Why you should be taking territory

February 22, 2022

Everything is running down and running out

It sounds like a curious theme, but what do I mean by "Taking Territory?"

It is a recognition that entropy shapes the world. Everything is running down. Old cathedrals are crumbling, our cars are rusting, and our bodies are slowly seizing up. What a terrible state of affairs

We are only for this earth for a short time - and we struggle with the idea that we might be finite.

Whatever we do, the result is apparent. It is death. So how must we treat this terrifying truth? Some despair others choose to ignore it through distraction or hard work. Yet the fact remains.

Camus and the pursuit of meaning

Camus, in his book, the 'Myth of 'Sisyphus', states in the opening chapter that the "only serious philosophical problem is suicide" - Is life worth living he wonders?

Later he says....

"I see many people die because they judge that life is not worth living. I see others paradoxically getting killed for the ideas or illusions that give them a reason for living (what is called a reason for living is also an excellent reason for dying). I therefore conclude that the meaning of life is the most urgent of questions."

We have a brief window of time, 70 years if we are lucky, and the clock is ticking. There is little guidance except what we absorb from our families and the surrounding culture. While getting older has little to recommend it, it is a privilege denied to many and I want to make the rest of my life count.

Principle and pragmatism?

Over the years, I have got some things very wrong, and I conclude we must live more according to principle than pragmatism.

Principles endure, and the right ones lead us on a path of truth and virtue. If we are too pragmatic, the wind will blow us off course. Any who have sailed know that it is easy to give up ground by moving from a "close hauled" position (sailing as much into the wind as possible) to a more relaxing "beam reach". where the wind is hitting the vessel at a 9 or 3 o'clock position. The latter makes for great sailing, but you have ceded water that must be recaptured if your destination is windward.

In this blog, I'm very interested in the idea of purpose and meaning. I firmly believe there is a point to all this, and I have discussed some ways of finding this in my another post.. but perhaps there are principles that can guide us into the future. As much as we like to think we invented the wheel, we didn't. Humans have been doing this for a long time. We stand on the shoulders of giants, yet I think it is harder now for most of us in the 21st century to have a genuine sense of what we are about and what we should be doing.

Losing God and Truth

Nietzsche famously said that "God is dead". Most people stop here, thinking this is a factual declaration that science and intellect have won the day, but do you know the rest of the quotation? "How shall we comfort ourselves .... who will wipe this blood off us.... what festivals of atonement shall we have to invent ... must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?" Nietzsche realised that if his statement that "God is dead" had validity, it will come at a high cost. The consequences were deadly.

We are living in the shadow of his prediction. Whatever your view of God, Western society is adrift. We can no longer even agree what truth means. We are a divided in every way, Red / Blue, Black / White, Freedom / Safetyism. In the chaos that engulfs, we must chart ourselves a course. Set our compass and we must stick to our bearing even when the darkness falls, and we doubt ourselves the most.

We need defensible structures

I link my understanding of “taking territory” with the notion of personal responsibility and freedom of action. In Gen 1 v 28, we were given dominion over the earth - we are stewards. I'm sure we quickly learned that if we didn't do our jobs and put up a fight against nature, things got out of control quickly. It is coded into our DNA that to survive, we must build structure and barriers into life and our environment.

We must take charge of our emotions and lusts. Left unchecked, they will ruin us. We need to be careful with our finances, being mindful that there are seasonal rhythms of seedtime and harvest time. We need to build walls into our life to prevent or delay all manner of problems assaulting us when we least expect it. None of this is new. Our forefathers knew it. Despite our technological advancement and heightened sensitivities, the world is probably as brutish and cut-throat as ever, only we have put a veneer of sophistication upon it. Spending 10 minutes on Twitter proves my point.

The individual’s bonds to the community are broken

As we become increasingly disconnected from our neighbours, families and countrymen, there is a palpable malaise in the air - an anxiety which bad actors can tap into and weaponise to suit their own ends. This crisis or that crisis. In the end, it is all the same - it is used to transfer power or wealth away from the citizen to larger organisations or institutions.

This, for me, is the important point. I, like everybody else, was born with inalienable rights. Rights that come from our Creator, not privileges granted by government. Throughout history, the struggle has raged between the right of the individual to enjoy his personal liberty and the tyranny of government. As our US cousins say, "freedom ain't free. " There is a cost which each generation must decide if it is prepared to pay.

Just because something is written in the constitution and widely accepted as making sense doesn't mean that is how it looks in the real world. Justice gives way to injustice. Good can cede ground to evil. Gluttony overtakes moderation. The ideal solution is to not let things slide, but they inevitably will. It is a fact of life unless we labour tirelessly to preserve it. Restoration and retaking lost territory comes at a cost.

I have been talking about bigger concepts but really my aim is to speak to the individual. These bigger principles have a bearing on us and, in our own way, we can contribute to the greater good. I'm less interested in the big cultural questions, but seek to know how we can apply those broader, good principles into our own lives to expand our benevolent authority. Truth, personal responsibility, liberty, active participation in community and moderated consumption are a good place to start.

We must imagine Sisyphus happy

As Camus poses the question about life and death, I too, like him reach an optimistic conclusion - not least due my Christian faith, but knowing that my purpose is to work with the cards I have been dealt, not to collapse into a heap at the enormity of it all. I have to keep nudging on, pushing that boulder up the hill guided by long standing eternal principles. If I have a day where I don't lose ground, this is a good day. A better one is where my duty is done and I have expanded my personal responsibility and competence - and all that falls within my enlarged dominion is safer and better for it.

“I have to keep nudging on, pushing that boulder up the hill guided by long standing eternal principles. "

Parting shot

In what areas do you need to expand your personal influence or competence? Where have you let things drift?

Your health, family relationships, marriage, finances? What price are you prepared to pay to reclaim this lost ground?