Trashwalking

Acting in the community is important.
Improving the world does nothing if we cannot enjoy it, and it’s easier to become better in our world than to make the world a better place. Whenever I go out for a walk from my home, I have a simple rule: If I notice a piece of trash, I pick it up. If my walk, my break from my work, my cool down or space for thinking hard on something is disrupted, I take care of the disruption.
In all places in the public sphere it is human reflex to say “that is the responsibility of my sovereign” whether it is the modern government or the ancient kings and chieftains. It is built into mankind to look upwards for a solution to our problems, but the revelation of Western thought was that within our community it is our responsibility to portray ourselves and carry ourselves instead of looking upward for an external solution. We are the manifestation and apotheosis of our God and ways.
This came to a head with Christianity’s rise–a critical piece that makes up the walls of the West that the Hellenistic culture laid the foundations for–and the world has never been the same. Look at how Mohammadans borrowed this principle and applied it to their Eastern religion, and how their viewpoint inevitably boils down to bloodshed and slavery in the manifestation of their prophet’s way. Once present in the world, this principle of individuation became the dividing line between East and West forever, and an incredibly clear one.
The East is an old force, like fire or the Neolithic caveman inside each one of us. The West is still the new kid on the block, and there is no guarantee that it will survive another hundred years or if its light will be rejected along with all the advances it has brought. It is a living philosophy that can be embodied and strengthened in the small action of picking up a piece of trash or talking to a neighbor. When a robber breaks down your door, when a car wreck leaves a bleeding stranger lying at your feet, the authorities are a lifetime away and it is your responsibility to be as prepared as you can so you can do more than stand and panic.
Today, do something small to build up the wonderful West with its sciences, arts, and proud history that lept over all the East’s establishments: Pick up trash when you go for a walk, talk to your neighbor, replace your own light bulb instead of waiting on the landlord, step up and out of your natural state and into the light a little more.
The risk excites, but the honest cloak of authority that drapes over you refreshes and enlivens. Join with your People and do good today, for a simple act of good each day becomes a potent pile in but a little while.

Friendships and Adulthood

When I was young, friendships were focused on a shared reality that was overwhelmingly positive. Friends were those who I could do what I enjoyed with and alongside, whereas enemies interfered with or kept me from my peaceful fun–including occasionally my parents haha! The world was simpler and more fluid as people flowed back and forth across the line and in and out of my life quickly—my best friend growing up simply vanished when I changed music teachers in middle school!
As I have grown, I have come to understand the childishness of my perspectives and put them away for better ones. I have fewer friends, and they are dearer. I go to them when they are in need and they come to my aid too; the solidarity and permanence of the relationship is far different from the formlessness of before. I choose them carefully, and invest my time in strange seasons to deepen and enrich those relationships. I influence them and receive their advice and admonishments seriously, and the fun we have is less explosive and more lasting, whether trying something new or engaging in a time-honored bit of mutually-appreciated mastery.
In short, adult friendships better you instead of keeping you where you are. They are focused on the world around you, and you can know that no matter what comes someone has your back.
Growth and change come for all living things, and few dead things escape them for long. Civilization is built on this living growth, and all of the Eastern hierarchies and communisms and religions lock people into one permutation while Western culture unlocks the Civilized Animal in all of us, able to keep after our growth and maturity even after the initial spurt of rapid change. It admits the reality of packs, trust, and social pressures and tries to turn them to the general good as much as possible.
The world can always use more fighting for and towards the freedom and strength each individual craves in their truest heart yet cannot achieve without a healthy dose of maturation.Think on your friends and friendships, and see if you can’t make them even more Western with the play and passion of a Civilized Animal.

The Goal of Education

One of the overlooked luxuries of the modern times is that all first-worlders pay lip service to the value of an education: Our cities are filled with schools and colleges and specialty education, our poor are offered “free” education, many businesses prioritize training and have benefits and prioritizations for employees who further their education, and public libraries and arts buildings are common.

Sadly, lip service is not all they pay: The US public schools require an enormous amount every year, which means that the taxpayers pay it even though about ten percent of them choose to spend even more money to receive a private education. I have experienced the four primary types of education available in the current market—traditional homeschooling, public schooling, traditional private schooling, and classical private schooling. My general insight from this hybrid experience as teacher, student, and now parent is that there are very few people in education who understand the purpose of education at all, so the few who accomplish it do so either by accident or the almost-brutish intuition that comes naturally, and is often waved aside by highhanded educational jargon.

Modern education’s history is extremely well-documented, with modern public schools having been designed to produce bureaucratic drones and factory workers that would keep the great wheels of increasingly distanced and specialized economies turning. The vast majority of private schools fail to depart from this model, only being slightly more efficient in their education, or offering more interesting electives or a safer environment. Classical education is a reversion to the earlier hopes of mass-producing good citizens to participate in the modern polis. Homeschooling of various stripes is mostly about organic learning and jumping through State-mandated hoops and getting kids free from these programs so that their minds and mental energies do not have to suffer through their most expansive period fitting into one mold or another. Vocational schooling I have not experienced, but it too is an older model that was not stamped out by the inauguration of public schools; truly the trades will continue on eternally. These systems will remain almost exclusively in these metrics; their formats might vary slightly but they will have great difficulty deviating from the foundations on which they are set.

So what is the point of education? Is it to create good citizens that can sustain a stable and safe monocultural Democratic Republic? Is it to prop up the great gears of industry and trade? Is it to bypass the greedy hands of the aristocracy and prevent us from falling into slavery of mind or hand? Is it to gain the skills to build things and be productive on our own?

Education today all misses the point, though the Classical model gets closest to the mark—being based upon the giants that have dominated Western thought for millenia, as opposed to the belaborings of disturbed Industrial-Age thinkers, it is no surprise. The point of education is not the absorption of facts and figures; perhaps at one point this was vital, but all State-required math and science and history and language skills are accessible through the internet at a whim now in the Information Age. It is not as though we are teaching strong long-term memory skills anyway! Facts can be found more easily than ever, and while it is good to be able to double-check the calculator now and then the focus on the processed facts comes at the expense of two fundamental needs for a person to become educated.

First, the person must come to know their inner self, and what is common to all mankind. They must know where they have come from, the history of their people and the land in which they live, their animal passions and the wave pool of emotion, their physical limitations, and their skills. They must know who they are to take their place and to acknowledge the place that others will take around them as valid. Much of this is learned in spite of schools, which stringently separate age groups and deny putting the old and young together with a strange sort of fear that their petri dish of little drones will be corrupted with exposure to actual knowledge of their personal power.

Second, the person must come to know Disorder. This is the ultimate enemy that all good and all good work comes against. The instinctive spiritual leaning of a child toward Order and away from Disorder is obvious from a baby’s first cry at discomfort; moving this urge from a self-serving attitude outward to encompass all the universe around the person is key to preventing problems, finding solutions that actually solve the problems they will face, and make them able to work with others to mutual benefit instead of the violent side of competition that self-centeredness breeds.

Much has been said about schooling, and the bottom line is that our modern methods are such incredible failures at producing an educated student: After our highest education Socialism is thought to be noble and effective by many despite its abject and devastating real world examples, and literally sending a child out to pasture to be Unschooled deliberately is advancing them through the hoops and standardized tests faster by the end of the process, with sixteen and seventeen-year-old Unschoolers regularly meeting eager acceptance at the collegiate level well before their peers are ready and able to readjust to the complex world outside their rigidly-controlled “fact playpens.” The closest two options available now—apprenticeship or trade and vocational schools, and the Classical model—are simply reversions to the past. Surely there is a way to move forward and take advantage of the information available in a better way! Ultimately, our world is in a state of cultural and technological shock that has us all spinning; historically, a lot of blood, sweat, and tears will flow before we stabilize enough to find the right path all together.

I will put a stopper in the cornucopia of my thoughts today, and point out that there cannot be a better teacher than experiencing the real world; all educational attempts are efforts to distill out that essence and accelerate the process of learning from reality. I pulled the two fundamental needs above straight from a Chinese philosopher born centuries ago, and the “school of hard knocks” has been recognized as a true place by colleges and professional organizations alike. Education must show us the real world, and extremely quickly and accurately if it is to beat the perfect accuracy of true experience by artificially removing the learner from it. That there can be a system that fits all sizes is still up for debate at all, despite a hundred years of attempting to make it so. In this modern age, the professionals we most trust have taken for granted the value of education in marrying their efforts to outdated platforms and methods, and most of the efforts to advance this area of human experience are attempts to shore up these platforms instead of moving forward.

We have forgotten our purpose in doing the task, and simply are trying to carry on the traditions of the past, Chesterton’s famous “democracy of the dead.” Just as in all tasks, carrying on in the way we are going instead of understanding the purpose and setting our feet deliberately from the first principles will only make us lost and waste much effort and time.

Education is vital. Do not let any teacher fool you by substituting what he does for the real thing; remember what it is and what the goal of your learning is. This is something worth fighting for, whether it is one against a hundred or ten against ten thousand.

Freedom of Visualization

I am nearly done with Scarcity, a game which will be free to download when you sign up for the newsletter. There is plenty to say about it, and I am rather proud of its simplicity and ambiguity of optimization—it is so dynamic, even I cannot figure out the best way to win! Of course, it is not designed to be competitive but rather an experience which can be used to visualize different scenarios.

I began crafting it as an homage to the Great Plains of North America, where the city I grew up in was named after one of the local area tribes and a massive statue stands at the juncture of two rivers to appeal to the heavens that the old ways and the new would flow together in peace and accordance with nature. The flow of the Native American way of life, with its conformity with their resources and deliberate purposefulness and lack of waste, contains so many examples of virtue and prudent habit for the young to learn from and has the benefit of being deeply evocative to the imagination as well. Perhaps we have spaghetti Westerns to thank for that, but it remains there just the same.

In the end, though, Scarcity improved the more I backed off on the deliberate themes from Kansas and Native American culture; why? Strong theme is important for attachment, and you need something to stimulate the brain’s sense of commitment, but why did making it generic make it better both for educational purposes and as a game?

With the lack of clear background, it is easier to discuss many different cultures and historical events and peoples. When I focused my design on one, I limited the capacity for teaching the virtues I was interested in making visible in favor of the details and minutia of a single specific time frame that is easily left in the past as a mystical and long-dusty age. I deeply appreciate that age, but I chose to blur it and leave it out so that the focus can be on the universal, the True, and the useful.

Ancient peoples did not have the luxuries of our infrastructure or our advanced communication practices and the ease and luxury we have in sharing our knowledge. They had to be focused more on what was at hand, taking advantage of windfalls and practicing against privation and disaster. Their constructions frequently could not stand a decade of time much less the centuries of modern architecture, and they needed to pour their energies into rejuvenatory tasks instead of the high-minded explorations we so often find ourselves caught up in. With that came a certain razor’s edge that cut at the unlucky and the pridefully vicious alike: Things like planning ahead and developing mastery and evaluating the capacities and propensities of neighboring tribes were necessary skills for surviving to see the next sunset, some days!

We live our lives full of safety nets, but sometimes when we look too closely for role models or heroes we can miss the powerful story of what our ancestors sacrificed and worked for: to leave for us this wonderful present, this legacy, this now in which we find ourselves. Whether it is the Founding Fathers of our nation or the ancient Stone or Tool Age peoples, it is in looking to the pasts’ virtues that can most help us understand how to live today by identifying what those virtues look like so we can see them in the modern context. While there is value in looking at a specific example, the larger the True thing you are hunting, the further back you must step to see its footprint.

I look forward to hearing you comment on the game when it is released, and to see how you put it to use for fun and profitable engagement with young and old hands alike. Soon!

101 Ways to Skin a Thank-You

Two young men traveling are helped by a stranger while they pass through a small town on their way to a large city. After the help which took several hours, they walk on their way. One pauses, turns, and shouts a “thank you” back, the other one takes a few more steps, looks first at his companion and then at his helper before raising a hand in a wave back at the stranger.

Could be an Aesop’s fable: “A kind act does not always produce gratefulness”

Yet that is not what struck me from watching this scene play out. The two boys, I knew from their behavior through that space of time, were both grateful but their social responses were very different. Seeing this difference—which amounted to deliberate expression versus quiet presumption—made me consider: When we teach the young how to behave, we often fail to present the truth of personality. One of the boys was an only child, raised in a somewhat brutal strictness by aloof but intelligent parents, and his response was to take the advice and help seriously and put it immediately into practice, happily giving back what he could to the giver and saying little with his tongue or body language to express his gratefulness: actions were his focus. The other boy was energetic, raised by the rhythm of the mountain streams and the other children of the mountain town around which he rambled free by warmer, more carefree parents: words and the need to express his emotions and connect with this stranger bubbled up though he followed the former boy’s lead at first.

More to the point, their helper had a smile on his face and had begun to turn away before being called to. He knew they were grateful and appreciated them both despite their differences in expression, doubtless from having seem plenty of both styles in his life. Both expressions of the young men were valid, yet often I see manners and social graces taught as a form of magical mathematics—you are supposed to say this word to get this result, you’re supposed to do this and this every time XYZ happens, you’re supposed to do this every time someone enters the room, etc etc etc.

The reality of stylistic differences and, importantly, the value of developing and polishing a consistent style for your very own is extremely important, both to be aware of your own when you interact with others and to help you interpret others’ behaviors clearly without coloring harmless gestures or lack thereof with your own style. Enjoy the variety, and appreciate individuals you meet for their manners not your own. Focus on the substance, not the style.

In Your Presence

When I was growing up, my family always spent time together after dinner was over and dishes were done playing cards. No matter what was going on, after the meal when everyone was home we gathered together to relax and do something simple at least four times a week, and not always for very long—one of the advantages of traditional playing cards is that they come out and clean up very quickly and easily. Even if the card games were proxies for healthy interaction via heated competition, we were affirmed that we were with the others there at the table.

This month I invite you to make a little extra time to pay attention to the people you are with, at home or at work or at some hobby or at church or wherever you might be. Sometimes we are with someone and yet absent, we appear in their presence and think about being elsewhere.

Choose to be present. Choose to be with them. Choose to interact and to observe, look keenly for how they are feeling and what they are going through and what you can do to help them if anything. Engage deeper. People are the most valuable resource in your life. Even the mail carrier who you may never speak to does a lot of good for you and saves you time, even the fast food server is providing you with an opportunity just by being present.

This may expose issues you do not want to face, hard things, things there are no words. My family had plenty we never discussed, so we focused on the games. Still, at least let them rise to the surface where you can make the decision with the Civilized side of you whether to tuck them away or to bring them up, instead of letting the animal make decisions based on discomfort or pain.

This is more a matter of style than action; this invitation is more about changing your inner landscape than your outer one. Choose to see, choose to listen, choose to dig in, choose to invest. All of these things cost you and it is very easy to walk by the opportunities even in those closest to you, the familiar windows of family life with its routine interactions and relative positions; it’s easy to keep your mental wallet shut instead of even window shopping if you go by the windows every day or if you’re out and about on a mission or errand. The animal side of us glazes over routine interactions as a matter of course, and at its most bestial it completely ignores or even moves to dominate those who aren’t immediately making themselves useful to us instead of treating everyone with respect, which pays off long-term.

Our families and communities can be stronger, and there is no realistic upper limit. In an age when neighbors are often unknown and there is much to fear in powers and persons both foreign and domestic, simply being present and open to those around us is often enough to set you apart and even establish trust—that oft-elusive shield of faith that protects mind and spirit from all manner of harm and greases the wheels of societies and social life alike. Strengthen your influence and awareness of your world, be willing to put in a little more work and grow a little, be willing to change and grow a little further outward of your safe cocoon of normalcy for a few days.

Be present with those who are in your presence in the present. Present yourself as a present to your world. See what happens, what you notice, what changes in you and your relationships in the next week. Come back and let me know how it goes, I’d love to hear about your re-experience of your world.

Lifestyle Defined: Beyond Choosing

Lifestyle is simple and easily defined: The style in which a life is lived.

The dictionary definition helps us understand the heart of it by including: “…that reflects the attitudes and values of a person or group.” The way you live reflects your attitudes, or more often the attitudes of the group to which you belong.

Five years ago, my lifestyle involved playing video games or otherwise “plugging in,” working out at the gym, and chasing after female attention—everything my collegiate friends said was the high life. I was on autopilot, and I did not have a thought as to what was driving my lifestyle or whether it might be good until one day a friend mentioned I could build something, a game of my own. So began the start of a tremendous change: Becoming conscious.

The way we live is not always conscious but becoming aware is only the first step. Being conscious and aware, considering each motion and statement and plan is good—certainly better than the unthinking and self-focused navel-gazing so common to our experience. It is also exhausting, and invites self-hatred, depression, timidity, and depression when you drop things, forget appointments, and eventually fail to progress. Unless you are the exception, controlling every aspect of your life and existence is unworkable and a foolish waste of energy.

So thinking is better than not, and awareness is better than not but unworkable and overtaxing. It takes only a moment more to come to the conclusion that it’s best to wobble about, trying to be conscious of a certain amount of things, or only at certain times. The Daoists sum this up as wu wei, which I quite like: “without action” or alternately “without effort.” So you change your thinking from thinking about actions by themselves to thinking about habit formation and reinforcement: Not “Don’t eat the candy in the jar” but “Walk a different way so I don’t go by the jar” or even “Put the jar away.” Wu wei is spoken of in many ways also by Stoics like Marcus Aurelius. Our lifestyle defines us, because our conscious choices matter less than our routines and regular habits; breathing and heartbeat matter more than fish or chicken. Don’t think about actions, think about motivations and principles and suddenly the actions become automatic.

Being a Civilized Animal means being willing to break the flow of our simple animal natures—creatures are habitual whether man or beast. As Civilized souls though, we can take up our shovels and divert the watercourse of even the mightiest river with disciplined work. This means belonging in the group we want to be associated with, even if we stand alone or must make our own niche in the social world and being willing to do things a different way than our neighbors or even our families if need be. Our lifestyle is a collection of things that define us.

Make sure your hands are on the reins!