As we round the corner of this new year, 2019 (sure to be banger), I find myself in the thick of things at Arcosanti. There are about 70 of us here occupying the "urban laboratory", that is, a place to experiment with what might become a model for future cities. And I have to say, it's dope here.
The landscapes inspire awe, and the built environment displays an unmissable beauty. The people, well, imagine the average, vanilla American. There's not one of those people here. Everyone has something interesting to offer, and many have wonderful gifts and vision to share.
I arrived at Arcosanti a little over 2 months ago keen to experience an alternative urban form. Just how alternative Arco is depends on the day, but so far I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here. The surrounding natural landscapes remain intact, providing residents with beautiful views and easy integration with nature. At a 1 hour drive to the nearest big city, it's remote enough to feel spacious, has beautiful star viewing at night, while also not feeling too isolated. Not only for proximity but also visitors. Around 30,000 people visit Arcosanti each year. So although we are far out into the Arizona desert and grasslands, the world comes to us. I regularly meet new and interesting people from all over the world whose responses to this place range from curious wonder to infatuation and even repulsion. Yes, not everyone who comes here gets enchanted. But it seems that most do.
I grew up going to church, and I have to admit that as a child I rather liked it. It was fun to go and be in community, to sing and dance and generally be joyful together. I liked Sunday school, and the chance to be a good student. To show off my ability to memorize stories and connect themes. It wasn’t until around age 10 that the solidity of the Christian faith began to crumble before the inquiry of this innocent youth. I was asking questions the religion couldn’t seem to answer.
No problem though, because after spending my teen years in quiet rebellion against religion, I eventually came back to some spiritual understanding. At age 19 I found a spiritual path that made sense to me. And even though life was as tumultuous as ever, my own spiritual understanding had begun to take root and grow.
Sometimes I still get confused about my purpose here. I have bouts of feeling disconnected from meaning, like, what is the point of all this anyway? A question I've been asking myself since I was very young. In a world without meaning life becomes bleak. "What's the point of me doing anything?" veils a much scarier question, "What's the point of living?"
If you've followed my blog, you'll know that in the past I've been a dedicated martial artist and studied martial arts philosophers of the east like Musashi, and written several other blogs on the topic of warrior spirit. This time, though, I'm speaking to a different dimension of the same concept. That is, the notion of a rogue warrior, or the quality of being mercenary. This is a big topic that warrants more than a simple blog post, but I will touch on a few elements that have been present for me lately.
For the last couple of weeks, I've been resisting the temptation to fall into a depressive slump. It might seem unusual since at a glance this would be a really exciting time for me. I've just released my first book, The Witness, and am busy everyday with marketing, communications, and working on my next projects. But a perfect alignment of circumstance is hardly to be expected.
Like so many others, I grew up with low self-esteem. Who’s to say why, probably for a number of reasons. After my parents divorced, I turned to food in an attempt to manage my emotions, and ended up spending my teens a bit overweight. I also grew up in a mainly white area and always felt slightly out of place. My pimply brown skin stood out like an oil spot in the sea of white faces. Whatever the cause, however you slice it, my inner critic was deafening.
Writing a story, dancing, freestyle, where does it come from? When I'm in the flow of it, I might be tempted to stop and think, is this really coming from me? But I don’t stop. Because I know that to stop and think is to halt the flow. It’s to lose sight of the moment. It’s to fall back onto my seat, instead of taking a dynamic stand.
Have you noticed how fun and exciting it can be to share about your goals and dreams with other people? To talk about what you intend to accomplish, what you dream about for yourself, and how exciting certain ideas are to you? I've noticed it too. But I've learned something very important: if I have a goal, to shut up about it.
As my life continues to shift and change, and I go down one unexpected pathway after another, I find myself savoring the excitement of the unknown. So much potential. So many possibilities. But sometimes I just need a break from the ride. A place to rest up a bit before getting back in the mix. Even in a fight there is a break between rounds. But life doesn't always gift us with those kinds of structures. Sometimes we have to develop our own sense of grounding, independent of our current life circumstances.
Have you ever had a love affair that took you through so many ups and downs, twists and turns, that you both wanted it to end but couldn't get enough? That kind of affair when the emotion runs high, and it feels like there's so much on the line. Good feelings followed by feelings of frustration or insecurity, wondering if this can go on or if you will have to throw in the towel? This is a great description of how I've related to authority throughout my life.
I often hear people encourage each other to never give up, to stay in the fight and give it your all! While this no doubt comes from a well-meaning place, in actuality I think it is terrible advice. Of course, there are times when we must endure the myriad of difficulties we face in life, not throwing in the towel until we've given everything we have. But I would also highlight that there are times when the best thing is to walk away, to regroup and live to fight another day.
Up until a few months ago, I thought I was done with fighting for good. But lately I've felt a resurgence within me of my fighting spirit. But the form it's taking this time is unique and unprecedented for me.
As I write this, I'm 31 years old. The last time I was seriously training in martial arts was my mid-twenties. I've dabbled here and there since then, but I couldn't keep interested. I kept trying to do it the old way, the way I knew before. Namely, the hard style. My favorite disciplines in the past were wrestling, jujitsu, and several styles of kickboxing. I'd never tried any kung fu, tai chi or qigong types of practices. I wanted ferocity and the satisfaction of clashing with a heavy bag, or even better, a sparring partner.