The deeply-read, those informed by tragic first-hand experience, and those who have existed safely thus far but who still have a watchful eye on reality all seem to agree that the Boy Scouts’ motto, “Be Prepared,” gets it right.
“He, therefore, who aspires to peace should prepare for war.”-Flavius Vegetius Renatus, Institutions of the Romans, AD 378
That single sentence and many like it are touted frequently in self-protection circles and for just cause.
But…such sentences are often misinterpreted by those who fear emphasis on martial matters, we’ll settle such fears in a bit.
And..the sentence is often interpreted too shallowly or taken too literally by some of the very people who hold such sentiments dear. This superficial reading is in some sense as off-base as those who fear the meaning of the sentence.
“Happy is that city which in time of peace thinks of war.”-Inscription in the Armoury of Venice.
Different sentence, same lesson, and often the same misinterpretation and superficial read.
One more word from the past and we’ll get to these twin cognitive errors I allude to.
“Sages are very careful not to forget about danger when secure, not to forget about chaos in times of order. Even when there is peace in the land, it will not do to abandon [preparation], If you lack foresight, you will be defenseless.”-Liu-Ju (1310-1375), Lessons of War
Liu-Ju’s wisdom, or perhaps his phrasing, gets us closer to Cognitive Error #1. His advice is, in essence, exactly the same as Renatus’ and the Venetian inscription, but his uses of the words “danger” and “chaos” allow us to see beyond mere combat or fight-related issues.
I have many friends within the personal protection community all with varying levels of “Hoo-ahh!” “I’m ready!” preparation.
I know some who have go-bags by their desks at work and sport bumper-stickers to let us all know that when fans are hit they shalt not be spattered.
And I know some who wear their awareness lightly, those who causally give the eye to all environments and you might not read their way as “prepper” so much as exhibiting curiosity about surroundings, and yet, converse with both types and they are embodying the same wise adherence to the ancient advice offered thus far.
Two Personal Anecdotes from Chaos
I have been in a minor fender-bender with a good man at the wheel who we might label on the “prepper” end of the Readiness-Spectrum. Belt is always chockablock with utili-tools, hardly a training session involving highly stressed “reality immersion” is skipped. In that realm, squared away.
The minor fender-bender? A different cat altogether. There were no injuries, but the stress level was far higher than one might expect in this good man, the flummoxed scramble for registration info within a trash-filled glove compartment and every other nook and cranny until it is found amidst a bundle of napkins. The confusion about the order of exchange of information and other such, one would assume, far less stress-inducing activities than getting double-teamed thrice-weekly by friends in Impact suits.
This is an example of interpreting our ancient advice too narrowly. Stress-inoculating only to violent assault but failing to prepare for lesser woes, or assuming that preparing for one domain confers ability or able responses in another is less than optimum.
We may be better served adopting Liu-Ju’s interpreting preparation for “war” or “battle” as preparing for “danger” or “chaos.”
Personal Anecdote #2
The Mrs. Day One
One aspect of the Dark Days that was astonishingly stress-free—dealing with the insurance company. Taking Liu-Ju’s wisdom to heart, I have always been one to pull full freight on coverage on the off-chance, of, well, exactly what occurred.
I spent time amongst others in like Dark Day situations and many of them had added to their daily hells with endless insurance wrangling regarding their choice of minimum coverage, or lack of insurance altogether, transferring these funds to that, and other such hassles.
I am thankful that was a big big chore to not have in the way. That “chaos/danger” having been allotted for we could devote our energies to the long-recovery process.
Let’s use another quote to put a point on the above story.
The Mrs. Now
Again, I have interpreted Washington’s “enemy” broadly to mean “danger” and “chaos.”
And my “peace” in the prior anecdote is merely the peace of having fewer hassles to deal with and…in times of stress, be they brain-tumors, fender-benders, or personal attack any scintilla of “peace” we can grab...take it!
Now, let’s address Cognitive Error #2
There is a tendency in some to assume that preparing for battle makes you war-hungry.
This is another bit of domain-specific thinking.
Having well-tended fire-extinguishers in your home and checking the batteries on your smoke alarms monthly does not mean you are rubbing your hands together thinking “Oh Boy! I can’t wait for a fire in my house, I’ll show it what’s what!”
It means you are taking a bit of wise precaution.
Me pulling full freight on health insurance does not mean that I wish for brain-tumors “to get my money’s worth.”
“Preparedness does not mean militarism or an aggressive military sprit…a man armed against thieves is not prone to become a thief unless he is one at heart. A nation [or person] can be strong without being immoral or a bully.”-Major-General Leonard Wood, Our Military History: Its Facts and Fallacies, 1916.
Our wisdom has spanned from 378 AD to now.
It still applies. To be ready, means to be ready for as many harms as seem likely.
To be ready does not mean one wishes for the harm itself. Ludicrous.
But, let’s not leave off thinking that preparation is all grim-faced stuff.
Let’s dip back 2,375 years to perhaps the wisest of the Greek philosophers, Aristippus, who goes the Boy Scouts several better.
“Expect the worst of things. Make the most of things. Get all possible pleasure out of things.”
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