This week I started the book The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin. One of the first segments that caught my attention was the author’s initiation into Tai Chi Chuan. The master of the studio, William C.C. Chen noted as a world renown Grand Master, was teaching brand new students. This is a task normally assigned to junior instructors, yet here was the master performing a task many would assume was beneath him.
Recounting this act was to illustrate the humility of the master, but I interpreted it differently. The master was the closest to the purity and truth of the art form. The beginners were the most ignorant. The master did not disdain these students, but out of love for his art had the desire to illuminate those in ignorance. [I know, I might have read into this passage a little too much.]
Marcus Aurelius said, “Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself.” I try to live up to this as much as possible. Daily, I struggle to become a little better than the day before. It is no easy journey, but it is the one I have chosen. It has become my truth of what I must do to become the person I want to be. I encourage others to take up their own journey, but I do not demand it of them. And for those with no such desire, I can understand their decision and sympathize with them along the way. Tolerant with others, strict with myself.
The closer people are to the truth, the more tolerant they are of the mistakes of others.Leo Tolstoy
Closer to the truth equals greater understanding. It equals greater tolerance for those who may be farther away from it. Like the Tai Chi master, it is done through love for others. It is done out of love for the truth.
Tolstoy’s words also serve as a warning. This is not righteous indignation. When we find ourselves defending our platforms without an open mind or a desire to achieve a peaceful conclusion, we become less tolerant. We find ourselves on the road to psychological and even physical bullying. We become extremists with the desire to force others to our truth. As detestable as this practice is, we see it in almost every aspect of our lives from friends and family to social media and news. And the only thing we can do to prevent us from going down that road is to be not like that.