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How to Build Lean and Agile Management

How to Build Lean and Agile Management

Hierarchical is out; horizontal is in.

There’s no room today for the multiple layers, slow decision making, and dependence on leaders. Successful organizations are characterized by consultation, collaboration, and cross-functional problem-solving, decision-making, and planning.

Why are horizontal organizations so much more nimble? Extended product development cycles are replaced by rapid movement from design to market; decision-making bottlenecks are eliminated; leaders empower and delegate; and the focus is on the success of the business, not individual functions.

Horizontal Leadership Success

Leaders intent on this transition must take four actions:

  1. Horizontal Leadership Success Look into the mirror. The top team sets the tone. Before expecting others to “go horizontal,” senior managers must ask, “What are the decision-making patterns on our team?” “To what extent do we see ourselves as accountable and responsible for one another’s success and for the outcomes of our team?” “Do we depersonalize conflict and confront one another honestly and openly?” If the president is still calling the shots; if team members are constantly lobbying for resources; or if internal conflict has brought decision making to a halt-it’s time to practice what we preach.
  2. Align all your teams-beginning at the top. Raising team performance and refraining team behavior begins with alignment. Ask seven questions to determine whether or not a team is aligned: Does the team have clear goals? Are those goals aligned with the strategy? Do all team members know who is responsible for what and how they will be held accountable? Are protocols or rules of engagement agreed upon so everyone knows how decisions will be made? Are rules in place for how conflict will be managed? Are relationships between and among team members healthy and transparent? Do people assert their point of view honestly and openly and treat disagreement not as a personal attack but as a business case?
  3. Shift from commanding to influencing. In the new paradigm, the one who wins isn’t the person with the most clout, but the one who possesses the right strategic instinct, content capability, rapport, and persuasion. When Susan Fullman was director of distribution for United Airlines, she was a cross-functional player in a hierarchical context. Her success hinged on her ability to influence rather than command: “I had to sell my vision to each director. And I couldn’t do that without learning to clearly articulate my ideas, depersonalize the way I made my case, develop my powers of persuasion-and learn to listen to each person and address their concerns.”
  4. Become a player-centered leader. The horizontal organization calls for a shift in the role of the leader to a new “player-centered” model. The question becomes: How prepared are the players to handle increased authority and responsibility? As teams proliferate and decision making becomes decentralized, people must step up. Managers must know each person’s capabilities and skills and adjust his or her “style” accordingly.

'Lead with Lean' by Michael Balle (ISBN 154480844) For example, when managing an inexperienced team leader, a senior manager needs to provide a high level of direction, structure, and support; but as team leaders become more competent, the senior manager can adopt a more hands-off style. The goal should be to inspire and empower, not prescribe or direct. Provide coaching and collaboration as each player requires.

Many leaders talk about decentralization, delayering, and empowerment. But decisions continue to be made by the CEO; functional heads are still vying for resources; and further down are vacationers and victims.

Horizontal organizations are more states of mind than states of matter. It’s not as much about titles and boxes as it is about every employee showing up, every day, as an energized, strategically focused team member.

Posted in Management and Leadership Mental Models and Psychology

The Decline in Our Culture of Industriousness

Virtue of Industriousness

Virtue of Industriousness What does a worm do for its livelihood? It works without ceasing, tunneling beneath the surface, keeping the earth from excessive hardening. However, where does it get its own nourishment, to maintain its health and to give it energy to carry on its labors?

It is time to begin the public, forthright, and uninhibited questioning of this presumptuousness, however uncomfortable it may now and then make us. There is an economy in the rhythms of nature. Each creature has a purpose, each has a job to do and the same hand that placed these creatures on earth and assigned them their duties, also provided for their sustenance. Imagine being an obstinate Bull or an obstinate Bear in a fickle stock market? Its guaranteed downfall. The ant, the sparrow, the worm, and their fellow creatures that inhabit the spaces of the world all share in the same divine plan. Each serves in its own way and each is sustained in its own way.

Because I know that there is such a plan, I am confident in my own destiny. It is improbable that He who provided for the worm did not provide for me. Man is a free agent and he has the privilege of exercising his own judgment in selecting the work by which he serves and is himself sustained. However, I depend not on my particular job, nor on the man who makes it available. I am not dependent on my employer, my customer, my client, but on the Lord my God, my true Benefactor, who sustains the whole world with grace and with loving-kindness.

Committing to Mindful Economic Consumption

Running after our cravings has brought us a lot of suffering and desperation. Committing to mindful economic consumption is committing to our own happiness. It is a conscious determination to make space for the happiness that is available in each step and each breath. Every breath and every step can be nutritious and healing. As we breathe in and breathe out, or as we take a mindful step, we can recite this mantra: “This is a consequence of happiness.” It does not cost anything at all. This is why I say that mindful consumption is the way out of suffering. The teaching is simple, and the practice is not difficult. Stress management expert Pauline McKinnon writes in In Stillness Conquer Fear: Overcoming Anxiety, Panic and Fear,

The intensely anxious person desperately fears losing control, and at an inner level this is a fear he or she has created while attempting to maintain a preferred image, striving to feel fully accepted in the world. The onset of panic threatens to expose all—in the dread of a crumbling facade and he risk of likely judgement, criticism or public shame. But the highly anxious person also desperately fears taking control—for to do so would involve letting go of the defences he or she fights with to prevent loss of control. Taking true control does not involve fighting. It involves letting go—of tension and of the belief that there is something e must defend ourselves from. … So there is a double-edge to high anxiety: the fear of losing control, for fear of taking control. Paradoxically, it’s in the letting go that we successfully move through both edges of fear, with the result that we can then take calm control of our life.

Mindful Economic Consumption Sometimes it works and sometimes it does not. There are two times in a man’s life when he should not conjecture: when he cannot afford it, and when he can. No general praise, or universal censure, can be passed upon them in this respect; for they disagree according to their kind’s as much as animal foods. One should subdue this aversion with all one’s might and let everything that they do impress one equitable. The boy heard what he imagines was a cough again and turned to see the mother beside the bathing tub.

Protection and security are only wrathful if they do not cramp life excessively. Live on not as though there were a thousand years ahead of you. Fate is at your elbow; make yourself good while life and power are still yours. Even so, such discernment is inadequate; because it is of the nature of the immanent that, it cannot be judged objectively. Looking at a tree with such purity they might have noticed a relationship with the tree and have been thankful to be alive, a gratitude that seemed irreversible.

Posted in Philosophy and Wisdom

The Divine Source of All Life

The Divine Source of All Life

Everything is Ordained by God’s Providence

The Divine Source of All Life The water that runs through the faucet does not originate in it. The faucet is only the last link in a channel through which it flows into my home. My life is like that too.

I conceive thoughts. I am inspired by visions. I commit my energies to tasks of one kind or another. However, none of these originates in me. There is a spring out of which wells forth in unending abundance the physical and spiritual power that motivates the universe. We do not initiate the will, the purpose, the direction of the underlying scheme of life on earth, but we are its instruments, who are given some opportunity to cooperate with the world’s purpose, and to implement it. My muscle and my brain are the final links in a channel that draws its precious elements from the divine source of all life.

The literal test of friendly relationship is: Can you literally do nothing with the other person? Can you relish together those moments of life that are absolutely simple? They are the moment’s people looks back on at the end of life and number as their most sanctified experiences.

Shall the faucet complain that it can contain only a tiny quantity of water? Shall I complain that only a tiny portion of life’s assets resides in me? The abundance does not have to be in the faucet, nor does it have to be in me. There is an unending fountain from which more will flow, and it will reach me when I am ready for it.

And this was known to the ancients, for lactations assures us, that a globe filled with water, would arouse a fire even in the thick of winter, which he thought still the more surprising.

God’s Providence Moves to Achieve the Designs it Has for Man

Our reliance upon providence As long as we are caught up in incessantly looking for certainty and happiness, rather than honoring the taste and smell and quality of exactly what is happening, as long as we are always running away from uncomfortableness, we are going to be caught in a wheel of unhappiness and disappointment, and we will feel weaker and weaker.

These concerns were found upon institutionally held spiritual convictions. It is no surprise, then, as the great masters have pointed out, that to uphold mindfulness for as long as it takes to drink a cup of tea accumulates more merit than years of practicing generousness, discipline, and austerity. The most valuable things in life are not measured in pecuniary terms. The genuinely important things are not houses and lands, stocks and bonds, automobiles and real estate, but friendships, trust, confidence, empathy, mercy, love and faith. Discussing the stoics, the Swiss-born British author and philosopher Alain de Botton once wrote,

“Stoicism” was a philosophy that flourished for some 400 years in Ancient Greece and Rome, gaining widespread support among all classes of society. It had one overwhelming and highly practical ambition: to teach people how to be calm and brave in the face of overwhelming anxiety and pain.

We still honour this school whenever we call someone “stoic” or plain “philosophical” when fate turns against them: when they lose their keys, are humiliated at work, rejected in love or disgraced in society. Of all philosophies, Stoicism remains perhaps the most immediately relevant and useful for our uncertain and panicky times.

Many hundreds of philosophers practiced Stoicism but two figures stand out as our best guides to it: the Roman politician, writer and tutor to Nero, Seneca [4–65 CE]; and the kind and magnanimous Roman Emperor (who philosophised in his spare time while fighting the Germanic hordes on the edges of the Empire), Marcus Aurelius [121–180 CE]. Their works remain highly readable and deeply consoling, ideal for sleepless nights, those breeding grounds for runaway terrors and paranoia.

The same holds true in the unnatural classes; the greater the reason, the more unmanageable it is to discover the lie. Out of these two tendencies flow good and evil, which thus reside, in variable measure, to be sure, in every individual as part of his indigenous equipment for life? Hot air is reckoned exceedingly prejudicial to health. We can domesticate the energy of mindfulness while we walk, while we respire, while we work, while we wash the dishes or wash our clothes. In addition, you have to interpret the history to really understand the ethnic implication. For this reason, comedy is not easily transferred from one age or country to another. They came to a street without corner and turned right. Many, like the mine countermeasures undertaking, still had a long way to gothic was high-tech stuff that required lots of research and development.

Posted in Faith and Religion

The Horizon is out There Somewhere

The Horizon is Only the Limit of Our Sight

The Horizon is out There Somewhere I look out upon the far horizon. Where does it end? The line drawn by my eye is only imaginary. It will recede as I come near it. Space, like time, is continuous, and there are no sharp interruptions to differentiate one thing from another.

In addition, is it not likewise with my life? I look back into my past. I cannot tell where it began. I am familiar with some of my ancestors, but my life did not begin with them, it stretches far back into time beyond my reckoning. A long line of generations labored to produce me.

The peculiarity of my walk, of my smile, may go back to one, and the bent of my mind to another. The sound of my voice may carry an echo of some unknown benefactor who passed something of himself on to me. The seed that develops in me was planted in a faraway past, and as I reap the harvest, I know that other hands made it possible.

Equally long is the line of my spiritual ancestors. The love of life, and the sense of kinship I feel for my fellow man is but a simple expression of my spirit, but men achieved it after groping and suffering. The first man who rubbed two stones to produce fire is my ancestor, and so is the first man who discovered the glow of friendship in the clasp of two hands. The men who explored the seas and the mountains and who brought up the hidden riches of the earth are my ancestors. They enriched me with the fruit of their discoveries, as well as with the spirit of their daring. Rethinking assumptions about who contributes to a culture is a prescribed shift, she adds, considering that people under the age of 15, one usual definition of childhood, make up about a one-third of most ethnic groups.

I am what I am because of the first amoeba, which developed into a more complex form, impelled by the divine imperative to grow. A thousand sunsets have shaped my sense of beauty; and a thousand soft voices have taught me to be kind. Waters from a thousand springs have quenched my thirst. I look out upon my world and act in it with all that is mine, with every experience, and with everything that entered into it.

In addition, it really does have an impact, which is why we develop this mental attitude to begin with to make sure that it truly animates our thoughts, words, and deeds in a way that leads to a happiness that is harmless for all. He cautions that this is a long-term dedication and does not produce quick results.

Overcoming the Fearfulness of Suffering

Overcoming the Fearfulness of Suffering Perhaps happiness did not have to be about the big, traverse circumstances, about having everything in your life in place. Maybe it was about stringing in concert a bunch of humble pleasures. Means of preserving the wellness of seamen. The Russian Novelist Leo Tolstoy writes in A Calendar of Wisdom,

To tell the truth is the same as to be a good tailor, or to be a good farmer, or to write beautifully. To be good at any activity requires practice: no matter how hard you try, you cannot do naturally what you have not done repeatedly. In order to get accustomed to speaking the truth, you should tell only the truth, even in the smallest of things.

The limitation in number, for instance, of beer and spirit houses, for the accurate function of interpreting them more difficult of access, and diminishing the occasions of enticement, not simply exposes all to an trouble because there are some by whom the adeptness would be abused, but is suited only to a state of society in which the toiling classes are confessedly treated as children or savages, and placed under an instruction of restraint, to fit them for futurity admission to the privileges of exemption. The men and women had well-disposed faces.

As I think of the long line stretching far into the past, I also cast my glance forward. The line into the future is just as unbroken. It moves through me into generations yet unborn. In addition, as I think of this I am comforted. For I am a point in that line, and die course of existence travels through me. I have inherited from all the past and I will bequeath to all the future. In the movement of that line lies the secret of immortality and I am a part of it.

Posted in Philosophy and Wisdom

Materialism and the Early Materialists


Materialism is the idea that nothing exists independently of the material or physical world.

Many ancient thinkers appeal to supernatural or extranatural entities in order to account for certain features of the natural world. Materialists, however, deny the existence of any non-natural events, entities, or forces.

Early materialists include the Greek atomists, Democritus (c. 460-c. 370 BCE) and Leucippus (fl. early fifth century BCE), who argued that the world consists of nothing but atoms in empty space (even the soul was thought to be composed of atoms), and Epicurus (341-270 BCE), who postulated that the atoms move only in an up-down direction.

The significance of materialism is typically found in discussions of philosophical questions, such as how to account for the properties of objects and how to explain consciousness. For example, while Plato (c. 424-c. 348 BCE) sought to explain why, say, two blue objects look exactly the same by arguing that they participate in pre-existing (ante rem) universals, Aristotle (384-322 BCE) argued that all universals are present in existing objects (in re), and was thus a materialist about properties. However, both men seem to appeal to an immaterial divine being to explain the origin of physical reality, and to an immaterial soul to explain consciousness. Thus, it was deemed possible to be a materialist about some things and not others.

The comprehensive materialism of the sort defended by the atomists gained popularity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as advancements in science reduced the apparent need for extra-natural explanations, and pluralism in mathematics challenged the idea of a unique, Platonic reality of mathematical forms. More recently, advancements in our understanding of the brain have undermined older appeals to immaterial substances or properties to explain consciousness, but they have also served to highlight the limitations of materialism.

Posted in Investing and Finance Philosophy and Wisdom

Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

A detail from Ambrogio Lorenzetti's fresco Bad Government and the Effects of Bad Government on the City Life (1337-39), located in the Palazzo Pubblico, Siena, Italy.

Plato initiated the view that possession of absolute power inevitably has a corrupting effect.

Probably the most ancient expression of the idea that power has a corruptive effect appears in the parable of the Ring of Gyges in The Republic (c. 360 BCE) by Plato (c. 424-c. 348 BCE). In the parable, the otherwise virtuous Gyges indulges in corrupt behavior after finding a magic ring that renders him invisible.

However, the maxim “absolute power corrupts absolutely” originates much later, being a paraphrase of a letter written by Sir John Dalberg-Acton (1834–1902), a British Catholic historian better known as Lord Acton, to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887. Acton scolds Creighton in the letter for his suggestion, in previous correspondence, that the pope, king, or any other person holding comparably high station ought to be judged according to standards different to those applied to common men. Acton argues that, quite to the contrary, “Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

British politician and historian Lord John Dalberg-Acton The British politician and historian Lord John Dalberg-Acton famously wrote in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton (1887):

Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it. That is the point at which … the end learns to justify the means.

Acton, however, followed at least two distinguished persons in associating power with corruption: in a speech that was delivered in the British House of Commons in 1770, Prime Minister William Pitt, Earl of Chatham (1708–78), had claimed that, “Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it; and this I know, my Lords, that where law ends, tyranny beginsl” Acton’s observation was also anticipated by French writer, poet, and politician Alphonse Marie Louis de Prat de Lamartine (1790– 1869), who, in his essay France and England: a Vision of the Future (1848), had claimed “It is not only the slave or serf who is ameliorated in becoming free … the master himself did not gain less in every point of view .. for absolute power corrupts the best natures.” Acton, too, believed that few could resist power’s corrupting effect, asserting, “Great men are almost always bad men.”

Posted in Mental Models and Psychology

Nagarjuna: Founder of Madhyamika School of Mahayana Buddhism

Nagarjuna (A. D. 200-300) was an Indian Buddhist philosopher who founded the Madhyamika School of Mahayana Buddhism. He studied both the secular and religious branches of Hindu knowledge before turning to Buddhism and spent most of his life in the great Mahayana centers of learning in south-east India. Two of the compositions credited to Nagarjuna are verses of counsel to a king, which recommends that he achieved some distinction during his lifetime. Other sources specify that he also served as abbot of a monastery and that he was the instructor of Aryadeva, the author of important Madhyamika texts.

Nagarjuna —The Most Sophisticated Buddhist Philosopher

Nagarjuna's Philosophy in the Buddhist Tradition Two texts most clearly present Nagarjuna’s views: The Mulamadhyamikakarika (Stanzas of the Middle Way) and the Vigrahavyavartani (Treatise on Averting Arguments). The former is read and studied by philosophers of all major Buddhist schools of Tibet, China, Japan and Korea and is one of the most influential works in the history of Indian philosophy.

Nagarjuna’s stature in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions is enormous and the Tibetan tradition even identifies him as a magician-alchemist. The Madhyamika School is characterized by its logical refutation and negation of all philosophical systems, —Buddhist and non-Buddhist alike—while claiming no unique philosophy of its own. Nagarjuna’s philosophical method is referred to as negative dialectics.

Nagarjuna is the Most Famous Thinker in the History of Buddhism After the Buddha Himself

Nagarjuna is the Most Famous Thinker in the History of Buddhism After the Buddha Himself Nagarjuna especially attacked the Adhidharmas, claiming that the real agenda of dharma theory, atomism, was not really momentarism, time or causality but a new form of anatta (substantialism.) It is an unfolding argument culminating in the triumphant assertion of the reality of only emptiness. Despite lacking any essence, he argues, phenomena exist conventionally, and conventional existence and ultimate emptiness are in fact the same thing. This represents the radical understanding of the Buddhist doctrine of the two truths, or two levels of reality.

Nagarjuna tried to re-establish Buddha’s middle path, affirming neither existence nor non-existence, permanence nor impermanence, identity difference, but showing the relativity of all conceptions. Even the basic elements of dharma, existence, are taken to be void of ultimate reality. The structure of ultimate transformation used by Nagarjuna requires an understanding that ideas, even ’emptiness’, have no indispensable content. Non-attachment to mental images aids in the transformation of awareness, allowing one to perceive the arising and overindulgence of the world without interfering with it. The mind of inner cognition complete with its assertions and denials, is free from all attachment.

Nagarjuna’s Process of Ultimate Transformation

For Nagarjuna a general term simply distinguished a particular class of items from another class of items. The central organizing element in this structural process is the potency of a posture or vigilance that pervades all perceptions, sense of identity, feelings, concepts, or demeanor.

Nagarjuna, along with other Buddhists, pointed out how many people, though unaware, were being pushed by the very language and assumptions of language that they thought were helping them understand their existence. Such an interpretation utilizes a different norm for identifying authenticity than the one found in this structural process.

Nagarjuna's Process of Ultimate Transformation Similarly, the focus on a future fulfilment of a spiritual goal in one process may be inappropriate in another, for the release from evil and suffering in a context where there is a clear separation of time and eternity will be different from one where release is available only in a moment of existence by means of a shift in consciousness. The absolute is not within the sphere of mind.

The ignorance which is eliminated by insight is something more than just the lack of information or an inaccurate description of something. The realization of nirvana is not attaining a self-existent opposite to some sorrow—as was the highest reality conceived in some other forms of Indian spiritual life. Nirvana is the enlightened world, a way of being where concepts like good and evil are empty, without substance, where there is no birth and death, and where everything is totally interdependent and without abiding form.

The deepest illusions are thereby dissipated through the highest insight; these illusions are not simply faulty identification of subsisting entities, but affirming to the notion that identification of entities can insure absolute truth. The ideal authenticity, then, is not something other than what is right now; it is innate in the individual field of experiences that is indeed in fluctuation, and which can be cultivated and adroitly sensitized to other possibilities.

Nagarjuna’s Philosophy in the Buddhist Tradition

Nagarjuna: Founder of Madhyamika School of Mahayana Buddhism Meditation is a practice that has been used throughout the Buddhist tradition to de-automate habitual patterns of experience. While Nagarjuna did not advocate meditation directly in his Fundamentals of the Middle Way, there are texts that are credited to him, such as his “Letter to a Friend” which suggest that he accepted meditation as a critical part of the Buddhist path. The external world is gathered into the form of the deity. Nagarjuna states,

  • Know that there are three things that block the gate to the city of freedom, and that you must cast aside: sole reliance on rites and penance, perverted views and doubt. None of the joys of this life are desired.
  • Freedom depends upon you alone, for no one else can help you: strive in the four noble truths, with study and virtue and meditation. Their limitless qualities are a precious treasury. Similarly, within the nature there are also no path, meditation, and so forth.
  • Ever train yourself in higher virtue, higher wisdom, higher meditation, for within these three are gathered more than a hundred and fifty trainings. The subject is extinguished with the object. The wisdom of the path of meditation is called the wisdom of full attainment.

This liberation is expressed philosophically in the Buddhist tradition as the middle path between the extremes of essentialism and nihilism; it is articulated by Nagarjuna in a negative dialectic and the assertion that all phrenic, physical and emotional objects of vigilance.

Posted in Faith and Religion

Do the Best You Can and Don’t Take Life Too Serious

Do the Best You Can and Don’t Take Life Too Serious

The Wisdom of Living

The Wisdom of Living The finger on the dock of time turns inexorably. We are sometimes saddened when we realize that time moves on, that the years are slipping out of our hands, yet these thoughts need not really depress us. Evils in the journey of life are like the hills which alarm travelers on the road.

The wisdom of living consists in making the most of what we are given. We cannot weave without threads, but it is our skill with the threads that determines whether we shall fashion a beautiful tapestry or labor without producing anything of use or beauty.

God does not fashion life for us. He does not determine the shape of our dreams, or our accomplishments, but He gives us the threads… He has endowed our hands with energy, our minds with power to reason, our hearts with the power to feel, and He placed us upon the scene of nature abounding in the raw materials with which we can build to our heart’s desire. Both appear great at a distance, but when we approach them we find they are far less insurmountable than we had conceived. Both of these, when their nature is examined, are equal.

Cultivating Gratitude Makes Each Day Worth Living

Only a fortunate few experience unadulterated synchronicity of such allegiance. Given this four ways gratitude can profit us, we have some very good reasons to return thanks more than once a year. Cultivating gratitude makes each day worth living and might even give us more days. Although some students take more than four years to discharge their degrees, most juniors and seniors are comparatively young compared with students in urban communities where working masses take part-time loads and evening classes.

An artist who has spent his days fashioning a thing of beauty rejoices in his labor when it is done. He does not fret that the days, which have passed, have made him older. Only empty days, futile days, wasted days, are a tragedy. Only the passing of days such as these is depressing. Alan Garner wrote in The Voice That Thunders,

The purpose of the storyteller is to relate the truth in a manner that is simple: to integrate without reduction; for it is rarely possible to declare the truth as it is, because the universe presents itself as a Mystery. We have to find parables; we have to tell stories to unriddle the world … The job of a storyteller is to speak the truth; but what we feel most deeply cannot be spoken in words. At this level only images connect. And so the story becomes symbol; and symbol is myth

Develop interest in life as you see it; in people, things, literature, music—the cosmos is so rich, simply throbbing with bountiful treasures, beautiful souls and interesting citizenry. The only well-founded ground of judgment of conviction would be that with the personal tastes and self-regarding concerns of individuals the public has no business to interpose.

Life Wastes Itself While We are Preparing to Live

Life Wastes Itself While We are Preparing to Live How are we using the threads that the Lord has given us? At the New Year, we ask this question. It is a disturbing question, because on its answer depends the sum of meaning in our lives. Investing a fixed sum of money at regular intervals prevents you from buying too many shares when stock prices are over-inflated, as many market seers consider them to be right now, thereby threatening your average cost per share and increasing your return. The latter tells of a German who showed various feats of this kind at Greater London, and who performed before the king and a part of the imperial family. Anyone who is perfectly certain about a belief is likely to be wrong.

Wasted threads, badly used threads, show up in the final design, but when we weave with skill, and fashion life into a pattern of harmony and goodness, and then our existence becomes permeated with serenity and peace. We can laugh though die days pass and the years go, for then we have given only time in exchange for achievement.

During this season of the year, we often recall the Psalmist’s prayer, “O teach us to count our days that we may get us a heart of Wisdom.” No, it does not really mean to count days. Anyone can do that. It is rather a prayer to make the days count. That is indeed the supreme wisdom of living.

In short, a great and brilliant plan of Almighty administration is in part opened; and nothing is omitted that may give humanity the mystifying sense of their being all the subjects of the moral regime of God. The company of concordant friends will be the best medicine in an evening; and good broth his primed supper. The risk of taking one or a handful of circumscribed experiences and generalizing them across our aggregate life.

Posted in Philosophy and Wisdom

According to Daoism, Everything Contains Some Proportion of Yin and Yang

An illustration (c. 1700) of the three sages of T'ai Chi, a martial art derived from Daoism.

Daoism refers to the attainment of tranquility by living in harmony with the natural world.

Daoism is a Chinese philosophical and religious tradition that originated with Laozi (fl. sixth century BCE) and was later expanded on by Zhuangzi (c. 369-286 BCE). It is a type of naturalism that encourages human beings to live in harmony with the Dao, the natural world that is the basis of all existence. The Dao manifests itself as de, the particular things that we see in the world, which contain within them certain proportions of yin (negative or destructive forces) and yang (positive or creative forces). Everything contains some proportion of yin and yang: for example, we can see things only when there is both light and shadow, and music exists as a combination of notes and rests.

According to Daoism, everything contains some proportion of yin and yang If there is an overabundance of yin or yang, the Dao has a tendency to balance itself by reverting to the opposite extreme. Daoists therefore practice wu wei, or “non-interference”: rather than acting against nature, a person should instead follow the natural flow of events and turn them to their own advantage (like a surfer moving in harmony with a wave). Politically, this results in a minimalistic approach to government: a good ruler should educate the people so that harsh laws are unnecessary.

Daoism has had an enormous influence upon East Asia, particularly China and Taiwan. Like Confucianism, its core philosophical tenets are deeply ingrained in the culture. Daoist metaphysics influenced Mahayana Buddhism, which led to the creation of Chan (Zen) Buddhism. Core principles of Daoism have been a cornerstone of the martial arts (for example, Bruce Lee’s Tao of Jeet Kune Do).

Posted in Faith and Religion Philosophy and Wisdom

The Influence of Confucius

The Influence of Confucius

Confucianism in general is borne out by the regression that took place over the centuries. It may be characterized as follows:

  1. The idea of the unknowable One is transformed into metaphysical indifference. When Confucius declines to think about the absolute or to pray for help, it is because a certainty rooted in the Encompassing enjoins him to turn to mankind in the actual world. By living in serene acceptance of death, not asking to know what we cannot know, he leaves everything open. But once Confucius’ certainty is lacking, skepticism runs rampant and with it an uncontrolled superstition. Agnosticism becomes a vacuum, which Confucianism seeks to fill with material magic and illusionary expectations.
  2. Confucius’ simple but passionate drive toward humanity is transformed into utilitarian thinking. The result is a pedantic pragmatism shorn of any feeling for man’s independent worth.
  3. The free ethos, implied by the polarity between the li and the power that guides them, is transformed into a dogmatization of the li. Without their ground in the jen and in the One, the li become mere rules of external behavior.
  4. Openness of thought degenerates into dogmatic theory. For example, a controversy arises as to whether man is good or evil by nature, whether training in the li makes man good or only restores him to his true nature.
  5. The knowledge that was inner action degenerates into rote learning. There arose the class of scribes who distinguished themselves not by personality but by formal learning and maintained their prestige by a system of examinations. For Confucius antiquity was a norm which each man must acquire for himself. As transformed in Confucianism, this came to mean the study of ancient works, the pre-eminence of the scholar; instead of making antiquity his own, the student learned to imitate it. School learning produced an orthodoxy which lost its bond with life as a whole.
Posted in Philosophy and Wisdom