The Seven Secrets of Everything: Part 4

Congratulations, if you have read the first three parts of my blog.  If you have not, you should really go back and read the first three parts before you read Part 4.  If you have read Parts 1-3, now it is time for the last two Secrets of Everything.  Let me warn you that these last two secrets are the most difficult of all.  If you can master these two and the other five, you will truly have a glorious life.  You will live a perfect or near perfect existence.  Of course, perfection is impossible.  Thus it is more likely, you will seesaw on one or more of the Seven Secrets.  Sometimes you will do well and other times you will slip and might even fall off the see-saw.  The trick is to keep getting back on again.  Don’t give up.  Keep trying.  Remember what Gandhi said:  “Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment.  Full effort is full victory.”

Secret 6.  Never get sick, lose your cool or be unhappy. 

I can hear your thoughts now.  Impossible, ridiculous!  How can anyone never get sick or always be happy.  We are not always in control of what happens to us so how could anyone practice this Secret.  Totally useless!

What if you are wrong though?  What if this Secret is not useless!  Allow me to present my side before you dismiss what I have to say.  Let me explain each part of this Secret, and then you can accept or reject my arguments.   It will cost you nothing and might just be worth your time.

First of all, in respect to sickness and illness, you will get sick.  You cannot avoid it.  Nevertheless, many people are more sick and ill than other people.  Have you ever stopped to wonder why?  Some of it is certainly genetics, some environment and some culture.  However, some part of sickness is due to our own choices and decisions.  We call this lifestyle choice.  Some of us eat too much, some of us do not exercise enough, some of us have too much self-induced stress, some of us eat or drink the wrong things.  Are all of you choices wise?  Do you watch your weight?  Do you eat and drink the right foods?  Do you smoke?  Do you exercise regularly?

If you can say that your diet and exercise are exemplary, then you can blame, God, your mother or the weather the next time you are sick.  However, if you eat too much, drink too much, smoke too much and never exercise, then how do you know if you are not responsible for your own infirmary?  I am sorry but I see too many people who act as though good heath was not in their control.  It is in your control to a larger extent then you want to believe.  Make the right choices and you will see your health improve dramatically, whether or not you have good genes or not.

Next, we take being cool and being happy.  Buddha said that unhappiness is a fact of life.  Sorrow and suffering are part of the human condition. However he also said that:

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts and made up of our thoughts. If a man speak or act with an evil thought, suffering follows him as the wheel follows the hoof of the beast that draws the wagon…. If a man speak or act with a good thought, happiness follows him like a shadow that never leaves him.”  — Gautama Buddha

Our thoughts and beliefs are what we feel and are the precursors of all of our emotions.  We choose to be happy or sad.  We choose to be angry or calm.  We cannot live in a world without sorrow or a world without people who will test and challenge us.   We have no choice over the behavior of others.  We can choose how to react to these situations.  We can choose to be sad or happy.  We can choose to be angry or thoughtful.  Our choices of how we react to outside events are 100 percent in our control.  The fully responsible individual is one who chooses his actions and reactions to the events and people that are part of his/her life.   No one can make you feel or even do something unless you choose to do it.  They can kill you or they can hurt you, but they cannot make you think or feel anyway other than you choose to feel and think and act.

Stone walls do not a prison make,

Nor iron bars a cage;

Minds innocent and quiet take

That for a hermitage.

If I have freedom in my love,

And in my soul am free,

Angels alone, that soar above,

Enjoy such liberty.  

 — From, To Althea, from Prison by (Richard Lovelace, 1618-1658)

 Secret 7.  Don’t let death or failure get you down. 

Some of us will know the moment of our death and some of us will not.   The only thing we all must know is that we will die.  I am 67 years old and it seems hardly a month has gone by for the past five years or so that I am not going to the card shop to buy a sympathy card.  My heart goes out to the friends and relatives of mine who have lost loved ones.  Some die way before their time as in the case of several who died in accidents or in wars.  Others live to a “ripe” old age of ninety or more and pass away at night in their beds.   Some die with great pain and others seemingly painlessly.  My father died at age 60 and my mother at age 67.  My younger sister died at age 59.  Some died or natural causes and some of “unnatural” causes.  Two of my close cousins committed suicide, one by hanging and one by gunshot.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”  — Steve Jobs

When I was diagnosed with Prostate cancer two years ago, I did not need a “wakeup” call.  I had woke-up many years before with the passing of too many loved ones to count.  I wondered whether to ignore the diagnosis and live with it or whether to have it treated and live with the after effects.  Should I go through with surgery, incontinence, impotence and would it be worth it? Or would I simply find out that the cancer had spread and further treatment was useless?  What was the quality of my remaining life worth?  Would it be one of radiation, chemo, surgery and pain killers for ten or fifteen more years or should I just live the rest of my days as best I could and let “nature” take its course.  It was not an easy choice to make.

Now that I have survived the surgery and the doctors think they have removed all the cancer (I have heard many cases of it returning), I am left to deal with the after effects and as I have joked to die in ten or twenty years from something else.  Many people would say it just was not my time.  However, I have not the slightest clue when my time is, so maybe I just got lucky or maybe modern science and medicine helped me to beat the odds.  Perhaps, it was all the prayers that many friends and loved ones said for me.

I confess I am grateful to know I will live to write at least a few more of these blogs.  Some have said that “They have not yet begun to fight.”  I have not yet left my mark on the world.  Thus, I continue to write these blogs and hope that with whatever time I have left, I can help make a positive contribution to the world and the lives of those living today and in the future.  What other reason is there for life if not to help others.  If we fail in this task, we must simply start over and over and over again.  Like with the uncertainty of death, we face the uncertainty of making a difference.  We may never know if we made a difference, but we must keep trying and we must simply have faith.

“I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, ‘How many good things have you done in your life?’ rather he will ask, ‘How much love did you put into what you did?” –Mother Teresa

“God doesn’t require us to succeed; he only requires that you try.” — Mother Teresa

Time for Questions: 

What is the meaning of your life?  What value do you want to leave the world?  What would you want them to say about you at your funeral?  Do you keep trying or do you give up?  Where have you made a difference in the world?  What could you do today to make a difference tomorrow?

Life is just beginning. 

In many respects, the Seven Secrets of Everything reflect the ideas of the Eight Fold Path that Buddha described for right living.  These are summarized below in the chart.  They are broken down under Wisdom, Morality and Concentration.  I think my Seven Secrets of Everything exemplify these concepts.  I have not really found any new secrets since Buddha was here long before I was born.  Practice my Seven Secrets or follow Buddha’s Eight Fold Path and you will find the life with meaning and righteousness that all human beings seek.

eightfold-path

“Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely.”

“Furthermore, there is the case of the person who has done what is good, has done what is skillful, has given protection to those in fear, and has not done what is evil, savage, or cruel. Then he comes down with a serious disease. As he comes down with a serious disease, the thought occurs to him, ‘I have done what is good, have done what is skillful, have given protection to those in fear, and I have not done what is evil, savage, or cruel. To the extent that there is a destination for those who have done what is good, what is skillful, have given protection to those in fear, and have not done what is evil, savage, or cruel, that’s where I’m headed after death.’ He does not grieve, is not tormented; does not weep, beat his breast, or grow delirious. This, too, is a person who, subject to death, is not afraid or in terror of death. — Abhaya Sutta: Fearless

The Seven Secrets of Everything: Part 3

In the first part of my Seven Secrets of Everything, I justified the idea of seven as an excellent number for basing models and theories on.  In part 2, I introduced the first two of the Seven Secrets of Everything.  In part 3, I am going to discuss the next three Secrets and why they are important and useful as a means of living one’s life.

3.  Surround yourself with wise people.  Don’t worry whether they are likable or not. 

Many people are afraid of others who are smarter than they are.  Smart people are often portrayed as geeks, nerds, “college professors”, bores, smartasses, know-it-alls, intellectuals, strange and/or eccentric.  A streak of “anti-intellectualism” runs through American culture that was very well described by Richard Hofstadter in his book “Anti-intellectualism in American Life.”

It is ironic that the United States should have been founded by intellectuals, for throughout most of our political history, the intellectual has been for the most part either an outsider, a servant or a scapegoat.” — Richard Hofstadter

You have only to listen to the radio talk show hosts to see the disdain and denigration they routinely heap on educated people in this country.  College professors are regularly blamed for the majority of the problems in American life.  Ironically, even the colleges themselves contribute to this problem by exalting the doer over the thinker as they pay college coaches ten to hundred times greater salaries that they pay their own instructors.  What is more important in most high schools in this country, the football team or the debate team, the basketball team or the chess team?  The answer is obvious.  Look at any small town newspaper and see how much print is allocated to local sports and how much print to intellectual endeavors.

Turn on TV if you want to see a desert of intellectual activity.  Grossly negative stereotypes of intelligent people abound in almost every show with the exception perhaps of a few like Sherlock Holmes and Bones.  Nevertheless, even such shows as these portray the intellectual protagonists as social misfits with little ability to adapt to normal human society.  If you are an intellectual and a minority, the situation is even worse.  Asians are depicted as emasculated computer geeks while intellectual Blacks, intellectual Native Americans and intellectual Latinos do not even exist.  Smart intelligent Arabs will be depicted as secretly harboring jihadist tendencies and on the verge of losing it any minute.

0520_nicethoughtsOne has only to look to history to see the importance of surrounding yourself with intelligent people.  The wise ruler has always been the individual who has had advisors that they could depend on.  The downfall of many of the great rulers in history has been partly due to the fact that they eventually isolated themselves from reality by cloistering themselves with sycophants who would reflect back anything they thought was expeditious to say.  Irving Janus in his book “Groupthink” describes this very same phenomenon in relation to the Bay of Pigs invasion.  The majority of Kennedy’s cabinet thought it was a bad idea, but they were all too afraid to speak out and appear disloyal.  It does a leader no good to have intelligent people as advisors if they are afraid to speak up or if the leader does not listen.

“Advice to leaders in formulating decisions was provided by Keith Pinto, who opined that “Encouraging mavericks, risk takers, and soul searching questions is part of the chaos that leaders need to face to find meaning from ambiguity.” As John van Wyk said, “It is also the case that … [the truly successful leader] … has the courage to hold close even the fiercest critics.” Gad Gasaatura suggested the use of the “name optional approach” to encourage contrarians to express views.”  — Leadership: A Matter of Sustaining or Eliminating Groupthink, by James Heskett 

 

The moral of this 3rd Secret is clear.  Woe to the individual in life who is afraid of smart.  Woe to the individual who has only friends that are dumb and dumber.  Woe to the individual who only has time for Duck Dynasty, shopping, TV and the Casino.  The mind is a great big muscle and like most muscles it will atrophy unless routinely challenged and stretched.  You strengthen your mind by exposing it to new thoughts, new ideas and checking all your old ideas and beliefs against the metric of new, contrary and dissenting opinions.   When was the last time you visited your local library?

4.  Love and help everyone you can, friends, enemies and strangers alike.

There is a famous story that runs through the Christian gospels called “The Parable of the Prodigal Son.”   I hated this story more than I can tell you.  Each time I heard it, I was filled with fury at the stupidity and disrespect that seemed to me to be the primary characteristics of this tale.  In the parable, a father has a worthless son who upon coming of age demands his birthright or share of the family fortune.  Having done nothing to earn it is the first strike I have against this story.  So what does indulgent dad do, he gives worthless son, his share of the family fortune and off worthless son goes with not even a hi-five to his old man.  The oldest son, who has always done more than his share of the work, continues on in fidelity to his dad, doing what he is told and helping to run things as his father ages.  In the meantime, worthless son spends all his money and ends up living with hogs and fighting with them for scraps of food.  Of course, worthless son soon decides to go back to indulgent dad and see if he can get a better deal, food and work wise.  What else would you expect worthless son to do?

Dear old dad has been pining away for worthless son.  Every day he has looked out to see if perhaps worthless son might be coming back.  My opinion is good riddance, but no dad burns to see his son again and lo and behold one day he spies him coming back down the road.  Here is where I really get burned up.  Dear old dad yells to the servants, “my son is coming back.  Bring clean garments and kill the fatted calf for tonight we will celebrate and have a feast in honor of his returning.”  Can you imagine the stupidity?  At this point, all I can think about is the oldest son who has done everything for his old man, but does he get a feast or a fatted calf?  Of course not!  The moral is clear.  Greed and stupidity get rewarded and hard work and loyalty goes unrecognized.  The oldest son is angry and confronts his father who gives some inane excuse for his behavior:  “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.  It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’” — Luke 15:11-32

I am not buying this.  If I were oldest son, I would get my share and tell dad, “Sayonara.  Let your worthless son do the work I have been doing for years and see what happens.”  Year after year, I listened to this story and year after year, I shook my head in disgust.  Each time I heard it, I was angry.  I attended thirty Jesuit retreats and at each retreat someone would discuss this story or suggest it as a Bible reading.  I read or heard this story at least fifty times and fifty times I shook my head in amazement at the stupidity of human beings:  The father for spoiling his youngest son; the oldest son for putting up with dear old dad and the youngest son for being such an ungrateful brat.   I could not understand the point of this story.  Human beings like this revolted me.  Then one day, out of the blue so to speak, it hit me.  Like some fog was lifted from my head.  It must have been well after my 25th retreat that one day I was listening to the story when the “Ah ha” hit.  All of a sudden, I understood the moral of the story: the power of forgiveness.

tumblr_m8f6elwrRk1rv59p5o1_500It would have been more difficult to forgive the son than to wage a vendetta against him or just to simply forget him.  I could never have done it.  My father always told me “get even.”  I remember the Old Testament “an eye for an eye.”  I lived with the idea of revenge, which as we all know is a “dish best served cold.”  Hurt me or someone I cared about and I would get even with you if it took me the rest of my life.  I might forget but I would never forgive.  Forgiveness was for the weak minded.  Vengeance was for the strong.

I was nearly 60 years old, when the true meaning of this parable became clear to me.  At some point, tears came to my eyes.  It was like I was sorry for harboring hatred and ill will to this delinquent son for sixty years.  Ever since I could remember, I hated this kid and wanted to see a different outcome to this story.  The worthless son was part of my vendetta against injustice and waywardness.

What does forgiveness have to do with loving everyone?  It is easy to love those you like; it is difficult if not impossible to love those you hate.  Forgiveness is the other side of the coin for love.  If you cannot forgive your enemies, you cannot love them.  If your world is full of vendettas and feuds, you will have no room for love.  Only by being willing to forgive can we open our hearts to love.

I once thought I was a very moral man because I always treated people who treated me well with great reciprocal effect.  I was fair, honest, loyal and helpful to those whom I cared about.  I cared about people who were like me, fair, honest, loyal and helpful.  Woe to you if you were not.  I had a list a mile long with the worthless of the world that I would not have thrown a scrap of dog bone to.  I regarded myself as a moral man tempered by the hardships and discipline of daily life.  I had no use for anyone less tempered or less disciplined.  Forgiveness was for those who merited forgiveness and those few folks were really hard to come by.

Understanding this parable opened my eyes and my heart.  I thought I was strong and tough.  I realize now I was callous and mean.  I thought I was loving but realize now I was uncaring.  I thought I had the moral high ground, but realize now I was a zealot who expected everyone to live up to my standards.  True love is unconditional.  True love is tempered by forgiveness.  Love is abundance.  The more you give, the more you have.  Hoarding love for only a select few or only for those you like, diminishes the hoarder and diminishes the world.

Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule. — Buddha

5.  Obey all the moral laws of the universe. 

Surely now, he must be kidding.  How could anyone obey all the moral laws that have been known to humanity since the beginning of time?  And what do I do when the moral law conflicts with the civil law?  Who do I obey God or Caesar?  Which should take precedence?  Moral or civil law?

I assure you that I am not kidding.  To answer some of these questions, let us look at how the philosopher Immanuel Kant defines “moral law.”  The following interpretation of Kant’s meaning  of “moral law” is by fLuXEDuP and can be found at:  Yahoo Answers.

According to Immanuel Kant, there are two faculties of the mind: theoretical reason and practical reason. Theoretical reason allows us to answer the question, “What can I know?”, while practical reason allows us to answer the question, “What ought I to do?”  For Kant, practical reason issues a duty to respect its law. That is, morality is not rooted in consequences (consequentialism), but rather in sheer duty or responsibility or obligation to humanity.  

For Kant, practical reason issues a “categorical imperative” that commands us to act in a accordance with the dictates of reason. There is only one categorical imperative, but Kant offers three formulations of it: 

1) Act as if your maxim were a universal law of nature. What if everybody did this action? A “maxim” is a personal principle of action, such as “I will never lie,” “stealing is wrong.” If your maxim is not one that can be universalized, then it does not issue from the categorical imperative. For example, if your maxim was “lying is permissible”, then human relationships would not be possible because we would not know who to trust.  This formulation, then, can be summed up with the question, “What if everyone did this?”  

2) The second formulation goes as follows: Treat another rational being as an end in them self, not as a mere means. This means that we should value the other person solely for who they are and not merely use them to serve our needs.  Kant’s point is that a person should not be a “mere” means. Treat that person as a rational being, much in the same way you would want to be treated.  The Golden Rule! 

3) The third formulation is as follows: Act as if your maxim would harmonize with a kingdom of ends. This means that the action should be consistent with a world in which people are treated as ends in themselves.  This formulation can be summed up by the question:  “Will this benefit the individual I am dealing with here and now?”

donotSo you see that you must obey any “moral law” that meets the criteria described above.  To do otherwise, is to create unethical and immoral actions.  Of course, you can find exceptions to any rule, but this does not invalidate a general set of principles which are essential for a society to live by.  For instance, suppose everyone decided to pick and choose the “moral laws” they wanted to live by?  Each neighborhood would have a different set of standards to judge the goodness or badness of its citizens.  Can you imagine the confusion and disorder this would create?  What if in a family, each member of the family chose their own set of moral laws?  What I am espousing and what Kant has described is the belief in a universal set of principles guided by practical reason that calls upon all of us to obey the underlying foundation for a moral set of laws to live by.  These laws demand us to respect:  Humanity, others and the individual.

Many of us think that we are special. We think we are above the law or that we can choose who and what we want to obey.  I have often heard people say “No one tells me what to do.”  This is really absurd.  It misses the point of moral behavior entirely.  It is not a matter of others telling you what to do.  It is a matter of your telling yourself what you should do.  This is responsibility and discipline all rolled into one ball.  No one tells the responsible person what to do because they do it themselves.  They do not need to be told what to do.  It seems rather difficult for many people to grasp this type of responsibility.

In John 6:38, Jesus declared, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” 

Obedience seems to be a dirty word to some these days.  The “it’s all about me mentality” promotes an arrogance to the will of others that borders on contempt.  “I am the center of the universe and the universe revolves around me.  I set my own rules and my own laws.  I don’t listen to my parents, teachers, the state or God.  Why should I?  I am the hub around which the world turns.  All should bow down to me.  I need listen to no one except myself.”  This attitude is quite ubiquitous these days.  We have thrown out the idea of religious absolutism but unfortunately we have not even replaced it with a meaningful relativism.  Instead we have an anarchy of morality in which many citizens have no clue as to what morality means or why it is important or even how to find it if they started looking for it.

The Fifth Secret of Everything is simple.  Obey all the moral laws that you find.  Do not pick and choose which ones you want to obey.  If you know five or fifty or five hundred, obey them all.  Look for new morals to obey as you would look for new dollars to earn or new friends.  Each moral that you live by in your life is worth a million dollars.  The more morals you have to live by, the richer your life will be.  Obey them because you believe in them, not because you should or someone told you to.

“It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I also cannot imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere… Science has been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust.  A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary.  Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.” — Albert Einstein

Time for Questions:

Which Secrets most appeal to you?  Why?  What could you do to help make these Secrets more a part of your life?  Would it be worth the effort?  Why or Why not?  How many people do you know who are smarter than you are?  Do you love your enemies?  What are the moral laws you practice?

Life is just beginning.

I am grateful for friends, family, Karen and everything that makes the world go round.  Each day is better than the day before, well mostly better.  Sometimes a day of sorrow provides unexpected benefits that are not foreseeable at the time.

The Seven Secrets of Everything: Part 2

Well, I feel much better this week.  My catheter was removed.  I am off pain killers and I am out walking at least once per day.  I can still not sit for too long but I want to stay on my schedule and publish one blog a week.  The mind needs exercise as well as the body when recovering from illness and this mental stimulation is essential to help me keep my spirits up.  I had felt some “why me” periods of depression this past week or two but I realize there is no answer.  I am truly starting a new beginning every day.  We are all starting “New beginnings every day”, a fact of life rather easy to say but often difficult to accept.

Here is the caveat with my Seven Secrets of Everything.  Like the New Year’s Resolution or the “Diet” to end all diets, the problem is often not with the solution but with the implementation.  Six weeks after New Year’s Day, the health clubs start to thin out as members realize that pounds don’t shed in weeks and muscles take work and not just desire.  The Seven Secrets of Everything are not simply constructs of the mind, nor of the heart.  They won’t do you one bit of good posted on your wall or inscribed someplace for you to peak at from time to time.  You must have a system and a program to help you follow these Secrets or they are simply worthless platitudes.  There is an old saying that goes “Pray to the Lord but row for the shore.”  Unless you ask yourself on a regular basis “How am I doing” and “What am I doing” to make these Secrets a reality, they will do you little good.  Strategy must have tactics and the key to any strategy lies in the effectiveness of implementation.  The Seven Secrets of Everything must become your strategy for living and you must develop an effective action plan to help make these Secrets a reality.  With the above caveats out of the way, let us look at each of my Seven Secrets of Everything.

1.  Aim high and plan to live for eternity. 

You have heard it said to aim high but I say aim for eternity.  Whether you are Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Muslim or Atheist, what is the value of simply living like you are going to die someday?  I am not saying to deny death and I recognize the value of living “one day at a time” but I think these ideas are only stronger if you are not fixed on some earthy calendar of growing, living, aging and dying.  Who will live forever?  No one or perhaps all of us!  I submit it all depends on how you define living.  Some people do not live much of their lives because they live in fear of death each day.  Others like Martin Luther KingLuis Carlos GalanBetty Ann Olsen, Giovanni Falcone , Paolo BorsellinoMalala Yousafzai and Nelson Mandela, (to name only a few of the great people who have put their beliefs and ideals before their lives) all knew that death was imminent but life had to be focused on the future and not the past or even the present.

aimhighWhen I think about aiming high, two recent situations that exemplify this principle come to my mind.  One deals with the world of professional motorcycle racing and one with the world of chess.  In the world of motorcycle racing, Valentino Rossi is considered one of the greatest riders of all time.  He is one of the youngest champions of all time and has one of the best records for wins and podium appearances.  Nevertheless, it took him two years to win the World GP championship after he moved up to the elite class.  This year, a novice to the elite class named Marc Marquez became the youngest ever rider to clinch the premier class world title in Moto GP™.  Thanks to a truly amazing debut season, the 20-year-old from Cervera, Spain also becomes the first rookie premier class World Champion for 35 years.  When asked how come he had not accomplished this feat, Valentino replied: “I did not believe I could win the title the first year I entered the competition, Marc did.”  As high as the great Valentino Rossi aimed, Marc Marquez aimed even higher.  An African American man with the unlikely name of Barack Obama believed he could be President of the United States and he is.

This year in the world of chess, where the brainiest of the brainy and the highest mental geniuses all cavort, a young 22 year old Norwegian man named Magnus Carlsen beat 43 year old Viswanathan Anand of India to become the world chess champion.  Magnus now has a chess rating of 2872 which is the highest ever attained in the world of chess. This is even high than the rating attained by Garry Kasparov considered by many to be the greatest chess player of all time.  If you think you need age and years of experience to become a great chess player, consider the following fact:  On 1 January 2010, at the age of 19 years, 32 days, Magnus became the youngest chess player in history to be ranked world No. 1.  Consider the following comment by Magnus:

“Self-confidence is very important. If you don’t think you can win, you will take cowardly decisions in the crucial moments, out of sheer respect for your opponent.  You see the opportunity but also greater limitations than you should.  I have always believed in what I do on the chessboard, even when I had no objective reason to.  It is better to overestimate your prospects than underestimate them.” 

The First Secret of Everything has a Zen like quality to it:  Be realistic but aim high.  Live in the present but plan for eternity.  If you can grasp these dualities and see them as complimentary and not contradictory you will be able to practice the First Secret of Everything.

2.  Remember what Socrates, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, Lao Tzu and your mother always said. 

Can you listen to the wisdom of others and really understand it?  The Second Secret of Everything lies in realizing that the wisdom to live a good live surrounds us everywhere we turn.  We make a choice every second, every hour and every day whether or not to hear this wisdom and whether or not to act on it.  I went to a conference of educators a number of years ago with a few friends.  While we were presenting at the podium on the history of education, the ideas of Socrates and Plato were noted in this area.  Some of us were sitting in the audience and overheard a number of attendees inquiring as follows:  “Why are they talking about Socrates and Plato, they have been dead for centuries.”  We were astounded nee actually appalled that educators could not understand the relevance of what we were talking about because we used “old ideas.”

quote291012words-of-wisdomThe universe is showering you with advice and wisdom to help guide you to a better life.  Often we think we are smarter or that this wisdom does not apply to us.  After all, we are different and they lived in different circumstances or different times.  We fail to understand the universality of experiences that unite all of humanity through the ages and cultures both past and present.  Regardless of whether you were born in the Stone Age or the Jet Age, it is my bet that humans all evidenced similar emotions of fear, happiness, joy, love, revenge, concern, worry, depression and creativity.

There are many people who ask “WWJD” this translates “What would Jesus do?”  This is a simple but effective guide to living.  If you truly study Jesus and his disciples, read his gospels, read the entire New Testament and study it diligently, you will be in a good position to really know what Jesus would do.

I say don’t stop with Jesus. Read the Koran, read the Talmud, read Plato, read Aristotle.  Listen to your mother.  All of the great teachers had a love for humanity in common.  Thus, the great prophets have all tried to show us through love for humanity, a pathway to happiness and a joyous life.  Your mother loves you and wants the same thing for you.

I would look at the ideas from all of the various teachers as different perspectives on the world. You are no doubt familiar with the famous story of the Five Blind Men and the Elephant.  Each blind man had a perspective.  Each perspective gave a different view of the elephant.  Putting all of the perspectives together provides us with an even better view.  This is the job of living a good life.  To continue forever putting perspectives on living together to help guide us to a more fulfilled life.  The world is offering us a smorgasbord of perspectives to help us.  Some days we may find one thing useful and on another day we may find something else useful.  The wise person choices a variety and realizes that they cannot eat everything.  Next time we can try something else.  The foolish person ignores the bounty that is offered.  Likewise, many people ignore the advice of others.  I have one further caveat here.  Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, Moses and Socrates are offering their advice for free and are not trying to sell you anything.

Beware the experts, gurus, talking heads, hucksters, professionals, and marketing types who will make you better, smarter, faster for a PRICE.  You should be suspicious of all ideas that you need to pay for.  Some might be valuable and some might not be.  However, like the treasure map that you can purchase in Arizona to guide you to the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine, it is very curious that none have yet found it.  My father always said “Believe nothing of what you hear and half of what you see.”  If you can incorporate my father’s advice when anyone tries to sell you something, you will be able to embrace the Zen like quality that is needed to truly implement my Second Secret of Everything.  There is a Zen poem that sums up this quality rather nicely:

“Before a person studies Zen, mountains are mountains and waters are waters; after a first glimpse into the truth of Zen, mountains are no longer mountains and waters are not waters; after enlightenment, mountains are once again mountains and waters once again waters.”

So study everyone, study everything.  When you think you know everything, you will really know nothing.  Once you realize that you truly know nothing, you will know everything.  This is the essence of the Second Secret of Everything.

In Part 3, I will describe the next three Secrets of Everything.

Time for Questions:

Do you aim low or high in your life?  Why?  What would your life be like if you aimed higher than you have in the past?  What would change for you?  How would your life be different if you knew you were going to live forever?  Why?  What would you change in your life if you could live forever?  Can you live in the present but also for eternity?  What would it take for you to accomplish this Zen like task?

Life is just beginning.

I was feeling for a short while right after my surgery, that life was just ending.  Pain really clouds the judgment.  However, thanks to God, friends, my spouse and modern medical science, I can truly say that “life is just beginning.”  All the reports indicate that I am cancer free and can thus live to die from something else. J

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