The Art of Breaking Chains and Taking Names
“The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, and intolerable.” –H.L. Mencken
Here’s the thing: you are a force to be reckoned with. The question is, what kind of force are you? Are you a weak force or a strong force? Are you indifferent or cool with being different? Are you ordinary or extraordinary? Are you healthy or unhealthy? Are you a victim or a warrior? Are you codependent or independent? Are you a pawn or have you learned how to turn the tables on power? Are you a lamb afraid of wolves or are you a lion keeping wolves in check? Are you overly independent or have you made Ego your bitch and become interdependent? Are you allowing the world to kick your ass or have you flipped the script? Are you a slave or the one who breaks chains?
First off, it’s high time that you realized everything is connected and everything changes. That means you. That means you are connected to everything else. That means you will change. You are a force of nature first, a person second. The force of nature part is the interconnected-everything-changes part. The person part is how you react to this absolute fact. Indeed, there is more to being human than choice, there’s vicissitude. All your anxiety and stress, all your depression and despair, all your neurosis and psychosis, and all your fretfulness and dissociation comes from your having suppressed this absolute fact: everything is connected, and everything changes. You can either align yourself with it or be at odds against it. The choice is yours.
This article is about aggressively getting back into alignment with the cosmos. It’s about soul reorientation, existential realignment, and spiritual readjustment. It’s about untangling ourselves from the briar patch of human ignorance. It’s about getting back to a place, a sacred space, where we can resonate with being an interdependent force once again. A force that must change, and keep changing, lest it devolve into being stuck, stagnant, and corrupt. And it starts with breaking chains.
“If you don’t get what you want, you suffer; if you get what you don’t want, you suffer; even when you get exactly what you want, you still suffer because you can’t hold on to it forever. Your mind is your predicament. It wants to be free of change. Free of pain, free of the obligations of life and death. But change is law and no amount of pretending will alter that reality.” –Socrates
If you’re addicted to safety, security, and comfort, then you’re probably overly domesticated and in dire need of a wakeup call. You probably cannot see the chains for the flowers (i.e. forest for the trees). You have been overwhelmed by luxury. Your comfort is a too-much thing. Your domestic order is a too-soft prison. Break the chains. Fight against the shackles of the proper and suitable. Fuck props! Fuck suits! Break through the cages of expectation and conformity. Snap at jobs and desks. Spit at salaries and products and bills. Snarl at consumerism and overindulgence and too many things things things. It was Rousseau who revealed how our culture merely “weaves garlands of flowers around the chains that bind us.”
This is your one true life. This is your chance, right here, to reconnect to what really matters. This is your chance, right now, to recondition your preconditioning. Right here, right now. Opt out of the Matrix. I dare you. Toss unsustainable possessions and duties and daily grinds into sustainable fires. I double-dog dare you. Burn it all. Then bear witness as the Phoenix of your own unstoppable courage rises out of the ashes. She’s already inside you aching to get out anyway. She shakes her fiery head at your willingness to be obedient and submissive to authority. She sputters furious indignation at your conformity and cringes at your self-pity and fear. She’s begging you to free her, calling out for you to be assertive and fearless, to carry your own courage like you would a heart. Break those goddamned chains! Or at least admit there are flowers concealing them.
“Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.” –Rumi
Kicking ass (violence) isn’t necessary, except maybe as a metaphor. But taking names is highly necessary. We take names in order to keep those unaccountable accountable. In order to keep those who are culpable responsible for their actions. In order to keep power from corrupting, and especially to keep power from corrupting absolutely.
Taking names is tearing off superman’s cape and burning it in a fire built on a pile of outdated masks. It’s tearing through the night like a circumspect stare of owls. It’s reducing high-horses to mere kindling. It’s going down the rabbit hole, dragging the ignorant blue-pill poppers kicking and screaming behind you. It’s a warning of the first order to the power that be, “Your power is an illusion at best and corrupt at worst. Don’t get too attached to it.” Taking names is the glowing Buddha inside us all declaring to all things grasping, unsustainable, and fixated: non-attachment is your only salvation.
Taking names is putting the rest of the world on high alert. It’s Neo at the end of The Matrix warning the agents that their time is up. It’s Maximus in Gladiator revealing himself and daring Commodus to kill him. It’s Jeff Daniel’s character in The Most Honest Three Minutes in Television History. It’s Charlie Chaplin breaking years of silence to give that amazing speech in The Great Dictator. It’s telling it like it is whether people like it or not. It’s the shiny voice box of a fine-tuned throat chakra singing its fluted truth. And it cannot be ignored.
Stay Calm (Like a Bomb)
“There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.” –Willa Cather
One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in an immoral world is to act out amorally. Rebellion shines like gold in immoral times (or even overly-moral times). It calms the tumult while empowering the powerless. It gives hope to the downtrodden and offsets oppression. Fearful, overly-moral souls catch fire from courageous amoral souls that are fully lit and not afraid to show it. If you would help to change things for the better, be an amoral agent. Be calm like a bomb. Like Henry David Thoreau said, “Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life. So aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something.” The moral man is too content with being moral. The immoral man is too corrupt to see the error of his ways. The amoral agent hits the Goldilocks sweet spot of the human condition, as he/she “aims above morality” while kneecapping immorality, all while simply living by good example.
If, as Carl Jung says, “the pendulum of the mind oscillates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong,” then it behooves us to do what makes sense, to do what’s healthy, even despite right and wrong. Amoral agents understand this. They are the ones throwing sparks and building signal fires that cause proper matters to catch fire. They’re the ones getting back to the roots of things and playing them like the sacred instruments they are. Like Ahab says in Moby Dick, “What I’ve dared I’ve willed, and what I’ve willed I’ll do. They think me mad. But I am demoniac, I am madness maddened. That wild madness that’s only calm to comprehend itself.”
This type of “madness” is the bomb behind the calm, the amoral flare launched from a moral stance. All at once striking fear in the hearts of the powerful while also igniting hope in the hearts of the powerless. It’s a return to the primal, to the wild heart of mankind that connects us to all things. As John Muir intuited, “Happiness, hidden in the glorious wildness like unmined gold.” Amoral action is the Middle Way, or Golden Ratio, of the human condition, launching us past the bulwarks of “that’s just the way things are” and through the juggernaut of preconceived authority, and into the promised land of healthy, sustainable evolution. It gets us out of our own way. It gets us out of our own heads, where overly conditioned and excessively brainwashed human opinion clouds our imagination. Like Richard Feynman articulated, “The imagination of nature is far, far greater than the imagination of man.” Indeed, it gets us back into the driver’s seat of being a force of nature first and human beings second.
Keep the Wolves in Check
“The influence of a vital person vitalizes, there’s no doubt about it. The world without spirit is a wasteland. People have the notion of saving the world by shifting things around, changing the rules, and who’s on top, and so forth. No, no! Any world is a valid world if it’s alive. The thing to do is to bring life to it, and the only way to do that is to find in your own case where the life is and become alive yourself.” –Joseph Campbell
Yes! You want to break chains and take names? Become alive! You want to grab the world by the short and curlies? Become alive! Vitalize yourself. Overthrow yourself, day in and day out. Embolden the world by emboldening yourself first and foremost. In the crashing plane that is our unsustainable culture, the act of placing the oxygen mask on yourself first is an act of self-vitalization. Do it! Then have the courage to be the one who at least attempts to “right the plane.” Like Carlos Castaneda ingeniously opined, “The self-confidence of the warrior is not the self-confidence of the average man. The average man seeks certainty in the eyes of the onlooker and calls that self-confidence. The warrior seeks impeccability in his own eyes and calls that humbleness. The average man is hooked to his fellow men, while the warrior is hooked only to infinity.”
You want to keep the wolves in check and empower the sheep? Then unhook yourself from their pettiness and become a lion. Hook yourself to infinity and surf the waves into a courage of the most high. Shed your too-heavy self-importance like the parochial snakeskin it is, and move on to a heightened state of awareness. Self-importance is mankind’s greatest enemy. Replace it with vitality, with courage, with a self-empowering sense of humor. Become a mighty beacon of hope that doesn’t think twice about who its light disturbs or encourages. A catalyst catalyzes, there’s no doubt about it.
Don’t leave the wasteland a wasteland. Bring water to bear instead. Let the beacon of your soul shine its light into the shadowlands of the human condition. Reconnect the disconnected. Teach meek sheep how to become courageous lions despite corrupt wolves. Push yourself to the limit. Stretch your comfort zone until it subsumes the world. Burn yourself out in a blaze of glory if you must. It’s better than lazing away and collecting dust. You’re a force of nature first, a person second, after all. Like the immortal Jack London once said, “I would rather be ashes than dust. I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”
Read more articles from Gary ‘Z’ McGee.
About the Author
Gary ‘Z’ McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide awake view of the modern world.
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