Month: March 2018

Reflections

Some thoughts on quality


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“The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.”

Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

First, some thoughts on quality.

Today, Sunday, I feel compelled to talk about so many things with you, but first as I just said, I need to talk about quality, because it is that single attribute what defines this whole process, called life.

A concept seems easy to understand in our heads don’t you think?

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We, after all, comprehend phenomena in the realm of our unique consciousness but when it comes to set a concept into words and we try to illustrate the pictures from our heads, into others, that right there, becomes the tricky part.

What is the solution for that difficultness?

Quality.

Quality is the aim to do something  the right way.

Quality is admirable because it is self-explanatory, everyone can feel it or understand it even metaphysically.  Sometimes we don’t know how to explain the why a work is a work of quality but we just know deep inside.

To do anything with quality is to do it right and we all know what that right is, we feel it.

When we make the decision to act with quality there is no confusion, there is no hesitancy, the choice to do it right has already been made and so no explanation for action is needed, there is just right action.

When we act with quality, the feeling of how we are using our time can get counter-intuitive. We tend to make the supposition that time is scarce, so we better hurry, thus sacrificing quality.

Quality needs time and patience, as long as attention. What’s counterintuitive is that acting in a hurry and without care, is actually slowing us down.

By not taking the decision to act with quality and being half-there half in other place, slows us down because by doing something good we only have to do it once, but do something bad and you’ll stumble into the same problem again and again.

Let your work, work on you.51a7fb95d69a284ee9eeb72a27644eb7--photography-art-night-photography

This is a rather profound recommendation.

Let your work, work on you. Everything you do or make, is an opportunity to be better, inside and outside.

It’s just as true that everything that is done badly or half-heartedly will work as well in the inside and the outside and not precisely in a good way.

Everything we do matters. Matters because it betters or worses not just ourselves, but the whole existence. Everything is connected. When we act with quality, we give quality to existence.

When we are washing dishes to give an example, there are two ways of doing it, correctly, or incorrectly. If you don’t put your full attention and care to the task at hand, you will not treat it fairly and will not let it work on you. If you don’t do it correctly the inner work (lesson) that the action can teach you will be wasted.

Everytime we are doing something we have an opportunity to practice patience and presence, to practice diligence, to practice everything.

Practice is all there is, there is never going to be a moment in which the work is done. We can only strive to become better and better at what we do and as quality is prefered in our lives than mediocrity practice is the only way through which great and better quality can be achieved and everytime we discard an activity and don’t put our effort in it, we are wasting our lives in mediocrity.

Living is an activity and better said an art, it is something that Seneca said, takes our whole lives to learn.

We can practice right now, this is why quality is so important, in everything we make, everything we do, everything we are needs to be constantly perfected and in doing so we are living as best and qualitatively as we can.

Hurry up and live.

Seneca

chess-1Quality is admirable and speaks for itself, I don’t have to tell you how to live your life best, that is something only you know, but bear in mind the concept of quality, because you know what a life of quality is. Apply it, apply it to everything and quality will start surrounding your life.

Life is fractal every small deed is part of the bigger deed. The details make the whole. Take care of the details, they are not time wasters, they are time savers, know this and quality will be effortless and more importantly, you’ll make your life and others, lives of quality.

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Stoic advice

COURAGE


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“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

― Winston S. Churchill

What is courage? When you think about this fundamental stoic value what appears on your mind? Is it an attitude? Is it a tool? Is it maybe a disposition of the mind?

First, let’s get a feeling of what courage is .

Rosa Louise McCauley better known as Rosa Parks, became a key part of the civil rosa parks.jpgmovement in the US because she was brave enough to sit in the white people section, she denied the unglamorous insults given to her telling her to move back to the black section. She ended in jail, but this small action gained her the nickname of “The first lady of the civil rights movement”. A great act of courage that suites just perfectly to what  Henry David Thoreau in Civil disobedience said: “Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man (woman) is also a prison.”

The great Scipio, Publius Cornelius Scipio. A young roman consul that at the young age of paul ruebens.jpg26 commanded two roman legions and against all odds conquered Cartago Nova (now the city of Cartagena) a mighty and fortified city at the time.  What’s more impressive still is that he took control of the city with the two famous cursed legions. Legions that fled from the battle of Cannae and in doing so lost their honor. Scipio took them and gave them the opportunity to regain their honor by fighting and so they did by conquering Cartago Nova.

Later in Africa, he defeated the mighty Hannibal and gained the nickname “Africanus”. At such a young age he had the burden of defending the great Roman Empire against one of the most cunning and undefeatable roman enemies.

The two examples just mentioned exemplified the most admirable types of courage. A type of courage that sacrifices itself for the benefit of the group but there is also bravery in the dark side as well.

The movie Scarface, famously depicts Tony Montana as a bloody killer, you can definitely say he had another kind of courage, commonly called balls of steel.

Jack Donovan argues in his book The way of men  that courage or bravery is kinetic, it requires movement, it is a sort of force. You can certainly be very powerful physically, but if you don’t have the will to face something, you are not brave.

From the examples just mentioned, we can infer that courage need some sort of risk or danger to exist. The might of and act of courage is directly correlated with the level of danger or risk one must encounter.

Rosa faced jail, Publius faced the defeat of the Roman Empire and Tony is facing literally torture or death.

I believe we all know that state of mind, during those moments the mind goes quiet, the vintage-boxing (1)idea of not achieving something cease to matter, we are just ready and in “go”mode.

When I was younger and I got into fights, I got scared.

I remember rationalizing my fear saying to myself or my father when he asked, that I wasn’t afraid of the fight itself. I thought that if I just could assure myself victory, I would be fearless.

But that exactly there is the problem. The fact that you can lose is what gives you the opportunity to act with courage. If everything were assured, courage would not be needed.

Just as with this example, so is everything in life. We can prepare ourselves, sure, but at the end of the day, courage is making the decision to do anything in spite of the consequences.

The feeling of courage is majestic, it’s mighty.

The stoics know very well what this means, the power to be courageous is a decision that springs always from within. Courage is also one of the cardinal virtues of stoicism, it’s just a fundamental virtue to live.

I believe now we have a better understanding of what courage is don’t you think? But, what about the dark side of courage? What differentiates them?

Jack Donovan  argues that there are two types of courage. The first type is higher courage, this is the type of courage that will sacrifice himself for the group, you can say it is the most noble.

The second type is lower courage. This is the type of courage that is more personal and used in everyday life. This is the courage that will give us the push to assert our interests.

albert-camus-biblioteca_tonaEveryone wants to be good, but being good all the time will not take you very far in life as it is perfectly natural to have personal interests and ambitions. This is the type of courage that Tony Montana used to get what he wanted.

I know, that is a pathological level, but as with everything in life, there needs to be a balance between the higher and the lower.

Another way to understand courage is with the word “game”.

Sam Sheridan wrote in his book A fighter’s heart the concept of gameness which is: “the eagerness to get into the fight, the berserker rage, and then the absolute commitment to the fight in the face of pain, of disfigurement, until death.”

In dogfighting the dogs start to fight and when one of them seems to starts losing, they take them back outside the “scratch lines” if a dog returns voluntarily to the fight, that dogs is said to have game.

Having game or courage is a personal decision.

Marcus Aurelius obviously had game, I mean, he had to wage war against the barbarians MARCUS AURELIOUS HEADmost of his life, but he also had that higher courage that protected the whole Roman Empire.

Just imagine what Marcus Aurelius went through, this is why he is one of the mayor authorities in stoicism, he had to practice stoicism, literally everyday and in battle.

Courage, a magnificent virtue that is available to all but attained by the few.

Want to read some more: Stoicism and power 

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