Quillwood Podcast

QP13: What Then Shall We Do?

June 14, 2022 Eric Garza Season 1 Episode 13
Quillwood Podcast
QP13: What Then Shall We Do?
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode Eric reflects on how a lesson from an old martial arts mentor has influenced his thinking about today's converging crises, and how getting back to basics can help us feel safe in a changing world.


  • 00:00 - 03:09 — Episode introduction
  • 03:09 - 08:15 — A lesson on staying safe from a martial arts master
  • 08:15 - 13:20 — Five needs we must meet to feel safe
  • 13:20 - 14:45 — Invitation to reflect on how to avoid violence
  • 14:45 - 16:52 — Invitation to reflect on how to stay warm or cool
  • 16:52 - 18:33 — Invitation to reflect on how to maintain access to water and food
  • 18:33 - 20:13 — Invitation to reflect on how to find community and social engagement
  • 20:13 - 21:33 — Episode wrap-up

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Eric Garza: Welcome to the Quillwood Podcast, a show dedicated to helping you learn to navigate today's changing world. I am your host, Eric Garza.

I spent time over several episodes talking about the prospects of social disruption that can be brought about by a lot of different causes. This leads to the logical question: What then shall we do? There are many different ways to approach this problem, from the personal to the collective. In this episode I want to take a crack at this, if only briefly. And I will start that attempt with a story. 

Before I go there, know that the Quillwood Podcast is brought to you by Quillwood Academy. Through Quillwood Academy I offer a wide array of online educational events and programs to help folks along this very path. This is the last call for the Overshoot Reading Group that starts on June 19, that's when its orientatin is. You don't have to have read any of the book when we meet on June 19, that's just the orientation. We'll start discussing the book a couple of weekends later. The group itself will have two discussion sessions, one on Saturday evening, my time—US Eastern Daylight Time—and a second one on Sunday afternoon. I scheduled these two different discussion sections to give folks in the Americas, Europe, and Australia the opportunity to participate without having to stay up crazy late or wake up insanely early. If you want to learn more about the Overshoot Reading Group, based on the book Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change, by William Catton Jr, head over to quillwood.org. You can find this event in the offerings menu in upcoming events. You can also sign up for Quillwood Academy's newsletter while you're at the website, too.

If you enjoy this episode, or this podcast more generally, and want to support it, there are a few ways you can do this. First, and perhaps most important, leave a five-star review on whatever app you use to listen. Five-star reviews help folks find this podcast, because it elevates episodes in search results. Second, subscribe to the podcast so you don't miss episodes, and so it's easy for you to go back and catch up on episodes you might have missed. Finally, consider sharing episodes with friends however you want, especially on social media, that works great. Feel free to tag me if you do that.

With all of that, I hope you enjoy today's episode.

Way back in episode one I framed the Quillwood Podcast as a journey. And this framing is where the soundtrack that you hear at the start and the end of each episode comes from. It's basically a recording of me walking barefoot in a forest. There's a story behind that of course, and I tell that story in episode one. I will begin today's exploration with another story that played an integral role in my journey that I have not shared yet on this podcast.

The story starts in 2003 when I moved to Bloomington, Indiana to start my Master's of Science in Environmental Science at Indiana University, in Bloomington. To balance my scholarly activities at that time, one of the things that I did was I signed up for a martial arts class at the Bujinkan Indianapolis Dojo. It was a bit of a drive to get up to Indianapolis from Bloomington, but it was totally worth it. The training was very physical and included conditioning, grappling, and learning how to use all kinds of ancient as well as modern weapons.

The founder of the school, Bobby Johnson, had several sayings that he used during class. One of those sayings in particular has stuck with me over the years, and I wanted to bring it up because I think it's very relevant to many aspects of this podcast, especially this specific episode. The statement that he would use is: Every movement that we make, must take us to a position of safety and advantage. He used this in our training as a way of emphasizing the need not to waste movements. If we find ourselves in a combat situation where we're being mugged or assaulted or something like that, we can't afford to waste any movements. We don't have a lot of time, we need to react appropriately, we need to do that without wasted movement. I feel like this is very relevant to the times in which we live, because a lot of different crises are converging that create opportunities for social disruption. This is something that a lot of people are talking about, a lot of people are writing about, and it's something that we should all be thinking about. So we don't have time to waste playing around and doing things that are not going to help us respond effectively to this potential for social disruption and for all these different crises. So every movement that we make must take us to a position of safety and advantage.

As much as I respect Bobby Johnson—and I still absolutely do, he was an incredibly important mentor in my life, even though I haven't seen him in several years—as much as I respect him, I do want to make one edit to that saying that he used. He added advantage at the end: Every movement that we make must take us to position of safety and advantage. Obviously, there are times when having an advantage over someone else, or something else, is important. Obviously, that is true. But it's not clear to me that it's always true. And it also occurs to me that this drive to have an advantage over other people can actually be detrimental for our situations, because it can make it hard for us to build community and to build bonds with other people, and trust with other people. So the way that I edit his statement is simply to say that Every movement that we make must take us to a position of safety. Sometimes, safety requires us to have advantages over others, but not always. So there's a certain amount of discernment necessary for us to figure out what safety means in that moment, and what we must do as individuals to move towards a place of safety, or perhaps to move towards a place of greater safety.

It is that discernment that inspires me to pose a question: What does it mean to feel safe? What is safety? Obviously there's a lot of ways that we could answer that question, a lot of directions we could take it. With this particular episode, rather than creating an answer that is really, really complicated, I feel inspired to go back to the basics. Another thing that we trained a little bit in that martial arts class that I took with Bobby Johnson, but also I learned about this in a lot of other contexts, are survival-type skills. I'm inspired to go all the way back to that level of basics, of basic needs that we have to stay alive. That is informing my idea of safety.

From all of my experience training in various survival classes, I have come to five basic needs that help me think about what I must do to really support a feeling of safety for myself. The first of those needs is to avoid becoming a victim of violence. Even though I didn't necessarily know to articulate it this way at the time, that need is what inspired me to start training in martial arts, aside from a desire to balance all of my academic work. The second need is to keep my body temperature regulated, so that my body is not too hot, and it's also not too cold. A third need is maintain access to clean water. A fourth need is maintain access to clean and healthy food. And then the fifth need is access to community, access to social engagement with other people. These are the five needs that I see is pretty basic. If I can meet these basic needs, that helps me feel pretty safe, and that allows me to remain relatively relaxed.

I should note that although I gave these needs in a numerical order, I don't necessarily assume that numerical order corresponds to how important they are. I think that how important each of those needs are relative to the others is contextual, which is to say that, in certain circumstances, one of those needs might pose a much greater threat, if it is not met, than others. They may require me to give more attention to some of them, in certain circumstances, and less attention to others. Their relative importance will will change as a function of context.

And not just the order that I would try to meet these needs, but also how I go about meeting them, is contextual. The strategies that I myself might use to meet some of these needs are not necessarily going to be useful for you, because we're probably living in different contexts. And rather than talk about how I do it in this particular episode, all the different ways that I will meet these different needs, I thought instead that it would be useful to pose some questions. My hope is that you'll take these questions and use them to reflect. Maybe you'll go into your podcast app and copy the questions out of the transcript that I provide, and journal about those, or at least reflect on those on your own time, and maybe even use those as the start of some kind of a planning document, or some kind of a plan more generally, where you really analyze the situation you're in, your context, and then use that to help you formulate useful plans going forward so that you can feel safer, where you are, or you can feel safer wherever you plan to relocate to if you decide to do that.

The first of the questions that I want to pose is, how do you plan to avoid becoming a victim of violence as more and more people around the country, and the world, become more desperate, and as social disruption becomes more prevalent? How do you plan to avoid becoming a victim of violence as all these converging crises that I've mentioned so far in in the podcast start showing themselves? Are you interested, or maybe are you already training in some kind of martial art, so you have some level of self-defense skills that you can bring to bear? Do you own firearms as tools for self protection? How well trained are you in the use of those firearms if you do own them? And finally, are you considering relocating from wherever you are, which maybe you perceive as being a pretty high-risk locale, to someplace else that maybe seems safer to you? So martial arts, is that something you're interested in? Firearms? Relocation? How do you plan to avoid becoming a victim of violence?

The next question is: How do you plan to regulate your body temperature as things move forward? And I pose this question because we depend—at least most of the people who would be listening to this podcast depend—overwhelmingly on fossil fuels as a way of keeping their houses warm or cool, and those energy resources are finite. And people in in Europe right now are really feeling this, with the disruptions of gas supplies from Russia because of the Russia-Ukrainian war. We depend heavily on energy from fossil fuels to warm and to cool our houses, and if those supplies are disrupted, keeping our houses warm or cool can be a challenge. Housing is one of the strategies that we use to help to regulate our body temperatures. We live in houses, and keep them at a relatively constant temperature that we find comfortable. We also wear clothing, and that helps to regulate our body temperatures. But there are other things we can be doing that might help us do that. Using the sauna can help our bodies learn to acclimate to warmer temperatures through the production of heat-shock proteins. Cold training can broaden our tolerance for cooler temperatures, and inspire our bodies to create more metabolically active fat so that we can always burn fat to generate warmth, whereas most people today have very little metabolically active fat and are not able to do that very well. So how do you plan to regulate your body temperature as all these converging crises show their faces? How are you going to do that?

Next, how do you plan to maintain access to clean water and clean and healthy food, combining those two needs together? How do you want to do that? Again, most of the people who are listening to this podcast depend overwhelmingly on various industrial energy sources to meet our need for clean water—maybe it comes from the tap—and food—which maybe we buy from the grocery store overwhelmingly, and shipped in from a lot of different places. What are some ways that you might meet those needs? What are some strategies you might use to meet those needs more locally, and that are less energy intensive? When I was studying survival type courses, one of the things that we did was explore a lot of different ways to find potable water, or to make potable water. If we needed to do that, there are ways you can create, build pretty simple filters to clean water if you have access to water but maybe it's not so clean. So how are you going to meet that particular need? What are some of the strategies you might use? What are some of the skills you might develop to help you meet that need? And then on the food front, things like foraging and fishing and hunting and gardening and even small scale farming. Do you have those skills? If not, what are some of the steps you might take to start developing those skills? Is that something that you want to do?

And finally, the question of community. I mentioned that need for community, and I think it really is a need, I don't think it's just that having other people is nice. I think community is a need. Being able to engage with other people is a need. We are, as human beings, social animals. We depend on engagement with other people to help us regulate our nervous systems properly. And when we don't have that engagement, we have a hard time staying regulated, we become very anxious. So finding people that we can trust, finding our people and building relationships with them and coming together, is a really important thing. How are you going to take steps to do that? What kind of steps are you already taking to do that? If you struggle with this part, and I know a lot of people who do, what are some of the barriers that you perceive that prevent you from building some kind of community. And I don't mean Facebook groups, as wonderful as they can be. I'm talking about real people that you can see and touch. People who live in your area, who you can meet. How are you going to build that community? What steps can you take in that direction? Having people who you can trust will make meeting all these other needs a lot easier, most of the time.

Those are the questions that I wanted to pose. Maybe I'll finish with one final one: What movements in your life are you making that will take you to a position of safety? I'm of the opinion that we really cannot afford to waste any movement right now, any time. And hopefully, the context that you live in will provide a pretty clear way forward for you.

Thanks for listening to this relatively short episode of the Quillwood Podcast. Again, this episode is brought to you by Quillwood Academy. You can find it on the web at quillwood.org. Check out the Overshoot Reading Group, which starts on June 19. You can find it on the website in upcoming events under the offerings menu.

Until next time, this is Eric Garza signing off. Walk softly and take good care.