Correct, not Critical

A dinner with family and friends led me the realization of how much I have grown up. A small victory, and I will take it!

I have only met the gentleman sitting across from me on a few occasions. All of them consisting of only a few brief words between us in a way of introductions and greetings. This dinner was the first opportunity to get to know him better.

As our food arrived, I noticed he had a vegetarian sub. So, I dove right in and asked a potentially loaded question. “Are you a vegetarian,” I asked. He said he wasn’t but was thinking about making the change. After watching the Netflix documentary Game Changers, he began a trial to see how he would like it. Of course, the show wasn’t his only reason for giving it a try. He also wanted to reduce the amount of prescription medication he was taking. I applaud any who makes the decision to make dietary changes to improve their health. Well done!

Where is my victory? In the past, a conversation like this could open a deep rift in nutrition ideology. I may no longer adhere to the carnivore diet, but I am still an avid consumer of meat. This admission may be offensive to those on the other end of the spectrum. My goal in the conversation was not to get him to change his mind but to understand his reasoning. It was not to criticize. Criticism often comes from ideological beliefs based on science, or doctrine, that supports those beliefs. This often leads to a shallow knowledge base that highlights a few key talking points while neglecting a complete understanding of the subject. When it comes down to it, criticism is the easy path.

How much easier it is to be critical than to be correct.

Benjamin Disraeli

To be correct, one must dig deeper than the surface. It requires going beyond the thirty second video clips and the social media one-liners that are aimed at garnering “likes” by those in the same camp. Those posts aren’t designed to create understanding. Rather, they are meant to be polarizing. The result is a greater gap between factions. If we want to bridge the gap, we must seek to understand the other’s viewpoints.

So, what is my take on nutrition? It is simple: EAT REAL FOOD. The best thing we can do for our bodies is eat the foods we find in nature. If we can do our best to eliminate an excess of packaged, processed, preserved, chemically enhanced food, our bodies will thank us for it. And if we choose a diet that eliminates vegetables or meat, we must consider what else we are missing. Are we getting all our essential amino acids, minerals, and vitamins? Are we giving what our bodies need to thrive? Instead of critical, we must seek to understand our unique bodies and how best we can fuel it to perform at an optimal level.

My Dirty Doorstep

There is one that I love like a brother. However, he is almost the exact opposite in personality, communication, and demeanor. As much as I love him, there are times I don’t want to be around him. It is simply too stressful.

Whenever this person does something, I am quick to complain to the others in our mutual circle. My complaining may start off with the latest perceived infraction, but inevitably it will extend to all the previous faults that still bother me today.

Don’t complain about the snow on your neighbor’s roof, when your own doorstep is unclean.

Confucius

I am far from perfect. I am stubborn, arrogant, and often sarcastic at the wrong moments. I can be petty, selfish, and unempathetic. For all my good qualities, the bad ones are just as prevalent and probably more noticeable to my friends and family. These are areas that need some serious work but are also ones that I do not like having pointed out to me by others.

All day long I can complain about the snow on my neighbor’s roof. Yes, that roof is a problem, but it is not my problem. I cannot control my neighbor’s actions, their roof, or the weather that brought the snow. The only thing I can control are my actions and my attitude. Marcus Aurelius said I should be tolerant with others and strict with myself. If I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, such as cleaning the mess on my doorstep, I would have no time to complain about the snow on my neighbor’s roof. I would have no time to complain about my friend’s problems.

If thy brother wrongs thee, remember not so much his wrong-doing, but more than ever that he is thy brother.

Epictetus

Patience is what I need when I am around my friend. His issues and the way he deals with them are his own best practice. And if it works for him, then I need to be less critical. I am not going to change this person, but I can love him for all the good qualities that makes him my friend. And if it rubs me the wrong way, then that is my problem. It is a problem with my perception and attitude, a problem that I need to correct.

Protecting Our Holy of Holies

A person’s skin is an amazing organ. It helps to hold all the important stuff inside. It is a shield that protects the person from any unwanted stuff from getting in. Taking care of one’s skin is a no-brainer and not doing so causes a lot of pain and many adverse health conditions.

Did you know we have an invisible skin that protects our souls and spirits? This membrane is designed much like the body’s skin. It keeps the harmful stuff out and the good stuff in. we must protect it or else our hearts and minds will suffer. What is this invisible shield? It is our conscience.

Fear all that is not accepted by your conscience. -Leo Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy

We should fear the deleterious effects of the things we put in our bodies. If there is a chance that it would harm us, why would we allow it inside of us? If our bodies are temples, then our conscience is the doorway to the holy of holies. It would be unwise to desecrate that which we should hold most sacred.

Bending to the Truth

There is black and white. It is a clear division between right and wrong. There is no question about it. It just is.

And then, there is the gray. It is the fuzziness between the two that adds complexity to that which should be simple. It is the muddy waters that distorts, entangles, and glosses over the easily identifiable.

Truth is not what you want it to be; it is what it is, and you must bend to its power or live a lie.

Miyamoto Musashi

Navigating the gray is difficult, but it is necessary if you want to get to the pure. The truth is law. It does not change. And no matter how much I want to manipulate it, I cannot. Therefore, I am left with the choice Musashi gave me: bend to its power or live a lie. One is a snare that can entangle my feet and leave me powerless. The other brings me the freedom I desire. My only choice is to submit to the truth. If I bend to its power, my steps will be sure, my way will be unhindered by the distractions along the way. I will be free. Freedom is what all of us desire, yet so few find it. There is no bending the truth, only bending to it.

Embrace the Truth

Are you educated? Or are you indoctrinated? The educated seek to understand. They seek the truth. On the other hand, the indoctrinated seek to go with the flow. They do not break from the mold, they don’t think on their own, and most assuredly, they do not question the information they are given.

Is there a difference between spoon-fed and force-fed?

The spoon-fed lack the maturity to use a fork. It simply is too dangerous as the pokey tines could puncture something other than the food on the plate. The child that lacks the coordination to use a fork must use a spoon. Once the motor skills are developed, the child can progress to the next level of advancement: the fork. Whether spoon, fork, or even the hands, the child can choose what goes in the mouth. The great question is how to get the food in there as efficiently and safely as possible.

When it comes to choice, the force-fed are not given one. They can use whichever utensil they prefer. Yet, it doesn’t matter. They must eat what they are given. And if they don’t eat or will not keep it down, then other measures will be used, even if the digestive system is bypassed and an IV is implemented.

Dispose yourself to embrace the truth, wherever it is found.

John Locke

When it comes to information, are you educated or indoctrinated? Are you spoon-fed or force-fed? One is determined based on ability and can be improved. It involves choice. The other cares neither about choice not ability.

The words John Locke spoke over 400 years ago are just as relevant today as they were back then. We must go to great lengths to search out and seek the truth. There are those who would cover it up, distort it, and even attempt to manipulate it. They want to force-feed what they think we should have. Information is power, and the distributors of it are reluctant to let it go.

The information is out there if we are willing to dig for it. We can either search it out, or we can passively let others give it to us. Which will you choose?


Feature photo by Daniel Joffe on Unsplash

Review Each Day

I will keep constant watch over myself, and, most usefully, will put each day up for review.

Seneca

When I don’t write in my journal, I forget. What I did and what I failed to do will be an afterthought until I repeat it again in the future.

For a time, I got tired of writing in my journal. It felt like I was writing the same things over and over. If I put something on my list and didn’t complete it, it would end up back on the list. I was making zero progress.

I should have kept writing it down. I should have kept on until I made the decision to do something about it. I could have completed it or found a way to break it down. Could have, but instead, I stopped one of the more important practices I should be doing.

How noble and good everyone could be if at the end of the day they were to review their own behavior and weigh up the rights and wrongs. They would automatically try to do better at the start of each new day, and …certainly accomplish a great deal.

Anne Frank

How much farther along could we go if we put each day up for review? Not only would it make us better, but it would also allow us to better serve others, which happens to be one of the most important jobs we should be doing.


Feature photo by Marcos Paulo Prado on Unsplash

Truth and Toleration

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.


Feature photo by Mark Hang Fung So on Unsplash

Hated for Who You Are

You could pretend to be something you are not. It might work for a while in fooling others, but in time your façade will be exposed. All would look well on the surface. And on the inside, all would be at odds.

However, some might suggest you should fake it until you make it. In some instances, this could work if you were actively trying to make it. But without any internal change, faking it would only be another form of pretend.

I’d rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not.

Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain was at the forefront of a new and polarizing music genre. What was this grunge music? It wasn’t like the Rock ‘n Roll people were used to. Some people loved it; others hated it. Cobain was a talented artist. He could have played any genre of music he chose. But that wasn’t him. And so, he stayed true to himself. He played his own music.

Maybe, you are not happy with where you are at in life. Maybe, you aspire to greater things. This is not pretending. This is becoming who you were meant to be.

Feature photo by rockpaperphoto.com

Training the Will

What are the things that require willpower?

  • Not sleeping too much
  • Not eating junk food
  • Abstaining from drugs/alcohol
  • Exercising
  • Putting down your phone

For many, these things are difficult. Each one on this list is a battle I struggle with today. I saw the damage these behaviors can cause if left unchecked. I am constantly training to overcome these obstacles. I am far from perfect (obviously). Often my guard slips and so does my feet from the path I know I should be on.

If I can’t do what I know is right, I will not be able to improve. Therefore, the training of the will is indeed important. Important not just for me but for all of us.

Training of the will must be an element of moral education. A weak willpower can result in the inability to do what you know is right, or the inability to prevent what you know is wrong.

Jigaro Kano

Feature photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Unsolicited Advice

It is the advice unasked for that bothers me the most. And when I get it, which seems to be daily, I try not to be rude and do my best to listen to the speaker. But while listening, my mind tends to wander. Who is this person telling me what is in my best interest? What have they done to be a credible speaker? The worst is when it is from an absolute stranger. Who are you to be telling me how to live my life?

Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.

Paulo Coelho

We live in a world full of people who know what is best for us. This is the way it has always been and most likely will always be. We can’t prevent it, but we don’t have to be a part of the problem. We don’t have to be the ones giving unsolicited advice. Rather, we can spend more time figuring out how to best lead our own lives.


Feature photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash