Day Thirty Seven: Discord

Daily Journal

Good morning.

teddyroosevelt
Teddy Roosevelt tried to retake the White House, losing badly and nearly being assassinated in the process. He nearly died exploring the Amazon River, killed thousands of animals in African safaris, and begged Woodrow Wilson to allow him to enlist in WWI despite being 59 years old. (Source: Ryan Holiday, The Daily Stoic)

Today I’m working through Chapter 2 of Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. Yesterday, I blogged about Workview and today is about Lifeview (or “matters of ultimate concern”). So far, I’m really enjoying this book. It’s a really easy read, and the exercises are simple and fun.

Just as a side note, I’m working on time management and blogging. I try to limit my time to one hour per post, but yesterday I spent three hours (mostly by going down the “research” rabbit hole). Keep in mind this is a journal that I’m sharing with everyone who wants to read it, so I’m not submitting persuasive essays that were perfected as much possible before hitting the Publish button. Actually, much of this writing is stream of consciousness and may contain some errors and flaws.

Interesting coincidence, by the way! I was doing some Google searches for “Designing Your Life” and found an unrelated MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) course called “Designing Your Life”, taught by Gabriella Jordan and Lauren Zander. It’s available as OpenCourseWare. Unfortunately, there are no lecture recordings, but the lecture notes are very detailed, with all the original assignments. The tone of this material is much different from the Bill Burnett and Dave Evans book. More of an aggressive “tough love” approach to detailing with your vices and problems, eliminating excuses and so on. The course recommends Ayn Rand and Neville Goddard, so that should give you an idea of the philosophy going on behind the course. Interesting and worth a look.

Lifeview: Matters of Ultimate Concern

  • Why are we here?
  • What is the meaning or purpose of life?
  • What is the relationship between the individual and others?
  • Where do family, country, and the rest of the world fit in?
  • What is good, and what is evil?
  • Is there a higher power, God, or something transcendent, and if so, what impact does it have on your life?
  • What is the role of joy, sorrow, justice, injustice, love, peace, and strife in life?

Here we are, revisiting the existential dilemma again. In the past, I my lifeview was atheistic (bad experiences with fundamentalist southern churches as a kid) and when I learned about existentialism later on, particularly Jean-Paul Sartre, that really clicked with me. Existence is absurd. Everything is random. Life has no meaning, unless we create that meaning for ourselves. I’ve identified as an atheistic since I was a child. My father threatened to slap me at the dinner time when I was young because I said I didn’t believe in God. (In those days, that’s what happened if you noticed inconsistencies and big holes between what people preached and what they actually do, and questioned anything. You were intimidated and threatened with violence.)

About two years ago, I started to get a sense that things were not so random and there might be some order, and not all chaos, in the universe. I just began to notice that certain causes produced certain effects in a very predictable way, and there were cycles of destruction and rebirth going on. I really began to notice that when someone hurt me, they could not build their happiness on top of my misery, they were punished for what they had done to me, it seemed, and every time without fail. Could my own suffering be the result of causes that I also created? As Deng Ming-Dao spoke in yesterday’s entry, you can predict the future, if you have some awareness of how things work in the world, if you are looking at it from a vantage point. I was in a locked room, as the metaphor went, so I was unable to see storms coming, and the approaching of unexpected guests.

Why are we here?– I do not know. I no longer care to take on this issue with the logic brain anymore. David Livingston Smith, Ph.D. says life has no purpose. Here are some Psychology Today articles that attempt to tackle the Big Question. Aristotle theorized that happiness is the meaning and purpose of life. You can look to religions for other answers to the question. I really just don’t know why we are here, and I’m okay with that.

What is the meaning and purpose of life?- Buddhism says the purpose of life is to end suffering. Taoism says living itself, and the journey of life, is the meaning of life. In Christianity, the meaning of life is to glorify God (at least per several Christians on the Quora message boards). Here is a list of the numerous approaches to answering the question “What is the meaning of life”? I lean toward the Taoist idea: “Only introspection can then help us to find our innermost reasons for living … the simple answer is here within ourselves.”

What is the relationship between the individual and others?- I was born and raised in the United States, where we are not instilled with a sense of collectivism and consequently, we seem to be left with a mental block where we sometimes cannot see things from another’s viewpoint. I had this problem for a long time, until I began to learn about spirituality, and the idea that we are all one, and ‘if I hurt you, I hurt myself’. In other words, we are all taught that Ego is good in America, an idea which comes into conflict and contradiction with the many other teachings we might receive. I believe that I cannot completely lose my ego, I need it, but I need to move away from this Individualism idea and get more with an idea like “We are all one”. I want to move away from being a selfish person who is in constant conflict with other selfish people, living a life dedicated with winning more of the advantages and resources through competition and so on.

Where do family, country, and the rest of the world fit in?- I am grateful to live in a free, first world country, and I love the United States for all its cultural myths and magic, like rock n roll and country-western music, cowboys, denim jeans, and so on. I also love the natural beauty found in the United States. But I don’t do nationalism or patriotism. If there is a God, and I suspect there might be something like God (it’s one of the next questions I will address) and if God is a personal, loving god who looks upon its creation without indifference, God doesn’t prefer Americans over everyone else in the world. God doesn’t prefer Christians or Muslims over atheists . We are human beings and we are united with other human beings by being human beings, and we are not separate. I want to have that viewpoint, and it is difficult to get there, and to commit to that view above all other possible views.

As Thomas Merton wrote:

In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness… This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud… I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.

What is good, and what is evil?- I belong to modern times, so I have a “broad definition” of good. Love, life, charity, happiness, justice, and so on. I pay them a lot of lip service though, because I’m sometimes hateful, not particularly charitable, often unhappy. I think I’m consistent with justice though. That’s probably my core of idea of good, in both philosophy and actual practice. The Republic by Plato is a good read on the subject of justice. There is evil, but there is also just plain bad, or not-so-good. I got this modern definition of evil from Wikipedia: “conscious and deliberate wrongdoing, discrimination designed to harm others, humiliation of people designed to diminish their psychological needs and dignity, destructiveness, and acts of unnecessary or indiscriminate violence.” Buddhism calls greed, hatred, and delusion the three poisons. I also think the 7 “Deadly” Sins are a pretty good list of what is bad. I have a pretty standard, modern sense of what is good, I do not act in ways that are evil (although I have a really strong, natural inclination toward ill will if I’m wronged), but I do a whole lot of “bad” things, as I imagine most of us do.

Is there a higher power, God, or something transcendent, and if so, what impact does it have on your life?- As I mentioned above, my previous beliefs were atheistic and existentialist (once I learned what existentialism was, I immediately realized I was an existentialist). This went on until I was about 38 years old. I would say that I am a “pantheist” which means I believe there is a God and I think God may be reality itself. I don’t know that there is a personal god, or that there are gods in human form. I do not believe that any religious texts are the literal truth, although I believe there are truths contained in many of them. I believe God is beyond any concepts that I can understand, but I am seeing what I believe are divine forces in the world. One I got closer to age 40, I had enough history to draw from, just from the experience of being alive longer and being a witness to life.

What is the role of joy, sorrow, justice, injustice, love, peace, and strife in life?- Most of those seem to be emotions, or related to emotions. All of these are universally experienced by human beings.

Deng Ming-Dao on Discord:

When things are in disagreement or out of tune. By the way, I looked this up. I wondered if dissonance and discord meant the same thing, in musical terms. Dissonance is a repulsion between notes that creates a sense of instability or restlessness. This sound of repulsion is not the same as an out-of-tune instrument. Discord is more like an out of tune guitar, not dissonant notes.

“There are times when we feel out of harmony with our surroundings, matters do not go our way, and we feel confused and disoriented… When we feel like this, we are not integrated with the Tao, or as it is sometimes metaphorically said, Tao has flowed elsewhere.”

He says if we are patient, we can ride out these times. If there is an opportunity to take action, take it. Or you may need to wait. Both are actions and we should always try to bring a situation back into balance with Tao. He says once we know Tao, we will recognize these times and not lose faith.

Daily Stoic: Don’t Seek out Strife

Today, Ryan Holiday gives the example of Teddy Roosevelt’s “work and activity addiction that was seemingly without end.” He says many people are like Teddy, “afraid of being still, so we seek out strife and action as distraction”.  You have problem observed this is many people you know. They get a little bored, so they stir up drama and trouble, or look for risky ways to distract themselves. I admit to this being something of an affliction for me. Maybe I didn’t seek out strife, but I certainly haven’t always been good about ending the drama and strife, and often I have perpetuated it.

Day Thirty Six: Vantage

Daily Journal

Yesterday, I was going through the book Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life. In Chapter 2: Building a Compass, the authors present an exercise called “Workview Reflection”. You write about 250 words, attempting to answer the following questions for yourself:

  • Why work?
  • What’s work for?
  • What does work mean?
  • How does it relate to the individual, others, society?
  • What defines good or worthwhile work?
  • What does money have to do with it?
  • What do experience, growth, and fulfillment have to do with it?
bertrandrussel
“Modern methods of production have given us the possibility of ease and security for all, we have chosen, instead, to have overwork for some and starvation for others.” – Bertrand Russell

 

This is a much more difficult exercise than it sounds, because most of us probably haven’t really thought much about why we work or question what work means to us. There is a great deal of social conditioning involved, and most of us are probably just doing as we were told.

 

My first impulse was to Google the phrase “Why do we work”, and that search will return some excellent articles worth reading and take you as far down the the rabbit hole as you want to go. You can read some Aristotle (he says we work for leisure). You can read In Praise of Idleness, by Bertrand Russell, who says “there is far too much work done in the world, that immense harm is caused by the belief that work is virtuous”. You can read The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx. Have you read The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Tim Ferriss?

Once you do that, you can then become caught in a trap of debating in the forums. “Why should one aim for work that is for personal fulfillment? That’s for the privileged! We need garbage collectors, butchers, cooks, and people who do menial work too!” Indeed, the idea of “designing your life” itself seems like a first world thing, doesn’t it? Most people in the world are probably trying to find their next meal, and avoid their own injury and death. It must be nice to have the luxury of sitting down at a computer, “designing your life”.

I quickly discovered that unless I choose “professional debating” as an occupation, all the opinions are just noise, every opinion can be countered with another one, and then cognitive dissonance eventually sets in.

I suggest that, as an exercise, each person who has time to self reflect should do this exercise. If you aren’t busy working one of your two jobs right now, or hunting for gazelle, or running from a tiger, or debating Marxism vs. Capitalism on the internet. If you have about 30 minutes. Just decide for yourself. You are not describing what you do for a living or writing an argument essay. Just writing your own manifesto.

Here’s mine. (Note: These responses are rough, not composed as a persuasive essay or academic paper.)

Why work?- I work to meet my basic needs. Food, shelter, clothes, etc. I also work because I was socially conditioned by my family and teachers to work. Also, I have been unemployed for a short time before. It wasn’t fun. I felt like my life had no purpose. I became lazy and slept a lot, and I didn’t have money for my phone, gas, car insurance, and other luxuries that are actually considered necessities in the prosperous United States. Consequently, because I have ego and super ego, I felt like a loser. I work to meet my basic needs, because I’m expected to work, to avoid boredom and depression, and to not feel like a loser. 

What’s Work For?- In my world, there are different types of work. There is labor I perform for a paycheck, which I then use to pay bills and make purchases. There is my creative work, like writing this blog, making albums with my bands, and studying books for my personal development. That is work for my own self fulfillment. There is useless work that I sometimes fall into- writing lengthy debate comments on Facebook, and non value added “busy work” that employers sometimes make you do, but at least you get paid for it! Work is for generating income, creative pursuits, personal development, and providing value. 

What does work mean?- I had a hard time coming up with with what work means to me. I decided to borrow someone else’s words, possibly considering this person as a mentor. The person’s name is Swaminathan Lakshminarayanan, self described as an electronics engineer, avid reader, and counselor. The quote I found on Quora: “A platform to showcase my capabilities, talents and channelize them under specific responsibilities with commitment and contribute to the benefit of all stakeholders, while earning money and other benefits in return to better my life.”

How does it relate to the individual, others, society?- Work relates to others and society through the division of labor. Interestingly, these are three different types of work. Work for the individual- Work for personal gain and fulfillment, doing work for ourselves. Work for others- Helping your family or neighbors with a home improvement project, or moving. Work for society- Doing volunteer work or work for the greater good of society.

What defines good or worthwhile work?- Good or worthwhile worth, to me, is any kind of work that has a benefit for self, others, and society. Work that is enjoyable for its own sake is worthwhile. Work that provides benefit to others or society is worthwhile. Work is good when it doesn’t cause harm to self, others,  or society. For example, I choose to not deal drugs, work in the liquor business, deal guns, and so on. I say this not to debate the politics of whether or not drugs, liquor, and guns are bad or morally wrong, but rather to say I’d rather not work in those businesses if I can avoid it. Then there is neutral work, which is my day job. I ship shoes and clothes. People need clothing. Nothing wrong with the work or occupation, aside from the low pay and the fact that there is little opportunity for growth at my company.

What does money have to do with it?- We are no longer using barter and trade as the standard way of exchanging good and services. We use a currency system, which we do mostly for convenience. Of course, it often seems we treat money as an end goal in itself these days.

What do experience, growth, and fulfillment have to do with it?- When I think of experience, I think of mastery of a skill or specific industry. Growth I think of as learning more skills, expanding into other areas, and building success. Fulfillment is the enjoyment of your work for its own sake, your interest and passion in what you are doing.

That’s just a start. Tomorrow I will work on LifeView, as they call it.

Deng Ming-Dao on Vantage:

Distant ridges, far away clouds
All events come from a distance.
With a high vantage point, 
Foretelling the future is elementary

Deng Ming-Dao is saying that events can be seen coming, if you are in right place to see things coming. Nothing happens suddenly or abruptly. It reminds me of the expression “taking the moral high ground”. In this way, there is no magic of predicting the future. From the proper place, you can see events coming from a distance. As an example, he says:

“A wise person who lives high in the mountains and who is not blinded by wine, sensuality, intellectuality, poor health, or greed will be better able to see events in the distance than one who lives in a closed room, eyes on some obscure object.”

 

Daily Stoic: Steady Your Impulses

Today, Ryan Holiday uses the example of the manic people in your life. Their lives are in disorder and chaos, and aren’t these people exhausting? Don’t they have a filter to test and sort out bad impulses. I laughed a little, but only because quite often, I am probably that exhausting person myself! He says. Impulses are going to come up. When they do, ASK: Who is in control? What principles are guiding me?

Easier said than done!

Tomorrow, I will go over LifeView and a new work week begins. It sounds like there is no overtime offered this week, so I will have a Wednesday open to write some more, and get an extra hike in.

B.G.

Day Thirty Five: Utilization

Daily Journal

I just wrapped up two weeks straight of voluntary overtime at work. I have approximately $800 of debt remaining to pay off (mostly old medical and credit card bills I was unable to pay when I was unemployed for several months). That doesn’t sound like a lot, but my income is so low that it barely covers my expenses. So I have to work overtime. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I am following the Dave Ramsey “baby steps”.

you-are-here-arrow-big-stock-photoMy girlfriend and I have been working through the book Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. It’s a fun book to work through, the premise being that you can design your life in the same way that products are designed.

The Health/Work/Play/Love Dashboard:

You can download a PDF version of the Health/Work/Play/Love Dashboard worksheet from DesigningYour.Life website.

As instructed by the book, you must always start where you are. So the first exercise is to assess where you are in these four areas of your life, ranking them from 0-Full. Then find your problems and solve them.

As a note, about two years ago, all four areas would have been close to 0. No job. No love. Everything I ever loved taken away from me. I lived in isolation, and what little limited contact I had with other human beings was mostly conflict. No play or joy in life whatsoever. Poor health, especially mental health, but also a respiratory illness and an injury that put me on short term disability. I was entertaining the idea of suicide as a way out. 

Right now:

Health: I am in good general health, getting regular exercise at my job and hiking trails in my area. I am no longer a daily drinker and haven’t been for a few years, and I quit smoking cigarettes about a week ago. I still cave in to junk food temptations (my family loves junk food!), but overall my diet is gradually getting healthier, having removed most of the fast food/vending machine/gas station food that I was eating almost daily. I could stand to get more sleep, as I only sleep about 6 hours a night. I would put my Health at around 50%.

Work: I work in a fulfillment center warehouse that ships shoes and apparel. It’s not the worst job in the world, but I could use some better income and more growth opportunity. At least, I get physical exercise at my job, and there are so many employees that you can’t get to know many people and you can avoid drama for the most part. I have started blogging and writing again. I’m on hiatus as a musician right now. I volunteer occasionally  to work in the Edible Garden at Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest in Clermont, Kentucky. I put my Work at 50%.

Play: Right now, it is winter time. My level of Play is really low this time of year, which I utilize to work overtime. Play will pick up in the summer time. For play, I go camping and travel (often to see bands or visit friends in other states). My Play is at 25% and I would like to keep Play sort of low, around 25%.

Love: My primary relationship is great, but is presently long distance as she lives in Arizona and I live in Kentucky. This will be resolved in March. My relationship with my children is okay. Unfortunately, I barely see them during the school year and their mother lives far away from me. These are “gravity problems”. I don’t have a lot of friendships in Kentucky and find it somewhat hard to relate to the culture in rural Kentucky. Most of my friends live in Arizona, but I’m blessed with technology that helps me to keep in touch with them and I’ve become accustomed to solitude. I have connections with my hiking and meditation groups. I have lost my passion for music, but have renewed my love for books and writing. I put Love at 75%.

In Chapter Two, the book covers Workview and Lifeview. I really liked this concept of two categories, one beginning related to personal development and goals, and the other related to spirituality and higher purpose, and seeking integration of the two.

I supposed I’m not too shocked, but as I completed the Workview exercise, I realized that I mostly view work from a crisis model. I don’t have enough money, so I take whatever work out of desperation just to eat and pay bills. Ideas like growth, career development, and utilization of my talent aren’t in the picture at all. The closest thing I’ve had to a career was in music, and for the most part, I’ve lost music.

The Lifeview Reflection exercise indicated that my values have changed from an atheistic, existentialist sort of model to a vaguely pantheistic, where there is more order to the universe than I previously believed, although I would not categorize it as hard determinism. I am exploring spirituality for the first time in the last two years.

Today I will do the full exercise of writing 25o words about each of the two views and comparing them.

Today, I will also do some running and work on writing a book. I have decided to write a book-length “manifesto”. I’ve gotten planning done and now I have to just get down to typing a draft.

Deng Ming-Dao on Utilization:

Today, Deng Ming-Dao says that harnessing the forces of nature is “proper utilization of Tao” and the idea is perfectly related to the Designing Your Life book I just mentioned. You can borrow from the power of nature, but we cannot change nature. As the authors of Designing Your Life, many problems are “gravity problems”. You can’t do anything about gravity. You can do things to make the struggle easier (like climbing a hill with a lighter bicycle) or use gravity to your advantage at times.

“When initiative and natural forces are combined, there is true harmony.”
-Deng Ming-Dao

That quote is really the entire theme of this blog. I am trying to combine my own initiative and goals with the laws of the universe and make them be in harmony.

The Daily Stoic

Reacting emotionally will only make a bad situation worse. If someone is provoking you, they may be trying to get a response from you. If we shrug off attacks, and easily handle pressure and problems, then we are invincible, per Epictetus.

Tomorrow, there will be more about the “Designing Your Life” exercise and I will provide a list of all the books I am using right now. I also need to work through the Tao Te Ching, which I’ve barely covered so far. I’ll eventually get around to everything, I supposed. Only 11 months to go!

Take care.
B.G.

Day Twenty Nine: Scars

Daily Journal

Yesterday was very productive. The kids completed the tasks on their To Do list by 11:00

businessforbohemians
The latest book by Tom Hodgkinson, one of my favorite Gen X writers.

AM, and then went to the movies to see A Dog’s Purpose with my mother and sister. I took a couple of hours to catch up on three days worth of blogs I was behind on, and restored the kitchen back to a clean condition. I went through all my bills, using a bill organizer notebook I purchased for $2 at Dollar General. Remarkably, I noticed I had paid off $350 to a collection agency for debt owed to my doctor’s office for almost one year, and paid off half of what little defaulted credit card debt remained with this week’s paycheck. I ran my annual free credit report, finding 3 open accounts I still need to pay off. Surprisingly, I’m almost debt free. The problem seemed much worse than it actually was, but I’ve been so poor for the last two years that even paying off $1500 in debt seemed impossible. I finished filing my taxes yesterday too.

 

I downloaded two new books to my Kindle, and added to my Goodreads reading list:

I’ve been a fan of Tom Hodkinson since I first bought his book The Freedom Manifesto: How to Free Yourself from Anxiety, Fear, Mortgages, Money, Guilt, Debt, Government, Boredom, Supermarkets, Bills, Melancholy, Pain, Depression, Work, and Waste at the Borders bookstore on Mill Avenue in Tempe, AZ sometime during the year 2007. I generally purchase every book he writes and Business for Bohemians is the latest one I didn’t have.

Write It Down
My advice now is to go for a long walk and think about your life. Then come home, sit down with a notebook and write down what you want to do and how you want to live. What brings you pleasure, and what brings you satisfaction? What would your ideal day look like? That is the first step.
-Chapter One: How Do You Want to Live?, Business for Bohemians by Tom Hodgkinson

My ambitions are return to a regular writing habit, keeping a blog, and writing ebooks which I put up for sale. I’d like to have some kind of part time job I don’t have, and a band that produces income and keeps my legacy and name out there. My ideal day will go like this: Wake up early in the morning. Shower. Meditation. Exercise. Breakfast. Writing or journaling. Maybe podcasting. In the afternoon, I have some kind of job I do that I don’t mind doing. In the evening, I have dinner, spend time with my family, maybe have a beer or a coffee, and read a good book. On weekends, I hike, play a gig somewhere, go on a road trip. 

This sounds like fantasy, but everything I’ve done started with goals. In 2007, it might have looked like this:

I plan to release several more albums with different acts, go on tour every winter, eventually getting a spot in a band with a bigger name, going professional. Quit my job. Maybe live part time in Kentucky, and do winters in Phoenix or Los Angeles. Write a book. My ideal day: I wake up whenever I want, work on my book in the backyard with a laptop, coffee, and pack of cigarettes. I practice on my bass or a guitar for an hour or so. I don’t have a job, and luckily I don’t need one because I make more from music than a job would pay me. In the evening, I socialize in a bar, drink as much beer as I want, and stagger home to bed. 

The reality went like this:

Three of four albums I played on came out. That would be The Earps debut and follow up called Get a Room. Back to Monkey City with Jeff Dahl. The Moonshine Millionaires EP. The idea that any of those works sold well enough to not have to work is beyond merely laughable. I moved back to Kentucky. I stopped writing blogs and failed at several attempts to write a novel. I did manage to earn $12,000 per year by playing every weekend in a country cover band, but that only lasted four years. The rest of the time I worked 40-50 hours per week at $10-$12 per hour dead end jobs. I was asked to join one of my favorite bands, Nine Pound Hammer, to the shock and awe of my old bandmates, particularly The Earps guys. I played two gigs with them, the summer Europe tour never happened and I was disappointed about that, and then the former bass player asked to rejoin the band and I was out. I did drink a lot, smoke a lot, and spend a lot of time in bars. After I turned 40, I started to think more seriously about my health. Everything fell apart when the ex ran off with a coworker, and I bottomed out completely.

I think it’s good to make a plan, and maybe follow up on it in six months, tweak it a little. I’m not sure everyone ever achieves their ideal fantasy life, but it does at least give you some direction. That’s all planning is really good for. It is remarkable how much of what you planned can be accomplished, even if those things are subject to disappointing results or Careful What You Wish For syndrome. Then there are some unplanned events and disasters. Note: Not all unplanned things are negative, but many of them can be.

Either way, we are really lucky to live in the first world, where we can pursue our dreams instead of merely pursuing our next meal and trying to avoid our own death today.

Deng Ming-Dao on Scars

Today’s entry is like Part II of yesterday’s discussion, focusing on the scars and abuse we were subjected to in the past. He says that “scars that have happened through no fault of our own may bar us from spiritual success. Unfortunately, it is often easier to give up a bad habit than to recover from these injuries, the scars mar us forever.” He goes on to say that doctors and priests can only do so much. Personally, I’ve dealt with many issues from childhood that have carried over into my adult life and helped set me up for failure, creating a lack of confidence and self worth, which I medicated with booze for about 15 years. Bullying, whippings, humiliation, and intimidation are really the only events I remember with any clarity from my childhood. At this point, not being able to change the past (yes, I can reframe the past, perhaps), I look more toward not scarring my own children and “try to acquire as few new problems as possible”. I’ve gone through psychiatry and counseling. As the author says, it only did so much. I was unsatisfied with psychiatry insistence on treating everything with drugs, and at best the results were mixed good and bad. I think Deng Ming-Dao gives good advice here that we must heal ourselves through self cultivation. Use many methods. “Travel widely”. Overcome our phobias. Do not continue living with your own toxic patterns and perpetuating more problems. If we cannot overcome each scar, they will “bar us from communion with Tao”.

The Daily Stoic: Keep it simple.

Good advice today. Don’t overthink things. Focus on what’s right in front of us. “We don’t need to get lost in a thousand other distractions or in other people’s business.”

On February 1st, I will celebrate an entire month of blog posts. I will record a podcast where I reflect on the experience of January 2017. February 1st begins a new challenge: I will spend at least 15 minutes per day doing some kind of work toward the goal of increasing my income. That can be looking around for a better job, looking for extra money gigs, updating resume, anything that might help improve my earnings for 2017.

Cheers,
B.G.