CHAPTER TEN: Input
Wholesomeness of Input is a man’s Dominion over what he deposits into his body and soul. Together with purity of Heart and integrity of Output, it is one of the only three areas in a man’s life over which he has authority. Input is wholesome if it promotes physical, mental, or spiritual health and Durability, which is the the state of physical and emotional toughness that is fostered through deliberate exposure to hardship and Chaos. If it doesn’t do that, then it is unwholesome, and a man should exercise his authority to deny it entry.
The most obvious Input comes in the form of what we eat and drink. Every man must decide for himself what is wholesome to put into his mouth. For one man, that might be a plant-based diet because meat does not promote health and Durability for him, while another man might find that going meatless leaves him lethargic and spiritually impotent. Likewise, some men should not drink alcohol because they are susceptible to addiction, while for other men moderate drinking promotes the spiritual health that comes with fellowship. With both eating and drinking, each man must determine what is wholesome for himself through the trial and error that is at the heart of Collision Learning—the act of gaining wisdom through failure, adversity, and argument.
A second Input is what a man takes in through his senses. As with what he eats and drinks, every man must decide for himself what is wholesome to read, watch and hear. Some men may be so vulnerable to pornography that even the mildest suggestion of prurience will be spiritually unhealthy for them, while others can paint portraits of nude women without the slightest stirring of lust.
Similarly, social media may so inflame one man’s passions that he cannot engage in it wholesomely, while for another man it is a valuable communication tool. Still another man might find himself unduly distracted from his family and work by a political podcast, while others are edified by it. Because each of us is wired differently, there is no finite set of rules that can be constructed for all of us. Instead, there is only the governing principle that what causes a man to become less Durable is unwholesome and should be denied entry through the senses.
A third Input comes from that to which a man intentionally subjects himself in order to bolster his Adaptability. While the ability to make rapid and necessary adjustments to remain in motion is a product of both nature and nurture, even a man with high natural Adaptability will move toward the Passive mean of the Chaos continuum if he is never immersed in a Chaotic environment like the military or takes pains to periodically create one for himself. Absent occasional Chaos and Adversity, a man will become gradually less Adaptable over time. Which is why the Zebra Jockey views Adversity as a feature rather than a bug. He is a Collision Learner who knows that he needs it to gain wisdom.
Adversity is a challenge created by an Obstacle. An Obstacle fosters Durability because the act of overcoming it increases one’s physical and mental toughness. That is why the Army uses Obstacle courses to train its soldiers. The physical aspect is obvious—navigating the Obstacles increases stamina and strength—but the mental aspect is no less important. When he overcomes an Obstacle that he previously regarded as insurmountable, a soldier learns something important about himself and his capacity to withstand pain and Chaos. It makes him emotionally Durable in addition to just physically tough and that is indispensable to Adaptability.
The mainstay of my Adversarial Input to sustain Adaptability is my habit of daily physical training with the men’s exercise and Leadership group, F3. Because the workouts are always held outdoors (rain or shine, hot or cold) and are led on a rotating basis by the members of the group, I subject myself to the Chaos every time I participate. The uncontrollable nature of the weather and the leadership idiosyncrasies of other men (particularly when they annoy me) are both Obstacles that foster Durability when I overcome them.
As with the daily decisions I face over what I will eat, drink, and imbibe through my senses, every morning I have the choice to stay in bed or attend a workout in the hard cold rain, knowing that the leader for that day may be a man who is more fit than I am who will push me painfully past the point that I could ever push myself. When I choose that path over the comfort of my bed, I have chosen the harder path, and that is almost always the one that is more wholesome.
For the Zebra Jockey, Dominion over all areas of Input is critical to the sustainment and acceleration of his Adaptability.