The Fortress of Solitude
The world is a scary, unpredictable place, and for many people the logical response to this state of affairs is to build walls and build them high.
A fortress, that’s the answer! An impenetrable barrier between myself and the outside world! I’ll use the mightiest bricks, the sturdiest foundation, the highest-quality mortar, and my parapets will be lined with artillery so that no fool would dare try to shake up my world!
Unfortunately, with time, walls will crumble, mortar will turn to dust, and gunpowder will mold and become worthless as a deterrent. The wind will creep in, as will the cold, and you’ll have no protection, no means of dealing with the wilds that you’ve avoided your entire life.
A person who builds their own walls also builds their own prison. While protected from certain elements of the outside world, they are also doomed to remain inside those walls, the only protection they’ve invested in, lest they go through life completely defenseless against even the most meager of threats.
A Heavy Weight to Carry
Well if not a fortress, armor perhaps!
My home will be on my back, and all of the slings and arrows of the world will bounce off my steely hide! My plate will be hammered by the finest smiths, my mail cast from the strongest metals, and my shield constructed of unpierceable wood from the sturdiest trees that can be felled.
I will be a walking fortress, capable of moving throughout the world but still defended against those erratic winds of fate.
Though more mobile than a building, armor can weigh one down, especially over time. Dependency on physical goods to keep you comfortable and functioning through life is not a sustainable model. Metal can rust, wood can rot, and your muscles and back will suffer as a result of the great weight you carry trying to avoid the downsides of life in the pursuit of happiness.
The best method is to face the prickly elements completely naked, ready and willing to be shaped by powerful forces, and in doing so becoming more able to shape them as time goes by.
Walking with bare feet will hurt from time to time, but it makes you more capable of covering ground quickly, and over time your heels will harden.
Living life without any barrier between you and the world opens you up to suffering and heartache and physical pain, but it also allows you to experience the full range of emotion, sensation, and elation.
The most powerful highs can only be experienced when you’ve suffered a goodly number of lows, and by leaving yourself exposed, you are able to ease into difficult situations, like slowly becoming acclimated to a hot bath, rather than experiencing one system shock after another any time you exit the gates of your fortress or remove your armor and are faced with the realities of unaided life.
There are elements that can be taken from the fortress and armor models and applied to the naked way of life with little trouble and few drawbacks, but the more reliant you are on yourself rather than stuff, the more quickly you’ll develop, strengthen, and be ready to take on the world au naturel.
If you can make decisions for yourself, you’ll never need to depend on someone else to make them for you again.
If you learn to cook, you’ll be able to feed yourself wherever you find yourself in the world.
If you are physically healthy, you’ll be able to cope with strenuous activity and hard work without complaint or thoughts of failure.
If you learn to communicate clearly, you’ll be able to convey your thoughts and needs regardless of the medium.
Work on improving yourself first, always. Everything else is an added bonus, and should supplement your life, not define it.
Update: January 27, 2017
I’ve written about this in many different ways over the years, and I think these metaphors hold up decently well. That so many of us use possession-crutches rather than strengthening ourselves, sans assistance, is the consequence of society and the well-meaning people who’ve shaped it. But that doesn’t mean we can’t become more resilient, and less reliant on things. Which in turn allows us to make better use of those things, and appreciate them more, because we’re no longer dependent on them.