Damn the Humans, Full Speed Ahead

Have you ever noticed that humans are faced the wrong fucking way? Yep, we’ve got it totally back ass-ward and I’m here to turn our sorry selves around. It’s a bright and blustery day and I feel like doing some preachin…

From our somewhat limited perspective there appear to be three time periods; the past, the present and the future. (Those separations might not exist but let’s not get into that now.) There have been a trillion words written on our need to focus a little more on the present to find spirituality and contentment. True enough, but that’s not my interest here. Instead I’d like to wonder out loud why we think the past is so fucking wonderful and the future bleak at best? Because that simply isn’t true.

Newsflash- This just in from our reality based correspondent: Today is the very best time to be alive yet and next decade is likely to be better. All of our bullshit romanticizing of the past is just that, bullshit romanticizing. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with bullshit romanticizing, just don’t confuse it with how things actually were. I mean, seriously, can’t we entertain ourselves without getting confused?

Sure, Renaissance Festivals are fun but the middle ages sucked hard. The plague, sewage in the streets, serfs, hunger and sleeping with rats in a pile of straw. Hardly anyone could read and the local magistrate might choose to fuck your wife on your wedding day. I like cowboys, but I really don’t want to live without electricity and air conditioning. A Dickensian Christmas? Let’s fill the air with coal dust and send the five year olds off to work in the factory. Civil war recreations? Slavery, fratricide and gangrene are not good ideas.

Got the concept? The present is far from perfect as I myself frequently point out. It is, however, better than anything that came before it. Racism is a big problem, but would you rather go back 50 or 150 years? Wanna be gay anytime before now? A woman? I mean seriously, consider our complaints today. Health care delivery is a mess. Granted, but there are sterile hospitals without dentist/surgeons or leaches in them in most every county. The schools suck. Fair enough. Want to trade them in for the segregated bullshit of last century, education reserved for the elite or perhaps nearly universal illiteracy? I thought not. The government is full of greedy nincompoops. Paging Senator McCarthy and George the 3rd. Same as it ever was.

We think the past was so great but mostly it wasn’t. And, because we’re stupid hairless monkeys, we make the opposite mistake with the future. Check out nearly any movie, tv show, or video game set in the future. There appear to be only three fates for our beloved Earth; a dark and ugly dystopia, a sterile and soulless techno-blah, or a post apocalypse free for all. In all of Hollywood there does not exist a single writer or director who can imagine a beautiful and interesting city in 2095.

It would be easy to pass this off as a lack of writing talent if the attitude weren’t omnipresent in our politics and religion. On the right we have the ‘left behind’ crowd who are counting on being saved before hell takes over and the four horsemen start their final ride. They’re joined by the paranoids who see commies, Muslims, terrorists, and perhaps the French destroying all the we hold dear. On the left we have the ever popular ‘technology and nukes will kill us all’ crowd. Overpopulation or genetic engineering will starve us. Natural resources are dwindling. And of course global warming will drown cities and, you know, change stuff. The future, the future, oh the horrors. Both sides think the country is headed down the toilet and both sides are full of shit.

Let’s check back in with our reality based correspondent. The apocalypse isn’t actually on it’s way. Superstitious stories rarely come true and a loving God won’t really kill everyone. Commies lost and terrorists have very little power. Technology usually solves more problems than it creates, and given a chance it will probably solve global warming. Regardless humans will adapt. We’re good at that. I suppose that nuclear holocaust is possible, but so far we’ve managed to keep it at bay. Cooler heads eventually seem to rule the day. And a dark dystopia just ain’t in the cards.

Have you noticed how beautiful many modern cities are? Stand at the Griffith Observatory in the early evening and look out over Los Angeles. Spectacular. The Vegas Strip at night? Breathtaking. San Francisco from Alcatraz or NYC from the Staten Island Ferry? Wow. Humans make beautiful things and society frequently chooses them. In fact the arc of history almost always bends not only toward justice but toward progress.

Why is there no religion where a loving God promises that things will get better? Imagine a gospel that points to a heaven on Earth if we’re a little kinder and more tolerant. Why do we have to leave the planet to find Heaven, Paradise, Nirvana or a whole mess of hot virgins? Why does false nostalgia always trump hope? Come to think of it, I don’t care.

That’s right, I don’t care why. Let’s just stop it. Everyone needs to just turn the fuck around right now. Accept that we have it pretty damn good right now and that the future will likely be even better. Hell, the challenges we currently face are likely be more easily overcome if we do so with promise rather than dread, reality rather than bullshit nostalgia. Hope might be the ultimate act of Saor Alba, Vaya con Dios and Viva la Revolucion.

Needs

What do we need to survive? Everybody kind of knows that; food, water, shelter, warmth, blah blah blah. But isn’t surviving kind of a low bar? A better question is what do we need to thrive? What’s required for a joyful human life well lived?

Freud suggested that humans need fulfilling personal relationships and a sense that their profession is important. That seems like a good place to start. We also seem to need some appreciation for beauty and a guess at our place in the universe. Music and fun sure seem pretty damn important. Hell, I’d add sex and inebriation as key ingredients. I’d also argue that recognition of our stories and some mechanism for forgiveness should be on the list. You probably have a few more and while all of these are well and good there might be a prerequisite to every damn one.

In order to thrive I think every human needs what I’ll call a unifying physical and spiritual practice. We need some mechanism that puts us back in our body, calms our emotional state, shuts up the crap in our heads and lets us listen to the universe in whatever way we imagine it. It can include elements of exercise, yoga, martial arts, dance, Tai Chi, meditation, sport or a creative art. Riding the old Harley even qualifies. In order to qualify a practice must meet the following requirements:

1- It must be varied. No practice is perfect. If you’re a biker you might want to include some stretching and maybe a workout. Meditation is great but it won’t put you back in your body. A good practice requires elements of concentration, a physical component and quiet moments. The idea is to reconnect with your body and the universe. No single practice, in my experience, will do all those things regardless of what they tell you. The more threads your practice contains the stronger it will be.

2- It must be regular and fun. Like every day. Not every piece, but it isn’t a practice if you do it once or twice a month. Repetition matters. And if it’s something you love your life will be easier and the practice more profound.

3- It must be yours. Yes, you might well need teachers or institutions to learn the skills of your practice but those things CANNOT BECOME YOUR PRACTICE. You’re a unique individual. You owe it to yourself to find a singular practice made up of many personal choices.

4- It must become your default. This is really important. Sometimes life gets pretty stressful or just downright crappy. You need a to be able to retreat to your practice when all else fails. It should provide comfort, a little peace of mind, or at least a new starting point.

The prime importance of a regular, personal practice with these qualities makes up the backbone of every one of my books and classes. Whether it’s weight training, Tai Chi or cane self defense it all comes back to creating a daily practice to help you thrive. And I don’t just preach it, I live it. Every day. It’s kept my demons at bay and given me more than I might have imagined. It’s one of the few ideas in which I have ABSOLUTE FAITH. So do it. Create your own. And if you need help grab a book or stop by for a free class. Saor Alba, Vaya con Dios and Viva la Revolucion my friends.