Untethered Dog

An Online Journal

The Fight of Our Lives

“See, my children, resolute children / By those swarms upon our rear, we must never yield or falter / Ages back to ghostly millions, frowning there behind us urging / Pioneers! O pioneers!” -Walt Whitman, “Pioneers! O Pioneers!,” Drum Taps: The Complete Civil War Poems

You would not have liked to live in the time of the Civil War. The bloodshed, the hardship, the despair; those years are simply hard to fathom. Plus no air conditioning! Yet as you read Whitman’s clarion call — his expression of love for his country, his countrymen, his countrywomen — something not altogether displeasing strikes: how singular was the clarity of purpose of life then.

If ever there was one, this was the good fight. This was about right. To lose the fight would have been to lose the republic. Historians may argue that the war should not have been necessary, that other nations were able to resolve — dissolve — slavery without two percent of their populations dying in trenches and camps and communities. Yet to live through the actual rather than the hypothetical … was to know (at least if you were with Whitman and those he called his brothers and sisters) you were on the good side, that you were directed and inspired by a moral leader, that you were doing the only thing that could and had to be done.

Fellow human beings were being treated like farm equipment. This had to end. Full stop.

There are no truly apt comparisons to the American Civil War. But as you read in the newspaper about the tens of thousands of troops called to guard the nation’s capitol against those would overthrow a presidential election, it’s not altogether inappropriate, either. More than a few of them carry the Confederate flag, after all. There is, at minimum, a sort of cold civil war underway that also will decide whether the American experiment endures.

On one side are those who wish to conserve and strengthen democracy. On the other side are those who wish to weaken if not abolish American democracy. Again, the analogy is not perfect but does fit in this respect: there is no middle here. This is not like a policy debate where you can meet halfway. Democracy or autocracy. It is one or the other. It cannot be both.

The arms needed in this struggle are of ones of words, not firearms, of resolve not bombs. Action, however, is required — the battle is not going to be won with idleness.

You have few global answers but it is important to be mindful about your engagement:

  1. Many causes deserve attention but nothing is more important than saving the republic.
  1. This is more a social problem than a political one.
  1. No news or information source is perfect but journalism matters. Many people receive information that is outright propaganda and/or the product of an army of computers deployed to capture our attention and scatter it. The computers want us to be scared — so we keep coming back to them. To consume responsible sources and amounts of news is no easy task but an essential one.
  2. Baseless theories and delusional ideas should not be given credence.
  3. When responses are necessary sarcasm is seldom useful.
  4. There are fine lines: humiliated people feel rage rather than contrition. You can’t make people change but you can allow them space to do so. This is altogether different than tolerating intolerance. You can’t negotiate with insurrectionists, terrorists, or those who support them.
  5. Being on the right side doesn’t make you right about all things. Humility is called for.
  6. Focus on your responsibilities. Your words. Your actions.
  7. Praise those doing useful work toward point No. 1.

Fill the Tank

Coming back from illness and stress you want to return to baseline — but not so fast. You emptied your well. It must be refilled. Make few assessments; you haven’t been functioning at normal levels. Instead, rest. Stretch. Move. Drink water. Eat food. Read. Consume other art. Write without effort or expectation.

Something That’s Hard to Forget

Sugar ages you faster.

When You Are Lost

The way back to you is always available through the words on pages.

And it doesn’t take long.

The ultimate shortcut.

You can get there from here.

A Few Extra Pounds

The memory is powerful. More so than you give it credit for. When you wade around in that pool, be careful and be kind. You are already processing so much in present time. It takes not a lot more to be too much — to be enough to short your circuits. Maintain mental boundaries as best you can. Be proactive with your self-care. Allow. See. Accept.

Keep Showing Up

Do not doubt your decisions even if they do not produce immediate results. Keep on. It’s the daily repetitions that get you there. Nothing today does. Do enough to know you are working but not so much that you don’t want to work tomorrow. Time. Just put in the time. The results will come.

The Key

“When the ruling power within us is in harmony with nature, it confronts events in such a way that it always adapts itself readily to what is feasible and is granted to it. For it attaches its preference to no specific material; rather, it sets out to attain its primary objects, but not without reservation, and if it comes up against something else instead, it converts it into material for itself, much like a fire when it masters the the things that fall into it. These would have extinguished a little lamp, but a blazing fire appropriates in an instant all that is heaped on to it, and devours it, making use of that very material to leap ever higher.” -Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 4.1

Everything the emperor says here, including the beautiful metaphor, applies to you if you could change “with nature” in the initial line to “with purpose.” When you tend to your purpose, and do so steadily, you can handle nearly everything else that comes your way. It is when you neglect your purpose that the other matters swell in importance — become larger in your mind. It’s like your mind makes a substitute, one that does not suffice. You act as though “a clean kitchen” or “an email at work” or “this walk with your dog” are why you are here. When, of course, while those tasks may count for something, they are not what you in those moments make them out to be. The purpose. You must tend to the purpose: the answer and the antidote. Everything else is fuel needed to burn that fire.

Self Regard

Remember that you like you.

Advantage: You

“On the occasion of every accident that befalls you, remember to turn to yourself and inquire what power you have for turning it to use.” -Epictetus, The Enchiridion, X

There is advantage in almost every trifle or trouble you encounter. Look for it!

Embrace the Messiness

You never liked to get your hands dirty. Even as a child in the sandbox, you did not like messes. Life, of course, is not always tidy. Seldom is. Embrace — rather than run from — this fact.

Illness is part of life. Illness is messy. Ergo, to be always clean is not to live.

You have been sick of late and this has made a mess of many things. It’s one thing to be physically unwell and another to be mentally so.

As the remnants linger, make use of them: renew your understanding that acceptance of illness means accepting all of it — that there will be greater cost, that time will be spent on unwanted things, not spent on wanted things, and your affairs, not excepting the orderliness of your kitchen and the quality of your writing, will not be as you wish them to be.

Too, recall how much your mind at such times can easily recall ill feelings and conjure sickly memories. These will pay you a visit but do you not have to invite them in.

Decisions, often difficult for you anyway, are significantly more so. You do your best and accept the mess.

Stress is not your friend now. To fight with another is to fight with yourself.

The physical illness is the easy part. The mental side effects are the aspect you can change.