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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Criticism makes you better…if you are willing to take it. Of course, everybody wants constructive criticism. And in a perfect world, that is all we would ever get. However, we do not live in such a world. We get what we get, even if it is not sugar-coated.
How many times have we been told something wasn’t good enough? There was no reason why it wasn’t good enough. There were no explanations given. It was up to us to figure out what the problem was and how to solve it. As frustrating as it may have seemed, the feedback was good enough for us to go back and work through it and eventually find the solution.
What we must remember is that feedback is a gift [link]. Good or bad, it is still feedback. If it is something within your control, then to fix it makes you better. And if it is something you can’t control or change, then oh well. Take it with a grain of salt and dismiss it. [See: What Is Ugly?]
He only profits from praise who values criticism.
We all want the praise. We want the “job well done.” The best way to get it is by doing the work. It is by being better. We don’t start out this way. Sometimes we must take our lumps and in time learn how not to get hit. “This is the very perfection of man,” said St. Augustine, “to find out his own imperfection.” Sometimes we are blind to our own faults, and criticism, whether constructive or not, is a tool we can use to our advantage.
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.