Category: Philosophy

The Matrix

Not to be confused with the movie “The Matrix” staring Keanu Reeves. I’m referring to the corporate matrix that many us spend much of our life toiling away. Having worked for corporations for over 40 years I have experienced very good organizations, average organizations, and well really messed up ones. Generally there are certain relationships that exist between a characteristic and the functioning of a corporation. In my experience most smaller companies are less dysfunctional and the larger companies are more dysfunctional. This is not a hard fast rule, but there does seem to be a correlation between the size of an organization and its level of dysfunction. You might also draw a correlation between the age of a corporation and level of dysfunction, but many corporations try to re-invent themselves periodically so this doesn’t always hold true. An example is McDonald’s that was founded in 1940 and Google founded in 1998. McDonald’s has been around 58 more years, but one might say it is no more dysfunctional than Google. Another correlation can exist based on the type of industry / sector that a business is categorized. For instance a insurance company will not survive unless it is very efficient versus a technology company that may have higher margins, which sometimes encourages reckless behavior from a business perspective.

Over time as a company grows, it begins to implement an increasing number of processes and controls. In my experience many of these processes have not been vetted against the simple equation comparing the ongoing cost of the process versus the value it provides the organization. This kind of process creep exists in almost all businesses, as the company seeks to create greater control over the workforce. Often times the corporation does not want to leave decision making to employees but instead implements a process that it hopes controls costs or improves compliance in some way. Examples of this include simple contract changes that require three levels of approval, instead of just empowering the first level manager to approve the change, or having painful promotion processes that require committee’s to make the decision instead of an employee’s manager.

When a company is initially created, it will depend on people to make decisions, and does things in a lean fashion, but as it becomes larger it begins to hire more and more employee’s, many that do not contribute to the bottom line (cost management or revenue generation). My experience is that lots of new roles are created for what I call bullshit jobs, essentially non essential work. Well if you have a lot of time on your hands, then you begin creating your own organization and start building new processes. Unfortunately the people in these bullshit jobs don’t understand process design and the cost versus value equation. Over the course of 20 years or so there is a process for everything and each of them has a corresponding burden that is foisted on the employee, and competes for their time, which initially was dedicated to their primary job functions. A couple things begin to occur, the first being the employee becomes more and more dissatisfied with their role as they must adhere to this overload of processes that they are asked to perform. The second thing that happens is they have less time to devote to their core job functions and the company must hire yet more employees to do the work and becomes even more inefficient. Remember some of this occurs because it is human nature to build your own little empires, thus adding more bullshit jobs and people to do those jobs, which then makes it more difficult to pursue the real goals of the company. All this results in less autonomy for the employee and an erosion of job satisfaction.

The point of all this is that there are corporations and there are people that work for them. Eventually the goals of the corporation and the employees begins to diverge in kind of a Grand Canyon way. If you need any evidence of this look at the layoffs at Microsoft, Meta, Amazon, Salesforce, and on and on. Either in anticipation or as a reaction to some sort of slow down in the economy, a recession if you will, these companies have slashed in some cases pretty high percentages of their workforce. The thinking was something like this. Well we better proactively cut costs in the event our sales decline or our cost of goods sold increases. A corporation does not possess human qualities like compassion, loyalty, empathy, love, or pain. This dichotomy between the corporation and employees is the world we live in. Actually this is really not something new and has been going on for the past 50+ years, probably becoming more common in the 60’s and 70’s as we began to offshore manufacturing decimating cities like Detroit Michigan and Cleveland Ohio. This trend continued throughout the Midwest and the rest of the United States. All for lower costs, resulting in higher profits and cheaper products.

If this is the current state of the matrix then you have to ask yourself, do I want to play this game? Finally you come to realize that the rationale thought you have cultivated all these years, makes it almost impossible to continue living in the matrix. Some of you may escape, but for the majority the matrix will lure you back offering riches that you can’t seem to walk away from. You have then resigned yourself to this life, convincing yourself it really isn’t so bad, but in your heart you know you have made the wrong choice. Money or Freedom?

In the next installment “Escaping The Matrix” I would like to make a case for choosing freedom.

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Something to Think About: The Easy Life

This is the first in a series of shorter blog posts created to explore a concept or idea briefly, so “Something to Think About”. I realize that sometimes you don’t have time to read 10 or 20 pages and this is my way of providing a more frequent stream of ideas to provide something to think about. I hope you enjoy, and please post a comment and we can have a dialog..

The ironic thing about life is that as we age we think life will be easier. We can retire and do whatever we want, living a life of leisure. Several things get in our our way:

  • Our expectation that our problems will go away. As human beings we think too much and set expectations that don’t coincide with reality on this earth. The over active mind will help create new problems for you, real or perceived.
  • The fact that we are physical beings and will have to experience a decline in our body. This results in increasing issues with our health and pain. Now you can slow down this decline to some degree with exercise and nutrition, but you cannot totally avoid it.
  • The very idea that I will wake up every morning seeking some form of leisure may end up getting old after a while. If this is your sole purpose, then you will soon find that you can only play so much golf, eat, sleep, walk, read, or whatever your thing is.

So you go from struggling everyday with all those normal responsibilities like making a living, paying your bills, dealing with difficult people, all the time waiting for retirement to simplify your life. In essence we are looking to the future to alleviate our stress and problems, so we can live the easy life. The reality is that if the purpose of our life is seeking pleasure then we are likely to end up disappointed and maybe worse depressed.

I’m going to be blunt here and I hope I don’t offend anyone. I really fucking hate the word retirement when used in the context of the attainment of the of easy life. As the Buddha taught life is not easy in fact it is filled with dukkha “pain and suffering”, much of it imposed on us by our perceptions. Often in life, a change in circumstances is just trading one problem for another. Maybe you will have less stressful problems when you retire, but they will be traded for an increasing awareness of your own impermanence. This increasing awareness of impermanence brought to light by declining health and your friends and family leaving this world, is an opportunity for great wisdom and appreciation for your own life.

I did mention this would be short exploration of the “Easy Life”, so let me summarize and bid you au revoir. Don’t spend your life wishing you could do less, seeking some hedonistic existence. Instead look at your new found freedom as the opportunity to double down on your purpose. Remember you woke up today, so you can spend time learning something, helping someone else, and doing something useful. Time to pay it back, to your family, to your community, to the world at large.

I would love your thoughts on retirement and the so called easy life. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Namaste

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Practice Compassion

The Dalai Lama has written a whole book on compassion, which I believe I read over 10 years ago. I like his quote as the true feeling of compassion for others will in fact benefit them and yourself. In this post I want to make a case for adopting compassion, and how it is one of the most important virtues in life.

The Merriam Webster definition:

compassion

noun

sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it

I like this very brief yet powerful definition of compassion. Breaking it down a compassionate person has sympathetic consciousness for others distress and a desires to do something about it. You might also phrase it as a sympathetic awareness for the distress that others are experiencing. There are a number of synonyms for sympathy, but you also might phrase this as a compassionate person has a caring awareness of the suffering of others and wants to alleviate it.

Most of us can be compassionate when it comes to family members, friends, and often with people that think like us, but true compassion is not just for those you love or agree with. True compassion, even for those we don’t agree with means we have expanded our world view to all sentient beings. To be compassionate is a virtue, an unselfish expression of your better self. When your first reaction to things you do not agree with is negative, you are being judgmental, which is one of the biggest impediments to compassion. This propensity to judge others often comes from an inflated ego. Your thoughts may include viewing others as wrong, stupid, uninformed, unintelligent, and of course viewing yourself as better than everyone else or least those you judge.

If you recognize suffering in others and actually decide you want to do something about it, you are practicing compassion. In our very imperfect world there are many opportunities to be compassionate. Some examples may include:

  • Chronic conditions (cancer, heart disease, etc.)
  • Starvation
  • Disease (pandemics)
  • Mental illness
  • Death
  • War such as Russia’s invasion and destruction of Ukraine
  • Racisim and oppressing people based on sexual preference

There are no shortages of pain and suffering in our world, some of this may be very close to home for you. If you are a Buddhist, Christian, Jew, or Muslim you most likely have been taught compassion as part your doctrine or religion. Of course practicing compassion is not limited to a philosophy or religion, as an agnostic you may also be as compelled as anyone else to feel the pain and suffering that surrounds us and want to act. One could make the case that compassion is a universal virtue.

If you think you are a compassionate person, then you may realize the difference between empathy and compassion is about the action or lack of it. You can empathize with the plight of others, but if you do nothing about it you are not compassionate. This isn’t inherently bad and maybe it is a step in the right direction. The fact that you have empathy for others is better than as the quote above states you are just an observer. For most of us our heart is in the right place, but we don’t take that next step because we are so wrapped up in our own troubles, that we can’t take the time to act on the empathy we feel. Maybe we just don’t know how to help.

One of the things we have seen over the past couple of decades in the United States is that Americans are less inclined as in the past to belong to a religious entity like a church. You might ask why does this matter? Well in the past the church was a place that reinforced compassion as a virtue and maybe more importantly provided avenues to practice it by supporting numerous charities and causes. From the article on the web “America is losing its Religion” some of the statistics are shocking:

By the numbers: Gallup poll released last week found just 47% of Americans reported belonging to a house of worship, down from 50% in 2018 and 70% as recently as 1999.

  • The shift away from organized religion is a 21st century phenomenon. U.S. religious membership was 73% when Gallup first measured it in 1937, and stayed above 70% for the next six decades.

Context: The decline in membership is primarily driven by a sharp rise in the “nones” — Americans who express no religious preference.

  • The percentage of Americans who do not identify with any religion rose from 8% between 1998 and 2000 to 21% over the past three years, while the percentage of nones who do not belong to a house of worship has risen as well.

If religion as we know it continues to decline over the next couple of decades, what will replace it? Now you may be agnostic and feel that religion is unnecessary, but surely there will be a void of some sort, and those religious institutions that survive will have less to work with in terms of acting upon their compassion. The need for our society to practice compassion is not decreasing, in fact it is most certainly increasing. The vast income and wealth inequality has only forced more of our world wide population into poverty and often into homelessness.

If you have an awareness of all the suffering in this world and want to act upon it look at your own community. I don’t have all the answers, but there are food banks, homeless shelters, and other charitable organizations that my provide an avenue for your compassion. I feel that if we don’t act things are going to get progressively worse.

References

America is losing its religion

Three Decades Ago, America Lost Its Religion. Why?

In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace

Balance Restored

One of my recent blog posts was aptly named Unbalanced. In this post I wrote about how over time your work life can go terribly wrong in the sense that it becomes your whole life. While for some people this may be fine, but for me it was a form of hell on earth. Much like addictions this working all the time lifestyle creeps up on you over time. In Unbalanced I mentioned there were three options:

  1. Accept and Adapt
  2. Do Nothing
  3. Extricate yourself from the situation

I chose number one, allowing a little acceptance and making some adaptations. First off let me say I am a huge fan of Buddhism, Stoicism, Yoga, and meditation; practicing each of these on a daily basis. The problem is no matter how much you read or spend time meditating you cannot escape the chaos that often ensues on a daily basis during your work day. I’m not saying that it doesn’t help, but it cannot by itself save you. You might be saying well your the Stoic Buddhist, so what the hell! My response is don’t stop your practice, in the end it will improve all aspects of your life, but it only marginally helps you deal with some shit show at work.

Well as I mentioned I choose door number one to practice some acceptance for the situation and then make a few adaptations so that I might make things more bearable.

I like this Anthony Hopkins quote as he lets you know that other peoples opinions of you are of no concern, and that expecting nothing and accepting everything may serve you well. While this is a great mantra to live by, it does not preclude you from taking action. This is where the adaptation comes in. This is the Merriam Webster definition of Adaptaption.

adaptation

Essential Meaning of adaptation

1: something that is adapted especiallya movie, book, play, etc., that is changed so that it can be presented in another form. His stage adaptation of the novel was a success.The film is an adaptation of a book of the same title.

2: a change in a plant or animal that makes it better able to live in a particular place or situation. The insect’s evolutionary adaptations enable it to be almost invisible even when sitting in the middle of a leaf.

3: the process of changing to fit some purpose or situation the process of adapting a tool designed for easy adaptation

I would suggest that number two and three apply in this case. With acceptance you begin to achieve number two, allowing you to better live in a particular place or situation. While acceptance is awesome you also need to actively manage the situation. So making some changes to the way you approach your work allows you to adapt to the situation much easier.

Well all this leads us to adapting the way you approach this situation, in this case your workaholic tendencies and ways to alleviate the negative narrative you have about it.

  • If you start with I expect nothing and accept everything you relieve yourself of trying to control it all and stop judging it as a negative experience. Lets face it there are a lot of things that are out of our control and when we worry, resent, become angry, or provide any kind of emotional response to these situation we are opening the door for more suffering.
  • Another method that helps you adapt to all the annoying shit at work is to stop giving a fuck about everything. If someone says something demeaning or criticizes your work you can get upset and at the time if might deeply offend you, but you really don’t know their motives and in many ways you should not give a fuck. Save your energy for the things you really care about and stop letting all the other crap make you crazy.
  • The last little tip that helped me was to set some limits around your free time. This might include not attending every meeting you are invited to, or getting the administrative stuff done on Friday so you don’t have to work on the weekend. Look for ways to begin balancing work with your personal time. You might even take a day off now and then. We all think what we do is so important and without us the world will come to the end and your project will fail without your 24 hour a day monitoring. Once you realize that none of this is true, you begin to give yourself some freedom and the job that was killing you no longer seems so daunting.

When it is all said and done your job is really not all that important and you are not that important to your employer. Maybe what is important to you is doing quality work that you enjoy or realizing your efforts at work are contributing to your family. Find those 2 or 3 things you really value and let those provide some level of satisfaction. As I’ve mentioned before when you start caring about everything you are on the road to becoming a workaholic and ultimately experiencing burnout.

If you just can’t adapt and the situation at work is not improving you can always find a way to exit. This might mean taking another position in your own company, or asking for a different assignment, and if all else fails finding a new job. In this job market anyone with the right skills is now calling the shots and there are a lot of opportunities to be found. Remember self torture by trying to endure a situation beyond a reasonable amount of time is not your best choice.

Namaste

Unbalanced

Guess where this is going?

It has been a while, in fact I think my last post was in June. What the hell! The topic for today is unbalanced, which is the reason I haven’t written anything in so long. About six weeks ago I made a decision to take on what became a monumental endeavor at work. The whole thing imploded and became what a friend of mine in the Netherlands calls a shit show. A shit show if you didn’t know is pretty much synonymous with a disaster. What started as a seemingly good idea to up my game and take on a new challenge, quickly eroded into some form of torture. Now I’m no stranger to hard work, but the kind of hours I was putting in became a bit absurd after a while. The first 3 weeks were 75-80 hours per week, including working weekends.

After a few weeks of this, which forced me to skip pretty much all forms of exercise; not only was I mentally drained, but I also wasn’t feeling very well. There is always a fine line between working extremely hard and taking care of yourself and I had crossed the line into burnout land. I’m sure you have experienced this before, when you reach that point almost anything can piss you off. You are so mentally and physically tired that your emotions, not the good ones begin to surface. The worst of it all was I didn’t enjoy any of it. I took a trip to Florida to meet with some of my team mates and our customer, and not once did we go out to eat together. After workshops during the day with my customer, I would go back to the hotel room to work and grab something to eat at Publix or Subway by myself. What I began to realize is that 14-16 hour work days are unsustainable, well least for me.

So why am I telling you all this? It kind of sets the stage for what happened next. It became clear to me that I needed to take back my life, so after about 4 weeks I decided I had enough, took a Friday off and started to limit how much I would work on the weekend. We did bring in some additional help, which allowed me to not be responsible for nearly everything and that certainly helped. The thing is everyone gets to a point where enough is enough, and you figure out ways to scale down the hours or you do yourself serious harm. This is usually a choice unless your in a prison or concentration camp. It wasn’t like I freed myself from the situation, but what I did was make it a bit more manageable. The fact that 8 weeks later it’s still a shit show and I am deeply engaged says something about how stubborn I am or my lack of intelligence.

This kind of sums it up.

You always have a choice to leave the situation, adapt and accept it, or do nothing, but that really doesn’t work except in extremely rare situations where leaving or adapting are not really an option. Doing nothing will just result in burnout and really is a form of self destruction. When I say accept it, I mean you are willing to adapt, but not in a passive way. You have chosen to stay, stick it out, or whatever you want to call it, but with some conditions. Please distinguish between adapting including some acceptance and doing absolutely nothing. If down the line things don’t get better than you need to figure out an exit strategy; life is way to short to stay in a shit show indefinitely.

Namaste

The Question You Must Ask Yourself

This post will be purposely short and to the point. It originates from a bit of journaling this morning. I like to start my day with a grateful practice, but my thoughts often turn to other questions about the meaning of our existence on this planet. Enough said, here is the journal from this morning:

Journal Entry

I am grateful for being alive today, and having the opportunity to live a more fulfilling life.

The question you must ask yourself is what is the purpose of all this? What do you mean by living a more fulfilling life?

Why am I here? Is it to fulfill a destiny, serve others, or to master my own philosophy?

Maybe it is all or none of the above. Maybe it’s as the Buddha taught to end suffering.

Whose suffering? Your own and all sentient beings.

How? For me it must be by writing and actions.

It’s not much of a reach to say we all have more than one purpose for living and these can be noble or selfish, or even some combination of the two. As humans we are fairly complex, possessing desires, dreams, and sometimes selfless motives for what we do.

There are many noble reasons to exist including:

  • Service to your community
  • Taking care of your family
  • Showing compassion for others
  • Being more mindful and spiritual
  • Becoming a better human being through philosophy

On the other side of the coin exists our selfish or negative motives:

  • The accumulation of wealth and material things
  • Sensory desires like sex, drugs, drinking, etc.
  • The desire to punish, belittle, and criticize those that are different from us
  • Wrong thought such as anger, hate, or envy
  • A preponderance of ego; thinking you are better than everyone else

The selfless or noble motives for your life result in happiness and the selfish in destruction. The choice is always yours alone.

Namaste

Meditation – Expectations

I have written a number of posts on meditation including Meditation Experiences Uno, Meditation Experiences Dos, Meditation Experiences Tres, and Meditation Experiences Cuatro. All of these were my personal experiences of meditation and to some degree outlining the benefits that you might be able to experience yourself. Of course your experience during meditation and afterwards may vary. One of the things that happens when you start meditating on a regular basis is that you may begin to develop expectations. These expectations of a special experience or some sudden break through, maybe even enlightenment may cause you to view your practice as a tool or some means to and end.

In the tradition of Zen Buddhism having some grand expectation for each meditation session is frowned upon. You should just sit in Zazen, expecting nothing, with your focus on being present. In a world that is dominated by activity, doing things, getting shit done; this might be very difficult for us. We typically spend most of our time thinking about what we are going to do in the future, that we often cannot make ourselves present in the now. If everything you do in your life must be in support of some goal or to satisfy some desire, meditating will seem foreign and you will struggle to be present even for a few moments, though you sat for 20 minutes. You may even feel that why should I devote 10 or 20 minutes just sitting, when I could be doing something productive. What the hell have we become?

There is a quote from Gary John Bishop that anyone that meditates should take to heart. While the book Mr. Bishop wrote Unfu*k Yourself isn’t about meditation, it will make you think about how you are fucking up your life with thoughts of the past and future.

Let me wrap this up. If you really want to change the way you think about this world, you will need to drop all these expectations and stop living in the future or even worse in the past. A consistent meditation practice will help you live in the present and change some these preconceived notions you have established over your lifetime. In a sense there is a war to be waged. There is the real you, a person with inherent Buddha nature and there is you that has been constructed over a lifetime. Choose the present moment without expectations or continue living imprisoned in the future, it’s all your choice.

Namaste

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Freedom

If it is freedom that you seek, then you are in the company of billions of other people. We think that freedom can be found primarily by removing responsibility. Many view this as financial freedom, freedom to purchase anything we want, or being free to do anything we want. This kind of freedom is a pipe dream for most and is just another stroll down the path of materialism. To equate this type of freedom with the real freedom that only exists between your ears is nothing more than bullshit. We live in a world that thinks if I acquire enough money, then I can do whatever I want with my time. Think of all the actors, sports, and rock stars that accumulated great wealth, and ended up in an early grave to some degree as a result of this financial freedom. A life without purpose will soon lead to a life of excess. Listen, I’m not saying that it is a bad thing to acquire a certain level of financial freedom, but this kind of freedom does not equate to happiness.

There exists many of what I call fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of speech, freedom of choice in its various forms, freedom to vote, and freedom to choose what you do with your time on this earth. All of these are important, but are in a sense table stakes. Beyond the fundamental freedoms that most democracies attempt to offer is a much more precious freedom.

You will never be truly free until you gain some control over your thoughts. There is no real world that is completely stress free, free of responsibilities, free of pain, free of desire, or free of problems. Most people just seek to escape reality by taking vacations, drugs, alcohol, or any number of distractions. Been there, done that, and it really didn’t help, it was just piss poor attempts to turn off my thoughts. There are also those that use physical activity as a way of escaping. These might be runners, weight lifters, rock climbers, or even sky diving. While these are much healthier alternatives than the drug and alcohol route, they are still a temporary reprieve from a mind tortured by stress, anxiety, lust, or anger.

The end result of all of these attempts to escape your thoughts is that they still exist, and you have done nothing to change them. Any real freedom from your monkey mind can only exist in meditation. During meditation you can become truly free and begin to realize the Buddha nature that exists in all of us.

It is these little glimpses of freedom that you experience during meditation that gradually changes the way you view the world and thus changes the way you think. Don’t get hung up on the process or type of meditation, just sit and concentrate on your breathing. Start with 10 minutes and gradually work your way up to sitting for 20 minutes per session on a daily basis. If you think that spending 20 minutes a day meditating is wasting time, then you are still operating in the wrong paradigm. There really is no better use of your time than to meditate and once you have experienced it over even a short period of time like a couple weeks the freedom you were seeking will be yours.

Namaste

The Stoic Buddhist

Marcus Aurelius and the Buddha

I recently changed my byline to The Stoic Buddhist and you may ask why? It is partially due to the many books I have read on Buddhism and Stoicism. So one reason is the interest I have in both philosophies, but as my studies progressed I started noticing some pretty interesting similarities. In this blog post I just want to focus on a couple of the things stoics and Buddhist’s have in common.

Well back to the question about the byline. This will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for me one can embrace multiple philosophies and sometimes even just certain tenants. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. Both Buddhism and Stoicism have always encouraged independent thinking analyzing what you feel is true and real in the world. I doubt that the Buddha would have objected too much if someone wanted to read the works of Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, or Epictetus. Both Stoicism and Buddhism take an analytical approach to philosophy as opposed to a faith based approach of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. Buddha was not a God and either was Marcus Aurelius or Seneca, and in the case of the stoics far from it. So in my life and studies I borrow from both, calling myself a Buddhist first and foremost, that also has a keen interest in stoicism.

Two of the more common themes that I noticed in both Stoicism and Buddhism are about desiring less and not fearing death.

Desire

Both Buddhism and Stoicism teach that there is inherent suffering involved with desires. The more you desire the more unhappy you will be, ever wanting more. The Buddha taught that the root of suffering was desire and Epictetus equates freedom to limiting what you desire.

Another quote from Marcus Aurelius speaks to the idea that very little is needed to be happy.

Actually Marcus Aurelius wrote extensively in his book Meditations about the need to control ones desires and the destructive nature of vices and materialism. As you know this was a Roman Emperor who could have had anything he wanted, but practiced a huge amount of self control in the way he lived. I think both the Stoics and Buddhists recognized that desires led to excesses, creating suffering and ultimately preventing one from leading a more noble existence.

Death

It is my understanding that both Stoicism and Buddhism viewed death as a natural part of life and not to be feared. With that said the Buddhist might believe that you will be reborn into another life; the Stoic will just state that this death is part of natures life cycle and your body is given to the earth. In either case as a Stoic or a Buddhist you will be expected to not fear death, to be courageous, and calm upon your demise.

Whether a Stoic or a Buddhist it is not death to be concerned with, but rather how well you have lived. Was the life you had meaningful and of service to mankind? To the stoic philosopher or a dedicated Buddhist a life satisfying selfish desires is a life wasted and not worth living. Another similarity between the Stoic and Buddhist view of death is that it begins when we are born with each day we die a little bringing us that much closer to our final demise.

Below is a quote from the Buddha from the Pali Canon , Sali Sutta that illustrates the nature of life and death.

From Marcus Aurelius a quote on the inevitability of death and our response to it.

While this by no means is meant to provide any kind of exhaustive comparison between similar views shared by Stoics and Buddhists, I wanted it to be more of an introduction to the idea that there are some aspects of the two philosophies that they have in common. As death pursues us all I hope there will be time to go into a more detailed analysis of where the two philosophies converge.

There is no way of cheating nature of our own inevitable destiny. We all will face death, some sooner, some later, but it will surely come. With that in mind whether you are a Stoic or a Buddhist; it is all up to you to live an authentic life and cherish each day.

I’ll leave you with a final quote from Seneca.

“You want to live-but do you know how to live? You are scared of dying-and, tell me, is the kind of life you lead really any different from being dead?”

Namaste

How the wise view time

I don’t know when it all started maybe a couple years ago, but I came to the realization that my time on this earth was limited. This begins to happen for most of us once we realize what is left in terms of years is only a fractional portion of the time we have already lived. This only becomes more acute as you progress from your 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and so on. It’s not so much anxiety, but it becomes more of a value proposition, weighing the value of time against the way you live your life. You begin to question how you are spending your time and why you spend this limited time working at a job that maybe pays well, but doesn’t support the value of time paradigm that you now find yourself so acutely aware of.

Maybe you find yourself trading that precious commodity, your time for the accumulation additional wealth. I think this is a trigger for a lot of people in their 50’s and 60’s who begin thinking about retirement. You begin to realize the opportunity cost of staying at your less than fulfilling job. You become preoccupied thinking of all the things you want to do that you just don’t have time to pursue. I know for myself things like a career path, promotions, and all those other things that seemed important in my 40’s occupy little space in my mind today. This understanding of the value of time, which you should have had all along becomes so much more important than the accumulation of wealth and the agony that often accompanies it. Instead of mellowing out as we age, we often become less tolerant of the bullshit and wish for more autonomy and freedom to pursue what really matters to us.

The feeling of regret for not realizing this long ago comes up and you may feel you have wasted years or even decades running on the hamster wheel for monetary rewards. Then again maybe you have had a great career, but realize it’s time to pack it in and start something new. In either case you are faced with the decision to keep doing the same old thing or break free and use the remaining days, months, or years to do something else. If you are a fan of the stoics you will find a lot of material devoted to death and the importance of living life in a meaningful way. One of my favorite quotes is from Marcus Aurelius:

Don’t let your fears or habits dictate how you will live your life. Be like the wise person and give your time the value it so rightly deserves.

Namaste