I can tell you what living boldly is not.
Living boldly is not flinging yourself randomly at every injustice or every cause. That may be bold. But it ain’t livin’. And it’s not effective at creating freedom. (To paraphrase the great trickster Abbie Hoffman: Random action produces random results: Why waste even a rock?.)
Living boldly is not being obedient while waving your arms and ranting about how bad everything’s getting. (Not even if you rant really, really forcefully and get lots of hits on your blog and have lots of followers on Twitter.)
Living boldly is not flipping off cops just to show you’re brave and defiant.
Living boldly is also not being forever strong and fearless. You can live boldly and still have weak moments, emotional meltdowns, failures, self-doubts and plenty of 3:00 a.m. fears for the future. (Ask me how I know.) Living boldly is what you do in spite of all that.
Living boldly is creating your own life in your own way, even if you’re depressed, discouraged, defeated, and downtrodden. Even if you fear — or are downright dead-solid certain — that the whole damn world is doomed.
I’m personally of the school of thought that leans toward doom. I don’t believe we’re going to save political freedom. One — of many — problems with doom is that, barring a Santorini moment (which, heaven forbid), doom takes a long time. Modern Cassandras like to cite the fall of the Roman Empire, and I agree it’s as if the American Empire is looking into a mirror. But it was hundreds of years from the decadence of Nero and Caligula to the final fall of Rome. It was, in fact, longer from Caligula to the fall than it’s been from the Declaration of Independence to the mess we’re in today.
Even with the speed-up of the Internet and the complications of global commerce … we could be in this awful in-betweenish state for a while.
If life matters to us, it’s our job to make the most of where we are right now.
Borepatch has written eloquently about triumph in adversity and about saints and heroes — in which he quotes at length from The Gospel of St. Joel of the Desert. Who in turn cites … um, me. And so it goes in the great downward spiral of empire’s end.
We keep talking to each other to keep our courage up. Sometimes we repeat the same things. But then, those things need and bear repeating.
Borepatch is right: decadent days, the end of empires, produce heroes and saints. (Martyrs, too, but let’s not get into that.) “Neither of those is easy, and so most people check out. Better the panem et circenses than the hard, lonely slog.”
In other words, agree or not, decadent days, the end of empires, and the brutality of states grasping to keep control also produce nations of cowards. That is the nature of our times.
We simply don’t have to be in that majority.
John Kindley dropped a wonderful link into a recent comment section: “The Forest-Goer” (aka “The Forest Fleer” or “Retreat into the Forest”) by Ernst Junger.
Junger was an interesting (though some might say dubious) character. Philosopher. Novelist. Warrior. Anti-Nazi conservative. A man who lived boldly.
[E]ven in the states in which the power of the police has become overwhelming, independence is by no means extinct. The armor of the new Leviathan has its chinks which must be constantly sought out, an activity requiring both caution and audacity of a kind hitherto unknown. … This becomes evident in periods of extreme danger, when the apparatus not only forsakes the individual but even turns against him. Then each individual must decide whether he wants to surrender or to persevere by relying on his own and innermost strength. In this case he may choose the retreat into the forest (Waldgäng).
The ship is a symbol of temporal existence, the forest a symbol of supratemporal Being. In our nihilistic epoch, optical illusions multiply and motion seems to become pervasive. Actually, however, all the contemporary display of technical power is merely an ephemeral reflection of the richness of Being. In gaining access to it, and be it only for an instant, man will gain inward security: the temporal phenomena will not only lose their menace, but they will assume a positive significance. We shall call this reorientation toward Being the retreat into the forest (Waldgang), and the man who carries it out the wanderer in the forest (Waldgänger). …
Wanderers in the forest (Waldgänger) are all those who, isolated by great upheavals, are confronted with ultimate annihilation. Since this could be the fate of many, indeed, of all, another defining characteristic must be added: the wanderer in the forest (Waldgänger) is determined to offer resistance. He is willing to enter into a struggle that may appear hopeless. Hence he is distinguished by an immediate relationship to freedom which expresses itself in the fact that he is prepared to oppose the automatism and to reject its ethical conclusion of fatalism.
But we are concerned here with the threat to which the individual is exposed, and with his fear, not with politics or political ideas. Fundamentally the individual is only interested in his profession, in his family, and in the pursuit of his inclinations, but, sooner or later, the age intrudes upon him. Either conditions gradually deteriorate or he is exposed to extremes. Expropriation, compulsory labor, and worse appear on his horizon. Before long, he will realize that neutrality would be tantamount to suicide–you must either howl with the wolves or fight them. Where in his distress can he find a third so solution which leaves him some freedom from the dynamics of the events? Only in his existence as an individual, in his own Being which remains unshaken. Anyone who has escaped from catastrophes knows that, in the last analysis, he owed his rescue to simple human beings who did not submit to the power of hatred and fear or to the automatism of slogans.
The hero does battle with the forces of collapse and decadence. The saint turns his back and seeks to live by principle. But there’s not much of a line between heroes and saints at times like these. They make different choices, but from similar motives and for similar purposes.
Junger’s “forest-goer” is a little of both — a saint who retreats in order to resist. Someone who sees the necessity of retreat, but who recognizes that retreat is a form of resistance that may be the first step toward fatal confrontation. Someone who finds the security of his own heart and mind and uses that strength for whatever is to come.
Saints. Heroes. Forest-goers. Outlaws of all kinds. All live boldly.
But how can somebody who withdraws from the world be in the same category, or doing as much good, as somebody who picks up a sword or a gun or an idea or a bullhorn and fights tyranny?
Because each one first determines to be an individual. An owner of his own life. A chooser of her own choices. An actor of his own acts. A pioneer of her own path. Each chooses to be his own center of strength, truth, and security (or to choose his own center in the spiritual realm).
And every deadly danger to Leviathan begins right there. The actions (whatever they may be) that come from the decision to be a Self, stand as a Self, and live as a sovereign, thinking, self-determining being are the ones with the most power to vanquish tyranny.
Merely by making that choice, and honoring others who make it, we live boldly. We are free.
And as a bonus, we become very, very dangerous.
You nailed it, Claire!
(An occasional E. C. works, doesn’t it?)
You, Borepatch, and Joel all mentioning each other in a circular pattern…. well, ….at least you keep it pure that way.
Yep, Pat. An occasional E.C. does clear the head — especially when such wise folks reach through the fog to help.
LOL, Matt, I don’t know about pure, exactly. But we are among the few who preach this gospel & it gets lonely sometimes.
WL — Thank you! Sometimes I worry about not having something to say or not being able to say it well enough. It helps to know when I get something right.
I’m glad you see in Junger what I see (I thought you might; after all, the forest-goer is derived directly from the outlaw in its old Icelandic form), while in addition looking at the forest-goer in a way I hadn’t really thought of. I’m a fan of Junger, though I don’t quibble with those who find him “dubious.” Indeed, for me that’s part of his charm.
Junger expressly acknowledged his debt to Stirner for the anarch, while in my opinion improving on him. Junger, e.g., wrote: “The egoist has a limited notion of the self.” In looking at the question of whether Nietzsche may have been influenced by Stirner, Junger said it didn’t really matter (although if Nietzsche was influenced by Stirner, he certainly didn’t acknowledge the debt): “It would make little difference
whether, as Mackay assumes, Nietzsche, Old Gunpowderhead, was
acquainted with Stirner’s work – ideas float in the air. Originality lies in
rendering them – in the strength of the tackling and shaping.”
The sun’s going over the ridgetop as I write this and I’m about to lose power to my damaged batteries for the night, but I just want to quickly say this is getting close to something very, very powerful.
…each one first determines to be an individual. An owner of his own life. A chooser of her own choices. An actor of his own acts. A pioneer of her own path. Each chooses to be his own center of strength, truth, and security (or to choose his own center in the spiritual realm).
And every deadly danger to Leviathan begins right there.
It’s a prose poem–The Heart of an Outlaw.
Or as Captain Malcolm Reynolds would say “….the forest is the only place I can see a clear path”
That show has a quick short quote for everything.
Bravo………..Bravo……….. You encourage all of us to stand boldly.
Even though the Roman Empire spiraled down and fizzled out, the world continued on. They left behind a legacy of great public works, language and the concept of citizenship.
Now THAT’s good writing! Very well done,indeed 🙂
Well said indeed! Keep up the good work. It helps me and probably many others to stay the course.
“It was, in fact, longer from Caligula to the fall than it’s been from the Declaration of Independence to the mess we’re in today.”
Now THAT is what you call perspective. And indeed, it does make me feel much better. For all the reasons you cite, Claire, I’ve been feeling a lot lately like the last word in the last sentence of the last chapter of “What the Hell is the Use?”
With your permission I will reblog this at FlyoverPress and try to push some traffic your way. It is as old Ben Franklin once said, “We should all hang together or else we are sure to hang separately.”
“And every deadly danger to Leviathan begins right there.”
Excellent piece, Claire. Glad to see you through the other side and back at the reins.
Bravo. This was what I needed today.
“Waldgänger” I always thought I was a “tree-hugging dirt worshiper!” Like the character of Lancelot in the film Excalibur I withdraw to the forests to heal and grow. There’s something about Nature’s embrace that heals my wounds of body, mind a spirit. The best year of my life was the ten months I lived in a tent in the Kissatchie National Forest. It felt “good,” it was nurturing, it was as close to Real Life I’ve ever experienced.
Yet the State and Statists will find you in time and force you out of your Eden. Such is my experience. So many hope they will be able to Bug Out to some idyllic bit of land and spend the rest of their days in peace. This is likely to be a tragic fantasy. If the Shit Hits The Fan, just as during the world wars, few places will be safe. Think about it, there are billions more people crawling across the Earth than at anytime in history, and those who retreated to the wilds one hundred years ago or seventy-five years ago were not spared the horrors of conflict in Europe or Asia.
The Fourth Turning (http://fourthturning.com/) suggests that there are Historical patterns at work that have seldom been avoided by humanity. It would seem that the only way to survive what many believe is just over the horizon is to remove yourself from the fields of battle. North America is such a battle field. There is no security in the American Redoubt. The best way to survive is to leave. I’ll be documenting my camping road-trip from the States to South America this year in videos and essays so reg’lar Joes and Janes will be able to learn how to follow the lead of over 7,000,000 citizens who have already left the States and possibly avoided Harm’s Way.
The Boot-Strap Expat
I see why you were dismayed at the first response. It isn’t against them, whoever I may think “they” are. It’s for me.
And the Wolfe is back at the door.
Well said and written Claire.
One does not need to retreat from civilization to pursue this strategy. Ideally, we should live “in the world, but not of the world,” to borrow a religious phrase. We can live among all the corruption without partaking of it. Then by being an example of how to live as independently of that corruption as possible, we lead others by example. It is much like the life Paul Rosenberg often advocates in his writings at The Freeman’s Perspective. We simply go about our lives doing our best to ignore governmental dictates and do what is right, in spite of their efforts to stop us. We “opt out” of the system. It is not always easy to do. Principles can be inconvenient. For example, I run a medical practice, in which I simply “opted out” of Medicare. I do not take any Medicaid payments either. I do not want to take money that has been confiscated from somebody else’s paycheck. I practice medicine according to my principles, just having patients themselves pay my reasonable fees, being thorough, and doing my best for them, treating them as one should treat a customer. I go through state licensing, even though I disagree with the concept of licensing, because I must in order to be able to run my business. I fully pay my taxes, honestly declaring all I make, even though much of it is cash. After all, we cannot starve the beast for money, as they will simply print whatever shortfall they need to print. I pay as little attention to the dictates of government as possible in the ways that I can ignore them. I stand out like a sore thumb among the medical community in my city. After probably being viewed as a crackpot when I started, I have actually earned the respect of many of my colleagues. I have had other doctors spend time with me learning how they can go “out of system” as much as possible also. So we do end up leading by example, just in our daily lives. Others in my past have influenced me to take this direction, and we in turn influence yet others. The more isolated beacons of freedom we have out in the world, living in the world but not of the world, the more others may follow, creating more of a freedom culture. We cannot change the government. We can, however, create freedom in spite of oppressive government, by living like free people.
I’ve wondered, Claire, how long you will be able to continue to outdo yourself. I guess the answer is “indefinitely.” Your subjective approach seems as close to ideal as I can imagine. My apologies to JK; sometimes I don’t read lengthy comments carefully. Best of luck to you, JB, maybe you’ll even still be there when the rest are reduced to being servants of the state.
And I’m relieved to a degree, Claire, to know you aren’t overly optimistic about our future. At times some of your writing, I thought, seemed to have a little too much of Pollyanna in the perspective.
I’m not convinced it will be a slow demise. Things aren’t just happening faster with more complex technology; they’re happening exponentially faster. We have three more years of BHO to endure with his constant race and class warfare, as it stands now. Almost every day brings a new surprise. Many things are in place for a quick takeover, including SWAT teams everywhere, the vetting of military officers to promote those who would order the deaths of American citizens, massive snooping, and the purported FEMA camps. We all know it only takes a little twerp to create a big MSM story. They just got ahead of themselves a year ago with the massive push after the Sandy Hook incident (Biden was vigorously rubbing his hands together when sitting at the head of his committee and talking about gun control; I’ve tried to find it on YouTube but can’t). All they accomplished was waking up a lot of people they would have preferred to remain oblivious.
Financially, the effect of the dollar’s no longer being the world’s reserve currency will be seismic. Supermarkets only keep about a three day’s supply on their shelves. If I wanted to destroy us, I’d simply set off one or more EMPs; the cash registers would malfunction and people would start killing each other. Japan by contrast had no civil disturbance after the Fukishima meltdown. I continue to think about BSE’s approach; I may yet do something like it. It, like everything else, isn’t risk free; one American bailed when he saw WWII coming and picked Guadacanal.