“Freedom is not required for virtue. Virtue is required for freedom.” -Anthony Esolen
Life is like a dojo. If you show up, and humble yourself, and learn and follow the rules, and try to get better then you will do well. You may not be a world champion, but you will improve and like what you see in the mirror. Understand, the dojo is a metaphor for submitting yourself to something bigger than yourself so that you can become who you were meant to be. You may or may not do martial arts, but the analogy holds.
Our backwards culture teaches us to never show up. It teaches a false freedom. It says you are the dojo teacher before you even accomplish anything. In order to grow in virtue, and thus freedom, you have to first show up. We have everything backwards. Starting off, you don't know anything and you aren't anyone.
As I’ve gotten older and wiser I see this all around me everywhere I go. Many people never get much "dojo" in their life, and end up not having much of a life. I happened to get some “dojo” here and there although I could have used more. My parents guided me, my teachers guided me. Church was good for me as was sports and I had some really good mentors. My other family members like my grandparents set a good example. School and college were a guiding force for molding me in to something more, as was starting a business.
Against the backdrop of this though, was a culture that pushed “individualism” and “freedom.” It was always easy to have one foot in both worlds. One foot in the American delusional world of narcissism and one foot in the classical world of getting better. The rhetoric about individualism and “freedom”, are even stronger now than they were as I was coming into my own in my 30s and 40s. It’s even harder now for young people to “enter the dojo.” Millennials are completely lost. We live in an anti-culture, which is an anti-dojo.
Is a person who never shows up really free?
- Trades are dojos, they teach people to do productive work.
- Work can be a dojo.
- Marriages are dojos, they teach people to love, and create the next generation.
- Religious institutions are dojos, they form people into pursuit of ultimate values.
- Citizenship, real citizenship, of rights AND responsibilities is a dojo.
- Hobbies are dojos.
- Other organizations like the military are dojos.
Our culture makers want consumers, not citizens. Consumers are not "martial artists", heck they aren't even artists at all. Consumers are easy to control. The "manipulators" as CS Lewis called them in "The Abolition of Man", want atomized, infantilized, pseudo-men and pseudo-women, who have no virtue and who cannot control themselves, subsisting on a life of hedonism, distraction, and stimulation, a masturbatory life of social media likes, pornography, junk food, drugs, alcohol, and hypnotizing but vulgar and nihilistic entertainment.
This is what the famous book "A Brave New World" was about. We are living in this "Brave New World" where hardly anyone shows up at the dojo in the first place. This reversal of dojo values affects the poor the most. You could even see the great shift towards anti-dojo values, which is towards anti-piety as a war on the poor. I certainly do, because it strips them of their dignity. A return to the dojo is a return to dignity and the least advantaged need it the most.
When I look around at young people, I can easily see how they are lacking a positive structure like a “dojo” in their lives. I have never been married, but I can see how a good marriage can be an excellent dojo, molding you into a better person. As institutions (dojos) continue to decline, the ones that mold Americans into adults, ask yourself what you can do to support the revitalization of the “dojos” and what you can do to enter the “dojo” too. Help others and urge them to "enter the dojo." So that way at the end of your life, you don’t look back with regrets at what might have been. The ship might sink but at least you can hold onto your honor.
Life is like a dojo, if you enter and try, and keep showing up, you will at the very least know you did your best. This type of peace of mind is priceless.
Read Next: 10 Workouts You Can do For Free with No Equipment