That “success” would make all my problems go away.
What are some common illusions?
The government has you in their best interest.
Corporations are more interested in taking care of their employees than making money.
Food labelled as healthy is actually good for you (sometimes this is not the case).
Pharmaceutical companies are interested in getting you healthy.
Truth vs. Tribe
Sometimes the truth hurts. It shakes us to the core and challenges our previously held beliefs. Sometimes the tribes we belong to become more important than the truth. We see this in politics, in nutrition and health, and even in religion where the sacred can become profane. A good example were the poor souls who drank the Kool-Aid. Another example would be the cures nature has provided for us being touted as evil and made illegal only to be replaced by synthetic drugs designed to mask our symptoms and keep us unhealthy.
Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed. Friedrich Nietzsche
Make no mistake, I am not saying everything we have been told is a lie. I am not saying every tribe is corrupt or every belief system we subscribe to is flawed. But we owe it to ourselves to look at everything with a critical eye and not accept it on blind faith. We must do the research. We must be willing to dig down and search for the truth. And if the truth shatters our illusions, then we will be one step closer to freedom.
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
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).
Some would suggest that money is the root of all evil. And though money in and of itself is neither good nor evil, the lengths that some go to acquire it is indeed evil.
For only 30 pieces of silver, Judas betrayed the Son of God.
Because they were rewarded bonuses based on stock prices, Enron employees manipulated the price of the stock.
Of course, this list could go on ad infinitum, but we will not try to exhaust it.
Your money can’t go with you into the afterlife, but would you be willing to sacrifice something that goes with you into the next world for a little monetary gain today?
I work hard to maintain my body. After all, it is the only one I have in this life. The fitter my body, the more I can do. In fact, like the one with money, there are greater opportunities for those in good health. But also, like money, there are limits. If I am driven purely by vanity, I would go to unethical means to achieve my goals. But this body will only last one lifetime. The spirit and soul may continue into the next life, but the body will return to dust.
You may abandon your own body, but you preserve your honor.
The ronin Musashi was a great warrior who lived by a high standard. He understood that reputation and honor was more important than even his own body. If it were the other way around, there is a good chance that history would have forgotten him. His body is no longer here, but his legacy has lived through the centuries. To be like Musashi, one would do well to live a virtuous life of wisdom, discipline, courage, and justice. To forsake those virtues would be to leave to door open to such vices as greed, gluttony, licentiousness, and cowardliness. These vices if left unchecked would slowly erode a person’s reputation. You would lose your honor, and unfortunately, this would be the legacy you would take with you into your next life.
Imagine all the things you want to do in this life. Some them are truly great. Some of them could, in some way, make a great impact on this world and our way of living. Right now, all you have is a dream, one that is almost an impossibility. The odds of success are barely there. They are so small. Yet, there is a chance. With God, all things are possible. And you, as a child of God, have the same potential of possibility. This thing that is in your mind. It can be accomplished.
If something is important enough, even if the odds are against you, you should do it.
Elon Musk. You might not like him or even agree with what he does, but it doesn’t change the fact that he daily tries to achieve what seems to be impossible. What he does in his mind is to him, the right thing to do. He believes his work is important for both him and humanity. Despite the odds, he is going to do it.
How are you any different? You have the same potential. If it is the right thing to do, you should do it. Who cares how slight the chance of success is? You can do it. This is your gift to humanity.
We can blindly accept things as true. Whether it be the news, gossip, or something heard in the grapevine, we can take a path of least resistance. That way, no effort is involved, and we gladly follow along with the crowd.
Or we can take a half-measure. We can hear the news, conduct an online search, and be done with it. Our suspicions were unwarranted as confirmed by the first article listed in the search results.
The Buddha said, “There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth: not going all the way and not starting.”
Your body is a temple. Why would you put anything in your body without knowing the truth of what it is? Do you know what is in the food or medicine you consume? Did you do the research or just go along with what you were told? You only get one body.
Your mind is the Holy of Holies in your temple. This too should be protected. You do your best to prevent viruses onto your computer. Viruses carry information with the power to corrupt the operating system. Likewise, what you consume mentally can corrupt the most sacred parts of who you are. Beware and protect. Consume information but validate it. Understand what it is before you implement or spread it. Is it truth? For it is the truth we should seek. It is the truth that gives us the freedom to be our own masters.
Most likely, all of us at one point has been told we have a guardian angel. This protector keeps us from going down the wrong path. They watch over us in our sleep and ensures no evil befalls us.
For a moment, consider your character. It:
Keeps you safe.
Works on your behalf.
Helps you through the hard times.
Your character is your protection against would-be enemies. If you love and respect it, if you nurture it, it will be an impenetrable bastion. But if you stain it, you will open the floodgates and be assailed from all directions. Such is the power of your character. The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “A man’s character is his guardian divinity.”
Like a guardian angel, it will guide you, be your light and guide you; let it be your guardian and protect you; and on the paths of life direct you.
I was walking up the stairs to my office. About halfway up, my toe hit the edge of the step. My hands shot out to grab the rails. Just in time. If I would have missed, I would have gone tumbling down the metal stairs and onto the factory floor.
Once I gathered myself and regained my balance, I did the usual “every time I stumble” move. I took the dreaded look around to see if anybody was watching. After the all-clear, I resumed my ascent up the steps and acted as if nothing had happened.
There are times I get stuck in my belief systems. The things I was told were true, I accepted. I didn’t do the research or ask the right questions. When I read or heard something contrary to my “supposed” truths, I would dismiss it as fake or too far-fetched. Occasionally, I would stumble on something that really challenged my beliefs, something not as easily dismissed. And when this happened, which lately has occurred more than a few times, I am faced with a choice. Do I, like stumbling on the stairs, move on as if nothing happened? Or do I pause and wonder? What was it that caused me to stumble? Is there a truth here that I need to discover? Do I need to do some research and evaluate those findings?
There is no doubt that I have many preconceived biases. When I see the error of one, I have a decision to make. What will I do? And the same goes for you when you cross the threshold that brings uncertainty to your belief systems, you must decide what you will do.
There is only one real failure in life possible, and that is not to be true to the best one knows.
How can you be true to the best you know?
If you find yourself on this planet with a sacred duty, to not fulfill it would be your only, one true failure.
There is a reason why we are here. To say our existence is only chance and that we have no purpose, then you are not digging deep enough within yourself.
An apple tree that bears apples is achieving its purpose. It is in harmony with the universe. No matter how much the apple tree wishes to bear oranges, it will never be able to do it. It will either fulfill its purpose, or it will be barren.
To be true, to do that which you were designed for, is to be in harmony with yourself and the universe. The universe is a great symphony. All its parts working in unison, fulfilling the roles they were designed for. Good and evil, chaos and order, all in balance. We are a part of this symphony. We must play our parts.
When you think of strength, the first thing that might come to mind is that of some burly individual able to pick up heavy weights. And though that may be a legitimate mental picture, strength goes beyond the ability to lift heavy objects. But since that may be your mental picture, let us start with the body.
Strength of Body
What are the benefits of a strong body? The stronger you are, the easier it is to complete physical tasks with more efficiency. This could be climbing the stairs with less discomfort. It could be carrying the groceries from the car to your kitchen with less struggle. Being strong gives you the freedom to accomplish the things that needs to get done without undue taxation on the body. The building of strength today benefits what you can do tomorrow.
Strength of Mind
Can you push through the barrier past the pain of exhaustion? As much as you need a strong body, you need to develop a strong mind. You must be able to will yourself to go farther than you think you can. I can’t count how many times I have wanted to give up while running. My mind is looking for ways to get me to stop. It is looking for the smallest reason to use as weapon against me in the game of mental warfare. The body is willing and capable, but the mind needs conquering. As Zeno said, “Man conquers the world by conquering himself.” The way to do this is to train your mind to overcome adversity.
Strength of Soul
I am reminded of the monk who sat still in the middle of the road as he burned to death. Both his body and mind were strong. But to willingly cross the threshold of death with the knowledge that there is no coming back to the body, that takes a heart and a soul of immense strength. I don’t recommend you try it, but you can learn to challenge your fear. You can incrementally increase your courage.
You cannot use the strength you do not have. If you want to be strong, you must develop it. And like a three-legged stool, each leg must be trained equally. If not, you will topple over.
How does this relate to the virtue of Justice? To do what is right requires strength. Strength then is a virtue, and one that we can all strive towards.
I know a manager who has led his department for over twenty years. When it comes to receiving feedback on the performance of his team, he is not willing to take it. As a result, they suffer, and their numbers reflect it. Instead of trying to understand and correct the issues, he wants to take the role of the bully. He will defend and fight, hem and haw, and try to intimidate others.
As I watch his face turn red and his blood pressure skyrocket, I start thinking about other bullies. There is some inherent weakness within them. Rather than exposing their flaws and working to correct them, they would cover them up. And if they feel their weaknesses are in danger of exposure, they use whatever force available to them to mask it.
I remember hearing an old story of a young Arnold Schwarzenegger. If he felt he had a flaw or weak point in his physique, he would intentionally expose it. For example, if he thought his abs were a bit flabby, he would wear a cutoff shirt showing them off. Every time, he passed by a mirror he would see them. He would notice others looking his direction and would think they were looking at his midsection. He used this tactic as fuel to work even harder to correct his flaw. He did the opposite of what a classic bully would do.
The next time you encounter a rude person, consider why they are being like that. What are they trying to cover up? Is it something they don’t understand or are ashamed of? Understanding where they come from might be able to give you the opportunity to better navigate future interactions with them.
And the next time, you feel you are being rude, ask yourself if you are trying to cover up a weakness. If you are, then you have an opportunity to identify it and correct it. Turn your weakness into a strength, and you will realize there is no longer a need to be rude.