Posts Tagged ‘foolishness’

So, if there’s something you know you can react poorly to, be careful when eating it. Especially, be careful when eating a whole lot of it because even though you know better, you really really really really want to.

Pro tip: you wanting something doesn’t stop it being wrong for you. And knowing better doesn’t make it a wiser decision.


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Okay, so if you take a look at how long it’s been since my last post, today’s post carries extra irony.  (See the comments from that post…)

You see, I had planned to follow up the following day with an admission that the de-stressing techniques that I’d learned are great… when I remember to do them.  And I hadn’t been remembering to keep up with self-maintenance and such.  These past few months have been terrible for me to keep up a consistency with… well, almost anything, really!  So near the start of the month I started to assess where I’d been letting things slip and where I’d hoped to get re-engaged, and made some notes on some steps I could take to get things back on track.

And here I am.  Creeping into the last week of the month, with none-too-much of what I’d hoped for actually accomplished.  So what am I going to do about it?

I’m going to apply another lesson I learned in my Summer Chrysalis phase: Be patient with yourself.  Take a look at what derailed you, and make some honest assessments on how you can do better from this point forward.

After all, as a wise man recently said, “Best to keep it all in perspective, otherwise the stress of forgetting to destress just makes us more stressed.”

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As human beings, our perspective is inherently limited, and therefore in a broad sense, inherently wrong. Possibly wrong in very minor ways, but often wrong in ways that are hugely consequential. This becomes especially important when we are in a position to enforce our perspective over others. This can be as benign as being unpleasant when people disagree with you to as horrible as harming or incarcerating other people based on your opinion of them.

When depriving someone of liberty, health or even life, we generally need to convince ourselves that we do so only to those whose character requires it, and even then only for wise and noble causes. Otherwise, we might have to question whether our cruelties are cruel, and whether that makes us cruel, and therefore villainous and any number of other bad things people usually don’t want to choose to be.

Yet history is built on a long succession of people doing brutally cruel things to other people for their own “wise and noble causes”. And history being what it is – with hindsight and distance and all – we can look back at them and see so clearly what they wouldn’t see themselves: that they were wrong, sometimes ridiculously wickedly so.

And I’ll say “wouldn’t see”, not “couldn’t see”, because they had the ability to recognize that they couldn’t know everything. They had the power to realize they could be mistaken, and therefore worked harder to know and understand before lashing out. Mistakes could still have been made, but those acts would have been nobler mistakes rather than acts of mistaken nobility.

We have that same ability, with the added responsibility to apply the examples they’ve gifted us with. We need to learn from them, and realize that we aren’t any more omniscient than they, and use their short-sightedness to help us work better with our own. Otherwise someday we might find ourselves judged by those with their own powers of hindsight, and found cruelly wanting.

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Time enough for a quick thought about not getting caught up in trying to settle on the perfect answer…

The trouble with life isn’t that there is no answer, it’s that there are so many answers.
Ruth Benedict

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I have some vague thoughts today on how often we try to retread our old steps.

I’m looking at finally completing a project that I have put on hold for about four years or so. I’ve caught myself in self-recriminations for not finishing it earlier, even though I didn’t have the inclination and may not have had sufficient energy/motivation to actually succeed. But I’m known for my ability to just power through most things that are important to me, so I have a bit of a toe-hold there for kicking myself.

And then I caught what I was doing. Being absolutely ludicrous. I mean, honestly — what good does it do to waste time and energy wishing for the past to be different? I know better than that.

Instead, I decided to be grateful for the foundation I laid in the past. I’ve got a really good head-start on getting this thing done. In another year, it’ll all be completed, anyhow.

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Today, I wish to share a quote in simple celebration of “stupid questions”. When you don’t know what more experienced people have already established as “fact”, sometimes you can find out ways to get places they’d ignored as “impossible”.

In the context of deeply entrenched problems that many people have given up on, it helps to not have a traditional framework so you can ask the naïve questions. That can help you set goals that more experienced people wouldn’t think are feasible.

– Wendy Kopp

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I almost forgot to write down the thought I was having earlier today! It was about cause, effect, and our perceived relationship to them. I’ve been reading very different views on the idea of what can and can’t happen, of what is and is not probable, what people should and shouldn’t expect, and so on and so forth.

Personally, my current level of experience can be summed up this way:

Every single effect has at least one cause. Which causes bring about which effects, however, are where the surprises come in. We can do our best to observe effects and try to gauge the visible causes, but when it comes down to it, there’s far too much we will never accurately predict. No matter the topic, if we don’t retain enough anticipation for true surprises in life, we’re in for a real disappointing time of it.

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In honor of “April Fools’ Day”, an old proverb:

“The wise learn from fools far more than fools learn from the wise.”

(Personally, I also think the wise aren’t afraid of looking a little foolish…)

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Today I snagged a random mondo (zen story) to share.  I think it’s pretty funny.  I also think it speaks to how self-improvement can be hindered if we try to judge our progress against others, and others’ against ours:

There’s a type of buddhism in Japan called Tendai, where people studied meditation before zen ever reached the country.  Four students of Tendai were very good friends, and they promised each other they’d observe seven days of complete silence together, to help each other reach their goal.
A couple days in, they were doing pretty well.  But then when night came, the lights were getting dim while they were trying to meditate, because the lamps needed to be taken care of but their servants didn’t seem to notice.  One of the students got so frustrated that he finally yelled to a servant, “Fix those lamps, I can’t even see!”  Another student gasped, and said “You talked! We promised we wouldn’t talk!”  A third one piped in, “You idiots! You broke our vow of silence!”
The fourth student looked at his friends, gravely shaking his head.  Finally, with his chin raised, he proclaimed “I’m the only one who seems to be able to keep a vow around here.”

 Though come to think of it, if that first student hadn’t gotten so frustrated that his anger was more important than his own progress… maybe there’s another lesson in there, too.  I think I understand why people study mondos in practicing zen.

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Today’s thought comes with a visual aid, a comic that I felt illustrates the danger of overly identifying with a prescribed role.  See, I was thinking this morning about titles and labels and how they can mislead somebody into thinking they know what you’re about (maybe even you!), in a way that isn’t quite accurate.  Hm.  That was a complex way of putting it.  I’ll just jump to the visual which you probably read first anyway:

Rubes comic 2/26/09

Rubes 2/26/09

THAT is what I’m talking about.  We can’t put too much weight into titles, positions, etc., because that can lead us into mistaking an ordinary everyday moment for something of eternally monumental cosmos-changing action (and vice versa).  Mistaking another ordinary person like us for someone who is supernaturally different in every way.

This is on my mind because I was thinking about how I don’t especially call myself Zen or Taoist, but I will use those as adjectives to describe my flavors of thought.  They influence me, but I don’t want to be mistaken for those being my only flavors.  Just like I don’t call myself Buddhist or Sikh or Hindu or Shinto or even Christian, even though those can be part of me from a little to a lot in very personal ways.

It seems it can be really good for people who DO use those descriptors for themselves, if they really do identify as being part of those very large and diverse groups.  That is, except where somebody thinks they know exactly what every, say, Muslim should think and do and mis-identify you and your thoughts and actions based on that prejudgement.

I’m rambling again.  I give myself only 5-7 minutes to do these, so I’d better just sum up.

One of my favorite ice creams is the Tagalong ice cream (as in the Girl Scout cookies).  I’m mostly-vegan and allergic to animal protein, but sometimes it’s exactly what brings me joy, so there you go.

Tagalong ice cream is a peanut butter chocolate vanilla ice cream.  It’s not completely peanut butter, but it has this really yum rich ribbon of it all throughout.  Same for the chocolate/fudge stripe all through it.  The main ice cream itself is vanilla, but it’s not really just vanilla because every bite has those other stripes in it.  So while it’s peanut butter chocolate vanilla ice cream, it’s not really peanut butter.  Or chocolate.  Or even vanilla.  Those are all different things, they just join together to flavor the ice cream.

And then I can put it on top of this incredibly thick and rich chocolate mud cake and drizzle chocolate and caramel sauce over it, which transforms it up to an even nummier dish entirely…

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