Water Your Own Garden First, Before Inquiring About the Neighbors

In the wake of the horrific shooting in Buffalo, NY this past week, I reflected and took in the reactions of both the public as well as the online community.

It seems many who are not able to channel their collective anger in a way which adds value to the foundations of society seem to point the finger where ever their own anger in the heat of the moment leads them. They want to blame everything from politics to laws, people, parents, police, the government and more. I read the articles, I saw the images, and I digested the pain.

In nearly every instance, the anger was a cry for help directed towards a specific person, agency, party, or group. The cry was simply for SOMETHING to be done and for it to be done NOW! The anger was less of a plea as it was a clear demand that someone or something take accountability for what had happened — and it isn’t just in this instance either.

A few years ago, before I had made a very deliberate decision to stop asking others to do my bidding for me, I was no different. I expected something from the society which cruely forced me to reconcile within its parameters, and the world felt far more like an enlarged prison than it did a free range of opportunity. The Grind, in essence, was the beggining of the greatest experiment I have ever undertaken on myself for the purpose of seeing what my mind was capable of when I focused outward energy, inward.

Spoken many times before, I will once again utilize the power of this thought: The first law of thermo-dynamics states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, only transferred. Therefore, in the context of this article specifically — the energy we utilize pointing the finger at our neighbors to water their garden better, is the same energy that can be miraculously transformed and utilized to point the hose into our own field, and that energy is available to us infinitely and always.

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” ― Rumi

There was a time not long ago where the finger could rarely be pointed, in fact it was often an exhausting tribulation to try and do so. The idea that the collective could band together to emotionally ratify their perspective was more often than not, a ludicrous one, and solemnly entertained for only the most aggregious offenses or claims. Now, however, the collective can do exactly that. We totally shield ourselves from opinions which contradict our own, fortify our groups, make waste of those who provide outside consideration, and make enemies of those who support them, then — without warning, those people band together and begin doing the same, and so on and so on. The tragic cycle has created entire online and physical nations within a nation, with governence amongst their various groups; modern political, emotional, and racial segregationists who claim that it’s for the best if their group doesn’t interact with _________.

During this process we are able to validate our feelings with others who share either mutual concern or equal emotional irrationality towards the world. We feel more powerful in our jaded opinions of others because others just like us are telling us that it’s OK, and because that happens, we ultimately feel safe amongst them to continue validating ourselves repeatedly.

Despite the comfort in conformity, and the nuanced warmth of tribalism, it is not an authentic expression of debate, rationale, logic, or deeper thought. We spend countless time pointing the finger at everyone, but have WE made our own bed? We expel energy into the world utilizing the laws of physics at all times, whether we realize it or not, and whether it is online or in real life. This energy then becomes the basis for others reactions, both good and bad. The opportunity to turn the finger on ourselves and ask the difficult questions necessary for true self progression are not to be found in consolidated groups of strictly enforced aligned thinkers, but amongst those willing to tell us their point of view — and evetually, over a significant amount of time, these points of view which contradict our own allows us to form independent thoughts which mold our most authentic self.

Both college football at Bluefield University, as well as The Grind, were born from this very profound consideration that I did not have to sit on the side lines of the world. I was allowed to form an independent world of my own where action was taken, accountability was king, and questions were always asked rather than answers always accepted. Sitting in a bar in 2017 and watching college football players run out of the tunnel, I asked — why can that not be me? In 2019 when the Last Fountain shut down in downtown Bluefield, VA — I realized it was silly to “hope” someone would build a coffee shop downtown, and that if it was something I wanted for my community, it was MY responsibility to bring it to fruition one step at a time until it was fully realized.

This journey, although worlds above the life I previously lived, consumed in the irrational emotional fire of fake communities which support only one train of thought, is not without pain, and certainly not void of a disgusting and often times damming work ethic of the self. It can leave you feeling isolated, as though you are your own nation, (population one) and all the nations around you are colliding or on a clear path to war. The hours put into the self reckoning are longer than any job I’ve held, and more than any start-up could throw at me. The pain of separating yourself from individuals you truly love who are refusing to advance towards their own authentic self will leave you wondering if ignorance is truly bliss after all, similarly — leaving behind those you love who ARE progressing just so you can continue your own, is a battle that can tear the soul to pieces. Despite this, it is STILL more rewarding to take these actions while taking total personal accountability for the world around you and shouldering the full burden of its pain, than it is to validate yourself in conformity that places the blame everywhere except on our own shoulders.

Are you asking what YOU can do better on a daily basis, or are you intersted in being validated for pointing the finger at another person or agency? Are you wasting time asking your neighbor to water their garden, or are you noticing yours is imperfect and choosing deliberately to make it the best garden possible for the rest of the world to witness? If you should witness that your garden is better than everyone elses, does that mean it cannot progress still? and if you find yourself at the true finite end of all possible personal progress, rather than demand better from everyone else— are you capable of sharing your tools?

“To stand up straight with your shoulders back is to accept the terrible responsibility of life, with eyes wide open. It means deciding to voluntarily transform the chaos of potential into the realities of habitable order. It means adopting the burden of self-conscious vulnerability, and accepting the end of the unconscious paradise of childhood, where finitude and mortality are only dimly comprehended. It means willingly undertaking the sacrifices necessary to generate a productive and meaningful reality (it means acting to please God, in the ancient language).”
Jordan B. Peterson, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos

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The Grind

U.S Army / OEF Vet, College Football Player, Small Business Start-Up Owner, Student