Let me say right near the beginning that I really liked this book. I imagine that once I get about half way into my tirade it might not seem like it.
You know that saying, ‘You should never meet your heroes’. In keeping with modernity perhaps it should be updated. ‘Never follow your heroes on twitter’. Or on YouTube for that matter.
I tend to build up the authors that I like as infallible seers or ubermenschen. Impressed with what they’ve committed to text I seek them out on other media platforms hoping glean new knowledge. Inevitably I am disappointed. We are after all just humans, with our blemishes and flaws, niche expertise and subjective opinions.
Except me obviously. (I’m perfect)
I mention this because I need to balance my crush on Jocko Willink with some moderation.
If I reduced and distill my gripe its probably with the word ‘warrior’. I worry about people that use that word. And I worry about people that want to be ‘this’ word. Don’t misunderstand me, I appreciate that human existence on this planet is less than idyllic and that one group of humans needs from time to time to assert dominance over another group to achieve some sort of goal through violence of action. And that this is usually done through the warrior caste. I get that.
My concern is that people consider this particular noun first when they describe themselves. Interestingly I have no issue with someone describing themselves as a philosopher who also happens to be a warrior. But a warrior who is also a philosopher makes me hesitate. Maybe I’m just arguing potato semantics, but I find the distinction important. I think a world full of warriors would be a poorer place. Sun Tzu famous mused that war needs to be a highly considered enterprise and that warriors have a very specific task of tearing civilization down. Not so easy to build it back up again. I think as a society we have become far too flippant about war and the warriors that perpetrate this course of action.
On the reverse side, kids don’t get that. And this is a kids book. All I wanted to be growing up was a warrior. (Although I wanted to go to Ranger school) We are primal, savage mammals who want to (pretend) rend and maim our enemies. Its only later in life that we get some perspective.
Then there’s the author, whose jingoism and ethical ambiguity on Fox and friends recently made me feel super uncomfortable. This is why I hate social media. All of a sudden you’re exposed to everyone’s thoughts be they inane and banal or just contrary to your own. The amusing impressionist reality you’ve crafted yourself lies in tatters at your feet.
Fortunately The way of the Warrior kid is not about moral philosophy. Its about a kid called Marc and his quest for self improvement (something I can definitely get behind)
Marc sucks at pull-ups, can’t do maths, eats a lot of crap, can’t swim and gets bullied at school. (don’t worry Marc I suck at pull-ups and maths too). Marc’s mom’s brother Jake comes to stay with them for a bit. Jake is a Navy Seal. Jake turns Marc’s life around.
(the above represents an over simplified synopsis)
I must be honest, the whole time it took me to read this book (about an hour) I kept thinking, where is Marc’s dead-beat dad? And why is your mom letting you eat all this crappy food? (I get all judgmental about fictional parenting faux-pas as I see them)
After reading this book, I went and stood at the pull-up bar at gym. Unfortunately in my gym that’s right in the center with everything else arrayed around this focal point of embarrassment. I imagine this is done on purpose so that everyone can see how pathetic you are. I had, up until this point never in my whole life done a pull-up. But how hard can it be right?
I jumped up and hung there for a moment.
‘Oh my god’, I thought as my shoulders and arms protested this strange new form of abuse. (Looking back, I think its because I masturbate less now, so my forearms have gotten weak from lack of use) Maybe I could just hang here for a bit. You know, pretend I’m just… stretching out my spine. Or something. The guy across from me is squatting like a gazzillion pounds. I never venture into this part of the gym (other than to use the heavy bag), mostly because nothing I own comes without sleeves nor do I possess any really short, shorts. (this seems to be a prerequisite)
I grit my teeth and ignore the noise that sounds like tearing fabric coming from the large muscle groups in my back. Okay, one pull up. Just one, I think to myself. I grit my teeth and… do this weird kicking thing with my legs like a dying bug.
I’d like to say I got about half way before failing. But… the reality is probably less kind than that.
Okay, so doing a pull-up is quite hard. (its on my to-do list for this year)
The thing about this book is that I agree with almost everything in it. I think all kids should jump of bridges and swim in rivers. And do martial arts. My personal proclivity is boxing and Jujitsu. but really any style is OK when you’re a kid.
Kids should be outside and active, not domiciled in front of their tablets.
If nothing else this book inspired me to try and do some pull-ups. There are few books out there that will make you get up and take come concrete actions. So for that I need to give Jocko some serious credit. I might not agree with his personal ideology, but I think this book is a good thing.