Reflection XXXVI

It is not enough to do or say one thing, and inside feel something completely different. If you do this you inject poison into your own heart, and you become false to yourself and to others. Control will be lost, and yourself destroyed.

Rather if you think it important to do something other than what is natural to you, for a good that you know, appreciate and cherish, then commit to it and use the reason of your directing mind to calm your heart, over and over till it is still again, lest it be like a cornered animal – frightened, aggressive and lashing out.

The greatest empire is to command oneself

Seneca the younger has said that “the greatest empire is to command oneself,” and I’ve noted in a reflection on this blog that you should know your enemy, namely yourself. As time passes by, I find the concept rings truer than ever, and that more often than not the greatest adversary I face is myself. I can apply that to many a little thing, whether it’s summoning the courage to do something or motivating myself to be less lazy. But I find in my life there are much deeper battles that must be fought and they are squarely between myself and I. Between my perception of reality and the facts that I know. Between the ideas I have of myself and the reality of who I am. Between my desires, and what I must do. Between my weakness and my will.

I see more and more, each day, how great a task it is to master oneself, and I admit I am so very far from it.

The Cost

For all the stoic self-control I so extol, I think this collection of writings has failed to capture the pains I have gone through to try and be whoever I am. Like most, I am an imperfect man with many vices, and I’ve lead a life where I’ve used those vices to replace connections in my life, fill holes in my heart and pass vast swathes of time where I would have preferred for my brain to be off rather than on. All of it has taken it’s toll on my body. So young and yet so broken. It ought not be like this, and it is a sobering thought to consider I have already done too much damage.

I would say to the reader, avoid this. Avoid a lifestyle of vices and self-destructive habits, especially if it’s in order to get by with your everyday life. It isn’t strength. It’s not even weakness. It’s death in a time before it should be, and if you do to yourself as I have done to myself, you will have none other to blame but yourself.

Owning One’s Destiny

Recently the 14th Dalai Lama has been quoted saying “We cannot solve this problem only through prayers. I am a Buddhist and I believe in praying. But humans have created this problem, and now we are asking God to solve it. It is illogical. God would say, solve it yourself because you created it in the first place.” While he said this statement in response to questions about his opinion on the recent Paris attacks, I think there’s an important lesson here for all religious people, myself included – and it has been one I’m trying to integrate into my life.

It is important to recognize in our lives, and in the lives of others, that we are – at the minimum, co-authors in our destiny. While it is easy to blame God for horrible things that happen, or to pray for God to fix it, the issue often lies with us. We make many decisions that positively or negatively impact our life, and I think it`s massively important to recognize that.

It`s not that I want to advocate that we take on a view that prayer is useless, but rather one that accepts that we’ve got our own proper faculties. If we were created in the image of God (as Christianity would have us believe), it seems like we’ve been given the capacity to learn and to think critically about our decisions. Let’s do more of that, and take responsibility for it.