The philosophy of Stoicism – Massimo Pigliucci
The dense block of wisdom that is Aldous Huxley’s The Perennial Philosophy provides many quotes for contemplation.
“Sufficient not only unto the day, but also unto the place, the evil thereof. Agitation over happenings which we are powerless to modify, either because they have not yet occurred are occurring at an inaccessible distance us, achieves nothing beyond the inoculation of here and now with the remote or anticipated evil that is the object of our distress. Listening four or five times a day to newscasters and commentators, reading the morning papers and all the weeklies and monthly nowadays, this is described “taking an intelligent interest in politics.” St. John of the Cross would have called it indulgence in idle curiosity and the cultivation of disquietude for disquietude’s sake.” Aldous Huxley, The Perennial Philosophy, p, 103-104
Done as a cost cutting measure at the time, the decision not to sign up for cable TV three years ago has mostly been a positive one. In no way do I miss the gloom-and-doom newscasts.
There was a time when I felt compelled to read the Daily News and the New York Post. At times I had even picked up the pricier New York Times. Most likely because at that time I was still in college and had declared Political Science as one of my three majors. Reading newspapers is seems now like such a long time ago.
I wonder if the pre-Internet, pre-soundbite, generations were leading comparatively ‘happier’ lives than we do today?
Contemporary thinking tends to equate technological progress with quality of life. Much like what we mean by the term evolution is not a necessarily progress towards a positive, but only what is advantageous due to current circumstances, and also comes with trade-offs (see here), so is the thinking that what we have right now, today, is the best case scenario of the circumstances that have led us to live the way that we do today.
If there has never been a better time to live then now then what have we give up to have this luxury?
Henry Grantland Rice
Bill Jones had been the shining star upon his college team.
His tackling was ferocious and his bucking was a dream.
When husky William took the ball beneath his brawny arm
They had two extra men to ring the ambulance alarm.
Bill hit the line and ran the ends like some mad bull amuck.
The other team would shiver when they saw him start to buck.
And when some rival tackler tried to block his dashing pace,
On waking up, he’d ask, “Who drove that truck across my face?”
Bill had the speed-Bill had the weight-Bill never bucked in vain;
From goal to goal he whizzed along while fragments, strewed the plain,
And there had been a standing bet, which no one tried to call,
That he could make his distance through a ten-foot granite wall.
When he wound up his college course each student’s heart was sore.
They wept to think bull-throated Bill would sock the line no more.
Not so with William – in his dreams he saw the Field of Fame,
Where he would buck to glory in the swirl of Life’s big game.
Sweet are the dreams of college life, before our faith is nicked-
The world is but a cherry tree that’s waiting to be picked;
The world is but an open road-until we find, one day,
How far away the goal posts are that called us to the play.
So, with the sheepskin tucked beneath his arm in football style,
Bill put on steam and dashed into the thickest of the pile;
With eyes ablaze he sprinted where the laureled highway led-
When Bill woke up his scalp hung loose and knots adorned his head.
He tried to run the ends of life, but with rib-crushing toss
A rent collector tackled him and threw him for a loss.
And when he switched his course again and dashed into the line
The massive Guard named Failure did a toddle on his spine.
Bill tried to punt out of the rut, but ere he turned the trick
Right Tackle Competition scuttled through and blocked the kick.
And when he tackled at Success in one long, vicious prod
The Fullback Disappointment steered his features in sod.
Bill was no quitter, so he tried a buck in higher gear,
But Left Guard Envy broke it up and stood him on his ear.
Whereat he aimed a forward pass, but in two vicious bounds
Big Center Greed slipped through a hole and rammed him out of bounds.
But one day, when across the Field of Fame the goal seemed dim,
The wise old coach, Experience, came up and spoke to him.
“Oh Boy,” he said, “the main point now before you win your bout
Is keep on bucking Failure till you’ve worn the piker out!”
“And, kid, cut out this fancy stuff – go in there, low and hard;
Just keep your eye upon the ball and plug on, yard by yard,
And more than all, when you are thrown or tumbled with a crack,
Don’t sit there whining-hustle up and keep on coming back;
“Keep coming back with all you’ve got, without an alibi,
If Competition trips you up or lands upon your eye,
Until at last above the din you hear this sentence spilled:
‘We might as well let this bird through before we all get killed.’
“You’ll find the road is long and rough, with soft spots far apart,
Where only those can make the grade who have the Uphill Heart.
And when they stop you with a thud or halt you with a crack,
Let Courage call the signals as you keep on coming back.
“Keep coming back, and though the world may romp across your spine,
Let every game’s end find you still upon the battling line;
For when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name,
He writes – not that you won or lost – but how you played the Game.”
“Practice makes perfect. After a long time of practicing, our work will become natural, skillfull, swift, and steady.” ~ Bruce Lee
Kids are often impatient when it comes to practice. That is a very natural tendency for youth. All of the kids want to come into the gym, take a basketball, and starting chucking up three-pointers as is popular today due to the rise in popularity of three-point experts on the Golden State Warriors, and other teams around the N.B.A.
I understand it. To some extent I think I might even like it. Some interest in the game is better than no interest at all. I definitely understand that shooting us fun and that all nightly highlights are of scoring opportunities. But what about the boring aspects of not only basketball, but any other interest? Hundreds and hundreds of hours necessary are necessary to achieve even a modicum of improvement in not only dribbling a basketball, but also in ballet, driving a truck, etc. What about the daunting task to put in the 10,000 hours that are necessary in order to become an expert?
Who voluntarily subjects themselves to this kind of torture of their own will?
Sadly not many will make the sacrifice in order to practice their craft. If there is a a sickness that pervades mankind then is is certainly the malady whose symptom’s are self-loathing and lethargy. Simply put, people do not love themselves enough in order to put in the work necessary work that is requisite in order for one to achieve one’s true potential.
But what about those individuals that put in the hours, the sweat, the blood, the sacrifice, all in the name of achievement of a goal? Those are the individuals whom we call super-stars, experts, visionaries, or any other title of reverence that we chose to use.
Which one will you be? Will you chose short-term pleasure over the long-term benefits?