Strength does not come through winning…
Strength does not come through winning…
I just want to take a moment to be really fucking angry about people being really fucking irresponsible and insensitive and awful on the internet.
This is Sunil Tripathi. He is a) a student at Brown University, b) a person of South Asian descent (his name is Hindu), and c) missing. Here is…
It is in our darkest moments that we need to have the most strength of character, to restrain ourselves from our most base impulses of fear and anger. This is the true necessity of discernment.
“Those who fight monsters must take care not become monsters themselves.” -F.N.
Dove Real Beauty Sketches (by doveunitedstates)
We must always strive to see truth in all things, especially ourselves.
Someday I’d like to write a book about death.
This is Dao.
What is your first impulse when you find a bug in your home? Almost invariably, our first thought is to squish the thing. Whether out of fear, anger, or annoyance, we instinctively take action to kill the creature, even though very often it presents absolutely no threat to us. We are conditioned and raised in the modern world to despise all sorts of creepy crawly creatures, so this reaction is not surprising. However it does demonstrate how our impulses can lead us to do things that are frivolous, wanton, and off the Path. Simply because something feels right in the moment doesn’t mean you are acting in harmony by embracing it. Another example would be the sort of people that eat compulsively in reaction to stress or boredom. It is something that I have struggled with in the past, and even today I sometimes find myself drawn to the fridge for no other reason than procrastination. It is a habit that can range from being just unhealthy to absolutely life-threatening in some cases.
Instead of giving in to every one of these impulses, we should always take a moment to think before we act on them. How do I really feel about this action? Are my emotions clouding my judgement? Is this really the only or best course of action for this situation? The Dalai Lama calls this use of our faculties “discernment,” and that it is a vital step for us to truly live our lives more peacefully, more wholesomely, even simply more happily. Although it sounds silly to think about, it is surprising to see how often we are led by our impulses to act without thinking things all the way through. Once we recognize such situations in our everyday routines, we can then begin addressing them and righting ourselves from any number of bad habits and choices. Daoism is about seeing the truth in things, and that means that we must search for the truth of our own actions first of all. And while it may seem daunting to try and examine every action we take over the course of every single day, once you undertake the mindset of choosing your own path down the mountain, it becomes almost second nature to pause yourself before acting out of anger or fear and reevaluate the situation.
Like any new skill, it is difficult to begin, especially when we have been conditioned our entire lives in the opposite direction. In America, it is often a point of pride for people to act without thinking, to go in on nothing more than a “gut feeling.” On one hand, this can appear very Daoist indeed, to simply act in alignment with one’s nature and to not waste time overanalyzing the situation. But because so much of our culture has taken us off the Path already, it is imperative that we exercise our faculties of discernment to truly determine whether our instincts are on the Path or not. If our first reaction to a rude word is immediate violence, you can imagine all the sorts of trouble we could find ourselves in. Only after we have already developed a calm mind can we start to trust our gut feelings again, and even then our gut feelings and intuition are only informed by the breadth and depth of our past experiences. If we react strongly to something we have very little familiarity with, it once again brings up the need for us to introspect ourselves to see what it is we are truly having a reaction to.
Exercising discernment is a passive skill; once you begin to practice it, it is something you can constantly carry with you throughout your journey. It should always be on, always present to help you stop and breathe before committing to a rash decision. For further reading on discernment, I highly recommend the Dalai Lama’s Beyond Religion, a beautiful little book on pursuing a non-religious system of ethics.
Easy habits worth picking up.
or, Significant Figures
or, The Power of Perspective
One of the truly wonderful things about life is the simple vastness of the universe in which we live. From the endless reaches of the cosmos to the infinitesimal depths of subatomic mysteries, it is easy for many of us to forget just how much other stuff (read: not immediately relating to human life) there is out there. But for some, it is frighteningly easy to drift in the other direction; to feel lost in a sea of other people and other things, to feel utterly alone or insignificant in the midst of the much bigger and scarier world out there. But as the good Doctor once said, “I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t important.”
In the grand scheme of things, the path of the universe will carry on regardless of what choices people make, but rather than looking at it like every choice is meaningless, we must understand that each choice still has a profound impact on the people around us and the world we live in. It’s a bit of doublethink, perhaps, that our choices both matter and don’t matter at the same time. But a good analogy would be the trillions of drops of water that make up a stream. Throw a rock in the water, and it will still continue to flow, completely unimpeded by the stone. Even if you were to create a dam and try to totally stop the water, eventually it will pool up and overflow, either going around the dam or pushing through tiny little cracks. The water will always flow onward, as is the nature of a stream.
But from that one thrown stone, you’ve disrupted and changed the path of countless tiny little drops of water. They’ve gone right when they were planning to go left, some are forced backwards up the stream from the splash, and some are even taken completely out of the stream and tossed onto the shore. And of course no drop is ever alone. The bonds between water molecules are remarkably strong, and the movement of each little H2O tugs and moves dozens more around it. This is the world we see, the world we live in. Even if we don’t recognize it, everything we do has a rippling effect on the lives of everyone around us; some on people we know, some on people we will never meet. Those familiar with the Butterfly Effect will recognize the potential consequences that even a seemingly insignificant choice can have.
I believe that it is best to take balanced perspective of both such viewpoints. We must always strive to realize that the world will continue to turn, that our movements are only one part of a much greater flow that exists far above us. Our troubles, our fears, our frustrations; these are all really not as large as we imagine them. But, lest we feel too small and lost in the river, we must also understand the impact our choices have on others. Of course, this means it is imperative that we always take care to try and see what consequences our actions might have. We must see the truth of the situation before we simply act on our first instinct (more on impulse and daoism at a later date). But it also means that we have incredible potential to improve the lives of those around us, and that others can improve ours. Just as the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, every one of us has the possibility of creating great and wonderful things from even the smallest acts of good.
It is a new year, I suppose.
And yet the world turns on.