Many today complain about the millennials. We criticize their work ethic, attention span, and their seeming aversion to effort as concern grows for the future of this country. But we forget the source of the modern dilemma.
The successes of those who come before paves the way for the weaknesses of those who follow. Generation after generation suffered as they ascended the hierarchy of human needs, and now with those needs met, we chastise the perceived weakness of a generation that had no battles from which to acquire strength.
“We will be soldiers, so our sons may be farmers, so their sons may be artists.”- Thomas Jefferson
We now understand that such noble striving comes at a cost. Without the need for exhaustive labor and sacrifice, our environment does not force us to develop the virtue our highest selves require. We no longer hunt or grow food for our survival. Purified water is pumped into our homes which heat themselves. These are gifts from those who came before us, but these comforts come at an unseen cost.
The organism is shaped by the environment, and the environment is shaped by the organism. They go together, so much so that the philosopher Alan Watts combined the terms, “organism-environment.” They are inextricably linked, the fate of one rests with the other.
In this modern world of convenience, in which our basic needs are met with minimal effort as we enjoy pleasurable distractions in abundance, we settle into the weakness which our environment allows.
“Somewhere along the line we seem to have confused comfort with happiness.”- Dean Karnazes
Since our environment doesn’t demand our strength, we must ask it of ourselves. We do so to honor our latent potential. We are all capable of massive achievement and fulfillment, but with minimal external pressure to pursue such heights, we easily neglect these pursuits.
I have always viewed my life using the metaphor of a book. Is the life I live a story worth reading? My decisions strive to write a story I am proud to have lived. The highest self which authors such pages will be a product of massive, calculated effort toward a worthy ideal.
This highest self can only be found by pushing through repeated resistance. When our environment does not provide such opportunity, we are tasked to either change that environment or find a new one.
Happily, we need look no farther than Jiu Jitsu.