When I decided to start this blog, I made a promise to myself that I would keep the mind-wank level at a low. Now I’m going to break that promise. As some of you guys might have guessed, I’ve been indulging in a somewhat wishy-washy kind of literature, namely Carlos Castaneda. Now, I’m not saying the guy had game (maybe he did), and I’m not even saying that his work makes for a great source of truth and ´learning the ways of the World’, as it were. However, I’m a sucker for metaphors and I always try to find patterns and commonalities between subjects that have (apparently) nothing to do with one another. Let it be clear that, in my opinion, most of his writing is just nonsensical gibberish – just like mine. In spite of this, there is always some gold to be found amongst the dirt and, in this case, that is in the two archetypes he describes when he was “studying” under the tuition of Don Juan Matus, an old Yaqui Indian sorcerer. In his teachings, Don Juan first urges Castaneda to “become a warrior”, since that’s the only way to endure the hardships of the path to knowledge.
“When a man embarks on the paths of sorcery he becomes aware, in a gradual manner, that ordinary life has been forever left behind; that knowledge is indeed a frightening affair; that the means of the ordinary world are no longer a buffer for him; and that he must adopt a new way of life if he is going to survive. The first thing he ought to do, at that point, is to want to become a warrior. The frightening nature of knowledge leaves one no alternative but to become a warrior.
By the time knowledge becomes a frightening affair the man also realizes that death is the irreplaceable partner that sits next to him on the mat. Every bit of knowledge that becomes power has death as its central force. Death lends the ultimate touch and whatever is touched by death indeed becomes power.
A man who follows the paths of sorcery is confronted with imminent annihilation every turn of the way, and unavoidably he becomes keenly aware of his death. Without the awareness of death he would be only an ordinary man involved in ordinary acts. He would lack the necessary potency, the necessary concentration that transforms one’s ordinary time on earth into magical power.
Thus to be a warrior a man has to be, first of all, and rightfully so, keenly aware of his own death. But to be concerned with death would force any one of us to focus on the self and that would be debilitating. So the next thing one needs to be a warrior is detachment. The idea of imminent death, instead of becoming an obsession, becomes an indifference.”
Carlos Castaneda, A Separate Reality.
Now, how is this related to game? Well, if phrases like “frightening affair”, “no longer a buffer”, “death as a source of power” and “detachment” don’t ring a bell, let’s see what entails, according to Don Juan, to become a warrior:
“The path of knowledge is a forced one. In order to learn we must be spurred. In the path of knowledge we are always fighting something, avoiding something, prepared for something; and that something is always inexplicable, greater, more powerful than us. The inexplicable forces will come to you. Later on it’ll be your own ally, so there is nothing you can do now but to prepare yourself for the struggle.
The world is indeed full of frightening things and we are helpless creatures surrounded by forces that are inexplicable and unbending. The average man, in ignorance, believes that those forces can be explained or changed; he doesn’t really know how to do that, but he expects that the actions of mankind will explain them or change them sooner or later. A sorcerer, on the other hand, does not think of explaining or changing them; instead, he learns to use such forces by redirecting himself and adapting to their direction. That’s his trick. There is very little to sorcery once you find out its trick. A sorcerer, by opening himself to knowledge, falls prey to those forces and has only one means of balancing himself, his will; thus he must feel and act like a warrior. I will repeat this once more: Only as a warrior can one survive the path of knowledge. What helps a sorcerer live a better life is the strength of being a warrior.
It is my commitment to teach you to see. I am compelled, therefore, to teach you to feel and act like a warrior. To see without first being a warrior would make you weak; it would give you a false meekness, a desire to retreat; your body would decay because you would become indifferent. It is my personal commitment to make you a warrior so you won’t crumble.
A warrior should be prepared only to battle. His spirit is not geared to indulging and complaining, nor is it geared to winning or losing. The spirit of a warrior is geared only to struggle, and every struggle is a warrior’s last battle on earth. Thus the outcome matters very little to him. In his last battle on earth a warrior lets his spirit flow free and clear. And as he wages his battle, knowing that his will is impeccable, a warrior laughs and laughs.”
And then, most importantly, this:
” You think about yourself too much and that gives you a strange fatigue that makes you shut off the world around you and cling to your arguments.
A light and amenable disposition is needed in order to withstand the impact and the strangeness of the knowledge I am teaching you. Feeling important makes one heavy, clumsy, and vain. To be a man of knowledge one needs to be light and fluid.
One has to reduce to a minimum all that is unnecessary in one’s life.
Once you decide something put all your petty fears away. Your decision should vanquish them. I will tell you time and time again, the most effective way to live is as a warrior. Worry and think before you make any decision, but once you make it, be on your way free from worries or thoughts; there will be a million other decisions still awaiting you. That’s the warrior’s way.
A warrior thinks of his death when things become unclear. The idea of death is the only thing that tempers our spirit.
To be a warrior you have to be crystal clear.
A warrior takes responsibility for his acts, for the most trivial of acts. He waits patiently, knowing that he is waiting, and knowing what he is waiting for. That is the warrior’s way. An average man acts out his thoughts, and never takes responsibility for what he does.
A warrior treats everything with respect and does not trample on anything unless he has to. He does not abandon himself to anything, not even to his death. He is not a willing partner and not available, and if he involves himself with something, you can be sure that he is aware of what he is doing. For a warrior there is nothing out of control. Life for a warrior is an exercise in strategy.”
Carlos Castaneda, A Separate Reality
See where this is going? Now, for the hunter:
“When a man decides to do something he must go all the way, but he must take responsibility for what he does. No matter what he does, he must know first why he is doing it, and then he must proceed with his actions without having doubts or remorse about them.
Look at me, I have no doubts or remorse. Everything I do is my decision and my responsibility. The simplest thing I do, to take you for a walk in the desert for instance, may very well mean my death. Death is stalking me. Therefore, I have no room for doubts or remorse. If I have to die as a result of taking you for a walk, then I must die.
You on the other hand, feel that you are immortal, and the decisions of an immortal man can be cancelled or regretted or doubted. In a world where death is the hunter, my friend, there is no time for regrets or doubts. There is only time for decisions.
If you would live out here in the wilderness you would know that during the twilight the wind becomes power. A hunter that is worth his salt knows that, and acts accordingly.
The art of a hunter is to become inaccessible. To be inaccessible means that you touch the world around you sparingly. You don’t expose yourself to the power of the wind unless it is mandatory. You don’t use and squeeze people until they have shriveled to nothing, especially the people you love.
To be unavailable means that you deliberately avoid exhausting yourself and others. It means that you are not hungry and desperate.
A hunter knows he will lure game into his traps over and over again, so he doesn’t worry. To worry is to become accessible, unwittingly accessible. And once you worry you cling to anything out of desperation; and once you cling you are bound to get exhausted or to exhaust whoever or whatever you are clinging to.
I’ve told you already that to be inaccessible does not mean to hide or to be secretive. It doesn’t mean that you cannot deal with people either. A hunter uses his world sparingly and with tenderness regardless of whether the world might be things, or plants, or animals, or people, or power. A hunter deals intimately with his world and yet he is inaccessible to that same world. He is inaccessible because he’s not squeezing his world out of shape. He taps it lightly, stays for as long as he needs to, and then swiftly moves away leaving hardly a mark.
A good hunter knows one thing above all–he knows the routines of his prey. That’s what makes him a good hunter. A hunter that is worth his salt does not catch game because he sets his traps, or only because he knows the routines of his prey, but because he himself has no routines. He is free, fluid, unpredictable.
A good hunter changes his ways as often as he needs. A hunter must not only know about the habits of his prey, he also must know that there are powers on this earth that guide men and animals and everything that is living. Powers that guide our lives and our deaths.”
Carlos Castaneda, Journey To Ixtlan.
That is too much of a borrowed voice, I know. But I think it helps to adopt certain mindsets in this harsh yet fascinating journey of learning. Let me finish by quoting the fictional old guy with a phrase that stuck with me ever since I’ve read it:
“All of us are fools. You always feel compelled to explain your acts, as if you were the only man on earth who’s wrong. It’s your old feeling of importance. You have too much of it; you also have too much personal history. On the other hand, you don’t assume responsibility for your acts; you’re not using your death as an adviser, and above all you are too accessible.
Change! If you do not respond to that challenge you are as good as dead. You have never taken the responsibility for being in this unfathomable world. Therefore, you were never an artist, and perhaps you’ll never be a hunter. There is one simple thing wrong with you–you think you have plenty of time. You think your life is going to last forever.”
Carlos Castaneda, Journey to Ixtlan.