Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet.Robert E. Howard, The Phoenix on the Sword, 1932
Using Plain Language, Politics, and Abstaining When Appropriate
But sometimes it’s really hard to not say something, isn’t it? Especially when you’re in a group and you want to contribute something to the conversation to indicate that you’re participating, so you just throw some random comment out there and, a moment later, you realize that what you said sounded out of place, or worse, derails the conversation. Or is that just an introvert problem?
I suppose you could apply this quote to a lot of political speeches too, now that I think about it. Overly verbose language and long winded nonsense where the person doesn’t really commit to anything or say anything concrete. The whole point of the speech is to give the appearance of competency and “getting things done”.
Maybe that’s the bedrock of modern American politics though. Nothing ever gets done. I mean, look at today. We had the Daylight Savings Time adjustment again because Congress won’t do even something simple that a majority of people would appreciate. I know I’d appreciate not having to get up what is essentially an hour early tomorrow, because I know I won’t fall asleep on time tonight.
I was looking at the list of courses available on Joint Knowledge Online, an education site for military and government employees, called (iirc) “Using Plain Language”. I think I’m going to enroll in it. When you’re in the Army, you’re encouraged to use basic, plain English so as many people as possible understand what you’re saying. I’m not in the Army anymore, but I can see how the course would be helpful to me. I still interact with the public, after all, and in New York City quite a few people only have a basic English proficiency because they’re still learning.
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”Lao Tzu
“Not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is literally illuminated… a kind of physical expression of the spirit of mushin…. Mushin is often literally translated as “no mind,” but carries connotations of fully existing within the moment, of non-attachment, of equanimity amid changing conditions. … The vicissitudes of existence over time, to which all humans are susceptible, could not be clearer than in the breaks, the knocks, and the shattering to which ceramic ware too is subject. This poignancy or aesthetic of existence has been known in Japan as mono no aware, a compassionate sensitivity, or perhaps identification with, [things] outside oneself.”Christy Bartlett
The appreciation of something worn and used and well-cared for. The appreciation for what we have. An acknowledgment that real life is rough around the edges and everything is transient, and that transience makes each moment more meaningful. An acceptance of reality as it is instead of the idealized form that exists in our minds, and making the best of our situations.
Those are just a few things that come to mind when reading the above quote.
“Get rid of all that is unnecessary.
Wabi – sabi means treading lightly on the planet and knowing how to appreciate whatever is encountered, no matter how trifling, whenever it is encountered.
[…] In other words, wabi – sabi tells us to stop our preoccupation with success — wealth, status, power, and luxury—and enjoy the unencumbered life.
Obviously, leading the simple wabi – sabi life requires some effort and will and also some tough decisions.
Wabi – sabi acknowledges that just as it is important to know when to make choices, it is also important to know when not to make choices: to let things be.
Even at the most austere level of material existence, we still live in a world of things.
Wabi – sabi is exactly about the delicate balance between the pleasure we get from things and the pleasure we get from freedom of things.”Leonard Koren
I wonder about that last line. Did he mean, “freedom from things”? As in too many things? Or freedom to have things without being burdened by them? I suppose they’re both similar concepts.
I often feel like I’m trying to do too much in too little time and I’m constantly working to pare down what I have and what I do. I think that if I focus more precisely on the things that are actually meaningful to me, I’ll get more enjoyment out of life.
And, importantly, the paring down process helps me to fully realize what actually is important to me, because it removes things that obviously didn’t make the cut from my life and my mind.
Things that we own, plans that we worry about making or keeping, items on our to-do lists, they all have weight and are a burden on our minds, even when we’re not actively thinking about them. I want to live a life where I’m not constantly worrying about stuff and things that I need to do because the stuff and things that I need to do are proportionate to my ability to manage them in a meaningful way.
As an aside, the Japanese wabi-sabi aesthetic is really wonderful and worth the time to learn about.
The Revelation of Sonmi-451
“To be is to be perceived, and so to know thyself is only possible through the eyes of the other. The nature of our immortal lives is in the consequences of our words and deeds, that go on apportioning themselves throughout all time. Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.”Sonmi-451
That’s a very dark and simultaneously hopeful message about personal responsibility and duty to others. Our lives are not our own. We exist in relationship to other people and everything we do affects everyone and everything around us now and in the future. Those that came before us influenced us. What an interesting idea, that we’re like ripples in space and time that never end.
Maintaining inner peace through right speech and action
When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace.The Dalai Lama
When I read this quote by the Dalai Lama, I thought about the times that I’ve lost my patience and said or done something that I immediately regretted. The embarrassment and guilt from those types of situations can sit with me for days while I rehash them in my mind and wonder about possible outcomes.
Obviously, there’s another problem there of living in the past instead of living in the present, which isn’t healthy on its own, but all actions have consequences. I think this is something the Buddha was aware of and is an important part of the idea of karma. The things we say and do that we might wish we could take back not only create guilt and bad feelings between us and other people, but, according to Buddhist teachings, they also add negative karma which can come back to visit us in this life or the next.
So, sure, live in the present, but it’s also important to help that along by not doing things that anchor us in the past. In other words, spending more time listening and thinking before speaking or doing so that we don’t get stuck in a cycle of worry and anxiety. I’m not saying that to preach to anyone. It’s more of a personal reflection and a reminder to myself to be vigilant as a means of improving my mental clarity, focus, and quality of sleep.
I’ve come to believe that simplicity is best, and the simplifying process doesn’t have to be restricted to discarding or giving away unused goods, it can also be a simplification of mental burdens by removing unnecessary worries and stresses by doing and saying the right things at all times. It’s like that old adage about not lying, so you don’t have to maintain the mental burden of remembering which lies you’ve told to which people.
As for what the right thing to do and say is, well, that’s more subjective and depends on context.
There is no sin greater than desire…
There is no sin greater than desire.Tao Te Ching
There is no misfortune greater than discontent.
There is no calamity greater than greed.
Compassionate use of force
“You must not hate those who do wrong or harmful things; but with compassion, you must do what you can to stop them – for they are harming themselves, as well as those who suffer from their actions.”Dalai Lama XIV