In one sense there is little new under the sun. The prime matter that underlies all change is neither created nor destroyed. In it is potential. What of that potential is actualized in form is new. Newness can be taken in two ways: brand new and new to he who has never encountered before or objectively new and subjectively new. Here we care less for new unlocking of sheer power or energy. But we are deeply interested in the unlocking of moral energy. We continue to call it virtue. It is the potential that lies deep in the wilderness of the soul.
Another disanalogy between the unlocking of material and moral energy is that while shortcuts can be found in the former there are not similarly shortcuts in the latter. What we found in (4.7) was that virtue and virtuous action are not the same, that virtue is a product of repetitious virtuous action, and that virtuous action prior to virtuous soul requires a not yet virtuous soul to act in ways to which it does not tend naturally. We infer that virtuous action by the vicious (not yet virtuous) feels, to the vicious, unnatural. In (4.5) we held up the great metaphor of death-to-self as a model for dealing with the vicious soul while the new virtuous man takes form. In (4.6) we held out patience as the only way, but it is no shortcut.
We have found recently that the sun, falling water, wind, waves may be harnessed and the energy stored up for use. Similarly the world is the training ground and poses opportunity after opportunity for the unlocking of moral energy. There is no end to the unlocking. What the Puritanical Libertarian, here, keeps harping on is how it feels to harness that energy.
So, in (4.12) we made a beginning. We imagined ourselves trekboers of the soul. And indeed, maybe more than anything, what the person who goes into the wilderness needs is an image, a model, resourcefulness, a preparedness. It doesn’t have to be much. A wagon will serve as shelter from the weather, a few utensils and weapon for unlocking calories, but what is harder to see is a knowledge of setting up camp, taking inventory, keeping order, managing supplies. What is harder to see is a knowledge of how to clean a gun, how to survey land for suitable settlement, how to weave for clothes, what seed would be most probable given climate, how it is to be managed, what early signs of disease or failure.
Our culture is rife with easy optimism. The prosperity gospel is everywhere in our churches and on our billboards. The religious say the god will keep the bank account fat. The politicians often promise something similar saying that they will keep the bank account fat. The screen images continue to paint pictures and sounds of pleasure and comfort and ease. The pioneer of the soul rejects all of this, and like Lao Tzu growing weary of the moral decay surrounding him leaves his stanzas for the guard at the city gate and walks into the wilderness.
Converting wilderness into life-sustaining good is necessary where life is to be sustained and the old way decays. But we cannot go into the wilderness empty handed. We cannot go ill-prepared. We ought not go without a plan. And yet, here we are, vicious, seeking to convert to virtue, and yet from our vicious position, not prepared.
What follows is the great hope. The sage Jesus says that children are blessed (the kingdom of heaven goes to those who make themselves like children). The Puritanical Libertarian has meditated for years on this passage. “What is it about the child that is so darn blessed?” Here is one answer (maybe not THE answer). The child, even the infant, does not understand and is not ready to pursue understanding. But the child can mimic. The child can copy. The child can follow. This sponge-like capacity is ready in the child even in the child’s undeveloped state.
Without understanding, without full intellectual appreciation, without demanding answer to “why?”, the child embodies, instantiates, actualizes. It is significant that we learn more from our parents in our watching them over the years than we do from what they tell us. But they tell us much more in their doings than in their sayings.
You and I need a model. We need something to copy. We need some meager resources. We do not want to treat going into the wilderness of the soul as if it is a mere comfortable adventure. Wild beasts may roam. Weed seed may lay latent in the ground we till up. The climate may be unexpectedly different from the land from whence we travel. Even John the Baptist knew of camel skin, locust and honey. He sustained life in the wilderness.
What resources stand out for moving into the wilderness of the soul?
- Pick a sage. Treat him as sage. He will not be understandable. Wrestle with him. Repeat. Then, know that homesteading the soul is not a matter of reading, but cleansing the picture of the well ordered and productive soul is a necessary ingredient. The sage can provide if you will let him. How does the sage respond to the world? Copy!
- Know that your greatest asset is mimic and copy NOT understanding. You will grow to understanding in time. Right now is not the time. You set up camp this way. Not your way. Follow with determination and single focus. It is a great power to be in the world but not of it. It requires lightning focus on what is NOT in the world. Your understanding will not be helpful here. Your will and aim will be. Like the child. Copy.
- Pick a community carefully. The human is a needy animal. One of its great needs is community. I mean one or two friends. If you find yourself alone, endure. But, it is a terrifying question to ask “why do I find myself alone?”. Read Laura Ingles Wilder and see that it was “Ma” and “Pa” who went into the wilderness. Get ready for imperfection in any community you find. You are not there to be satisfied. You are there because you are a social animal and you know that it is good to be in community. Peer pressure is either good or bad. Pick a community that seems to be looking up toward the better and not one that will lure you down tempting with “come (and remain) as you are” .
- Get ready for living with what appears to be death. I do not recommend literal starving. But he who foregoes porn, sugar, he who lets go do of demand for status, he who leaves unfulfilled all that he is dissatisfied with in order to focus on health of soul will find that he will feel like he is dying. The sages report that this is the second birth. This is being “born again”. One cannot forecast how long it will take. What one must do is wait and abstain from re-instantiating the old. Let it die.
- Look for training opportunities. How do you feel? Dissatisfied? A training opportunity for not responding to dissatisfaction! Rejoice! How do you feel? Like the world owes you far more than it has payed? Injustice in trade! Rejoice! A training opportunity for living with the feeling of injustice while not being guided by the feeling of injustice. Does he who you thought was friend overlook what seems to you screaming for attention? An opportunity! Rejoice.
- Finally, remember that he who goes in for the transformation of soul wilderness into soul garden probably misexpects how long it will take to see fruit. So, if this is derivable from the initial condition of undevelopment (that expectation will be off) be prepared to not be distracted or dissuaded by feelings of disappointment. The tempter will whisper. Just as stocks are manipulated by short-selling so many forego soul production under the misexpectation that it is not working. If you are aiming at virtue and staying with it IT IS WORKING.