Happiness, not Amusement

Maybe, the crowd was not prepared for all the blood and the gore? Sure, that is why they came to the arena in the first place, but this? The fighter was too efficient, too merciless. They had never seen anything like this before. Instead of a scared and bumbling idiot with a weapon, they saw a warrior. They saw the Roman general Maximus Decimus Meridius.

Of course, the movie Gladiator is fiction, but it gives a glimpse of the lengths people go to in their search for amusement.

Amusement is a diversion from the ordinary. It is a get-away from reality. The world spends around 2 trillion dollars a year in entertainment. It has become something we are constantly seeking. And if we are in a perpetual state of amusement, we don’t have to face reality. We don’t have to confront the hard things in life.

Escapism. That is what we are looking for. We want the release of dopamine derived from watching sports, movies, and social media. We want the excitement, and we will go to great lengths to get it. Even though we know it is fleeting, we will still look for it. And when the buzz is no longer sufficient, we will continue down the path even if it means we must find a harder drug.

Happiness is not found in amusement.

Aristotle

Unlike amusement, happiness doesn’t have to be fleeting. Instead, it can be a state of being. You can find happiness in the mundane. You can find it in doing a day’s labor. You don’t have to go to greater and greater extremes to find happiness. You can just be happy. It is in your mind. It is in your perception.


Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

But My Mind Will Remain

For the last five years, Man’s Search for Meaning has been on my to-read list. For the last few weeks, with an increase in anxiety levels for the future and pondering the meaning and purpose of my existence, I decided to finally open the pages of this book by Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl.

Before World War II, Viktor Frankl was a psychiatrist and neurologist. He was a respected man in his community. He was also Jewish living in a part of the world that was more interested in his ethnicity than in who he was as a person. He was removed from his home in Vienna in 1942 and spent his next three years in a several different concentration camps. All his possessions, his work, and even his name was taken away from him. He, like his fellow prisoners, was identified by a number. His life became one of forced labor with only a meager ration of bread and watered-down broth for sustenance.

So far, this book (I’m only halfway through) has been remarkable, but there has been one passage that has been exceptionally memorable. Frankl was asked to give words of encouragement to his fellow prisoners. In his speech, he spoke of the suffering they had endured. But despite this suffering they still had reason to hope. Despite what they had been through and what they were reduced to, there was still meaning for their lives. I have read his speech over and over and was left with one overwhelming thought. No matter what their conditions, no matter what tortures the guards inflicted on their bodies, they still had the power of their minds. And their minds could not be touched unless they allowed them to be touched.

If you lay violent hands on me, you’ll have my body, but my mind will remain on Stilpo.*

Zeno

Throughout history, man has always tried to rule over his fellow beings. They have found ways to exert ownership over those they deemed to be inferior. And though they may have found success in owning the bodies of others, they could never own their minds. Our minds belong to us, and they are unable to be owned by another, unless we allow them to. It reminds me of another philosopher who was once a slave. Epictetus said, “Any person capable of angering you becomes your master. They can anger you only when you permit yourself to be disturbed by them.” For most of his life, Epictetus did not own his own body. But for his whole life, he owned his mind.

Many of us will never have to endure the suffering Frankl endured in the concentration camps. But in our own ways, we are all fighting a hard battle [link]. Our suffering may be unjust, but it has meaning. It is up to us to not lose hope and remember that what does not kill us will make us stronger (Nietzsche). We cannot always control what happens to our bodies, but we can always control our minds.


Feature photo the Auschwitz Concentration Camp by Frederick Wallace on Unsplash

*Zeno, the founder of Stoicism, was influenced by the Greek philosopher Stilpo (360-280 BC)

Do the Things You Have to Do

I watched as my son reluctantly pulled the homework out of his backpack. There were so many other things he wanted to do after a long day of school. Instead of winding down or playing outside before the sun set, he was digging into more math and grammar problems. He didn’t want to do it, but he knew he must.

What must be done

I only partially learned this lesson in school and my grades reflected it. The lesson hit its mark in the Army. You do what you must, or you pay the price. In this case, the price was paid in full through pain. And as John Patrick said, “Pain makes man think. Thought makes man wise. Wisdom makes life endurable.” [Read: Feel the Pain, Make the Change]

Unfortunately, back then, doing what I must only extended to my professional life. I didn’t have the discipline or the courage to extend it to my personal life. As a result, I suffered. The pain I felt was dull, and therefore, I continued to do what I wanted rather than what I should have done.

Education through pain and experience

Professors Pain and Experience may have been my two greatest teachers. Early on, they were instrumental in my education. It was through pain that I learned the consequences of getting burned, to identify what was toxic if I ate it, and what will hit me if I upset it. Pain taught me how to survive. Experience, how to thrive. In time, they tutored me on how to bridge the gap between the personal and professional. Without them, I would be dead. But with them, I learned how to live.

The most valuable of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do when it has to be done, whether you like it or not.

Aldous Huxley

Is our traditional education system broken? Some would think so. Yet, there is still value in it if we learn from Huxley’s words. Learn to do what you must, whether you like it or not. But consider the things you must do. Weigh them carefully. Is it that which you must do for yourself, or is it that which someone else thinks you must do for your own good? There is a big difference.


Feature photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

The Truth about Masks

Fairy tales and legends are filled with trolls. They are described as ugly and cruel beasts living under bridges and in the marshes. And though the stories are rife with their existence, I wonder how many people have seen one.

Today, the word troll has taken on a different meaning. These are the individuals who scan your posts and your videos looking for ways to attack you. Often, their comments are both ugly and cruel. And like the trolls from the legends, I wonder how many have been seen. Chances are the answer is never.  They might not live under bridges and in marshes, but they do their best to hide. Their power is in their anonymity, and therefore refuse to show their faces or reveal their real names.

The purpose of a mask

Traditionally, masks were used for two different purposes, and both had to do with identity protection. Villains wore masks so they could not be identified when committing their illegal acts. On the other hand, heroes wore masks to protect their identities so the villains couldn’t retaliate against them or their loved ones. In both cases, it was best for individual safety to remain anonymous.

It is easier to be bold when you are anonymous. Who doesn’t want to be able to hit without fear of the repercussions? You can commit the crime without the worry of being caught. As it is with water looking for the path of least resistance, so too is man’s heart. It takes courage to do the brave thing, courage to do the right thing. To be courageous means to go beyond yourself and do the thing you don’t necessarily feel like doing. It means to forego the easy way and choose a path that offers more resistance.

Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth. -Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde

If you want to know what is really in the heart of man, then give him a mask. It will give him an inflated sense of bravado and allow him to freely operate in the shadows. You might not be able to see the face, but you most certainly will be able to see the person’s heart. And the heart as Solomon said is deep like water, and only the one with understanding can draw it out (Proverbs 20:5).

Examining Epictetus #29: Working on Yourself Daily

The only way to achieve real growth and progress is to work on yourself daily. It is often boring. It is slow and steady work. There will be no monumental gains from day to day. Rather, the growth is incremental.

Look for opportunities in each day. What can you subtract from your life? What can you add in its place that will take you to the next level? Analyze. Adjust. Reflect. Refine. Make your habits serve you. Become the master of your own destiny through constant and relentless work. Do this daily, and you will be surprised at what you become.

Progress is not achieved by luck or accident, but by working on yourself daily. -Epictetus

Feature photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

Plan Before You Start

For years, this was me. Maybe, it was you too…

The alarm goes off and the motions began. Snooze. Snooze again. Get up. Get ready for work. Go. Work, then lunch. Work, then home. Dinner. Television. Sleep. Repeat.

Not counting school, this was about 70% of my life for over two decades. If you take a moment to think about it, then you would realize that it was not much of a life. And just imagine the conversation on Judgment Day:

“What did you do with the life I gave you,” God asked.

“Well,” I stammered, “I worked, I slept, and I watched TV.”

“You are My son. I made you in My image. I gave you life. And this was your gratitude? You took My gift and buried it in the ground like an unfaithful servant.”

Here I have no response and can only hang my head in shame.

“Let me show an image. This is you, the person I made, with all your potential and all your gifts. You could have been this person. This is the person you were supposed to be. I didn’t put you on earth only to work, sleep, and watch TV.”

Don’t begin the activities of the day until you know exactly what you plan to accomplish. Don’t start your day until you have it planned.

Jim Rohn

It is easy to get caught in the trap of the same routine. It is a cycle that left unchecked could continue through the decades. And in the end, you would little to show for it. How do you end this pattern and become who you were meant to be?

Start with a plan

It really is that simple. Oh yes, you must execute it, but it starts with a plan. And if you start every day with a plan, you give yourself direction. You give yourself meaning.

But what happens if you can’t complete your daily plan? Then add it to the next day. Eventually, you will complete it or get tired of writing down the same thing every day.

Each day is a fresh start. Plan. Execute. Win. Become the person you were intended you to be.


Feature photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

A Purge

We are excretion machines. We take in food and liquids, process them, use what we need, and excrete/eliminate everything that is left. Hopefully. Sometimes, we take in stuff that the body can’t process. If the body doesn’t know what to do with it and doesn’t remove it, it will put it in storage (such as fat). Other times, there is a blockage. The stuff doesn’t get stored, doesn’t get eliminated, and it just sits in the gut. This is not good if the stuff sitting there is toxic, especially if you have damage in your intestinal lining (leaky gut).

What do you do when that happens? For some, the solution is a purge. They want to clean the system out. This comes with both positive and negative benefits. If you are interested, do your research.

A purge for your body may be beneficial, but have you ever considered these words from a great French philosopher…

Get a purge for your brain. It will do better than for your stomach.

Michel de Montaigne

What needs to be purged?

  • Old belief systems that are no longer valid.
  • Too much clutter clogging and slowing down your internal computer. Link: Remove the Clutter
  • The truly useless information.
  • The garbage you see and hear from TV, social media, news, and radio.
  • Needless fear and anxiety.

Imagine all the stuff you take in mentally. Much of it may be good. But how much of it is toxic? Without a good filtration system in place, you could be letting all the crazy in. And if you are not purging that out of your head, you might be worse off than having a leaky gut?


Feature photo by Birgith Roosipuu on Unsplash

One Take #15: Dealing with FUD

In the days leading up to the Great Flood, the people of the world were living a good and happy life. There was little worry about the future. They ate, drank, and made merry. If they continued to sacrifice to the local gods, nothing could go wrong.

Then one day, someone started building a large boat. This was strange as there were no large bodies of water nearby. They asked him what he was doing and did not like his answer.

To them, this was the Golden Age. They did not look well upon those that held contrary beliefs. They did not tolerate anyone who would spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt. And that is what Noah was doing. Their response was ridicule, derision, and mockery. Who did Noah think he was to ruin their good times? Thus, they continued in the disbelief until the rain began to fall.

In the early 1990’s, I had a teacher that believed the end was near. For us students, this was hard to believe. We were young and full of optimism. The world was changing before our eyes and thoughts of the end times were ridiculous. We were on the brink of a new Golden Age and this man was intent on cracking our good spirits. Today, we would consider this teacher an early “doomsday prepper.” He even advised us High School students to buy gold as a hedge against inflation. Back then, I had a hard time taking him seriously.

In my recent studies on cryptocurrencies, I have come across the acronym FUD. FUD is fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Spreading FUD will get you removed from online forums. Investors expect their returns to take them to the moon, and they do not appreciate those who would think differently. As an investor myself, I want to believe the best is yet to come. But at the same time, I don’t want to be so foolish to turn a blind eye to the spreaders of FUD. Doing so would be perilous if the storm really is on the horizon.

The world we live in is bound to have a little FUD. Last year, a health crisis began its devastating effects on the world. There are powerful people that are opposed to individual freedom. Our food and water supplies are being threatened. It seems that everywhere you turn, in every sector that impacts our lives, our existence is in peril. The FUD is real. I don’t want to be the one spreading the FUD. But It is out there, and I, for my own sanity, need to learn how to manage it.

Fear

F-E-A-R has two meanings. Forget Everything and Run. Or, Face Everything and Rise. The choice is yours.

Zig Ziglar

Essentially, we are talking about one of the most basic survival mechanisms we have as humans: fight or flight. In the face of real danger, to run makes sense. But to run from the challenge when no real threat exists is self-defeating. Instead, you should rise to the challenge.

When I think about fear, I think of the unknown. That can be scary. What if there are monsters hiding in the shadows? Even worse, what if the monsters are hiding in plain sight. A wolf at a distance in the daylight might not be that scary. One in the dark brings fear. Even worse, is the wolf dressed as a sheep. You don’t even know to be scared until it is too late.

Zig Ziglar has another acronym for fear: False Evidence Appearing Real. This acronym describes most of our fears. We have anxiety for a future that has not yet come to pass. We are in fear of something that we cannot control. And this leads to…

Uncertainty

Robert Greene put it well when he stated, “The need for certainty is the greatest disease the mind faces.” We are not gods, yet we want the omniscient power. We want the security that comes in certainty. Maybe this condition has evolved with the evolution of our modern world. Instead of living lives of adventure and exploration, we have become accustomed to routine. We have adapted to a work, eat, sleep pattern with only manufactured adventures experienced through television and video games. Are we really choosing to go passively into the Matrix? When our routine is challenged, we become uncertain. And with uncertainty comes…

Doubt

How do you know how to proceed if you don’t know how what will happen in the future? In truth, you don’t. But we can’t resort to inaction. Instead, you must take a step. You must travel the path the best you can. And if you are wrong? Well, at least you tried. And with the knowledge of being wrong, you can correct your course and take your next step in the right direction. The key is taking the steps. If you don’t take the steps, if you remain in place, you will never go anywhere. The only thing that will hold you back is yourself.

Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong.

Peter McIntyre

We must learn how to navigate the FUD in our lives. Yes, it can be difficult, but it can be done. Search for the truth wherever it can be found. Make it your personal mission and gravitate toward it. Become who you were meant to be and remember…

Your chances of success in any undertaking can always be measured by your belief in yourself.

Robert Collier

All Are Fighting a Hard Battle

The lady stood in line at the grocery store. The associates knew who she was and was giving her a wide berth. Unfortunately, another customer got too close to her in the line. The cashier, who happens to be my wife, attempted to give him a silent signal with her mask-covered face. It didn’t work, and the lady finally found another target for her hate. And thus, unfolded the same weekly tirade at the grocery store. This lady is in a perpetual state of anger and doesn’t care who feels her wrath.

The easiest solution is to return hate with hate. If it were me, I would make a game of it and flood her with more sarcasm than she could handle. But is that the right course of action? Does this improve the situation, or is it only a severe case of pettiness? I know what I would do, and I also know what I should do. Sadly, would and should are not the same thing. In this case, I will have to consider the words of one of the great thinkers in history. What would he do?

WWPD

What Would Plato Do?

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

Plato

Our antagonist in this story is angry. She is bitter. I cannot imagine the cause. But pouring gasoline on the fire is not beneficial to anybody. The battle she is fighting may be harder than anything I have imagined. Kindness may not cure her of her problems, but kindness is the answer. Thank you, Plato, for these words of wisdom.


Feature photo by Kat J on Unsplash

Tragedies and Goals

It was another weekend where not enough got accomplished. As per usual, one of two things happened. I either over planned more than I could get gone or I under planned. In this case, I failed to plan.

 I usually make my weekend plans on Thursday or Friday. But this week, I got busy. And I got distracted. The result? When the weekend came around, not enough got done. I took too much free time and worked on tasks of lesser importance. I failed to make clear goals which in turn got me no closer to my high, hard goals.

The tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach.

Benjamin Mays

Yes, it was just one weekend. There will hopefully be more in the future. And though I look at it as a tragedy, it doesn’t even compare to what Dr. Mays stated as the real tragedy: having no goals to reach.

Now don’t get me wrong. I have goals. I probably have more goals than I wish to admit. But what is a goal if it is not planned and executed? A pure fantasy. The bad thing about fantasies is they don’t get us closer to our intended destination. Instead, they consume valuable time. And time, as William Penn once said, is what we want most, but what we use worst.

I know I need to do better. My hope is to reach my goals. If I don’t improve my planning, I run the risk of not seeing them come to fruition.


Feature photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash