14. You Have to Learn How to Take Care of Yourself
You have to learn how to take care of yourself. No one is going to do it for you. You can wallow in despair with the knowledge that help is not on the way, or you can accept reality as it is and learn how to provide for yourself.
You have to learn how to take care of yourself because change always begins with the individual. If you want to live in a world that’s more peaceful, beautiful, and harmonious than the one you observe around you, then you need to learn how to create peace, beauty, and harmony in your thoughts and your actions.
You have to understand that the world can only improve when you improve.
You have to learn how to take care of your body, because it’s the only one you’ve got, and the forces of nature are at work every day slowly dismantling your physical form. To be alive is to reject the inevitable, at least momentarily, to cast a blind eye to entropy, and if you wish to thrive as an animate object you’d better learn how best to operate this machine you call your body.
You must use every muscle in your body every day, and you must repair them with the highest quality nutrients that you can acquire. Why would you consume anything less than the best?
You have to learn how to take care of your mind, because although it is only an illusion that the mind is somehow distinct from the body, it is the muscle that powers all other muscles. A failing mind will stop you in your tracks faster than a failing body, so you must cultivate discipline of mind in order to work past mental and emotional hardships.
You must stimulate your mind, keep it wide open, and challenge it with new ideas on a regular basis, because that is the only way to exercise a muscle that’s constructed out of thoughts.
You have to learn how to learn, how to study, how to argue and rationalize and think critically and question everything you know. If and when you fail as a result of a lack of knowledge, you have only yourself to blame. Ignorance is never an acceptable excuse, and there is nobody else in the world who you can expect to inform you better than you can inform yourself.
He who has nothing left to learn is a dead man, and I suspect that it still doesn’t end there, either.
You have to learn how to diagnose and treat your own ills, whether physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. Medicine comes from the forest and the spirit, not the doctor or the pharmaceutical company, and you’d do well to acquaint yourself with the primary sources of holistic health.
You have to learn how to grow your own food. There will come a day, probably not tomorrow, and probably not the next day, but there will come a day when the abundance of food that is produced by other people from distant lands will no longer be available to you. You need to learn how to produce it for yourself, and you need to learn how to forage and hunt for wild foods, too, because the domesticated stuff can only get you so far.
You have to learn how to be a judicious steward of every physical space you occupy, because indifference or carelessness can lead to irreparable degradation.
You have to learn how to cook your own food if you are not satisfied with the industrial food products that the dominant culture offers. You have to learn how to preserve the harvest so that you may continue to eat well and feed your family when winter arrives and your local landscape cannot fully provide for you.
You have to learn how to take care of your material needs without being shackled to a job. Working for someone else is the opposite of job security because they can take your position from you at any time, and then you must beg another master to tell you what to do with the majority of your hours, in exchange for the minimum number of dollars that he can get away with offering you.
True financial security is only possible when you are able to produce enough goods or provide adequate services directly through your own skills, talents and ingenuity, to acquire more financial capital than you need to stay afloat in the wretched swamp of late capitalism.
You have to recognize the toxic and counterproductive agenda that the dominant culture foists upon you. Understanding that you are ultimately captive to its whims, you must decide for yourself how and how much you will engage with it.
At the same time, you have to learn how to communicate with people where they’re at, offer unconditional compassion and withhold judgment when others do not or cannot live up to your standards.
You have to learn how to facilitate meaningful relationships with other individuals who wish to exchange value with you in good faith. You have to accept that taking care of yourself means that sometimes you’d be better off letting someone else do the work so you can focus on producing your own goods or services to offer in exchange.
You have to understand that financial capital is but one abstract form of value that we humans exchange with one another, and those of us who ignore non-monetary forms of capital are in some sense the most impoverished of us all.
You have to learn how to extend compassion beyond the illusory boundaries of your physical body, and into the people around you and the other-than-human beings who surround you and engulf you at all times, who rely upon you and upon whom you rely as well.
Heaven and hell both arise within the mind, and it’s your choice which one to project onto the world around you.
You have to understand that the crucial process of self-actualization, the apex of human expression as we know it, is an ongoing battle that you will wage every day for the rest of your life. This is the archetypal hero’s journey, a story that our ancestors passed down to us from the time before words. To lay down your sword and admit defeat is not an option.
There is nowhere to go to escape the search for meaning and purpose in the world around us. It’s what we’re hardwired to do.
You may not ever find the answers that you seek, but answers only beg further questions anyway, and the further we travel down the path, the more clear it becomes that no answer will be sufficient enough to quell the urge to keep asking.
Never stop asking the universe what your purpose is, and what its purpose is, because these things are always in a state of flux. The universe is expanding faster than your compassion could ever hope to travel, so you have to learn to accept your limitations in this corporeal form and find beauty in it.
The ceiling above your head could be plywood or it could be a cathedral, but it’s up to you to design and build it either way. Nobody else can construct the mental and spiritual space that you occupy.
You have to learn how to take care of yourself, because existence precedes essence, which means that you are born into this world with the freedom, and indeed the moral imperative, to construct your worldview any way that you see fit. It is your life’s work, and it will remain unfinished after your death.
Keep working. Keep asking. Keep listening. Keep learning.
You have to keep learning.