Poem: Wannabe Hero

The babe is raised on heroic tales,

taught words like courage, to be brave, to be bold,

watching the men in capes,

imagining flight, imagining strength, imagining the roar of the cheering crowd,

but with age,

the thought of heroism is drained,

like a bullet to the gut,

droplets of blood wet the clothes and floor around you,

each containing the childish imaginations,

scarred and hardened,

the skin becomes,

thoughts turn from heroism to the everyday struggle,

from God-like to mortal,

from creator to pawn,

yet the desire never dies,

leaking out in daydreams and at night,

those moments where you yearn for greatness,

to show the heroic shade that you are capable of,

each passing moment that hero withers,

and you settle for the fact that you being alive is a heroic action,

but,

death claimed you long ago,

when you decided to grow up.


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Poem: Electric Self-Help

Article: Stoic Lesson: Aim For Internal Growth

Short Story: Everything Work’s Itself Out

Stoic Lesson: Aim For Internal Growth

A change of character, not a change of air, is what you need […] whatever your destination you will be followed by your own failings.

In life, we often look for some external change which we hope will bring us fulfillment. If only I got that promotion or if only I can lose another five pounds or if only that girl had said yes or if only I can travel more I’ll be happy and so on. Always looking for something other than ourself. However, it’s also true that when those external things we wished for do come true, we only find temporary relief, if that, before we begin to crave something else.

Seneca would say the reason for this repetitive living is that you’re not aiming to improve your character so no matter the circumstances, you are still stuck with yourself, with your own thoughts and feelings.

And if you want to know why all this running away cannot help you, the answer is simply this: you are running away in your own company. You have to lay aside the load of your spirit. Until you do that, nowhere will satisfy you. 

I believe that a lot of us know that we are capable of doing more but lack the work ethic and discipline. So you’re left with this itch that keeps reminding you of what you can become while you distract yourself with external concerns and in this day and age, distraction through social media.

I know I’m one of these people. It’s hard to find happiness and joy in life when you’re internally unbalanced.

Recognition of this is just the first step. The passive understanding will not do. Action has to follow this understanding.

A consciousness of wrongdoing is the first step to salvation.

For myself, there are two things that have helped bridge the gap between who I am and who I wish to be and that’s self-reflection and voluntary hardship.

Often self-reflection and meditation go hand in hand but I’m yet to find benefits of meditation. However, another form of self-reflection is writing. Through journaling, I’m able to remind myself to stay on the path as cliche as that sounds. The reminders are necessary. Also through writing, I’m able to work through all the noise that’s in my life, all the different things grabbing my attention, in order to concentrate on what I want to do with my time. Working out what I want to do and who I want to be has certainly helped bring more stability to the internal me which has taken focus away from the external cravings.

Voluntary hardship is another way to “lay aside the load of your spirit” as Seneca said. The idea is that you consciously move towards something that makes you uncomfortable, something that pushes you into the zone of proximal development where you will have to grow in order to overcome some challenge. This doesn’t have to be a great struggle. If you can only run a mile, going to a mile and a half is an accomplishment. If you can’t run at all then just walking half a mile is something that can help you grow. The little steps of discomfort strengthen your internal resolve and make you internally proud. In this way, you don’t have to seek external validation to feel good.

Once you have rid yourself of the affliction there, though, every change of scene will become a pleasure. You may be banished to the ends of the earth, and yet in whatever outlandish corner of the world you may find yourself stationed, you will find that place, whatever it may be like, a hospitable home.

When the inner state is in balance then you see the brilliance of life in everything. The mundane, everyday life seems unique.

So–to the best of your ability—demonstrate your own guilt, conduct inquiries pf your own into all the evidence against yourself. Play the part first of prosecutor, then of a judge and finally of pleader in mitigation. Be harsh with yourself at times.

By holding yourself accountable, by holding yourself up to an inner standard you experience true growth. External standards and cravings come and go. They change like the weather and your left thinking whether you have actually grown which brings feelings of disappointment and shame. But when you consistently meet the internal standards then you can compare the previous you to the present you, you see your development. In this manner, we get closer to internal peace and with it true fulfillment and happiness.


Stoic Lesson: How To Keep Yourself Accountable

Stoic Lesson: The Right Mindset For A Happy Life

Stoic Lesson: Concentrate On What You Can Control

Stoic Lesson: You Have To Acknowledge Your Sickness Before You Can Be Cured

Stoic Lesson: Epictetus On Progress

Stoic Lesson: An Exercise In Being Grateful


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Poem: Four Swordsmen

Article: Indirect Battle Strategy and How It Can Help Us Overcome Our Own Obstacles

Short Story: Everything Work’s Itself Out

Reflection: The Importance of Internal Dialogue

I have often wondered how it is that everyone loves himself more than anyone else, but rates his own judgment of himself below that of others. Anyway, if a god or some wise tutor appeared at his side and told him to entertain no internal thought or intention which he won’t immediately broadcast outside, he would not tolerate this regime for a single day. So it is that we have more respect for what our neighbors will think of us than we have for ourselves. (Marcus Aurelius – Meditations)

The only person that can ever know you completely is yourself, your own mind. Your mind knows all that you wish to be, all that you want from life and all that you are afraid of. In doing so, it becomes both, your greatest ally and your greatest enemy. A negative mindset will keep you cemented at the start line. It will fill your head with thoughts of anxiety, fear, failure, humiliation, embarrassment and stop you from attempting anything.

But that’s not all. When you don’t have control of your mind it will reign free which often means that it’s lead by the ego. It’s concerned about how we are perceived by others. What our image is like. In this manner, our mind is free but we aren’t because we get shackled and chained by the thoughts of other people. How would so-so think of us if we act on this feeling? How would so-so react if we were to follow this thought?

If we were to broadcast our thoughts they would be conformed to the group, to the mob, to other people. All because of the mind which doesn’t want to stand out. It wants to blend in and shield itself from judgment. Or because we believe that our own thoughts aren’t important, intelligent or worthwhile.

This conformist way of living then creates a paradox like the one Marcus Aurelius mentions where we love ourself but we rate the judgment of others more highly than our own.

What requires an alignment is the mind. In order to align the love you have for yourself and to respect our own decisions/feelings/thoughts more than of our neighbors, we need to change the mindset from a negative one to a more positive one.

The reason for this is because a positive mindset can keep you going, it can help you overcome obstacles and hardships and it can make you grow into the person that you wish to be.

With positivity comes respect, patience, and forgiveness. We come to respect ourselves and show patience towards our slow progress and growth and forgive ourselves when we do make mistakes.

This requires practice. This requires reigning in the mind and setting boundaries for what kind of thoughts it’s allowed to follow and unpack. The negative ones push you down and raise the stranger up while the positive thoughts put you and the stranger on equal plains. So, the practice needs to be one of where you recognize when negativity arises in your mind and either change it or let it fuel you towards a positive direction.

In this manner, not only is your self-love expanded but also the respect you have for yourself.

Reflections On The Need To Be Aggressive

Aggression has many negative connotations to it. When you think of aggression you might think of recklessness, unintelligent, lacking self-control … aggressive behavior can be seen as a character flaw. This can be true. I am not talking about simply aggressive behavior, however. I’m more interested in implementing an aggressive mindset.

This notion comes from Jocko Willink‘s book Discipline Equals Freedom (I have covered ideas by Jocko in a previous post). When I read the short two and a half page passage on aggression I began thinking about two things: being passive and being active. In writing, being an active writer is not only encouraged, but it is almost a rule, as far as there are any rules when it comes to writing. Active writing is one where the character is doing something instead of things happening to the character. The latter being passive writing. Jocko is essentially speaking about this when he talks about keeping an aggressive mindset at all time.

You don’t want to be helpless, not in control, waiting for things to happen to you. That manner of existence is riddled with uncertainty. It is hard to imagine how, living in such a way, one can ever reach his or her goals or dreams or be prepared enough to take on some opportunity that will push them up the right path.

Instead of a passive existence, one has to be active. Aggression is not bad if used correctly. Being aggressive comes with being prepared. At all times. Ready for what comes at you. Ready to go after what you want. With an aggressive mindset, you don’t wait for the last minute to do something. You don’t wait for some opportunity to pass you by before changing. You don’t wait for others to improve your life. Waiting does not belong in this mindset. You are instead, actively seeking improvement, betterment, organizing and disciplining yourself and what you can control so that you are always ready and acting.

Far too many times I’ve been passive. Waiting at the last moment to study and getting mediocre marks because of it. Waiting too long to start sharing my thoughts and writings. Waiting for the right moment. Too many times I have considered something unlikely to happen without making an attempt at it first. There must be some fear of rejection or disappointment behind this passive way of existence.

Having lived in that passive manner, I know it gets one very little out of life. Being active on the other hand, being aggressive at all times, striving to take what you want, comes with a will to win rather than just a hope of participation.

Aggression can be friendly if used right. Aggressive mindset can bring order and control in your life. Formulate plans. Implement plans. Go after what you want and take a risk or two. Deal with rejection if that is the outcome of your aggression. Improve yourself from that point so the rejection is less likely to come again and go after it once more. Always being in attack mode because all I know is the other side of the coin is not pretty. Rather be aggressive than passive.

Reflections: Get Out Of Your Head

If we do not keep them (our minds) busy with some particular subject which can serve as a bridle to reign them in, they charge ungovernably about, ranging to and fro over the wastelands of our thoughts. (Michel de Montaigne)

A lot of our issues are self-manifested. It’s because when we are inactive when our bodies or minds aren’t involved in a task then the mind is free to roam different possibilities and concerns, many of which lie in the uncertain future. If we don’t tame this impulse, we are wrought with stress and anxiety.

Many times self-doubt only creeps up when we are still, when the world is silent, that moment before you go to bed or right before you are about to take a risk, the plunge, that one second, that’s where doubt comes because for that moment you think about the possible failures and the mind becomes untamed.

An easier way might be to say that when we don’t concentrate on the present then our mind becomes untamed. But concentrating on the present moment seems impossible if we aren’t actively doing something so, that’s a difficult thing to practice. Be present is a nice phrase but impractical much of the time.

But as quickly as doubt, stress or anxiety arises, with equal ease, they can be erased if we simply act. Take action, get out of the head and get in your body: Go for a run, see how many burpees you can do in 30 minutes, go meet up with friends and play a sport, play an instrument, talk to someone you love, pick up a book, start writing, whatever it is, whenever we get out of the mind we also leave behind the “wasteland of our thoughts”.

Montaigne understood the side effects of an idle mind very well, he said an idle mind “gives birth to so many chimeras and fantastic monstrosities” because for some strange reason idleness loves to spend its time thinking about what isn’t going right in our life. Constantly jumping from one thing to the next and it feels so real because your heart might begin to race, thinking about these monstrosities and it’s in time like these when one almost has to smack themselves, tell ourselves “it’s going to be okay”, verbalize it, make the mind focus on the positive words, on the task of saying “everything will work out” and you see in that instance these monstrosities disappear.

When the soul is without a definite aim she gets lost, as they say, if you are everywhere you are nowhere. (Michel de Montainge)

Keep an aim in mind. I think this is why people love to journal in the morning or mid-afternoon. If you are able to write down what you want to do that day every morning then for the next few hours your mind is occupied and as the occupation wanes in the afternoon, one simply has to remind it of the aim and it’ll kick right back up and keep helping you instead of hurting you.

The biggest thing is to approach idleness with caution for you understand what comes with such comfort and at least, if those “chimeras” do come, we have a plan of action on how to fight them.

Poem: That’s Life

Destined to be great

(One thinks)

Suffering must have a purpose

(One hopes)

Future full of riches

(one dreams).

 

All to stay sane,

insanity knocks at the door,

letting in it would mean that you accept:

loneliness,

pointlessness,

meaninglessness,

(The truth).

 

Stay ignorant, friend,

so you can smile, but sooner or later the absurdity of life will strike you,

dragon fire,

see death and be cleansed,

reborn once you ask ‘why’,

babe,

naked, alone, terrified,

(It’s true),

but if you’re brave it can have endless possibilities,

(That’s life).

Is Having A Conscience Worth The Trouble?

Do we innately know right from wrong? Is that what a conscience is? Is our conscience shaped by our environment? If so, would it not be compromised by the biases held by our environment?

I wonder about these things because it was Henry David Thoreau’s belief that we should act upon what we believe to be right, regardless of what the law says. Thoreau wasn’t just all talk either, for he served time in prison for his refusal to pay his taxes because those taxes would then fund the American-Mexican war which he opposed. So, the man stood by his principles and acted upon them. That’s very commendable. But there aren’t many individuals like Thoreau. I would classify Thoreau as a true individual because he was able to unpack what he desired, what he needed, what he wanted, what principles structured his life and what his limitations were.

All of this came from his deep self reflective nature, much of this is documented in his essay Walden where he spent two years living in a cabin. Thoreau was able to dissect himself and in doing so, came to the understanding that we should be governed first and foremost by our conscience.

But most people are not like Thoreau. Many of us rely on others to tell us what we should believe in and what we should oppose, the hive mind is real. The principles that structure our lives are set by other people, from the laws we follow, the way we behave, what we believe to be right and wrong, all of this is downloaded into us from a young age. Unlike Thoreau, who uploaded his own beliefs, we spend most of our time following trends set by others and in doing so, we get further and further away from our conscience.

Thoreau believed that corporations, like the government, don’t have a conscience but if we have individuals with a conscience in a corporation, then, that corporation could become conscientious. Such ideals are great but the issue isn’t the corporation, it is the individual. How can the corporation be expected to be conscientious when most people rarely find their conscience?

Thoreau was just one of the few who troubled himself in the search for his conscience but who knows if it’s worth the trouble. Life is definitely easier if you just go along with the trend. But is that really living or is that just existing?

Why has every man a conscience, then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right. it is truly enough said, that a corporation has no conscience; but a corporation of conscientious men is a corporation with a conscience. Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily agents of injustice. (Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience). 

 

 

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