To save your life.
Dear Last Barbarians,
Put your bare foot on the grass, on the sand, on the soil, on the Earth. Feel it solid beneath your feet. In every way, you are of the Earth, it's minerals are in your bones, it's quickness flows in your veins.
You worship the Earth.
Yes, yes, all of our rules and rituals and beliefs are important, they power us and make us resilient, and yes we love our wives and husbands and parents and especially our children, but if we don't love the Earth more, if the Earth is not our beating heart then we and those we love are dead walking.
If you value the products of the Earth, gold and iron and potatoes and apples, but not the Earth for giving them to you, then your own behavior will find you and your babies.
You can not pull your living from the dying flesh of the planet.
Earth created and sustains you; you will love Earth deeply, joyfully, with praise and above all, with the sacrifice of your comfort, or we will all die. We will live in the surplus of the Earth, and not the flesh of the Earth, or we will die, as we are now dying.
To save your life,
you will love the Earth.
Letters Ten to Twenty
I'm not the first poet; not the last
Mountains are birthed up by crashing rock masses or burst up as volcanoes, but as they are born their peaks are torn by wind and ice. Massive substance they might be, stopping storms and shadowing valleys but the root of every mountain knows some day it sees the sun. Most of a mountain's time on this Earth is gravel, sand, flecks.
Everything that is birthed up or bursts up in fire will one day wear away, fleck by peck by wind and ice.
Touch a tree solid in the rocks and reaching to the sun. Fleck by peck it gathers from the soil and from the light and the air until it shades the ground and gives shelter to the birds. Noble substance. Most of its time on this Earth is spent dead and in decay, longer than it stood will it lay; not birds but worms and beetles, not to the light but the dark quiet soil.
My warm and wriggling form is made of flecks and pecks, molecules and elements far flung until they met in me; my movement is an illusion, most of my time on this Earth is spent lifeless; pull the flecks from me and I move no more.
To be clear, for all our love of living, and for the way we fight and beg when the end is near, we have to know within us that we spend most of our time here dead, dispersed, just pecks of flecks scattered by ice and wind.
Hold your living loved; feel the warmth of them, their substance. How strange and wonderful that we should be so, pulled together at this time, for this moment, to touch for this instant, before wind and ice pull our flecks apart. How rare to feel, to fear; no tree or mountain or even star knows it is and won't be. Only we do! Only we expect the wind and ice!
Grieve for what has been lost, and will be lost; how not?
But while you are warm and wriggling rejoice as well for the unlikely and inevitable thing you are, a whirlwind of flecks, met for a moment in you. Feel it! Tell us about it. Perhaps you are the last poet.
The Cost of Occupation
Dear Last Barbarians,
When we are occupied, when we couldn't fight and couldn't flee and have to subject ourselves to the control of others, one time tested means of resistance is to raise the cost of occupation.
It depends on the nature of your occupation. If a powerful force has just suddenly taken your lands, anyone who can, should flee with the children to wherever you have designated to flee. Flight is not a long term solution; people run out of food and water. Have a plan. Know where you are going, know the land, know the people.
The spine of history is made of the circumstances which cause people to leave their homeland and flee.
Is the occupier passing through on the way to larger conquest? They will often just take food or other resources and leave.
Do they intend to establish a long term presence, set up a headquarters and start issuing rules?
If so, is it a line station, meaning they will have just a small presence to secure a pass or river crossing or other feature of your home? A temporary or limited presence can often be lived around. They have no particular interest in your people or your land, beyond food, water and fuel. Make peace, engage in trade, but do not fraternize. Go about your lives in somberness, as though they weren't there. If some of your people are brought over to the side of your occupier, willingly working or fighting for them, or socializing, cut them out. Tolerate your occupier but don't mingle with them, and wait for them to leave.
An occupier, even a cordial one, will bring changes your group may not be prepared for. Power within the group can be shifted simply by association with the occupier. Your people might stop farming and work for pay; their fields will turn wild, and when the occupier leaves, how will you eat?
If they intend to stay long term, if they make slaves of you or seize your land, if they set up cities, you must try to make a way to flee, all in one night, or one or two every day. Set up as far away as you can, though it will mean hunger and starvation if the seasons are against you. Flee to where people who lack your resolve can not live.
A long term occupation might prevent you from fleeing. In that case, you have to increase the cost of occupation. It costs money and energy to hold a people captive; a time tested way is to make all that more difficult.
A terrible occupier will kill people for laziness; but if not, be lazy. Let your hands do their work but slowly. Bring them the poorest of everything. If you have to carry water, develop a hole in your vessel. Don't take up work in their houses, and if you do, never forget, because they never forget, that you are occupied; they are living in your home, because they can, because you can not prevent it.
Never let your children work for the occupier.
Whatever thing you do, they will retaliate. If you kill one, they will kill twenty. If you steal food, your camps will be turned out for provisions. If you are purposefully slow, they will increase your hours, or beat you, or beat your mother, or kill your grandfather. Your occupier has a few large advantages; your advantages are small, but many.
You must increase the cost of occupation in small ways. Like gentle flakes of soft snow, your costs blanket their effort. Always be thoughtful: if asked to lead, and you lead them through the swamp and they lose equipment, they might kill you, they aren't stupid. So, you say, “though that way looks clear, there is a swamp, it will be difficult.” And that is the truth that covers your subterfuge, so take them through brambles, or rocky ground.
Answer every insult with a smile; every blow with gratitude. Let your smile be real: you strike me today and I urinate in your water supply; thank you for reminding me with your fists that I hate you and must never let you prevail.
Occupation is not the worst thing. Being take away as slaves, separated with purpose from your family and kind, sent to live in cities or mines, or brothels; that is worst. Other people have frequently shown us through history how to maintain identity while in slavery. It is the things you believe in common; the rituals you share that remind us who we are.
With occupation, if you are patient, if you know how to thrive on the leavings of your masters, if you organize the world around you against your occupier in subtle ways, you will prevail. Either they will be distracted and leave, or a way will be made for you to run: run! Flee to the mountains. Call yours and treasure what no one else wants, and you will be free again.
An occupier comes to take what is valuable: food, labor, materials. They take it because they can, because you are too few and too powerless, if you kill them, more will come, and more later. However, if you make your occupier too much wealth, still more will come.
Focus on: the cost of occupation, and the cautious but relentless nature of your resistance. Eventually, either your occupier will fall in to decline and leave, or be weakened enough for you to attack, and you will prevail.
Dear Last Barbarians,
There are two main things to avoid when dealing with other barbarian groups. The first is too few networks, too few lines of communication and trade; the other is too many. Like everything about a proper barbarian life, we walk the edge on our interactions with other groups, always enough; never too much.
We can not live without other barbarians. We can avoid interacting with the body in all its manifestations of war and taxation and tribute. But, we must have sisters and brothers in other free groups.
A reason is that we can help each other in times of war or famine; a reason is that we can't marry our brothers and sisters; a reason is that resources we need from miles away are best traveled hand to hand from sister to cousin to friend.
The important reason is that we are humans, we need other humans to receive our anger and fear, to excite our envy, to greet in distant passing to mark our homes, and to help us mourn hard times.
Have trade groups, people you trade with, and so, people that people in your group know. Have territory groups, that share features and resources, and have some people in our group meet with people from their group for common protection of those resources. And have wide spread marriage groups.
Avoid, though, too many kinds of connections with any group.
How to deal with other barbarian groups?
A child knows first to treat them as equals, to observe for them the beliefs we hold for ourselves.
Next, we share with those who have similar things to lose as ourselves. If a neighbor becomes too large, we turn a little away and reach out to smaller groups. If a neighbor has too little to offer, they may become careless in involving us in risk.
Always remember that good and bad things, both new songs and better tools, and disease and unrest, come from other groups.
But, one way to help avoid war is to trade sons in marriage, and have your sons live with the bride's family. Consider the advantages: you are less likely to make war against your sons. Your sons are less likely to want war for their new group, since they no longer die for their sisters and mothers. Very importantly, you will treat the husbands from other groups in the measure you want your sons treated.
In the old imperial world, it was often daughters who were traded to spread claims of royalty and privilege. You will trade your sons to prevent war and strengthen your mutual concerns with other groups.
Always, we are prepared for war; always we know who in the region might want what we have, who has sufficient strength they might think they can wipe us in one blow. Always we prefer peace, but we know war is always possible. We never forget that war, like a fire in dry grass, is easy to start, but sometimes impossible to stop.
What to do when another group impacts your life resources? Two things will cause a group to pose a threat: good times, and bad times.
Times of plenty mean too many people, an increased need for resources, many young people willing to fight in order to gain some benefit.
Hard times means people have to move, to encroach. In history, it has been easiest for hungry and eager people to simply take what others have. Learn what situations lead to war
First talk, and see what the problem is. If people are hungry, they will kill for food, so you are better off to try to share.
As always, if war seems necessary, you can you move to a site you've had picked for a next move. War is not for conquest, it is not for personal glory. War is only to survive, and only go to war if you are ready to see everyone in the group die.
But, if war is what it is, fight to the death, but not your death, that of your enemy.
Assess their strength; what would a defeat would cost them, what is their resolve. Know everything about them, their motivation, their situation.
Can you kill a leader and stop the war? Do it at once, before too many people are invested.
You should be prepared to avoid the most dangerous kind of war, the blood feud. It begins, perhaps they steal something, you make an effort to get it back and one of theirs is killed. Now, they have to avenge a death, and they kill an innocent from your group. Now, you have to kill some of them.
When the war is over all that is left of your two groups are widows and fatherless children and grieving mothers.
If a disagreement starts, stop it before it becomes a blood feud. Make a sacrifice. Consider the fire in dry grass: to save the family, you must be willing to throw yourself on it at first flame, to use your flesh to cool it regardless burns and even your own death. A blood feud has no winners, there is no just recompense for the life of a loved one, or the sadness their loss brings. Rubbing barbarian blood on their tombstone brings nothing back.
We need other people, and other barbarian groups, but just enough and not too many.
How I think it will go
Dear Last Barbarians,
I don't know when you are; I don't know if you are living in a decaying, over populated city, or scattered across the mountains. I don't know if the massive global body still lives, or if it has collapsed into regional bodies; I don't know if, somewhere, a core of the global body continues, an angry, bloodied monster fighting for life, or if the climate has changed so much that there are no large bodies, only bandit kings.
I see the collapse like this:
Crop loss; water shortages; economic losses; economic collapse and reorganization; migration pressures; war; disease; economic collapse and reorganization; war; famine; disease; a hundred years of death being common, of new crises constantly arising from weather, wildfire and the burning of cities; the degradation of the machines of civilization with resulting continued pollution; and humans moving farther out and breaking in to smaller groups.
Maybe not. Maybe there is one world government and everyone is connected by computer, and unlawful procreation is punishable by death. Maybe the planet flipped and, in twenty years, killed everyone and there are no last barbarians, I was the last barbarian.
But, that is not how I think it will go. I think there are barbarians left, though I don't know if what I have to say is of any use, beyond my apology, and my warning.
So, I tell you about soap, in case you don't know about soap, and about garlic. And I tell you what I know of how humans have, in the past, dealt with the constant pressure to civilize, and the constant tendency to build civilizations.
How I think it will go is this: you will be here, and you will want to live, and you will want your children to live, and to have comfort, and to be admired, by many. I pray for you.
Who you are, what you believe the first part
Dear Last Barbarians,
All over the world, as I live, there are small groups of barbarians. Some live in the deserts, some in the mountains, some the icy places, some travel from city to city, some in the far north, some in the far south. Almost all live in poverty, most have lost some or all of their previous homelands to the body. Most of them suffer daily consequences of being barbarians. In another letter I will name and describe a few of these groups. For now, it is enough to know what they have in common.
They know who they are; they know they are free. They understand that their beliefs are what keep them free, give them courage and guidance in their struggle. Our beliefs are the story of who we are.
You are the last barbarians. It is not for me to tell you what you believe, but I know part of your story.
I've cautioned about religions: this is not about that. Religions are bodies, they behave as bodies behave. This is about belief, and perhaps spiritualism, and maybe god.
Whatever cosmos you invent to believe in, it has to have certain things.
It has to apply equally to all humans.
It has to feature mercy and the opportunity for salvation, for people to learn and do better in this world. It must have ceremonies of forgiveness.
It has to refer to a personal relationship with the cosmos, immediately available to all people, and not one strictly mediated by religious bureaucrats.
It has to offer hope:
Hope allows for positive outcomes we didn't anticipate, to balance fears of such negative outcomes.
Hope powers us when we might otherwise be overcome, hope is as important as courage.
Hope ties us to others.
It has to anchor you in the world, by telling the story about yourself and previous barbarians, about their courage and your courage, about how good can prevail even when the sky rains down a misfortune, or the sun dries the spring's seedlings. It has to describe what about the Last Barbarians is good, and deserves to survive.
Talk of common courage, of the resolve of the cripple who works their job, of the strength of mothers and fathers who lose children but still give joy in life, in the poorest who is generous with what they have. Ignore the gold of bandit kings or the steel of armies, it is the courage to continue and to celebrate life, and to show charity to everyone that will help you endure.
You must have words to discuss our individual debt and our personal duty to make the world whole. It is our privilege to live; we owe the world, and the people who give us a place in the world, a debt. We should, in every small act, and in every major intention, work to repay the world, to make it whole.
Give thanks to the world. When you eat, something died so you could live; give thanks. Give thanks that you exist in the world. Give thanks for the things you value, that make you real.
It has to have words and wisdom for loss and hardship. It has to bring acceptance. It has to acknowledge that to live an all is a privilege, that all things end, from the beautiful dew to the sun. It has to help people accept a real world where things are often arbitrary, and where there are no promises.
It has to accommodate death. It has to be familiar with death, death has to be at supper at the table, until we no longer fear death, but recognize its place in the balance of things. Death is the equalizer.
It has to avoid certain things.
It has to have no provision to order people to kill for any reason but the direct survival of the self, family or group. Your beliefs will not encourage you to justify killing. If you make war, it is for defense.
It will have no provision for hate.
It has no provision to distinguish among people; no person or group can be measured in a way to disadvantage some.
Craft your beliefs well, make them strong where they catch the winds of hardship, make it gentle where they touch the Earth, and by and by others will come to your camp.
Who you are, what you believe, the second part
Dear Last Barbarians,
There are things people do when they want to retain their history and identity in the face of oppression. These things help them recognize themselves and each other.
This is important. I don' know when you are, I don't know what Earth is like, where in the process of paying nature back we are as you read this. But, if you have never been separated from the things you love, from the people in your world, you have no idea how easy it is to become lost, or left behind.
If you have to face environmental hardship, like most of our ancestors did, you might find yourself one day in a family with whom you share no bloodlines. They will easily know and accept you if you have important beliefs and symbols, and rituals in common.
A “symbol” we know is an object which represents something else. Our world is busy with symbols; writing is a kind of symbol, money is, these are things which are of no value themselves, but are given value for what they represent.
If I had a people to lead, I would, of course, use the hand ax as our symbol. It reminds us that once we were all barbarians, who survived when no one should have survived because of the hand ax, which is always there and never fails. It also reminds us that once we let the ax become our master, and together we overcame and destroyed the world. It is hope for survival; it is a caution should we survive. The shape is easy to make, easy to recognize, and easy to disguise, should that be necessary. All our people would know the hand ax, and know it meant us, we are children of the hand ax.
There are other symbols; some peoples use many symbols, some, just a few. Have symbols for the things that matter to you.
Rituals are things people do at special times, and in special ways. If we get together, and sing songs, or dance, or eat, or pray, or grieve, and if we do it the same way, with the same meaning each time, it is a ritual.
Rituals help us remind ourselves of our story, of what we have learned. They allow a time for older barbarians to teach little barbarians. Rituals are often associated with myths for barbarian people; you have no need of myths since the truth of your story is epic itself.
What rituals you choose is up to when and how you live. Most sustainable barbarian people have rituals for the important moments in life, and to describe their relationship with the world.
Make your rituals nourish your people. Common to many barbarian cultures are rituals with special foods and feasts, with music and dance, with color and noise. If you can, if your circumstances allow, do this.
Barbarians, and bandit kings and empires use stories. They tell stories about themselves, about how they live, about what is important to them. Tell your stories, showing what you've learned in the past. Sing songs; all people sing songs, and your songs should remind you of things, everything, from how to travel from this place to that place, to how to make this food or that, to stories to amaze children about the power and courage of barbarians ancestors. Tell stories, sing songs about who you are and what you do.
Ritual ceremonies give you a chance to come together with other groups of people. Large ceremonies annually for people from a distance; small ceremonies monthly at which closer people are invited. Every week a small ceremony for your group. You can understand how important this is to maintaining relationships and to reminding yourselves who you are, and why you live.
Give thanks often. You live, you experience, you have the rare chance to be a bit of the universe which can contemplate itself; give thanks often.
Give thanks when the crops come in. Give thanks when the king bandits don't come, when the tax man forgets you, when strangers don't over-run you in hunger.
Give thanks when you eat. Many will not eat this day, in my time eight hundred million; in your time, perhaps more.
Give thanks for the people in your world, though today you even be adversaries; give thanks for the people who make you real in the world.
Give thanks for the emotions of love, and fear, and gratitude, and sacrifice, the emotions which bind us to others, make us thoughtful, and help us repay our burden on the world.
Celebrate births and deaths with rituals of tears and joy. Each birth is celebrated for the new little barbarian to join us and continue humankind, and tears for the lives of other animals that will pass so this one can live, and tears for the hard times she will have, and tears for her passing which must come. Each death is grief for the loss of the one who left us, for our missing them in our midst. But also joy, for the life they had, for the people they loved, for the space they have made on the planet, and gratitude for the wisdom of death.
Have rituals to ask the world. We know we are at the constant changing of the world, and to the moment to moment play of our luck. There is so much we don't understand and can't control. It is how it is. But, we can have rituals to focus our thoughts, to bring our group together, and to task the world:
Ask that food is available, and for courage should there be famine.
Ask for peace, or the courage to resist, to flee, or to fight to the last if necessary.
Ask that bandit kings and tax collectors be diverted elsewhere and for courage and luck should they come.
Ask that the world continue in a way that allows us peace where we are, and courage and luck and speed should things suddenly change badly.
Ask for health, for the ability to do the important things in your world.
Ask for children, and the courage to raise them and the resolve to grow them straight, and the strength to lessen their burden on the world.
These are things we can ask for in ritual, together or singly.
In our individual lives, we humans have always had small personal rituals, from kissing our children to sleep safely, to things we do for our health. We always remember that we create these rituals, and that we can change them when the world changes. At the same time, we can find comfort in rituals, they help build memories, to help us through hard times, to give thanks, and to remember who we are, and that we are good and deserve to live.
Find our symbols, define our rituals. The only magic in them is the magic of you, to focus your thoughts, and plan your action, and find your courage. But, we may someday suddenly speak a new language, pretend to worship a strange god, put on like a jacket a new name, and we need our beliefs, and our symbols to remind us who we are.
Dear Last Barbarians,
There are things you should always have in storage against hard times. Water, food, soap, medicine, weapons, shelter.
If you stay, and times get hard, you will need those things. If you have to fight, you will need those things because you won't have time or energy to pursue them. If you flee, those are the things you have to take, whatever else you leave.
There is no mystery to the magic, storing surplus against hard times is something many animals do, something humans have always done, something we must do.
Water is pivotal. You need it, to drink especially if you have salted foods, and to wash with, which is very important, and for dozens of other reasons. But, water is heavy. Each person should have at least a gallon a day to drink, for cooking or re-hydrating, and to wash. One can look for water, but most surface water is polluted, if you drink it, you might get sick. It is never good to get sick, but particularly not in troubled times. Learn about finding and using water.
Learn to grow food, find food, store food and cook food. Water is life, food is growth.
Soap needs water. Cleaning your hands, and washing recent wounds, can save your life. However, the water you rinse with has to be clean. Making soap is dangerous and requires fat or oil, which can be hard to come by. Always have more than enough soap; for its weight, it is the best possible shield against incapacitation and death you can carry. Learn about soap, and what to use if you don't have it.
Medicine usually means things to temporarily change something to help you live. Many herbs are medicine, and some foods. Learn about the medicines you are likely to use.
How do you learn? However you can: read a book if possible. Ask someone; watch someone; look at their tools. Or, experiment: make a guess, test it out, interpret your results, change one thing and try again. Share what you did and how you did it and what happened with others who are interested. These methods are very powerful, they are how we killed the planet.
Weapons: little weapons are light; big weapons often reach farther but are heavy. Our first weapons, we know, came from the stone, the stick, and the cord. With those, you can make all the weapons humans for most of our histoy. Metal makes a better rock. What is key is that every person should be proficient with their chosen weapon, and everyone know how to improvise. Remember, though, that weapons make big changes. If you successfully kill game, or fend off an aggressor, likely the outcome is for the better. But, killing, and the act of defining enemies, most often leads to killing, and one death can be the spark to burn the forest down. Kill only when: it is required for the protection of yourself and others; and when you are prepared for the consequences, of which you can only guess. Remember that every person you kill even in battle is someone's family.
In short, kill anything or anyone only after thought, and with the grave knowledge that killing has big consequences in the world.
Shelter is important for resisting weather extremes and animals. Choose your shelter carefully, because the more you invest in your shelter, the less mobile you become. The larger your house, the more things you put in it, the heavier your burden, the more it owns you. At some point, so much effort, so much surplus, is stored in your house that it becomes who you are, it is how you impress your friends, instead of by the example of your life and the quality of your inner self.
The larger your build your community buildings the larger they will seem to need to be, to accommodate the growing number of people needed to oversee your large buildings. At some point your public buildings will become so important you will use them to intimidate and be remembered by everyone who sees them. The people who oversee your large buildings will see to that.
Like all culture, even like food and weapons, shelter is part of the context which shapes your life. If your shelter is the repository for all your surplus, all your effort, then you are vulnerable to disaster, from government and thieves, from misfortune, and the more invested you are in one place, the less able in every sense you will be to flee. First, the comfort of your accumulated surplus will rob you of the notion and the ability to flee, you will forget how to recognize the need, and lose the crafts necessary. Your will would be more easily turned to taxes and tributes (giving the civil world part of your surplus and eventually your sons, and living dependent on it) . If you have so much invested in your house, and are so indebted to the civil body, you will be faced with fighting, for yourself, or on behalf of your betters. If your house is large and your city is large then the police will be large and the military will be large. In that case, you will not be susceptible to small bandits, but endlessly susceptible to bandit kings in small ways.
A large, comfortable house with many things is a measure of wealth. It keeps our fear of having nothing at bay, a real fear, and it is really a buffer to having nothing.
If you flee, then you, in some measure, leave your surplus behind or bear it as a burden. This is why, among the poor in many places in the world, they wear their wealth as clothes or jewelry, things they always have with them. Among those who have to leave on short notice, their surplus is portable, though subject to theft on the road.
If you flee, and are able to find what you need for life along the way, and your shelters are portable or put together from found local materials, your shelter isn't part of your burden, though it is a burden on your time, since nothing is free in the world, there is always a debt of energy and time.
The very wealthy in my time have many shelters, and their own people to care for and guard them, and if they need to flee, they flee to comfort. That has the effect of multipling the number of permanent, surplus shelters, but it takes a huge amount of surplus, and the number of places to flee is finite, indeed, a few.
If you have to flee, make your comfort portable. If you have a great deal to flee with, you will use the public roads. If you have much less, the byways. If you can take what you need from around you as you go, then you can take any track. Shelter is the least important, unless you want to try to keep up with taxes, or fight it out and are willing to die there.
Investing in stationary things is a good way to accumulate, and you can hand that accumulated surplus on to children, to help them, or keep it against hard times. You may lose much if you stay and pay taxes; you risk everything if you fight, you will leave most things if you flee. If you pay taxes, your sons may die in war; if there is war, everyone may die; if you flee, many may die. The single biggest influence on this is not water or food or even weapons, but shelter.
You increase your resilience when you have key fundamentals, when you can store surplus of things and have them for any situation. All decisions in life require us to take one thing at the cost of others. You need water, which is heavy to carry, and food, and soap which is difficult to make and medicine. You need weapons, but also how to make a weapon from found materials. You need shelter.
However you live now, as a barbarian, you may need to someday, perhaps suddenly, need to live another way. Be as prepared as you can.
Dear Last Barbarians
I am a fearful person. I fear coming times I can't imagine, and I fear a re-occurrence of the past. I fear robbers and bandit kings. I fear famine. I fear death. I fear to flee, I fear to fight, I fear when the tax collector comes. I fear the feeling of fear in my stomach.
Fear is like hunger or lust: it is important to our continuation, and it can be easy to lose yourself in. Fear makes us cautious, and yet fear can also compel us to act. If we fear many things, we can weigh our fears and between them perhaps find the best way.
Fear also shows us what we love and value. Fear is the anticipation of loss, or perhaps the experience of public shame. If something might happen, and we lose things we cherish, we fear that things happening, rightfully.
In that same way, fear shows how we are vulnerable. The collection of our fears makes a likeness of us, shows us what we are and what we have of value in life. If we let go our fear of loss, we become much less vulnerable to fear, but not to misfortune. No fear of loss, nothing or no one who means enough to cause you to fear loss means you are not dipping deeply enough into life, or looking not considering carefully the rare blessing it is to live, or the inevitability of death.
We can extend our fear and look for it in others. Those fears we share in common describe our reasons for being together in a group. When we share our fears together, we can perhaps discern the best course.
However, fear, like lust or hunger, can loom too large, can exceed being a useful tool and hamper us, weaken us, distract us. We aren't able to do our best when fear grips us; in the instant, it can cause us to act irrationally; in the long term it can degrade our lives and not only drain our energy, but rob us of the pleasure of life. Whatever we fear, even bandits, do not do this to us, this is something we do to ourselves.
What do we do when fear has such a grip on our hearts that we toss at night, hate our work, suffer in the guts and fail to feel the tenderness of our family? I have had this fear, I know how it can cause inaction, or worse, mistaken action.
It sometimes isn't easy, and is difficult when danger is at hand. But, we can do it because we must, because we don't want to give away what we have through fear.
The ways we talk to our inner brain, where the fear and love and lust and hunger originate, are simple. Like many simple things, they are not necessary easy.
We breathe. We count, four in, hold four, exhale four, breathe in again four. If four is too long or short, we do three or six. While we count we control our minds; while we control our breath, we control our body's reaction to fear. We stop for a moment and gather our thoughts about our fear.
How sudden is the danger, right at hand or an unknowable or even non-existent future time? Time is one thing we need to understand, because time equates to action. If we have enough time, we can prepare, we can fortify, or hide our children and animals, or talk with friends about strategy. How sudden?
To what extent should you fear? Is it the likely destruction of the group? Is it your likely death? Will it be a small, local loss, or a small, widespread decline, or a large event which will finish everyone? Will it effect no one today, but the children tomorrow? What do you know about what you fear?
What can you do? In times of serious trouble, each solution has the risk of loss and implication for the future. Which is your greatest likelihood of success with the least loss?
There are other things your can do to tame your fear. You can be honest with yourself, which is terrifying on its own, but it is something all barbarians need to know how to do. You admit that the universe is great and you are just a tiny, instantaneous flash in the swirl of all things. Your world is huge to you, because you have the precious gift of experience. Are there angels, do they live forever? If so, you can experience, because of hunger and lust and fear of loss, things like flavor and touch, and rare and singular moments. You flash for less than an instant, but your flash is brilliant, you experience, which the suns in space would envy, if they could.
But, like the suns, you don't last forever, you die, everyone you love, and all you hate, will by and by join you in death, and then you'll give back the minerals and water and spirit you used in life.
That ultimate loss is real There is nothing more fear can do to you when you have expected that inevitability of ultimate loss, which is the shadow of the ultimate and exquisite things you've felt in your life.
If you accept that bandit kings will come, and they come, you will either survive or not, and save your children, or not, and protect your surplus, or not. If you do, the bandit king will come again someday, or another bandit king, or some tendril of the body or some misfortune only the swirl of the universe can explain. But, also, the bandit king might die, or the famine be turned away by work, or the misfortune find some misfortune and give you luck you didn't foresee.
Accept that the swirl of the cosmos has given you a gift and you should always give thanks for that, and make the best of it you can whatever it is. Not for any common reason, but for your own selfish feast of experience, even the pain of loss (may we all be spared, though we know we won't be).
Without fear, there is no courage. Courage is a resolution to continue best as possible regardless the threat, or experience, of loss. No one requires we show courage; if one wants to lie down and die, to spend pointlessly the treasure of life, that is their choice. But, courage often give us new things to quiet our loss, eventually.
I am a fearful person, I know a good deal about fear, and while I don't care for it the way I do feasting or grasping in copulation I value fear for what it shows me, and what it tells me.