reflections of a pragmatic optimist, lover of freedom

Category: Process (Page 1 of 5)

What’s Next?

It’s been on my mind to do some more writing and podcasting — a thought that has me pondering both the content I want to get down in words, and the potential purpose of completing and publishing that work. I’ve gained a lot of valuable and life-improving perspective in recent years, that I think could be of help to others who may be journeying down similar paths. It interests me to distill my observations — partly for my own use in developing my thinking further, but I also wonder to what extent it may be a worthwhile endeavor to publish the results, either here or elsewhere.

With time being in short supply relative to my many projects, I'm driven to weigh the value of this endeavor as realistically as I can. To what extent will it matter? I think of all the superb writing that's already out there on the subjects that preoccupy me, by writers whose wonderfully articulate insight both inspires and humbles me (see my links page for some of my favorites), and I have to wonder whether the most useful thing I can do is direct people to their work. Twitter is an apt and effective tool for that, and a substantial part of my use of it (as well as this blog) has been for that purpose. Where others have said with great clarity of thought what I have lacked the talent and time to articulate, it makes every bit of sense to direct people to their articles, podcast episodes, and videos with due enthusiasm.

Time is in understandably short supply for potential readers, too. In a world where Twitter's brevity connects people with ideas, and with one another, with undeniable effectiveness, I make the time to read my own favorite writers far less often than I'd like to. What are the chances that others will find the time to read my own humble work, or can be reasonably expected to? At the point of that thought, I fall back on the knowledge that putting my thoughts together in writing is of great benefit to me, independent of how many or few others may read or benefit from the results. But if I'm going to take the time to craft work that I'm happy enough with to publish, and because I harbor hope of helping others and building friendships with people on similar journeys, I feel driven to figure out what I can do that would be most effective and worthwhile.

They say to write about what you know, and maybe therein lies the answer. More specifically, I think I need to figure out what I can contribute that's relatively unique — what's a novel result of my own perspective that might not be found elsewhere. My thinking about the frontier cycle and the development of new frontiers seems likely to be part of that, and I may redouble my focus on that pursuit both here and on the No Fear Pioneer podcast. I'll be interested to see where that goes, and I hope others will find some value in the results of these pursuits too.

As always, I'm figuring it out as I go…

Finding My Bearings

I’ve been nose-to-the-grindstone focused on the all-important day job for a while now. (What’s new?)

Setting aside projects like this one to facilitate evening overtime on that is easy enough to do in the short term … until the weight of thinking about all the other important stuff I’m not doing becomes too great to bear.

Writing here has been a tremendously helpful and valuable outlet for me, and in times of stress I too easily forget that. Articulating and posting these thoughts decreases my stress levels greatly, and seems to do an even better job of that when I can keep at it regularly. The gloom is hardest to endure when you’re doing nothing about it. Stress is the mind’s little way of saying: Get up, man! We’ve got work to do!

Occasionally in writing here, I even manage to come up with stuff that, when I read it later in moments of despair or uncertainty, lifts my spirits. The posts I’ve written so far in my “The Way Out” series have been a prime example of that. I’ve come back to them several times lately (especially the inaugural post), finding some needed comfort in the thoughts and perspective I’d put to the page, while at the same time contemplating what’s next in this line of exploration.

Feeling better is all well and good, but of course the main goal is to figure things out. I’ve had hope that my thinking on this might be of help to others who find themselves facing the same cultural dilemma, and that in the course of working through the details verbally I might find some new answers. Take a look while you’re here, and see if where I’m going with this doesn’t have some relevance for you. There are key practical mechanics to work out, and I welcome ideas as to how to tackle them.

The Way Out

My friends, it’s time for a new project — one that can no longer wait for me to get around to it.

I’ve journeyed through a lot of reflection in the years since I started to become aware of the decay afflicting our essential foundations, self-perception, and cultural confidence. I’ve worked through much of my thinking here and in my Twitter stream. It’s included no small amount of despair at the sometimes hopeless-seeming state of things — despair that I can only say has been made less lonely at least, thanks to the world-changing communications revolution we are living through and may in some ways only dimly appreciate. A burden shared is lightened, and all that. But in the past year or so, something very crucial has changed in my outlook. I’ve turned a corner, and been granted a new view of things, a new and more positive perspective. It’s not that I see the stakes as having lessened — for what’s at stake is truly nothing less than everything that matters most in this precious, hard-won Civilization we are so lucky to call home. Indeed, the stakes are as high as ever. The hour is late. The situation is dire. The outlook is grim. By God, it’s time to come out fighting! It’s game time, in the most important game you or I will ever be a part of.

I say that my outlook has become more positive, but it might not strike you as such. It has begun to seem entirely possible to me that the United States of America — this magnificent, precious outpost of Freedom that I have cherished all my life, that has stood through more than two centuries of history’s cruel challenges — may be on a one-way road to ruin by voluntary national suicide, with no real hope of a turnaround, and our closest friends and allies appear to be in no better shape.

Progressivism is a ratchet. The state’s dominion advances, the right to be left the hell alone is gradually diminished. Reversals of this natural tendency are rare and temporary, ultimately overwhelmed by the net vector toward more regulations and force and coercion, more meddling in our lives and purses. The Founders understood this, before the concept of Progressivism existed under its current banner. I’m only dimly catching up to the stark reality that I believe they saw all too clearly. Even when Liberty thrives, it is in constant danger from the more sinister aspects of man’s nature and aspirations — disguised, more often than not, behind the facade of a conveniently defined collective good.

I’ve lived most of my life believing strongly in our mission to help liberate people around the world who have not had the opportunity to know the blessings of liberty, and I still believe in that to great extent. Where there are people who truly yearn to be set free, such that they are willing to risk everything for it, I want to support them, in spirit and otherwise. But I have also come to see that there are large numbers of people in this world — far more than I had ever realized — who simply do not have a strong desire to be truly and meaningfully free, who in fact would rather like to discharge the various burdens that go with such freedom. There are many, many people who will gladly line up and ask the state to relieve them of their load of worry and insecurity about themselves and their futures, and either don’t feel diminished or don’t mind feeling diminished by the result. You and I (if I may presume), with our zeal for untrammeled Freedom and a culture that sings its praises from the rooftops, are the odd ones out, and will quite possibly never make sense to these others. We may also, in this time and place, be outnumbered.

Friends, I’m an optimist in my heart of hearts, and I don’t want to be one to declare that there is no hope, that the fight is lost and it’s time to abandon ship. This is a fight worth fighting. And in some sense it’s positively absurd that we should even have to fight it here of all places — that we should be expected to cede ground to a political belief system whose proponents like to point out that it exists just about everywhere else. The battle cry of “Diversity!” falls silent remarkably quickly, when it comes to allowing this rare and precious outpost of something different from the rest of the forsaken world to remain unique and different. Suddenly, it’s “why can’t we be more like everyone else?”. Zzzz… Are you kidding me? If I wanted that, I’d have emigrated, instead of choosing to make this land devoted to Freedom and living as you damn well please my home.

Make no mistake: It grieves me to see this. It’s a sad, pathetic end for a nation built by people bolder and braver than ourselves. But such are the mechanics of civilizational decline, it seems. Places meet their end. Ideas seek new frontiers and live on.

So let’s just suppose that everything we hold dear is collapsing in this place and time, and there’s next to nothing we can do that will stop it. What then? And how, amid all of this, can I possibly be feeling optimistic again? Have I completely lost it?

I’ve explored the long-term consequences of this conclusion before: in “Frontiers” (2009), and on The No Fear Pioneer. We’re left with a fundamentally difficult dilemma: What do we do when it’s time to go elsewhere and start the experiment over, but there is nowhere else to go on this Earth? Well, the only answer you come up with is damn near science fiction that doesn’t seem of much help to you, me, or even the next generation, even at the current, somewhat reinvigorated pace of our space ambitions. The obstacles to living, let alone thriving, elsewhere are huge and daunting — possibly far greater than our imaginations are capable of grasping. Success is a long way from today. But it’s coming. It’s our last and only resort. And while we therefore work toward its eventual fulfillment, we also have work to do here, striving for any short-term escape or mitigation of circumstances we can devise.

What I aim to do in this series is share everything I’ve managed to learn or figure out about The Way Out. I aim to help those who share my preferences to find their bearings and start on a course that will save them, that will save all of us.

I’ve titled this series “The Way Out” despite the realization that there is no single answer, but rather a myriad of possibilities. Each of us must ultimately chart his own course, based on his own unique circumstances and wishes. “The Way Out” is all of us, in aggregate, making long-term preparations for our kind to head toward the next place, and doing whatever can be done in the meantime to salvage this one. Each individual route is not contingent on the rest. We will each find our way through trial and error, by getting up every last time and using what we’ve learned to try again. When we find something that works, and that may work for others, we’ll share the benefit of our experience. Having a repeatable process for something is far more valuable than a few end results, and in this manner we may be able to cobble together something resembling one. The hope is that through this approach, we will all find our way to a better place. At the same time, however, you must know in your heart of hearts that your escape is also a uniquely personal matter, and cannot be allowed to be contingent on the success of any broader effort that may fail. It is sacrosanct, it will need to be the focus of your calmly determined efforts for quite some time, and, if you are anything like me, it is not negotiable. We will seek to ally our endeavors when we can. We will walk alone when we must.

Years ago, Bill Whittle (who I owe a tremendous debt of thanks that I will never be able to adequately repay, for all that he’s done through his superb work to save me from giving up in despair) floated the idea of “Ejectia” — an online community where people like us would be able to share our expertise and build a library of practical knowledge necessary to keep this free Civilization up and running. As fans of Bill’s writing, I and many other Eject! Eject! Eject! readers got very excited about the possibility, then disappointed when it became clear that building Ejectia was far more work than Bill and his volunteer elves could handle and wasn’t going to come to fruition, before I finally realized that it wasn’t necessary. What we wanted already exists in some form. It’s called The Internet. It’s social media. Opportunities to meet and connect across vast distances, and the aggregate knowledge of mankind available to anyone virtually for free, already out there and instantly accessible. And I suspect that Bill has reached much the same conclusion — because the future he articulated in “A New Beginning” does not hinge on any single effort. Rather, it is a matter of decentralized, voluntary initiative in diverse and numerous laboratories of innovation — yours, mine, and others.

Don’t get me wrong: There is value in specialized, shared-interest sites around which to network. and, which I greatly enjoy despite finding almost no time to participate, come to mind. But let’s not forget to also leverage already-available general solutions. Twitter, for example, has been a huge boon in enabling me to meet and get to know others with kindred ideas, in ways that occasional blogging never managed to facilitate. We’re going to need to harness tools of this kind, to help us find our way.

I’ve argued against the idea that there is any single unique Way Out, but there is at least one unifying assertion that I do feel confident making: Running is not a strategy. A man who takes action purely in response to what he’s been forced to run from has only half a plan. An effective strategy must be active, not merely reactive. Playing defense alone isn’t going to cut it.

So if we’re not merely heading away from something, what are we moving toward? Bill outlined a glimmer of an idea in “A New Beginning” — the best idea I have yet seen. It is a concept in need of practical, implementable mechanics, but it offers a strong premise from which to proceed. Out-innovating our sclerotic, unsustainable, Industrial Age government institutions with highly adaptive, dynamic, decentralized, voluntary alternatives is the way to go. It’s the only way a free society has ever been able to thrive. Working out the possible mechanics of that, and pursuing other promising ideas, will be the subject of my ongoing posts in this series.

Another assertion I’m going to make is that culture leads, and is in many ways the nexus of our predicament. Bill has stated this many times in recent years, and I think he’s right. Of all that has troubled me, the growth of an out-of-control federal government, and the ever-growing taxes and mandates by which it struggles to sustain its insatiable appetites, are actually not even at the top of my list. The most onerous burden of all is the pervasive notion that we’re supposed to want what’s happening, that it should somehow be considered desirable progress. I cannot account for the myopia of others in embracing such a view, but I know complete absurdity when I see it. Plainly, none of this should be happening if we were on the course we are meant to be on. Thus, The Way Out is, as much as anything, a matter of one’s perspective and attitude. It is a state of mind. It’s about not letting your thoughts, ambitions, determination, or sense of your own bearings get dragged down by the insanity that may well happen to surround you.

I am setting forth a project for us — one to pursue systematically and methodically. The course ahead is a steady, undaunted one. We’re not about to stand still. We’re not just digging in and holding the line. We’re not merely running away from something either. We’re going places — places where others will fear to tread. So stroll down to your engine room and start checking on all systems. Your colleagues in this beautiful endeavor are going to need your contributions. They’re going to need to see your running lights on the horizon off their starboard bow. What you do matters. Running aground is not an option.

If you hear music in this, you’ve been gifted with something extraordinary: that diamond-hard remnant core that Bill has spoken of so eloquently. Whatever you do, don’t let that rare and precious spark go out. It’s everything that matters.

At the center of all this, even amid a worrisome fog of gloom, is what I see as a cheerful and practical, pragmatic approach. I have found that the gloom is at its worst when you’re focused down on the small picture, on reacting piecemeal to the daily inundation of “I can’t believe this is happening” stuff that you’re meant to be overwhelmed and incapacitated by. For all that blogs, Twitter, and the 24/7 news cycle have given me in terms of knowledge, they also excel at cultivating this toxic, bogged-down perspective. The big picture is much brighter than that, and hinges on irrepressible human potential and determination that our adversaries are incapable of suppressing with their petty narcissistic gloom. Our future is ours, and it’s wide open.

What’s in my heart is a combination of calm, methodical determination, and lightness at knowing and joyously and gratefully embracing what I have come to believe my is life’s greatest purpose. It is a gift to have to face this challenge, to get to be a part of the rebirth, the renaissance, of something new and beautiful and worthy of our exertions, however long it may take. We’re working toward building a place where the life of one’s own will again prevail unencumbered, and will have its due chance to thrive and be celebrated for the next long spell until, despite our best efforts, Civilization may again, perhaps inevitably, succumb to rust, and once more it will be time for those who choose to keep its foundational ideas alive to pack up and move on to the next frontier.

A Way Out is possible. I’m devoting my life to finding it and helping others to do the same. This, right here, is my declaration of intent.

I can’t promise answers, but I will do my best to log observations, explain my own path and discoveries, and link to useful insights and resources that I find.

Keep an eye on this series, and you’ll see the outline of my vapor trail. I’ll watch the skies for yours.

Godspeed, my friends. Take heart. Stay focused. The best is yet to come.

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