Posts Tagged ‘hubris’

Yesterday, I talked about each of us being a specially unique piece in the big puzzle of life.  And I think that’s actually a pretty perfect analogy.  Each of us has a different shape, a different size, and a different pattern, comprising an integral part of the big picture.

And yes, this means you.  You, specifically, are necessary for the success of this world we all live in.  There is something unique about your exact combination of insights and experiences that only you can explore.  There’s a special kind of understanding to be found from living in your exact spot in the world, that only you can sort out.  The simple fact that you are here puts some hefty responsibilities on you to embrace whatever you find in your core self, and learn to live in accordance with it.  You’re already having an impact on the world just by having been born into it, in ways you may never notice until you start to look.

The problem is, we’re kept so distracted that we don’t generally know how to look.  And when we do start, we’re actively discouraged by the idea that we can think there’s anything special about us unless some Very Important People tell us so.  There’s this revulsion to the idea somehow, so much so that people can get offended by those who seek their own authentic self, and start accusing those others of thinking they’re superior, or betraying their past, or whatnot.

I guess maybe it’s fear, the fear that the status quo may be pushed aside, that maybe there’s something they should be reaching for but haven’t found the right way to go about it.  I really don’t know.  But I do know that you must never be ashamed of what makes you feel peaceful, joyful, and lighter just for being a part of.  This is where your power lies, and while you don’t need to cause havoc, you do need to explore these inspirations without worrying about whether they don’t fit in with the way you’re “supposed to” think and act and feel.

Actually, if I may, I’ll tell you how you’re “supposed to” think and feel.  You are supposed to think through your goals and values, and make sure they build up a sense of harmony inside your own head.  You are supposed to act in accordance with what seems truly right, no matter the pressures to choose otherwise.  You are supposed to feel at home in your own skin, loving your own heart no matter how much you’re afraid you may have gone astray, and feeling how that heart extends this love to those around you.  Everything else is just details.

If you decide to pursue these as your goals, this will put you more in harmony with your innately special nature.  And if anybody out there tries to tell you that there’s nothing special about just trying to be yourself, challenge them to try it with you.  After you’ve both been at it for a month or three, then stuck it through the inevitable backsliding-hurdles once or twice, to go a full year of ups and downs without letting up on your quest, then ask them how easy that was.

And then see if they’ll join you in helping others try it, too.

Personally, this is exactly what I’m working on right now.  If you’d like to join me, leave a comment (and it can be private if you ask because I moderate them).  Don’t sweat it if you find this long after I post this, because unless you happen to find a “Blog Closed” post on the front page, I’m still around, and still working on my path, and would love to keep you company on yours.


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Wow, so I’m trying to share some thoughts about When Atlas Shirked, and I find I’m not sure where to begin!  So I figure I’ll start at the beginning.

As you can tell from the archives, I’m pretty free with my thoughts once they get going, but haven’t been that good at sharing them consistently.  I absolutely never saw myself able to hold a train of thought long enough to write a book.  In fact, that’s the one thing I always swore I’d never be able to do.

So then one day I was sitting in a coffee shop that was hosting a regional job fair, supporting the friend who needed a ride.  While she was going through the rounds of interviews, I helped keep track of other applicants’ seats and watched their stuff.  Between their own interviews, I chatted with them and generally tried to help them feel more relaxed at the prospect of competing for the limited jobs that are out there.

I ended up speaking alone with this guy named Dean.  The topic had turned to “where we’re from”, and I talk about coming from a relatively fundamentalist Christian background, and how I learned much from that to carry with me in all the other ways I’ve learned to learn, and so on.  I then said something like, “You know, the usual.”

He then politely informed me that he didn’t see that as usual, at all.  Rather, whenever talk turns to things like religion or Christianity especially, it’s generally fairly divisive in an All or Nothing kind of way.  That either one is completely, doggedly pro-their-own-religion and anti-all-else, or one has renounced one’s old religion with quite some unkind things to say about where they’ve been.  And that he never has seen someone so casually respectful of all people and their hopes and beliefs, certainly not sitting chatting in a coffee shop.  Those weren’t his exact words, but that’s generally what I took away from what he said.

Though I resisted it at first, I soon realized he was right, which was so very wrong.  Cause I think most people are somewhat aware of that interconnectedness among us, and all it would take is some decent examples to help us share it.

So, on Dean’s advice/request, I went home and started to try writing some decent examples.  Within a day or so the project had taken on a life of its own, somewhat taking over mine.  For months, I struggled to keep up with it as well as the rest of my full-time life, barely making it through.  I wasn’t even sure just where I was going with it, just that it had somewhere it wanted to go.  And that I felt pretty strongly that I had to help it get there.

And that led me to letting a book come into being, without much thought to where it was going to go once it got here.  Which is not at all the way I’d recommend writing and releasing a novel, especially one you’d like folks to find and read.  I definitely would have planned out target audiences, and researched how to write what they would seek out, and so on and so forth.  It feels really a backwards way of doing things, now that I stop to think about it.

But if I’d ever stopped to think about it, I would have been paralyzed from moving forward.  I certainly never would have written half of what went into that book.  So I wouldn’t even be here, wondering what just happened.

I guess, out of all those 594 words I just wrote, that’s the lesson from this whole post.  Something I’m going to go brew a hot cup of tea and have a nice, long think about.

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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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I’m feeling inspired about making decisions to get places that I normally wouldn’t see a clear or easy path to, but I might like to see, all the same. I’ve had some ideas for some fun and maybe exciting things to try, but I haven’t had a strong plan on how I’d make it happen — the details really aren’t clicking together just yet.

Today though I ran across a couple quotes that help nudge me along to going forward anyway:

I like to say that if you can connect all the dots between what you see today and where you want to go, then it’s probably not ambitious enough or aspirational enough.

– Shantanu Narayen (CEO of Adobe)

My goal is to do one thing every day that kind of scares me.

– Maigread Eichten (CEO of energy drink company FRS)

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This weekend I was reading about meditation, introspection, prayers, etc., and I came across a caveat about intention. A writer from around the year 1800 cautioned people to be very careful with their motivations for pursuing what they’ve set their mind to.

He said that if you set out to accomplish things to be held out in respect by others, or to gain riches and wealth to be lazy, or out of bitterness, or meanness, you’d find yourself met by the spirit of your intent. That is, if your goals are pursued to support your ego, you’ll find plenty of ‘inspiration’ and happenstances that will flatter you and make you arrogant. If you set out for greed, you’ll be set up for fool’s gold and fraud, whether yours or another’s. Fan the flames of anger, and there’ll be more and more reasons to be angry.

However, he said, if you merely offer yourself up to fulfill your potential in service of humanity, the higher powers and your true self, then you’ll find grounding, wisdom, and guidance for where you need to go. You’ll have strength to accomplish goals, wisdom to bypass obstacles, and enough support for a productive life of happiness and joy. In other words: True success can be found only by pursuing a path of true intentions.

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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’m still a bit under the weather today, so I went over to check my horoscope again for inspiration. I think it’s an awesome “get to it, girl, you’ve nothing to lose by making your life a better place to live!” So I’ll just share. 🙂

Lately, you have been hesitant about starting any new projects — but today you shouldn’t be. It is finally the right time to initiate something new and embrace the changes that it will undoubtedly bring to your life. Before the afternoon arrives, you will get the sense that you truly can shape your life in a new way if you want to. The universe says that any pathway you start walking down today will lead you to an enlightened place, so put on your most comfortable pair of shoes and head out!

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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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Today’s thoughts are courtesy of Shunryu Suzuki, a son of a zen monk who grew up to do pretty good zen for himself, too.  He ended up heading one of the first zen centers in the US around the 60’s, and his talks have been compiled into one of the first zen books I ever read – Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.  It’s a great title, because it stresses the importance of keeping the mind of a beginner.

See, a beginner doesn’t expect to know everything.  That’s why it’s so hard for people like me to start new things sometimes in areas we’re normally so proficient at.  We feel slowed down, and a little frustrated, because we have to stop and put scrutinous effort into things that we normally just breeze past.  We have to stop taking our normal flying-by of things for granted.  We have to actually, you know, pay attention.  See where the zen bit comes in?

This brings up the quote of his I came across that I really wanted to share:

“Strictly speaking, there are no enlightened people, there is only enlightened activity.”

That one sentence both opens and closes doors for me.  It closes the door of thinking that there’s ‘enlightened people’ out there, superior to me, and that I have to struggle and kick myself trying to become one.  It opens the door of hope that I can have more light in my life simply by practicing better habits.  Paying more attention.

It’s also a reminder — there’s nobody out there who’s great, save for how their current thoughts, words and deeds make them so.  Like everything in life it’s a continuing process, and nothing to get too hung up about.

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