Please allow myself to introduce my... self.

Before we can start, we must find ourselves.

Please allow myself to introduce my... self.
Is the man standing on the water, or just the bank? Also, is that a man, or a chess piece? The things you wonder.

Before we craft the world,

Before we craft its regions and its cities,

Before we craft its societies and its cultures,

Before we craft the neighborhoods and the dwellings and the families,

Before we craft the lifestyles and adventures,

Before we craft its people and their dreams,

We must first get to know its soul.

One of my favorite books is Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa. In it tells the tale of Takezou Shinmen, a brash and hot-headed swordsman with a fervent determination to prove himself as the strongest in the world. After some rash decision making and quite a bit of bloodshed, Takezou creates more trouble than he can deal with and finds himself the subject of a village wide manhunt. After much pursuing he is captured by the eccentric monk Takuan. The monk sees that Takezou's actions stem from a lack of temperance and self-preservation, he convinces the village to spare Takezou's life, offering to reform the swordsman and guide him down a better path.

Under the guidance of Takuan, after being ousted by his own village, weighed down by the consequences of actions, driven still by the need to prove himself, the swordsman, determined to live by "The Way of The Sword", sets off into his journey of self-discovery. It is a journey that digs deeply into questioning why we feel, so strongly, the need to prove ourselves. How often that this need to prove ourselves is tied to a need for acceptance from others. That by living a life where we constantly seek affirmation and approval, we lose sight of what it means to truly be ourselves. And that once we learn to live for ourselves, blazing our own trail, can we begin to connect with our soul and find peace in life.

It may be tempting to infer that this book is about a man and his sword, defeating increasingly stronger opponents until he proves himself the strongest of the strong, the best of the best, and you'd actually be a bit wrong. It is a tale of a transformational journey where one learns that the only fight worth having is to do better than what you were able to do the day before. That all actions have far reaching consequences and you will eventually reap the seeds you've sown. That as long as you stay true to yourself, doing the best that you can, then, even if you lose, you can die having lived a fulfilling life.

The lessons learned from Musashi can be applied to any skill that one can learn, be it painting, sculpting, music, writing, cooking, etc. At some point you will encounter people with greater skill (from which you can learn from), people of lesser skill (who can learn from you), people who only want to stand in your way (a means to test yourself), people from different backgrounds and lifestyles (that you can learn from and incorporate into your own), people with unfortunate luck (even if you do everything right it is still possible to lose), and yourself (the person you are trying to be). The path of swordsmanship is just as individualistic as any of the creative skills that I've mentioned above. Even through there are preferred practices and techniques, everyone has their style. It's just as much a form of self-expression.

Getting to know yourself is a lifelong pursuit.

Understanding why you prefer some actions over others requires a deep amount of insight. Learning to sit with yourself, being alone with your thoughts, accepting who you are and who you want to be, managing the dissonance between the two, are all skills that are very rarely taught. Perhaps because you are the only person that can teach yourself those lessons. Perhaps there are not enough great examples to follow. Perhaps because society has not been molded with this pursuit in mind. As a default method, our mind often ruminates on past mistakes to reinforce the lessons learned so that we do not repeat them in the future. Understandably, it can be quite uncomfortable to master the art of self-reflection.

Nobody likes to be reminded of what they did wrong.... which is the wrong way to frame what your mind is trying to accomplish. These ruminations are not meant to serve as a form of self-imposed torture. Instead, these thoughts are much like a personality litmus test, defining what happened against the result you desired. Were the actions you took true to yourself, true to the limits of your abilities? If not, then you know where to improve should you find yourself in that situation again. If so, then that was your destined outcome, and if the outcome was not in your liking, then you know not to do that again. Either way, the ruminations are your mind chipping away at the uncut block of wood. Each reflection defining a new feature until, at last, you have arrived at what you are, and what you are not. Your self.

Self-confidence is not something that you are born with. It is something that must be acquired through the acts of self-reflection. Some may have an easier time acquiring it, but the process is the same, nonetheless. Are the actions taken the steps that you want to take, or are you doing it to appease others? It's tempting to say that there is a time and place for either, but the truth is, once you are truly confident in your actions then you will attract others that share the same desires and walk a similar path as yourself. It's true that we must "become the change we wish to see in the world" (the momentum has to come from somewhere, right?), and to do that we must truly know who we are in the world and what it is we would like to accomplish. Acquiring those two bits of knowledge will not make life easier, but it will harden your resolve to tackle even the most formidable of tasks.

The advent of social media has opened us all up to a world of new possibilities (quite literally). Most of which has led to great fragmentation throughout our communities, but also has made it easier for everyone to find their tribe... at least online anyways. Our ability to self-organize into our own tribes is greatly hampered by the restrictive costs of travel and relocation, which isn't all bad. Learning from a diverse set of ideals has its own merits, but feeling alone amongst a crowd isn't a place worth staying if you can help it. Ideally, freeing up those constraints is a worthwhile goal to tackle for worldbuilding.

Utopia will never be a perfect place. What is perfect anyways except the lack of being able to do better? There will always be room for improvement, and to me, that is where the real excitement is to be found. Radical self-acceptance and the freedom to self-organize around that are paramount to creating a world where everyone can thrive. And with that goal in mind, we can further shape the needs that bring those ideals into fruition.

Would love to hear any questions, feedback, encouragement, etc. that you may have, so feel free to reach out!

Thanks for reading! :)