Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Hammer of the Gods

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" -- George Santayana

A week or so ago the Art of Manliness blog ran a fascinating article entitled The Generations of Men: How the Cycles of History Shape Your Values, Your Idea of Manhood, and Your Future. It is quite a long read and I will need to go over it a few more times to grok until fullness. The title really screamed out to me because I have been trying to understand the times I live in from a cyclical/historical context and how that should shape my choices for the future.

Lets face it, the writing on the wall isn't pretty. Many people are concerned about the future and what is in store for ourselves and our children. As of this writing, SurivalBlog.com has over 44,034,245 unique visits since July 2005. The Discovery channel is running shows about Doomsday Preppers  and even Costco and Walmart are starting to sell prepackaged emergency food supplies. Our currency is seemingly on the track of doing this:

And current legislation paints a pretty dim picture for individual liberty. But something that a good friend reminded me is that time and history are cyclical. Civilizations rise and they fall. Trends come and go. I really take solace in that. The trick is to understand what part of the cycle we are living in and what lessons can we learn from previous cycles. 

The reason having an understanding of the cyclical nature of history comforts me is that the things we are experiencing now have happened before; and life continued to go on. One must still keep the sober thought that very hard and dark times may be experienced before the beginning of the next cycle. During some of those downward periods in history, millions of people died and/or lived through hundreds of years of oppression. It is still a terrifying prospect. But having a guess of where we are and how things have gone down in the past can give a clue as to how to prepare for, survive and maybe even thrive through those situations. 

As I was munching on the AoM article, I had a flash of insight as to one reason why the prepping community is often mocked and not taken seriously. My belief is that it is because too many preppers focus on when the cycles of history stop. TEOTWAWKI. The Apocalypse. 

That is essentially a religious belief. It is a matter of faith that the zombies are going to come for you. Not all that different from believing in the second coming of Christ, or the 12th Imam, or Odin riding down from Valhalla on a hammerhead yak to punish the treacherous who gave up the old ways and started rooting for Christ instead. In each of those world views, when the last cycle stops, those who lived "correctly" will be "saved". As for the rest of you, well too bad, you had your chance to convert. In the Religion of Preparedness (coining a new term?), those who do not store months and years worth of beans, bullets and bandages will be the ones who miss out when the "ballon goes up".  This is where a lot of people get turned off by "those wacko survivalists". History tells us that cycles repeat, the circle doesn't completely just flatline. I'm not saying it won't happen, but odds are the sun will still rise tomorrow. 

Part of the reason why I think preparedness turns into a religion is that becoming prepared is so incredibly open ended that there never is an end. It's like trying to completely master a skill. It is not possible because there are always different depths and layers of subtly to discover and refine. When is someone completely and utterly prepared? You can't be, hence the temptation to devote one's life to it and become a little fanatic about it. 

Coming back to the AoM article (did you notice the cycle there?), they discuss one way to try to understand the cycles of history and the reasons for them. Based on that, one could possibly glean a rough understanding of what is to come. Then by studying that particular kind of cycle throughout chapters in history, one can determine what worked for those who survived through it, and learn from the mistakes of those who didn't. Armed with this knowledge, one can begin to prepare for the probable, not the remotely distant possible...

The reference to Hammer of the Gods in addition to being a really awesome book about Led Zeppelin, is also about how some have observed that when somebody fails to learn the lesson from a situation in life, God tends to use bigger and bigger hammers to get it through our thick skulls. Learn the lesson, break the cycle. 

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