Imagine that you are on a galley, such as once plied the Mediterranean, and bound for a destination you do not comprehend, but joyfully anticipate, The galley is often driven by its oars which are manned by slaves. But these slaves have volunteered to be shackled to their oars. At any time they can remove their chains, join you on deck in the wind and the sun, but they imagine that they are safer in the dark with the oars. Obviously their fate is tied to that of the ship, as is yours, but they refuse to accept that. Instead they imagine, even if they can’t put it to words, that they will never die, if they just refuse to think about it.
If you don’t view life as an adventure you are such a slave. You drive in a daze to a job you perform in much the same frame of mine. Then somewhat stressed, as a rat in a circular maze would be, you muddle through the traffic of your fellow rats to eat microwave garbage while you watch a long stream of commercials on your extra wide HD TV.
I have always thought of that as Hell.
No matter what, you know, intellectually, your life will end, and most likely in an unexpected manner. But in your heart of hearts you don’t really believe it. As soon as you acknowledge this, you life becomes something of an adventure. But most choose to ignore this fact, and act as if what they are today, is what they will be on into the future. They are firmly convinced of this.
Right now, how long do you think you will live? So very many answer, “Till I am 120.” And books and articles on anti-aging always sell well. People buy and take a handful of supplements, and think they are immortal. They are the ones rowing the galley I mentioned above. While those on deck, their face in the sun and wind regard life and aging as an adventure.
But I think many people don’t have an adventurous spirit. I think many are born timid and gladly put on slave chains and accept the lash on their back just to have all doubt and uncertainty removed from their life. This is obviously not you, or you would not have read this far. But there are those who would not venture to leave hell, once they had a steady routine of shoveling coal into the flames that burn them.
They are not the ones Teddy Roosevelt was talking to when he said, “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.” There is no shortage of “poor spirits,” and on the Hero’s Journey you will pass many of them. They go crazy at the thought of the unknown, while those, like you, thrill to the thought of it. They shrink from adversity and difficulty, and many are incapable of changing a flat tire.
Can there be growth without adversity? I don’t think so. If you want to be more than you are, then you must purposely encounter difficulty and overcome it.
If your life is not an adventurer, than it is servitude lived within a realm of doubt and uncertainty. Most of those who die at the wheel of their car, thought their life safe, secure, and predictable. It wasn’t. The disasters, genocides, hurricanes and floods are, mostly, unpredictable. I am rewriting this section on the sixteenth of April 2020, and the country is shut down in an attempt to limit the spread of the Corona Virus pandemic. The fearful stay home and rarely venture out. I tend to ignore the ‘Lock-down,” but like those who chose to regard life as an adventurer I am alert, prepared, and fast reacting. When we enter the room, we see the large ventilating duct, and feel the breeze, so when the shit hits the fan, we instantly drop while the rest are splattered.
Let’s look at all this in a different context. In Star Wars, Luke sets out to defeat the Empire, rescue the princess, and learn the ways of the Force. We can easily classify all of this as facing adversity. Right now I would like you to imagine what you might do that would be its equivalent. To face adversity requires a certain mental framework, and the material in this book will provide that, but only coupled with your own specific efforts.
We started out earlier in this book quoting Marcus Aurelius, Miyamoto Musashi, and Viktor Frankl. All of them faced tremendous adversity. One was the emperor of Rome, another was a wandering swordsman, and Viktor Frankl had his family exterminated by the Holocaust, which he survived in a concentration camp. Most of the stories of heroism involve facing adversity, or no one would bother to hear them. We gain a certain inspiration when hearing of those who have faced great odds well, but it is up to you to do that on your own.
Here is an excerpt from Jonathan Haidt’s, The Happiness Hypothesis.“The strong version of the adversity hypothesis is more unsettling: It states that people must endure adversity to grow, and that the highest levels of growth and development are only open to those who have faced and overcome great adversity. If the strong version of the hypothesis is valid, it has profound implications for how we should live our lives and structure our societies.
It means that we should take more chances and suffer more defeats. It means that we might be dangerously overprotecting our children, offering them lives of bland safety and too much counseling while depriving them of the “critical incidents” that would help them to grow strong and to develop the most intense friendships. It means that heroic societies, which fear dishonor more than death, or societies that struggle together through war, might produce better human beings than can “a world of peace and prosperity in which people’s expectations rise so high that they sue each other for “emotional damages.”
With what you have learned in this book, and with the mnemonic, you can look at adversity with new eyes. It is all there for your training. This is the idea of regarding your daily life as the Arena. Eventually, what the caterpillar has become, must struggle to escape the cocoon. I am hoping that inside you as well, a hero is struggling to escape. And this will happen if you never give up.
There must be inside you a part that doesn’t quit. There must be rough spots in any adventure. All the movies and novels you have enjoyed have the hero overcoming these difficulties. The very first step in the success of any venture, is determination, a clear vision, and a willingness to burn the boats behind you.
To be able to do this requires constant training; body, mind, and spirit. Musashi said, “Study strategy over the years and achieve the spirit of the warrior. Today is victory over yourself of yesterday; tomorrow is your victory over lesser men.”
If you have done anything with the material in this book, then you are stronger now than when you began. Read it again, advance with the exercises making them a part of your daily life, and a year from now you will be incredible advanced over what you are now.
You are going to face challenges that have defeated others. I hope that I have not conveyed the impression that I have sailed through years of karate and other training without getting hit or injured. I recall when I wondered if there would ever be a time when I wasn’t in pain. I wish I were back. The pain of training and advancing is wonderful.
Never visualize yourself quitting. The sight of others dropping out should encourage you to push harder. Few people ever quit because they have reached their physical limit. There was a series on YouTube about SEAL training, and it showed men quitting and walking up to ring the quit bell. They walked to the bell, it wasn’t brought to them.
I remember so very clearly, many years ago when first learning karate, and we were gassed out, leaning over, trying to catch our breath, Mr. Ohshima would call out, “What’s the matter with you? When you are tired, so is your opponent!”
Once you enter the Arena, there isn’t any quit. You win or are dragged out. Now, in modern times you may continue your existence after quitting, but something inside will have died. Much better to stand and deliver. In the movie The Last Samurai, Tom Cruise is knocked down again and again, each time he struggles up out of the mud, to stand in the rain, facing an opponent of incredible superiority. Eventually he is beaten unconscious. That must be your spirit.
And you will have such moments in your life. Best to prepare for trauma because it is coming. It is unlikely that you will have the imaginary, calm well ordered life of a small town dentist who walks one block to work on nice days. Somewhere for you, the fan is blowing and someone has flushed the toilet. If you are not fast and alert, you will be covered with shit. Best to train now.
The purpose of the 1eye Life System is to train and prepare you for the Hero’s Journey, which you can’t complete if you quit. This is your life adventurer, and an adventure without adversity is a Disney Land ride. You know how a ride works out, first you wait in line forever, take your jerky ride, and get off. That isn’t an adventurer, it doesn’t build character. If life presents you with obstacles you aren’t going to draw inner strength from recalling time spent on Magic Mountain.
Invictus is a very famous poem that has inspired men ever since it was written. It has been quoted by the famous, and often appears in various media. With so many of strong character referencing it, you should study it well.
If Meaning and Purpose come from deep in our guts, this poem is a way of accessing them for the Ronin. What do you “feel,” when you read these lines?
Invictus. By William Ernest Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate ,
I am the captain of my soul.
The author has lost a leg to tuberculosis of the bone and suffered years of pain and agony when he had to have the tuberculosis abscesses drained. He then faced and defeated the prospect of having his other leg amputated. And yet this man was noted for his bold spirit and appearance. He was the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Long John Silver character in Treasure Island.
Never failing is when you are the last man standing. You are depressed. Dying seems like a good idea. It is now that you must hold together. In such moments all you have read and trained before, will be there for you.
If you have the time, access the Void. Take a break. Buy time, it can be a weapon. Often you do not fully grasp the situation, or the situation is changing. Life is too complex for any brain and often things you don’t see will interfere. Watch a favorite movie or listen to a piece of music you have stored on your iPhone for just such an occasion. Then get out your journal and write. You can be analytic and write down the problem, then try to write it another way. Then write possible solutions. You have to decide if the problem is in your skin, or out there. If this is inside you, than all of what has gone before will aid you. Visualize, breath, make it happen.
But there are times when it is right now. In your face. You are there in the trench and the knife is out and ready. This is when you must trust your training. Even if a punch is coming toward you, there is time, say .2 seconds. Relax and trust your body. Align with gravity and check your posture. Don’t blink. That is like driving with your eyes closed or sticking your head in the sand. This is the time of the Not-Self when you can do the incredible. How many times have I slipped a punch before I knew it was coming. So many mornings I get out of bed at 2AM, because the answer has come to me.
Now we are about done, and I want you to recall another movie scene. It is in the movie Gladiator, when the gladiators are first sent into the arena to face impossible odds. As they wait under a scorching sun for what might be released through the gates, Maximus asks them to fight as a team rather than be cut down as individuals. As they agree, the gates open and chariots come out with spinning spikes to cut a man in half, and archers riding in the chariots to shoot them down. Maximus forms them into a group, and as the chariots bear down upon them he cries out, “Hold! Hold!”
And now I have to tell you that I am not some guru, sitting in the lotus position, and floating a foot off the ground. Nor am I some floppy English major searching for something to write about. Everything in this book came out of my guts and is something I learned and practiced over many long years. Thousands of hours of study, gym time, and serious sparring. And I yet learn.
Writing this book has helped.
So when I say to myself each morning, “I am the man in the arena…” I am a man in the arena, and if we should meet there, then we would form a group, shields linked, swords in hand, and when the gates of Hell opened we would cry, “Hold!” And when others died we would not, for we are:
The men in the Arena, Ronins 1eye, Laughing Pirates, searching for Beauty in a Strange Land, and Grateful for the Adventure.