Lord over and represents in Court.  It also reminded him that when his people are healthy and happy, so are his lands, and his coffers.

The Noble Habitus: Hardihood

Hardihood is the combative core of the Noble Habitus, a tenet that serves to remind us that the Noble Habitus was indeed formed to regulate the behavior of fighting men.  In fact, if loyalty is the foundation of the law, and forbearance is the pillars that uphold it, then Hardihood is the superstructure; it bears the need for a warrior, noble or peasant, mounted or foot, to have prowess and fortitude to enter into and succeed in combat.  In fact, this was so important that the Germans have codified it in a modern form of fencing, organized into Studentenverbindung, fraternities that practice dueling with sharp weapons, leaving deliberate scars on the face; such scars being a source of pride to the fencers, despite them being a mark of a loss.  After all, a loss is a much better consequence of battle, then to have either never fought, or worse, run away at the sight of an opponent.

There are many tales of peasants being raised to knighthood due to prowess in battle, or ennobled for showing courage in the face of daunting odds.  After all, the easiest way for a peasant to increase his lot was to capture a knight; this was exceedingly dangerous. Assuming the knight himself wasn’t on a horse, as they usually were, the armour they wore was the equivalent to tank armour, especially after plate became a standard.  Even prior to that, a good Hauberk could ward off all but the most dedicated sword, and required puncturing or deliberate crushing of bones to defeat. Despite the nature of plate armour, it was surprisingly easy to move in, and knights, spending their days practicing the art of the fence (later the Art of Defense), had no trouble swinging their two to five pound swords; they were much more practiced in warfare than any conscripted serf or freedman.

If the peasant was canny enough, however, they could unsaddle the knight in a moment of luck or extreme courage, bearing him to the ground.  Later on, military hooks were developed for this exact purpose, grabbing a space between plates and levering the knight off the horse. If the peasant was fast enough, they could restrain the knight, often with the help of friends, and take away his weapons.  As long as they could remove his gauntlets before he used them to defend himself, and bind his arms, they had a perfect hostage. Returned to the lines, the peasant would remove the captive’s armour, and weapons; if the knight had a horse he might get that too, though the horse might have something different to say about it, as would the Lord.  After all, a horse is a knight’s partner, not his equipment, and a horse that won’t fight with you against all enemies is no ally. Then, having taken his spoils, the courageous serf would lead the captive knight to his lord, often with the knight’s sword in hand. Presenting the captive for a bounty, which would often be life changing; the ransom for a knight could be large indeed, and a serf could easily free his entire family and even be raised in status to that of a knight or minor noble for such an auspicious deed.  Failing that, the son of the serf, now a freedman, may be taken as squire to the Lord or one of his knights to become a knight in the future.

Should the peasant be a freedman to begin with, knighthood became far more likely, and he might ransom the captive back himself; after all, that was his right.  Thus the peasant would become wealthy virtually overnight, as a large bounty of gold, animals, and even weapons and armour could be demanded for the safe return of the captive.  Thus rewarded, and having raised his own station, the Lord would be forced to recognize, often with pride, that the freedman had shown himself to be a great warrior, and deserved to fight alongside him.  Thus, the former man-at-arms had proven himself worthy of noble status, and would receive the accolade, forever to wear the captured armour, or a commissioned set of armour bought with the proceeds of selling the captured armour back to its former owner, with the pride of nobility.

Similarly, a knight that proved himself cowardly, while he could not be stripped of his title, might find his own sons left without a teacher, and family destitute in just a couple of generations.  In the middle ages, sins of the father were indeed the responsibility of the son, and a cowardly or disgraced father would require extra hours of practice, more dangerous feats, and a more practiced sword than someone born of a more courageous bloodline.  Through hard work and courageous action could the son of a coward redeem his family name and blood, claiming his birthright and overcoming the stain on the family honor.

The need for hardihood hasn’t changed much over the course of centuries, although the method in which it’s displayed has changed from the mainstream.  Now hardihood based on skill with a sword shows itself in the arena, in the form of Buhurt, HEMA, the SCA.  Places with varying levels of safety requirements that prevent death from being likely, but pain inevitable.  Large and small melees devolve into chaos as people step on each other and push against each other in simulated combat.

Even more so, on the actual battlefield.  Humans are relatively young, only about 3.4 million years walking the earth as the earliest species of genus Homo, and a mere 1.9 as Homo erectus, the first recognizable humans.  In that almost two million year period, warfare has been our constant companion.  Even today, we prosecute wars against each other using modern weapons, able to kill hundreds at a time.  On today’s battlefield, you can hear death flying by your head instead of charging at you, and you may be required to fight through grievous wounds, the poisonous lead still in your body as you rush to drag a brother or sister off the field.  The abilities of the modern warrior caste, often ignored by society as a whole, but still very present in the form of multi-generational military families, is indeed a modern display of that previous era’s knightly upbringing.

Learning the skills to fight and handling the pain that is inevitable has been such an omnipresent part of human society that many rites of passage center around overcoming obstacles, fighting against a difficult foe, or handling a certain level of pain.  These rites of passage, some traumatic in nature, forge the young man or woman into an adult. Such rites of passage could involve a hunt, a fight in an arena, or the requirement to survive in the wild for a set length of time. Though most of these rites tended to be held for men historically, especially in light of the biological rite of passage for women which is no less arduous and likely far more painful than what most men would ever have to put up with, there have been tribes and societies where women have been made to pass as well.  The easiest example of this is ancient Sparta, whose women were not only permitted but expected to be able to hold their own in a fight.

Away from the arena of combat, or the more archaic and feral rites of passage, hardihood stands for the endurance to handle adversity in both life and the workplace.  Although life is not nearly as dangerous by nature as it has been in centuries past, there is no shortage of trials for a person to overcome. As we’ve become more advanced, battles have moved away from the field and into our minds; we grapple every day with trying to reconcile our more feral instincts to survive and make ourselves worthy to reproduce, with the modern need to acquire wealth and status.  Realistically, there is no difference between the two; wealth and status were usually granted to those that could show their hardihood in everyday life. With the rising prevalence of mental illness, especially depression, the battles we fight are now against our own brains, which we all too often lose. The increase in suicide in the two most recent generations are testament to that.

It could be that with the rise of technology and the reduction in the use of such trials that we used to not only test our worth to our family, but to ourselves, we have caused and perpetuated the rise of that same depression.  Adulthood, once recognized at 13, is now reserved for 18 for most rights and responsibilities, and 21 for others. While from a developmental standpoint, it’s not surprising that we would raise such ages; after all, a 13 year old is hardly mature enough to handle choosing appropriate foods to eat, let alone raise a child.  However, over-protecting our children has driven the last two generations self-esteem significantly lower, as they have not tested their own skills against the world appropriately. While there are some organizations that help to compensate for this, such as BSA, Girl Scouts, and Demolay, not all children are enrolled in such organizations, and the uniformity of such programs is hardly consistent.

It might be beneficial to us as a species, if we help our children build their self-worth by creating new rites of passage to test their hardihood, more appropriate to our level of technology and understanding of how our minds work.  We could develop methods to allow our children to test themselves against the world, and prove to themselves what they are made of. It could take the form of a sports competition or race; a hunt unaided; the need to find one’s way home in an area the developing child may not be familiar with.  By being able to find out what they are made of, maybe our children will have more confidence in themselves, and not suffer from depression nearly as much.

Noble Habitus: Forebearance

Where loyalty is the foundation upon which the Noble Habitus is built, forbearance is the set of pillars upon which the rest of the code stands.  Out of all the knightly virtues that make up the Noble Habitus, Forbearance is the virtue that upholds the others, keeping the passions of a person in check, and ensuring that those passions do not lead to intemperance.  This virtue is so important, that it is the first lesson taught to Masonic Apprentices. Full disclosure: I am a Freemason. Forbearance has many names, and the one in most use has changed as the English language has evolved; by other names it can be called moderation, or temperance.  Perhaps the best word to describe forbearance, however, is measure.  Forbearance is a measure with which we can check our actions, keeping ourselves from becoming absorbed by vice or obsession.

Obsession, and by extension addiction, is one of the oldest enemies of humans; it is by far the most easily displayed notion of why we are often our own worst enemies.  Drug addiction, alcoholism, gambling, nicotine, and even internet and social media use, can become so completely absorbing to a person that they will focus on this desire or perceived need to the detriment of all other aspects of their lives; little wonder, considering how hard life can be and the traumas we must process on an almost daily basis.  When life is hard, which is all the time, it’s easy to want to find a form of escape, to overcome the sadness that defines our lives and give us the same rush that serotonin and endorphins would give us if our lives were going better. Therefore the objects of both obsession and addiction are poorly conceived escape mechanisms, giving us the feelings that we lack in the short term, while perpetuating and even geometrically increasing our problems.

The consequences of addiction and obsession are usually easy to measure.  You spend all of your money on the object of obsession; this can lead to financial troubles, depending on how sharp the addiction is and how obsessed you are with the object of fixation.  If you’re addicted to alcohol, you spend all of your earnings on booze, drinking your paycheck and even putting some on credit to feed your habit. Cigarettes and other tobacco products, you may put barely enough fuel in your tank to buy your two packs a day.  Your children, exposed to second-hand smoke on the one hand, aren’t even allowed the occasional candy bar because your cigarettes are more important. You go home with hundreds of dollars in scratch-off tickets, or sit at the local bingo hall with pull-tabs, looking for the rush of the occasional win.  Taken to the extreme, your relationships suffer, your wallet can’t sustain itself, and you eventually find yourself alone, and totally destitute.

Knowing what your limit is, and restricting yourself from overindulgence is the essence of forbearance.  It is limiting what you spend on your vices and the amount in which you indulge in it. A good example is gambling, which might be the most insidious and pervasive addiction in the United States.  Unlike other forms of intemperance, gambling is a much more silent addiction; there is no obvious method to detect a gambling addiction unless the gambler is at the machine or playing scratch-offs.

Addiction isn’t the only form of passion one has to be aware of, either.  Forbearance also means keeping one’s temper in check, ensuring anger and resentment don’t overpower all other emotions in your mind.  Our brains, which we don’t even have an inkling of understanding about, are able to retain a memory if it’s attached to an emotion; and in a lot of ways this is important.  After all, the emotion of fear attached to the motion of predators has become so ingrained in our psyche that we can genetically pass it to our children. A child doesn’t need to be taught to fear snakes.  On the same token, we attach an emotion of anger or dismay to the memory of an event, such as when a friend or family member betrays us, and that emotion will burn that memory onto our minds forever. If we obsess about it, that initial dismay or anger will eventually turn to resentment.

Now it could be asked what resentment has to do with forbearance, and the answer won’t be obvious; after all, it has nothing to do with vice, or desire, or other things that cause an endorphin rush to the brain, which is largely what causes us to be passionate about something to begin with.  What Masons understand about this virtue, perhaps even better than the knights we were once contemporaries with, is that forbearance is all about subduing one’s passions.  Whether we like it or not, resentment is a form of passion, because we as a species are largely addicted to struggle.  Therefore part of overcoming our passions is overcoming our resentment of the past.  This isn’t a simple matter, as those things that happened in our past, and the emotions we attach to them, make up a large part of who we are.

So the conundrum turns up about how to handle the issue.  You can release your resentments without forgetting the lessons attached to the negative experience, but you might not even be aware of what those resentments are.  If you don’t know what your resentments are, you have no way to unpack them, so the first thing you can do to become better at forbearance is to unpack your past and figure out what bothers you.  To do that, you write.  It doesn’t matter what you write, as long as you have an event or sequence of events in your mind when you do it.  Take up journaling, write about one or two topics a week. Relive in your mind what happened and what about it still upsets you, because if you don’t you will be prone to outbursts and anxiety.

With anxiety, often comes irrational amounts of anger and rage.  This is when forbearance and the effect of resentment upon it becomes clear.  When you give into anger, and rage takes over, wraith in its most ancient and well known form comes forward and can ruin your whole life.  It can cause you to snap at the wrong person, or negatively affect a marriage or child. A carefully cultivated sense of temperance is vital to a successful and fulfilled life.

Noble Habitus: Loyalty

In the middle ages, especially prior to the 12th Century, where the Noble Habitus was in fact the prototype for the Code of Chivalry, and it wasn’t written down, loyalty was perhaps considered one of the most important aspects a knight could express, especially considering the bloody nature of the middle ages themselves.  It’s important to note that loyalty wasn’t only associated with your personal dedication to an individual or a cause, but also with your prowess in battle, as that was the physical expression; if you have prowess, then you have been loyal enough to practice every day, or at least enough to be better than the opponents of your cause, most usually your King or Lord.  In many cases, that loyalty could transcend your sense of self-preservation, or even your sense of moral righteousness, as there were plenty of knights and soldiers that would follow a tyrannical king or queen out of a sense of loyalty.

In the modern age, loyalty has been refined somewhat, although if you ask twenty individuals what the definition of loyalty is, you are sure to receive twenty answers, although the closer those individuals are, the more likely they are to be similar to each other.  By contrast, if you ask the same twenty people as a group, they are likely to talk about it more as a topic of discussion, tailoring their own definitions until there is a group consensus. Such groupthink isn’t uncommon in humans, and may in fact be why we can interact with each other without beating each other senseless on a regular basis.  Despite that, there needs to be some evolution to the term of loyalty from the 12th century, if only because the level of socio-culture and technology has greatly evolved in the last nine centuries.

If I had to distill the term to its core, it would come out as wanting the best for someone despite negative factors.  Notice how I did not say agreeing with a person, or assisting a person despite a pathological problem with their intent, or an intent to commit a crime; nor does it mean wanting them to be happy to the detriment of yourself or others.  It means wanting that person to be as successful as possible, or as healthy as possible, with as minimal negative impact to others as possible. It also means being willing to tell someone they’re wrong, even when it could temporarily or permanently damage your relationship to them.  A prime example is when a child, seeing the ailing health of a parent, repeats an often repeated request for the parent to stop smoking, especially in light of a cancer diagnosis; or stop drinking due to liver problems. Often times, especially in the latter case, the parent will become angry or upset, sometimes even cutting the child out of their lives except perhaps at socially required gatherings such as the holidays.  Even though the parent and child don’t speak, it’s due to the loyalty the child has to the parent, and wanting the best for them, even as they self-destruct.

It also means the same thing in your interactions with your friends.  Friends often are loyal to each other, sometimes to a fault, but unlike family, friends are often able to tell each other when they’re wrong, or being outright stupid, even if the person receiving the information doesn’t want to hear it.  It’s interesting that members of a “chosen family” would meet with less turmoil when presented with bad news about themselves than that of a “blood family”, but perhaps it can be boiled down to a much older set of social factors surrounding friendship than family itself.  Friendships are often formed on the basis of shared values, and not on the basis of blood ties or mandatory interaction. Since you’re able to select your friends, although some people are far more selective than others, you are able to determine your ability to be loyal to that person prior to becoming friends, making the bonds of loyalty far tighter.  This is also why people that are friends with those that are naturally introverted can put up with the introvert’s naturally anti-social behaviour, which often includes long periods of needing to be left alone, and slow responses to messages or phone calls. It’s the shared set of values, and perhaps a mutual understanding of each others’ negative or even toxic personality traits, and a desire for the best for that person, or at least positive development, that defines modern loyalty as a trait.

As humanity evolves both socially and biologically, it will be interesting to see how the term loyalty evolves with it; in today’s socio-political structure, the word can have many meanings and although we as a species are constantly evolving, it does not mean that our language evolves at the same rate.  As the method in which humans interact with each other change to heavier reliance on technology and less so on interpersonal interaction, the depth of loyalty could easily change over the course of the next two to three generations. This is compounded by curated interaction in the form of social media, often ten second tidbits of information about a person’s life, often times a person we’ve never met.  Over the course of the last two generations, namely the often reviled Millennials, and our children in Generation Z, the volume of technology has allowed the members of these cohorts to become more loyal to people they’ve never actually met, than some of the people they interact with daily.

This presents a serious social problem, as the interactions they give on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter only have the most superficial notion of interaction; comments are often ignored by the person being tagged, especially if that person has some modicum of fame.  This, of course, isn’t universal; some influencers, as they’re often called, take the time to read each comment and if one is warranted, respond. Such responses, even if it’s one response in one hundred messages or comments sent, can cause an endorphin rush to the commenter, and increase their belief in the relationship formed, even if that relationship is imaginary.

That isn’t to say that all digitally-sourced relationships are imaginary or superficial; the development of platforms that require deep, social interaction and reliance, often in the form of video games where groups must be formed to complete a task, can instill a sense of both loyalty and family in those who play them.  World of Warcraft is perhaps the most well known platform, as Guilds can often become tighter peer groups than coworkers or even family relationships.  This comes from first-hand experience, although our guild was and is quite small. It also means that such groups can become quite insular, depending on the people in question and how narrow the values they share can be.

Loyalty, being the first trait on the Noble Habitus, which would later become the Code of Chivalry, forms the foundation for the remainder of the traits; as it evolves, the likelihood is that the other five traits will be required to evolve with it.  As that happens, the code itself will gain more meaning to those who follow it, as we refine and sharpen our ability to follow this ancient and noble foundation of interaction, and move forward into an ever evolving future.

Setting a Deadline for your Dreams

Perhaps one of the most important things we can do is to set goals for ourselves. By setting goals, we give ourselves a purpose, have a clear desire and destination, and most importantly, an impetus to work on achieving it. As a gamer, I believe it’s worthwhile to gamify our goals, coming up with rewards for each achievement. Napoleon Hill once said, “a goal is a dream with a deadline”; what dreams could you fulfill if you set them as goals?

We know what we want in life, but most of us don’t come anywhere close to getting what we want. You get lost in the grind, let the monotony of everyday life take over and often feel as if you don’t have the means to achieve. See, the brain is the most powerful and complex computer in the world, and part of the problem is we seem to be hardwired to procrastinate; but it’s not the case. Procrastination is a symptom of bad programming, and can be patched out through a lengthy, but worthwhile process of retraining yourself. It’s said that 21 days makes a habit; continuing with our computer science analogy, that means the installation process for a patch to remove a bug is 21 days. That’s a long time for a people that has culturally become accustomed to instant gratification and immediate results; another bug in the system that is only becoming more and more common.

There are pitfalls to be wary of as well. We all carry a powerful computer with access to the sum of all human knowledge in our pockets; and most people use that power to browse social media and post cat pictures. Others spend their time glued to that same social media to spam political memes of varying veracity or reliability, more interested in verifying their own viewpoints. Worse yet are the deliberate trolls, taking part in the aptly named shitposting. The time we waste glued to these social media platforms, especially if they’re not part of our job, could be better used achieving our goals. It’s not hard to get glued to those platforms; they are specifically designed to capture attention and hold it. There’s a whole industry of social media marketing designed around maximizing the attention of someone that spends their life on Facebook or Twitter. I would not be surprised if the next edition of the DSM has pathological social media use as a codified psychological problem that requires treatment. They operate on the same wavelength as soap operas and reality television, catering to that part of our reward center that enjoys the small, snack-able bites of curated life. The result, of course, is that we as people procrastinate more, achieve less, and then blame the system for our own failings. Don’t get me wrong; I’m as guilty of it as anyone, and I try every day to reduce my consumption of such media. The irony is I rely on such media to raise awareness of my very existence as a content creator. I’d be curious as to what you, as my consumers, think of that.

Tangent aside, how do we develop a system to correct the bug, and patch in better behaviors? The first step is awareness, without letting that awareness frustrate you into inaction. Next, you set the goal. Write it down, on paper, and put it somewhere you are going to see it frequently. If it’s a big goal, such as losing a large amount of weight, getting a blackbelt from scratch, or starting a YouTube channel, break that goal down into smaller goals that are more “achievable”, meaning you can accomplish them in a short time, perhaps a few weeks. Perhaps the larger, longer-term goals should be reframed as achievements, whilst the shorter sub-goals are quests. Reward yourself everytime you accomplish a quest, and have a bigger reward planned for the achievement. Then go forth and do the quests!

If you are having trouble with setting goals, there are dozens of self-help and goal-setting books out there, but one of my favorites are 12 Rules for Life by Jordan B Peterson. Although it’s not explicitly a book on setting goals, after reading it, that was the first thing I did. Give it a try.

Becoming a Phoenix

Jacques Derrida, one of the key figures in Post-Modernism from France has many viewpoints that I’m critical of (post-modernist theory being one of them), but he had one phrase that, while I have no access to the context of, when taken on it’s own inspires some thought. While Derrida himself may be at least partially responsible for many of the problems we face in how people interact today, especially considering the rise of identity politics on both wings of the political spectrum and the chaos that we are experiencing because of it, the quote I found from him is something we can all learn from.

In his words, “whoever said that one is born just once?” Looking at what the question could mean from different perspectives, it’s important to unpack the phrase and really look at what it could mean for us in our ever-evolving lives. Throughout our lives, we encounter turning points, where we face a choice, and the choices we make can drastically change the circumstances of our lives. Maybe a tragedy happened and you were forced to relocate, or your company shuts down the plant you’re working in. Perhaps there’s an opportunity for real growth in another town, so you uproot yourself to take it. Maybe the very architecture you had built your life around turned out to be a lie, or wasn’t as stable as you thought it was, as is often the case when divorce or break up happens.

Often in these cases, you find that you’re having to start over, and rebuild a life, or a career you had once been very successful and comfortable in. The whole notion can be incredibly daunting, because you look back at what you had built, now rubble, wondering what it was all for. Why put so much effort into building something, if it can so easily and suddenly be demolished?

No matter what, every time you build something, you learn from the experience; that experiential learning cannot be taken away from you. That means that the next time you build things, it’ll be faster, and stronger than the previous attempt. When that one fails, and it likely will because life by its nature is iterative, you have an even stronger foundation to build on, and you’ll find that each time the building comes down, more of it is left to build upon. Rarely do we lose everything unless it’s either deliberate, by ourselves or an outside force, or because what we were doing was outside the bounds of the law; if the latter is the case, you need to seriously reevaluate why you chose to build on that foundation.

You can always take the skills you learned from the last attempt you made, and apply them to the next opportunity. Sometimes the next opportunity doesn’t happen immediately; it can be months, or even years before the opportunity to try again comes up, but these waiting periods can be spent sharpening other skills that are needed to make your next attempt that much better.

Life itself is very mechanical in nature; it works on a single class of fuel and it spools up and down based on what octane you put into it. You can be reborn, dozens of times, because in the end life is nothing but a series of feedback loops. As good things start to happen, they will happen more often geometrically so long as you don’t do anything to stop the momentum and keep applying the fuel. Similarly, if bad things start to happen and you apply the fuel to it, things will get progressively worse.

So that raises the question, what is the fuel and why would anyone want to apply it to make things worse? Simply put, the fuel is the mental and physical effort we put into what is happening. Even if you don’t consciously realize it, as things begin to spiral up or down, your brain helps it along by changing your attitude, and your thought process toward what is occurring. This can dynamically change how you handle the situation you’re in. So if you find things spiraling out of control in a downward direction, take the time to ask yourself why it’s happening. What you could do to fix it, or what steps are necessary to fix it. Is it something that can be fixed, or is there an exit strategy to get off a sinking ship? Often it takes help, and this can be especially hard for those of us that hate asking for it.

No matter what happens, you have to remember that you can always recover from a setback. You can defeat addiction, you can rebuild a career, you can build a new relationship. Just never give up on it–you can be reborn.

The Way: Find It or Make It

Sir Philip Sidney, one time Member of Parliament during the reign of HM Elizabeth I, once said “either I will find a way, or I will make one.” Despite his lengthy career of political missteps (including his poorly received letter to the Queen about her marriage), he coined this phrase of determination to achieve what he set out to. Had he not died of injuries sustained during the Battle of Zutphen (or to be more accurate, the gangrene he contracted due to such injuries), he likely would have gone on to do great things.

We all have the capability to do more than we believe we can. It’s true, some of us face natural limitations; you are limited by your IQ, which is demonstrably indicative of your potential for success, and in some ways, you are limited by your geography and resources. That said, if you are willing to put in the time, effort, and work necessary, you can achieve almost anything.

Warning: some of what I’m about to say is going to sound political, and if you read closely, it’s largely politically neutral.

There seems to be a culture, especially in my generation (I’m a 1980’s Millennial) due to the situation we graduated into, to take a victim mentality. To be fair, it largely isn’t our fault as a generation: we either graduated high school or college into the deepest recession since the Great Depression, then were largely blamed for a number of social problems before we even got our feet underneath us. Participation trophies, a softer manner that was still being developed to handle children as not to traumatize them through childhood (Gen Z, you are reaping the benefits of us being lab rats), and being constantly condescended to all have coalesced into this situation.

It’s easy for us to accept the situation we’re in as being institutionally problematic, or something out of our control. Some things are; many are not. If you want to get a better job, there are ways to get one. It’s going to take risk, accepting challenge, and maybe you need to take a different job to get there. You might have to relocate several times. You’ll face setbacks, pain, injury, but you keep going. Get up again tomorrow and face the challenge.

Jeffrey Gitomer, possibly the best motivational salesman I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading, once said “Success doesn’t come in a day; it comes day by day.” That means you set a goal for yourself, each day, make it achievable, but have it move you in the direction of your final goal; whether it’s getting a different job, or a better one, or making fine artwork, or starting a YouTube Channel.

Christopher Odd, the first YouTuber I subscribed to and one of the two biggest inspirations to me starting my own channel, started in 2012. In 2018, he quit his job and started creating content full time. He worked six years to accomplish his goal; developed his skills by making mistakes. Then he learned from them and adjusted what he was doing to make his next attempt better. Watch some of his older videos, then watch his newer ones. They’re all good (Odd has talent as well as skill), but you’ll notice a significant difference not only in style, but in confidence as well. In fact, you can find that first video here:

So no matter what, continue striving for whatever goal you set for yourself. You may fail. You may land on your face. What matters is you continue to blaze that trail because if you fail enough, and are willing to adjust your method and try new ways to get there, you will eventually succeed.

Testing Limits

Brainy Quote is like crack for people that like to think. As part of my 9-5, I have to spend several hours every week finding inspiring quotes from all manner of individuals, including Presidents, Royals, Business-people, Psychologists, and Philosophers. I’ve run across hundreds of quotes that I like and want to do more thinking on, but rarely have the chance to unpack those quotes and really explore them.

One of the ones I found was by M. Scott Peck, a Psychiatrist from New York, and it reads “one extends one’s limits only by exceeding them.”

When I first found this quote, I took pause, as I often do when I happen upon a profound statement on the interwebs. I find it profound, because it illustrates that the only boundaries we really have, are those we set for ourselves, or those set by society. Of course, many of these boundaries are extremely important; after all, the boundary we set against walking outside naked likely originated from ancient proto-civilizations not wanting to die of exposure. True, in some places like South America where uncontacted tribes live they are often found in minimal clothing, and it works there because the temperature range is never, or at the very most rarely, outside a livable range for human beings. On the other hand, the likelihood you would have found a member of the Inuit running around without serious protection from the elements is close to zero.

Others on the other hand, are less important and are either placed upon us by what our parents feel is morally correct, or what the general society around us feels is morally correct. It’s also not entirely probable that many of these boundaries are nothing more than arbitrary, set by some unspoken agreement because someone was made uncomfortable by it. For example, most salespeople will not call friends or family to make a sale, unless the friend or family member solicits the call. This is understandable to a degree; not wanting to mix business and pleasure, another “best practice” by most standards I’ve seen, prevents misunderstanding and helps you keep friends. No one likes being sold something every time they see their sibling or their best friend.

On the other hand, it also keeps the salesperson from practicing in a “safe” manner. True, the salesperson could ask to practice on their friend, but since most people aren’t willing to dish out tough love or tell a friend or family member that their script is garbage, it doesn’t amount to helping a whole lot. Instead, if a friend is in sales and asks to practice, especially if you yourself are in sales, you should offer the opportunity and provide constructive feedback, even if that feedback hurts a little. Some pain can be cathartic when combined with an honest and well-meaning critic.

It goes beyond generally accepted social limits as well; after all, we all have limits to what we like to do. Everyone has a comfort zone that they live in, and we are hard-wired to try and stay in that comfort zone even if that comfort zone is detrimental to our goals. I’m certainly not immune to this, and I’ll admit that I struggle every day to push myself out of that comfort zone. Dan Lok, Serial Entrepreneur and King of High Ticket Sales(TM) likes to say that “you have to get comfortable, being uncomfortable.” This means that to progress, to learn, to take that next step on our mission to succeed in whatever we decide we want to succeed in, we have to be willing to leave our comfort zone and take a measure of risk.

This past Saturday, I left my comfort zone and assisted at the Lodge to run the Square and Compass Club’s Bingo night. As Free and Accepted Masons, we use the profits from such operations to fund both the necessary expenses of the lodge, like keeping the lights on, and any excess from that program gets donated to various local charities at the end of the year. As an introvert, I often find such situations incredibly uncomfortable, just as I did when I put the blindfold on to become initiated (don’t worry, the blindfold isn’t a Masonic secret; you can find pictures of it on Wikipedia). Surrounded by people I don’t know, learning terminology I wasn’t familiar with, and a register that was set up in a unique manner, it was a struggle to focus from time to time. Focus can often become difficult, when you want to retreat into your shell.

So I steeled myself, aided by the cold and the fact that I was foolish enough not to bring a sweater (family was kind enough to delver those later in the evening), to learn what needed to be learned and accept any mistakes I made. Which were several. I accidentally tore Bingo Card books at the wrong place, sometimes ripping up pre-stacked “sets” of cards, punching the wrong number on their admission tickets, sometimes forgetting to charge for something. Thankfully, both the Worshipful Master and the patrons were very patient with me as I stumbled through this wholly unfamiliar territory. In most cases, when you do something for the first time, if you’re candid about the fact that you’ve never done it before, the people involved will have more patience.

Thus I successfully made it through the night, even though the entire time I felt as if I was out of my element. Although handling money and offering customer service is far from new to me, this particular type of customer service is by far much different than any I’d experienced giving in the past. Having never worked at a casino, and as there are members of my family that have gambling addictions, I don’t gamble save an occasional lottery ticket, it felt as though I was walking through a mine field. The important thing is that I succeeded in lasting the night without panicking, leaving early, or leaving work unfinished. In April when my turn to assist Square and Compass yet again comes up, I’ll be better prepared to help.

The most important thing to remember while doing anything is outright success is unimportant. You aren’t required to succeed the first time you try something you aren’t comfortable with. You are required to give it your best attempt, and if you fail, and you likely are because you’re not skilled in it yet, you try again. You continue to make yourself uncomfortable until you can successfully do the thing you set out to do. Then you continue to practice until you are comfortable doing it. That is when you’ve truly succeeded.

Now this doesn’t mean you ignore important warning signs and fears, considering fear is what keeps us from doing something that is phenomenally stupid; but not all fear is created equal. You can’t learn to skydive without jumping out of a plane. You can’t learn to rappel without hooking onto the rope and jumping off that cliff. You won’t sell without making a call. You won’t become known to a person unless you introduce yourself. These are all pushing boundaries of comfort, exceeding your limits to push them back. It is the foundation of courage, and without courage to push limits, you will do nothing but stagnate. Stagnation, is just another word for death.

The next time you’re faced with the choice of staying in your comfort zone, or doing something that will expand your abilities, help others (or an organization you’re with), or teach you something, consider taking the step and seeing where it leads you. Sometimes you’ll land on your face, and that’s okay. Sometimes, however, you’ll expand your horizons.

Entertainment Choices

Something occurred to me today: I have found that when parents do not enjoy the same entertainment choices as their children or grandchildren, the default is, when claiming hold of the television, to insult the child’s choice of entertainment. What I can’t figure out is why. Is there a reason that we need to insult our children, just because we don’t appreciate something that they do? If we aren’t even the target audience, then there’s a high likelihood we wouldn’t appreciate what they’re watching.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t bad shows, or bad games, or bad entertainment choices; like it or hate it, when a study showed that Spongebob Squarepants shortened children’s attention spans, it warrants concern. While Spongebob may (or may not be) targeted at children, even as someone that doesn’t enjoy the show, it has a certain ability to grab attention and retain it, even against our will. Either way, it doesn’t mean that the show itself doesn’t have entertainment value; it means that some comedic devices used in it may be low-brow or its storytelling method is formatted for short intervals. Soap Operas are actually formatted in a similar manner, often having three to five minute scenes.

I think the point I’m trying to get at is that we don’t need to break our children down just because we don’t appreciate what they enjoy. I don’t particularly enjoy many of the games my son asks to play; I play them because he enjoys them and they give us time together. Even the games he tries to create on the fly and aren’t well thought out (he’s 11); I reward his attempt at creativity and at times try to help channel it by helping him establish rules. I can also tell him that I’m not interested in playing a particular game, or watching a particular show. As a parent and an adult, I have prerogative over what is on the television.

So if you find yourself insulting your child’s entertainment choices, ask yourself: why is it necessary? Is the choice bad for their health and welfare (an age inappropriate show), or is it just something you don’t appreciate?

When Life Overwhelms You

So this past weekend I was contemplating, amongst the immense amount of company we had at the house, how to best organize the site and what I was planning to do with it. Between the channel, and the site, I have given myself quite the additional load to keep up with. Not a complaint mind you; I have enjoyed this adventure so far, and believe that I will continue to in the future. There is the issue of trying to keep everything organized, however, and that is something I still could use some work on.

So a few things to expect in the coming months on the site, as I increase my digital footprint and expand my “fief” in an effort to provide you, my readers and viewers, the best content I can:

First, I plan to organize pages in the site so that you can find my short stories, books, and other literary contributions easily; I will evolve the various menus as I go so that it works efficiently for the site and for both you and I. I plan to move my Entropia short stories out of the blog and into their own part of the website, so that they don’t mix in and you can easily find them if you decide to read them again. I’m hoping to have that done this week.

Second, I intend to start embedding my various YouTube series into pages here on the site as well; to start, I’ll be embedding each new Entropia Universe video as I post them, and adding an older EU video to the archive as I go. It may not seem like I’ve done a lot so far, and to be fair I haven’t when compared to more prolific YouTubers and Twitch Streamers, but everyone starts somewhere, and it still 74 videos as of today, just for Entropia Universe. That counts a few I have published to YouTube but still waiting for release.

Third, I have begun work on what I’m going to view as a production draft of my second book, Hunting the Jackal, which I also co-wrote with Rachel Morningvale. It was the only other completed manuscripts we wrote together, and it needs to be polished and finished. After that, if I decide to continue writing in the Dead World universe, they will strictly be my works.

Finally, a pledge: to always do my very best to provide the best content possible.