Author Archives: Artem Altman

Rabindranath Tagore, Gitanjali, 1

Thou hast made me endless, such is thy pleasure. This frail vessel thou emptiest again and again, and fillest it ever with fresh life.

This little flute of a reed thou hast carried over hills and dales, and hast breathed through it melodies eternally new.

At the immortal touch of thy hands my little heart loses its limits in joy and gives birth to utterance ineffable.

Thy infinite gifts come to me only on these very small hands of mine. Ages pass, and still thou pourest, and still there is room to fill.

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Epictetus, Stoicism, Anger

The exact date escapes me, but I remember that my studies of Buddhism started around the summer of 2012. Stoicism came into my life a few years later in a form of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. Currently reading Epictetus’ Discourses I come upon a point after point where similarities between the two philosophies are striking.

Buddhism, personally, feels more like a philosophy, rather than religion.

An important line of thinking that is shared by the two philosophies of Buddhism and Stoicism concerns our craving and want of things. Those wants are not limited to material possessions that we can acquire in exchange for money. Included is the achievement of certain benchmarks that we often treat as physical things that are to be achieved in life: a ‘good job’, high social status and the rest…if these “needs” could be met then most certainly we have achieved happiness. Right?

Let’s see what Epictetus has to say:

​If you must be affected by other people’s misfortunes, show them pity instead of contempt. Drop this readiness to hate and take offence. Who are you to use those common curses, like ‘We get angry because we put too high a premium on things that [people] can steal. Don’t attach such value to your clothes, and you won’t get angry with the thief who takes them. Don’t make your wife’s external beauty her chief attraction, and you won’t be angry with the adulterer. Realize that the thief and the adulterer cannot touch what’s yours, only what is common property everywhere and not under your control. If you make light of those things and ignore them, who is left to be angry with? As long as you honour material things, direct your anger at yourself rather than the thief or adulterer.“*

Have you seen a teenager wear a new pair of white sneakers, only to become enrage when someone accidentally steps on them? The addition of about a dozen years since I had graduated from high school graduation had given me a new perspective on purchasing sneakers. With age came a great many things to preoccupy my mind other than the cleanliness of my footwear: making the most out of being a husband and a dad, squeezing in more time for reading, work/job/career (can’t figure out which one is more appropriate). Most challenging part of life is not taking this said life too seriously.

It could be just that I live in New York City… lack of smiling faces, impatient drivers honking, dirt and garbage everywhere…but when all else fail I take a pause and think of what a wise man once said: don’t take things too seriously, remember that we are talking monkeys flying through space on a piece of rock.**

*Epictetus, Discourses and Selected Writings (ISBN: 9780141917481)
**paraphrasing Joe Rogan

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Deviant state of mind (The Book of Five Rings)

Miyamoto Musashi’s Book of Five Rings had been a part of my library for a few years now. The book had been collecting dust until I came upon an episode of the Jocko Podcast discussing the work. Such is the reason for this, as well as subsequent posts regarding the content of Musashi’s work.

“In the practice of every way of life and every kind of work, there is state of mind called that of the deviant. Even if you strive diligently on your chosen path day after day, if your heart is not in accord with it, then even if you think you are on a good path, from the point of view of the straight and true, this is not a genuine path. If you do not pursue a genuine path to its consummation, then a little bit of crookedness in the mind will later turn into a major warp. Reflect on this.”

What is this ‘deviant’ state of mind?

Why does your heat have to do with anything?

What is the genuine path?

Where without heart in relation to the path that you are walking on? As simple as it may be, this passage could be applied to our careers, vocations, even our hobbies. Each path holds our heart to different degree: 

What do you do? Why do you do it? What is your motivation? Are you in the chosen line of work due to it being in line with your goals and aspirations or are you in it just for the money? Is there a middle ground between the two? Do means justify the end result?

The stakes were high for Musashi. He could not afford indecision in matters of life and death. Without a sincere and wholehearted effort the outcome of the battle for the samurai was a certain death.

What does this say about us and how we approach out everyday ‘battles’? Do we fail in what we consider are our most ardent pursuits because we do not really make a wholehearted effort. What is a wholehearted effort?W

The kids that I coach appear to enjoy the game of basketball itself, but for some a wholehearted effort is a little hard to come by. Should they obsess about practice? Not everyone does. Nor everyone should. That, in itself, is a process of sifting those who have the heart and those who do not.

Some kids will strive on the current path but only because at this point in time they are of a level ofphysical maturity that is above their peers. Winning through sheer physical force they lack finesse and are unable to visualize the context for their actions. As Musashi states, “that is not a genuine path” and soon enough the “crookedness” of their deviant ways will reveal itself when the ‘weaker’ peers, smaller, younger peers overtake them by the skills acquired through patience and sincere learning.

You have to ask yourself how badly do you want this to be your path in life? Unlike Musashi, most of our day to day activities are not full of life-or-death moments. Rarely are we under physical and mental strain to make decisions that could cost us our life. That is why we should be true to ourselves snd live in harmony with our heart and mind. If we are not then we stand no chance with our efforts that will most certainly result in death of our flesh, worse yet, death of our spirit.

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Body-language (video)

This is a video of soccer, but body-language is so much more than just about sports.

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