Let go of your earthly tethers. Enter the void. Empty and become wind.
If you haven’t noticed already, the writers at Vagabond are big Fight Club fans. Chuck Palahniuk’s flagship book is an excellent piece of modern work to truly understand the modern mental health and cost of living crisis. We won’t delve into those statistics again, but we highly recommend you read our previous article to understand these problems better. Link below.
The book and the movie Fight club fundamentally encompass the modern mentality thrust on young people. “Go to a good school, go to college, get a good job, get married, contribute to your retirement petition, retire at 60, die”. This is the modern world’s perception of how one achieves self-actualization. So when someone cannot meet these milestones for various reasons, it begins to have massive impacts on their place in society and how people perceive them, ultimately resulting in depression and isolation.
But what if someone does meet those expectations? What happens after that? That is, fundamentally, the problem most people grapple with daily. If you feel this way, you are not alone in this problem; Many people are in the same boat. We spend our whole lives grinding for what?
“We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like”
This article expands on two of the concepts of Vagabond’s philosophy, "The Way.”
Letting go of all earthly tethers.
Always looking forward and letting go of the past.
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Letting go of All Earthly Tethers
Whenever people hear about the concept of “letting go of all earthly tethers,” they often equate it to becoming some temple monk and giving up everything they ever had. This is fundamentally incorrect.
The simplest way of explaining this concept is with two words; stop caring. Stop caring about the possessions you have, what degree you will study, what others think of you, what house you live in, what college you went to, what job you work in, and so on. This is what it means to become “untethered” from the earth. When you learn to stop caring, suddenly, you have no burdens. You can live daily for what it is and not for what it could be, based on what society thinks you should do.
“There is surely nothing other than the single purpose of the present moment. A man's whole life is a succession of moment after moment. There will be nothing else to do, and nothing else to pursue. Live being true to the single purpose of the moment”
The above quote from the Hagakure perfectly encompasses this concept. There is nothing in this world more important than the present moment you live in. No one is promised tomorrow. Why waste your life worrying about things that will happen in the future when you could be struck down by disease, be hit by a car, or get caught in an accident? It’s pointless worrying about the future because it’s something you cannot control.
This is one side of the coin, however. Many people extrapolate “letting go” to the stereotypical hippy who does nothing all day, does not care about anything, and just gets baked and flies off to dreamland.
This is not how one should live life. The fundamental difference is that instead of caring about external possessions, the way internalizes what a person should care about. A simple example is as follows:
Instead of wasting time and money on an over-the-top car, spend that time and money on building a body chiseled from marble.
Instead of wasting time and money on a needless 3D character and in-game items like skins, spend the money on gaining new knowledge and skill, which is invaluable.
“The things you own end up owning you”
Letting go of all earthy tethers means that any items, objects, people, or groups you belong to can be cut out at a moment’s notice. We are not saying to break bonds of kin over petty worldly issues. What this concept fundamentally encompasses is being anti-fragile to loss and betrayal. If your spouse betrays your trust, cut them out and move forward. If a group of friends ghosts you, they have clarified their intentions and are not worthy of your friendship. Dwelling on these lost relationships is counter-productive to moving forward. “The way” is fundamentally about destroying the old self every day and continuing to evolve.
Always Looking Forward
The reality of life is that most people are failures. Unless you are born into extreme privilege, the idea of achieving great success is challenging. Also, in the social media age, if you are not constantly “hustling,” you are seen as a failure. Hence, many feel like they have not achieved enough at the present moment in time and thus feel like a failure.
For the longest time, I struggled with my weight. Growing up, I was always the chubby kid, even though I participated in combat-based sports regularly. I couldn't quite figure out how to shed the extra pounds and get in shape.
When I turned 17 and moved out of my parent's house, I found myself living with two bodybuilders who were only a year or two older than me. I couldn't help but feel pathetic when I compared myself to them. Their sculpted physiques were a stark contrast to my own.
One day, while I was wallowing in disappointment, one of my roommates picked up on my emotions and told me that I would join them at the gym the following Monday. Despite my initial reluctance, they managed to convince me to join them, and before long, I found myself in the gym every day, lifting and learning from my roommates.
They gave me a rousing pep talk about how my past didn't matter and that if I started lifting now, I could become just as strong as they were. They urged me to let go of my insecurities about being overweight and to focus on the present.
With time, I began to notice changes in my body. I started to build muscle, and before I knew it, I had surpassed my roommates in some lifts. The transformation was incredible, and I couldn't believe how far I had come. This is when I first learned to act and not think.
“All that matters is having single-minded purpose ( ichinen), in the here and now. Life is an ongoing succession of ‘one will’ at a time, each and every moment. A man who realizes this truth need not hurry to do, or seek, anything else anymore. Just live in the present with single-minded purpose. People forget this important truth, and keep seeking other things to accomplish.”
The above quote conceptualizes a simple concept - Act, don’t think. It really does not matter what state you are in life. Fat, poor, uneducated, or weak-willed. Accept it, and form the intention of improving, then act.
You are overweight and want to lose weight.
You spend weeks planning a meal plan, deciding on a workout, and buying useless items like gym gear to start working out. By the time you actually get in the gym and start eating well, you are already exhausted.
So instead, once you intend to lose weight, act immediately. Register for the gym at that very point, and do a workout. It doesn’t matter what you do, do it.
The difference between examples one and two is that with two, there is no delay between the intention and action. This allows you to maximize that burst of motivation, which later will be formed into a habit, cultivating discipline.
This example applies to everything in life. Always act, don’t think. Mindlessly charging toward your goals is the most effective way to improve. Dwelling on the small details often leads to a cycle of regret, bringing up negative memories. “The way” is about moving forward above anything else.
A perfect example of this is the first fight from Fight Club. Tyler and the narrator are outside a bar, and Tyler asks the narrator to punch him.
The narrator hesitates. Instead of just acting, he is thinking about what to do. This frustrates Tyler, who fundamentally understands the concept of acting without thinking.
To drive this point home, when the narrator asks Tyler where he should hit him, he replies, “surprise me.”
What Tyler is doing here is simple. He is teaching the narrator how to act instead of think. This is important, as it is the key that allows Tyler to teach his weaker half how to let go, stop worrying about consequences or failure, stop looking to past mistakes, and act in the present moment because the present moment is all that matters.
So from this point on, as you read these words, forget about your imperfections, failures, and regrets. Now you are reborn anew, in the present moment. And only the present moment matters. Strive to better yourself with this newfound wisdom, and let go of what previously held you down.
“It Is Only After We Have Lost Everything That We Are Free To Do Anything”
You may be reading this article, thinking to yourself that you are too far gone for redemption. You might have even hit rock bottom, stuck in self-imposed damnation.
Hitting rock bottom isn’t a curse; it’s a gift from the universe. It shows you your imperfections, makes them clear, and thus allows you to refine them. Don’t think your imperfections need to be destroyed or cut off like some cancer clinging to you. They are what make you unique, even if they are destructive. Instead, focus on conquering the present moment, and you will ascend.
This mortal life is too short to worry about trivial matters or about the opinions of others. Realizing this will free you of your self-imposed shackles.
“Know that the life of this world is but amusement and diversion and adornment and boasting to one another and competition in increase of wealth and children – like the example of a rain whose [resulting] plant growth pleases the tillers; then it dries and you see it turned yellow; then it becomes [scattered] debris. And in the Hereafter is severe punishment and forgiveness from Allah [God]and approval. And what is the worldly life except the enjoyment of delusion.”
- Holy Quran, 57:20
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