Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Living With Ourselves

Since we can't get away from ourselves - except through mind-altering substances or madness - I suppose we just have to learn to with with individual selves.

It is tempting to attribute all cleverness to ourselves and faults to others. It is the wisdom of all religious teachings to attribute all cleverness to others and faults to ourselves. By blaming others, there is nothing much you can do to change things, unless you are really madness and decide to decimate everyone else - this has been done many times before in recent history. By taking faults to be our own, we have to learn to cultivate ourselves so that we are at one with society and the rest of nature. Learning to cultivate ourselves is called the art of living.

The Taoist masters will tell you that the most versatile way of living is the natural course way, which is the way of the water which flows smoothly through all obstacles and in the end be at one with the mighty ocean. It is certainly true that human life is nothing but a series of downhill steps as far as the physical aspects of all creatures are concerned. We, of course, would like to think ourselves to be constant and undying and live forever, which gives us this idea, from all pagans, of the spirit and, from the ancient Greek, the idea of soul. It is this undying part of ourselves which we are trying to cultivate despite the frailty of the body.

The undying part, we will discover, consists of several layers. First, we have ideas - thoughts that we get from our parents, families, friends, teachers, and the media, and not excluding politicians and religious preachers. In our formative years, these ideas are important, as they help us to live with others in society by sharing common values and common expectations. These ideas are important also because they drive the modern prosperity, with new inventions and new ways of making use of the materials that we find around us, by remoulding and reshaping them into objects which we can fall in love with. In modern management teaching, these ideas are called creative ideas and by "thinking out of the box" we get more and more of different lines of thinking - and hurray, the world we live in is full of concepts and things, just like a supermarket. We can shout with joy, or we can live in despair as to how to choose in order to focus on what is good.

Second, we will discover that in a world without ideas and concepts, we have the mind - this vast expanse of the interior of ourselves which we can dwell in forever in peace and quiet, so long as we do not allow thoughts to arise and interfere with the calmness and clarity. While the most common way of achieving this state of mind is said to be through meditation - which is true - but it is not entirely by itself only. The way to a clear and calm mind is through wisdom - and understanding or what is and what is not, to be able to discern reality from fiction created by our forebears and ourselves, and to not run away from the certainty of our eventual demise.

Wisdom is achieved by reading and observation, which together is customarily called education. Education is to learn from those who have learned before us, by Mencius's definition. Therefore, we read to have conversation with dead poets and thinkers and wise men and women. We reflect in quiet solitude in order to realise their true meaning. We observe whether their sayings are true in reality.

Having had wisdom, the next step is to act wisely, meaning in accordance with our understanding of things as they are. Of course, everybody acts whether we consider he or she to be wise, for he or she may think himself or herself so, as others will think of us as being crazy. But the beauty of this is that everybody get to live the life that he or she thinks fit, so long as he or she does not prevent others from doing so as well. This is the great mantra of the freedom of speech and the freedom of the individual - which was a revolt from the control of whole societies in the past by religious elders and now by political despots.

Putting aside the world for the time being, the ultimate challenge for each one of us is to discover ourselves (i.e., our own truths) and then live accordingly. Simple, and it is.

5 comments:

walla said...

Reality should not have to give way to semantic niceties.

Say someone goes on a rampage in a crowd. Do we ask our eyes not to be too clever? Similarly, if good governance is sacrificed for political expediency supremacised time and time again without explanation, apology or redress to stakeholders, should citizens be generous, close an eye and let it run its natural course on the basis each his own to await final justice in the end even if injustice is meanwhile imposed on millions who have to live under worsening conditions while awaiting that particular solution?

What price equanimity when to maintain it one must close all senses to what need to be stopped or changed after which one can then have real peace in a society which will abate the gremlins in individuals who can then live out their lives in a way that unifies the undying part with a better nature undefiled by human greed and selfishness?

Yes, all have rights under the sky and people are not made the same. All the more reason would it not then be that none should be sequestered or marginalized just so the less fortunate can catch up to compete for in a society that is supposed to heal where all can amicably coexist in mutual support, how can closure be made if opportunities and resources are withheld from those who can advance no less under a global framework of what works and what are needed first in the very definition of standards as pertains real progress in living?

In the tragic event unfurling for over a week now, we can see all the gremlins come out to dance around the bonfire. Putting people who can't means they don't improve the functions for which they're responsible. Hiding things from those who can means professional help steep in better methodologies cannot be delivered on time and with sufficient magnitude to avert disaster. Individuals taking the stand who contradict one another in rapid succession reflects not only a lack of clear thinking but also an absence of clear conscience for that matter a lack of the very coordination that is time-critical.

Shedding tears won't bring results. The world of reality is not going to commiserate with those who don't pull up their socks when expected to have done so under even the most rudimentary circumstances. A cushy viewpoint of where one stands and how easy life can be will only weaken the preparedness towards all aspects of public life that is needed to bring forth better performance in a globalizing society which will in turn shed the need to constantly find excuses or deflect blame onto others for personal inadequacies upheld as a right.

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