We all know that Batman, as depicted in the canonical DC comics and graphic novels, is a MASSIVE Gamma wish-fulfillment device. He is the archetypical brooding loner anti-hero, rich beyond the dreams of avarice, with a body that looks like it was sculpted from a single block of steel. His physical attributes alone make him an ubermensch, far beyond the standards of mere mortal men. Even so, as that wonderful quote in Batman Begins goes: devote yourself to an ideal, and become legend.
Now, before we go on here, let’s clear up some very important facts:
Batman is Ridiculous
If you want a good belly laugh, read the current canon about the Batman. Supposedly, his athletic performance exceeds that of most Olympic-level athletes as a weightlifter and a martial artist, while his intellect puts him in the league of superintelligences in the 170+ IQ range. He is simultaneously an incredibly successful ladies’ man and incredibly effective team leader, and also a highly introverted loner who prefers brooding in the dark with only bats for company.
If this all sounds kind of ridiculous to you – that’s because IT IS RIDICULOUS. No one man is capable of doing all of this. I’ll give you one really simple example of two mutually contradictory qualities of the Batman:
If you can deadlift 1,000lbs or more, and snap solid steel handcuffs, then your body is PACKED with vast amounts of extremely dense, extremely powerful muscle. This means that anyone jacked to the gills like that, will burn oxygen at extreme rates. He won’t be capable of sustaining serious aerobic activity for long periods.
But fighting for extended periods requires aerobic activity. Jon Jones looked so slow and sluggish after coming back from his umpteenth suspension to fight Ovince Saint-Preux back at UFC 197 because of his serious powerlifting training. (With, I might add, appalling form.)
All of that muscle makes you strong and tough. It also makes you slow and inflexible. (I’m writing that as someone who literally can deadlift 445lbs and can then roundhouse-kick you in the head right afterwards.)
The Cost of Devotion
Even so, for all that “the goddamn Batman” is Gamma-nip, he does have some good lessons to teach us all. He devotes his mental and physical resources to the relentless pursuit of justice. And he simply refuses to compromise in this.
That is what it means to devote yourself to something. Most of us will fail to do it. We are pulled in too many different directions. As a result, we become easily distracted and incapable of achieving our true potential.
Consider the “Four Burners” theory of life:
Most of us try hard to keep all four burners at more or less equal levels. This is a mistake. It leads to mediocrity and failure.
Devotion requires that we keep just one of these burners at or near maximum. Only through utmost devotion to our goals do we achieve them.
This is not pleasant. It is not easy. And it causes ENORMOUS stresses and challenges in the short term – which often isn’t that short. This period of unpleasantness can last years.
But, if you pursue a particular end with singleminded zeal to devote yourself to an ideal, you will get there. And at that point, you will need to find a new ideal.
Devotion and the Warrior’s Way
As I have written before, the example of Miyamoto Musashi is highly instructive in many areas of life. Musashi took up swordfighting at a young age, fought his first duel when he was 13, and became perhaps the greatest swordsman in history.
If you read through The Book of Five Rings, which distills all of Musashi’s fighting wisdom down to simple and blunt epigrams, you will notice something very interesting. When discussing fighting, Musashi’s views about the endless pattern of slash-and-parry show that he considers that whole process to be a complete waste of time. Musashi’s preferred approach was to find an opening – and STRIKE.
He developed a completely unique fighting style built around this core idea. As his style matured, he began using two swords – a katana and a wakizashi or dagger. He used this particular combination to devastating effect when fighting a large group of students and instructors from the Yoshioka School outside of Kyoto.
His tactics remain controversial to this day, over 400 years later. He was known for showing up late for duels and ambushing his enemies to throw off their timing. You can quibble with his methods, certainly. But you cannot argue with the results. Read his book and you’ll quickly understand why. The book itself is an easy, if dry, read. You will notice that he spends a great deal of time talking about the importance of study and dedication. He was unquestionably one of the greatest exemplars of how to devote yourself to an ideal that we have ever seen.
The Greek Understanding of Balance
Now, there is a natural rejoinder to the notion that you should devote yourself to an ideal. If you look at the Greeks, you will notice that they argued in favour of a “balanced” lifestyle. Or at least, that is how things appear at first glance.
I recall at least one Greek philosopher, though I draw a blank on his name, who said that a man should split his day into thirds. One third should be spent on wrestling and calisthenics – which is to say, strengthening the body. Another third should be spent on poetry, music, and dancing – that is, artistry and culture. And the last third should be devoted to philosophy and learning – in other words, wisdom.
On closer examination, this does not contradict the core notion of this post.
The Greeks were not trying to create men who would easily be pulled into various different directions. They were actually trying to build men who were good at being MEN. This lifestyle would create men with strong bodies, minds, and souls. That was the Greek notion of balance: a body, mind, and soul working in harmony.
This reached its apotheosis with, of all things, the Spartan agoge. The agoge was a brutal and terrifying system of education by soft, weak, and pitiful modern standards. But in fact, fledgling Spartiates who went through that training process, became far more than mere meatheads. They were among the most highly educated citizen-soldiers in all of Greece. “Laconic wit”, as we know it today, didn’t happen by accident. The Spartans deliberately tried to teach their men to speak in short, pithy, dry sentences.
That takes brains, skill, and practice. And all of that effort went to creating the finest class of heavy infantry that the world had ever seen up to that point.
How to Find Your Purpose
Quite obviously, in order to devote yourself to something, you first have to know what that something is.
Some of us are fortunate enough to figure this out early in life. Sadly, I am not among them. I discovered my purpose relatively late in life. The Didactic Agoge is the expression of that purpose. My task is to give men hope and faith. I embrace it gladly, though it costs me a LOT. And yes, there are certainly times when I find it difficult to live up to that purpose.
Whether you have found your purpose or not, the fastest way to figure it out is to pray on it.
Now, I’m aware that I have some secular readers here. I’m not trying to preach to you. For Christians, prayer is almost as natural as breathing. But for secular types, I recommend focused meditation instead.
Note, this is NOT THE SAME as popular misconceptions of meditation. I absolutely abhor most forms of modern meditation. That is because these forms tell you to “open up your mind” to the Universe. This is a MONUMENTALLY stupid idea, because if you open up your mind, chances are EXTREMELY high that something nasty will make its way in.
Just trust me on this one. You DO NOT want to screw with some of the nastier spiritual elements out there.
So: find a quiet place, sit down without any distractions, close your eyes, and just focus your mind on one question: “what is my purpose?”
If you are Christian – ask God to reveal this to you. He wants you to do something. He will tell you. Perhaps you won’t like what He tells you, but that’s really your problem, not His.
The answers will come eventually. Give it time. Have patience.
Development Through Devotion
I have spent nearly ten years devoting myself to powerlifting. I am NOT a competitive lifter and never will be, for I carry far too many injuries. But lifting has many lessons that carry over to the question of how to devote yourself to an ideal. The secret is simple: repetition and consistency.
That’s really all there is to it.
As another example, let me tell you how my martial arts teacher created his school in New York. When Grandmaster Rhon Mizrachi arrived in New York from Israel, he found work as a bouncer. (You really have to meet him in person to understand why this seems incongruous at first.) He had received a blessing from his teacher, the recently deceased Grandmaster Haim Zut, to setup a Krav Maga school in America. He did some advertising through word of mouth and paper flyers and such. And then he went over to Central Park with a big mat to wait for students to show up.
He waited 45 minutes. Nobody showed up. Feeling discouraged, he was about to roll up the mat and leave, when a few people showed up and told him that they were there because of his advert.
That is the humble origin story of one of the toughest and most accomplished martial arts schools in America. More than 25 years later, Grandmaster Rhon Mizrachi’s school in Manhattan is considered one of the finest Krav Maga academies in the entire world.
That is because of the way in which Master Rhon comports himself. You can get an idea of what the man is like from this interview:
I revere that man more than any other alive, besides my father. And the reason why, is because he is the LIVING EMBODIMENT of devotion to an ideal.
Conclusion: Let Nothing Distract You
Find your purpose in life through meditation and prayer. Or, find your calling through repeated and difficult failure in life. (I’ll discuss how to recover from your failures in a future post.)
But once you find that purpose, devote yourself to that ideal and don’t let it go. You are here for a reason. Put everything else out of your mind. Pay whatever price you must. Seek out your goal with single-minded fervour.
Be careful not to limit yourself too narrowly when you devote yourself to your ideal purpose. The Greeks understood the danger of doing so. They aimed to create well-rounded citizens, and they largely succeeded. But their core aim was always clear. They designed their system to create free men who could fight to protect those freedoms – and who would appreciate their rights and not give them away in haste.
Would that such good sense were prevalent today. Sadly, it is not. That is why men like you and I must rediscover it, and put it into practice. For that, after all, is my Purpose – to bring that wisdom back to life for a weak and broken generation.