You need to be prepared
From Stoicism to the Jedi, preparedness is an antidote to stress
“Everyone faces up more bravely to a thing for which he has long prepared himself, sufferings, even, being withstood if they have been trained for in advance. Those who are unprepared, on the other hand, are panic-stricken by the most insignificant happenings.” - Lucius Seneca (4 BC - 65 AD)
Good morning friends! Today I am very pleased to introduce the first “official” installment of THIS IS THE WAY, a new series within my long-running show, the Beltway Banthas podcast, focused on putting the virtues and lessons on living from Star Wars into action. Today’s episode is a reflection on Preparedness, or being prepared. There are a lot of things in the world you can worry about, lose sleep over or feel anxiety over, but what you do with those feelings is a choice. News is a fine example. Why do we watch the news? If it is merely to be informed, well you’re taking on an awful lot of weight for such an abstract purpose. What you do with information, and the actions you take based on knowledge, well that counts for something.
Below this image, I have put the podcast into writing for you if reading is more of your jam than audio. I hope you enjoy it and find some value. Please respond in the comments by becoming a Paid subscriber (monthly or annual) or find me on Twitter @Stephen_Kent89 to share your thoughts on today’s post.
What is the purpose of watching, reading, and consuming the news? There’s so much of it. The throwaway reasoning you’ll most often hear is something about duty. Duty to be informed. It’s part of being a citizen in a democracy. So you can make informed decisions. “The news” is declarative, final, curated, and…important. The news… but we know all too well that this framing of importance, this curated package of information is often not any of the things that are promised. Instead, it just feels like dead weight. Pressure. Stress. Worry.
Today I want to talk to you about using information for action, taking that weight, and doing something with it that serves you. I want to talk about preparedness.
Even during what we’d call “peacetime”, following everything going on out there can be enormously burdensome. You feel it don’t you? On the commute home from work or on your evening jog, what was once sacred time for you and your thoughts…you fill it with the pain and suffering of the world. How many perished this week to COVID nationwide? Have there been hate crimes committed in a far off distant city? Have the innocent been caught in the maelstrom of war
Keep your mind here and now where it belongs
Be mindful of the future
But never at the expense of the moment
Qui-Gon’s response to Obi Wan’s wandering mind in Episode I The Phantom Menace is something we should remind ourselves of every single day. I mean it. What is taking you away from being focused on the moment?
What we just went through together, a once in a century pandemic event, it’s hard to think back on the darkest moments of our isolation and frustration with one another and realize that the experience fell into the category of “peacetime”
So what about “Wartime”….that beast lurking In the darkness, inherent to every human soul with an appetite that demands feeding. Someone out there with too much power will inevitably give in. You thought peacetime was stressful….
What about wartime?
Star Wars fans like to joke about the “Wars in the Stars”….you know, Star Wars. Very funny. The movies and the saga itself cannot exist without the perpetual drumbeat of war and conflict that fuels trilogy after trilogy the clash between forces of light & dark. War is always churning. At the expense of course, of all the “little people” out there just trying to go to work and feed their families. If you’ve ever seen Avatar the Last Airbender there is this guy, a vegetable vendor, who appears throughout the show as a background character. The heroes are always rampaging through cities and towns with their powers, unleashing air, fire, water, stone, and more elements in both play and in combat…and this poor guy, his vegetable stand always gets destroyed. You can hear him cry out, “My Cabbages!”…..because that vegetable stand is this man’s life.
In Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, it’s the same way when Rey is training on Luke’s island and she keeps mistakingly destroying the landmarks maintained by the island's alien caretakers. They scream and yell at her constantly because her hero's journey = disruption for them.
I’m not saying you’re insignificant. In fact, you’re the opposite. But you are only human. And in this moment, where war is now the headline news item, Russia’s war on Ukraine and the dissolution of the post-World War II peace between nation-states that has defined most of our entire lives….you must keep your mind focused on the now. The voice in your head telling you to keep a Twitter window open for updates about the Russian convoy grinding toward Kyiv, it is lying when it tells you that this is of consequence. It is not.
Not when you have work that needs doing, unopened emails from your boss, projects that are overdue for your supervisor.
What will you do if WWIII does actually break out and you’ve lost your job due to lack of attention to detail…and you have no dependable income to navigate the chaos. Do not dedicate your limited time to the following the numbers of civilians lost. You know what you need to know already. Because of evil men with evil ambitions, good people out there are being hurt and killed. It’s not right. But are you doing what you need to do….getting your savings account in order, refinancing your home before interest rates explode, coming up with a budget to weather inflation rates, and the hell it is unleashing on your checking account.
Do you get what I mean here? It’s not to ignore the existence of suffering, it’s to be real about what you can do about it and recognize the validity of your own suffering as well.
Yesterday I was listening to a news report out of Ukraine. It spoke to me for this very reason. Listen to what this Ukrainian woman says to a Daily Wire reporter (Kassy Dillon) about survival in this horrific situation that being the full-scale Russian invasion.
I feel calm as long as I do not think of the future.
This is a balancing act, my friends. To live with one foot in the future is a uniquely human trait. It’s part of what makes us different from all other life on earth. We live partially in the future and have the capacity to plan for it, worry about it, and also to practice being prepared.
Knowledge of potential catastrophe will not bring you value or peace. Throwing your body on the tracks to stop potential catastrophe will not bring you peace or wellbeing. Look what it did for Anakin and Luke Skywalker between Episodes III and V. Always in motion the future is. Impossible to see the future is. You don’t know that….says Obi-Wan to Luke Skywalker about his visions of what could happen to his friends at the hands of the Empire.
The news should inform us, and more importantly inform our actions. Action is empowerment. Empowerment is security. Security brings with it…some level of serenity.
So be prepared.
The Roman Stoic Seneca once wrote
“Everyone faces up more bravely to a thing for which he has long prepared himself, sufferings, even, being withstood if they have been trained for in advance. Those who are unprepared, on the other hand, are panic-stricken by the most insignificant happenings.”
Pray for Ukraine. And for the world in this moment….a moment where everything we know could come unglued. Everything that we know. If one person in power makes the wrong move or gets trigger happy, we could enter a new period in history that makes COVID 19 into a footnote or prologue to a larger more horrific story. Pray for Ukraine and for our leaders. Think back to Episode II: Attack of the Clones when Padme falls from a Clone cruiser during the Battle of Geonosis, and Anakin nearly goes mental. What does Obi-Wan say to him?
“What would Padme do if she was in your position”….
”She would do her duty.”
Our leaders have their duty to do, and you have yours. Look at your life, finances, security, and relationships. Scan for what feels like vulnerability. And dig in on it.
Do you want to remove stress from behind your restless eyes at 3 AM in the morning? Nothing does the trick quite like the hard work of preparedness.
This is the Way.