Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Layer 415 . . . Ambition, Success, Zen, Rewards, Ashes, Acedia, Helping Others, Self-Development and Enlightenment


Becoming familiar with Zen, the Tao, the Watercourse Way, etc, helps to explain why quite a lot of us seem to lack personal ambition and haven't striven to become 'successful' either professionally or materially. In our society it's the mainstream view that we ought to be ambitious, set ourselves goals, and achieve as much recognition and reward as our society can offer.

Eastern philosophy, however, sees the development of the self, and seeking enlightenment, as the real goal of life. Through meditation, through becoming authentic and spontaneous, through trying to help others, and so on, we can develop ourselves without having to become wealthy or having to achieve high status. It's often been said that material wealth, worldly 'success' and great personal ambition may, in fact, be handicaps in achieving these other goals. Fully evolved humans appear to have very little regard for either material wealth or high status or personal ambition - other than living well and being the best human being they can be. As ever, Layer 22 for reference.


How to develop the self without becoming self-obsessed and self-centred? The usual things really - Zen practice.

Therefore at the beginning of this new year resolve to do the following:

Eat and drink moderately and well.

Have regular meals - don't snack throughout the day or graze on what's easily available.

This year eat and drink more fresh lemon juice, more honey, more green tea, more powdered vitamin C, more fish, more lentils and chick peas, more garlic, more fresh chillies, more olives, more tomatoes, more home-made soups . . . and drink more water.

Enjoy sensible amounts of meat, cheese, bread, coffee, tea, red wine, spirits, beer, sake, nuts, fruit and chocolate.

Go for more walks and make more contact with nature, the elements, the sky, the sun and the seasons. Meditate as you walk, and also find other times of the day to examine your own thoughts, calm your mind, allow your deepest thoughts and feelings to come to the surface and come into the light of day. Allow the light to turn fears and negative thoughts into something positive, or simply neutralise them.

Have a regular bedtime. Have a regular waking up and getting up time.


Helping Others

I've been pondering what it means to help other people. Especially those who are nearest and dearest.

You have to accept that in order to help others they must first of all want to help themselves. They also have to genuinely want you to help them.

I know of at least two fairly reclusive individuals, semi drop-outs, who appear to be suffering from acedia.


Acedia (also accidie, from Latin acidĭa, and this from Greek ἀκηδία, negligence) describes a state of listlessness or torpor, of not caring or not being concerned with one's position or condition in the world. It can lead to a state of being unable to perform one's duties in life. Its spiritual overtones make it related to but distinct from depression. Acedia was originally noted as a problem among monks and other ascetics who maintained a solitary life.

Acedia is essentially a flight from the world. It leads to not caring even that one does not care. The ultimate expression of this is a despair that ends in suicide.

As with those who followed him, Evagrius sees acedia as a temptation, and the great danger lies in giving in to it.

- Wikipedia

I presume there's a continuum that runs from extreme acedia right the way over to a state of spiritual joy, or satori.

I presume most people operate mostly or entirely somewhere in the middle - neither knowing nor caring about satori - let alone experiencing it -  but not completely in a state of torpor either.

As for depression . . . how DO most sufferers help themselves through it and get over it? By definition it's a state of feeling that nothing actually matters, that one is essentially worthless, and life is just a crock of pointless shit.

In the medieval Latin tradition of the seven deadly sins, acedia has generally been folded into the sin of sloth. Moral theologians, intellectual historians and cultural critics have variously construed acedia as the ancient depiction of a variety of psychological states, behaviors or existential conditions: primarily laziness, ennui or boredom. The demon of acedia manifests itself in a range of psychological and somatic symptoms that is far broader and more complex than the familiar tradition in the West.

Acedia is indicated by a range of signs. These signs (or symptoms) are typically divided into two basic categories: somatic and psychological. Acedia frequently presents signs somatically. Such bodily symptoms range from mere sleepiness to general sickness or debility . . .

A host of psychological symptoms can also signify the presence of acedia, which affects the mental state and behavior of the afflicted. Some commonly reported psychological signs revolve around a lack of attention to daily tasks and an overall dissatisfaction with life. The best-known of the psychological signs of acedia is tedium, boredom or general laziness.

The Watercourse Way is not passive, and the Tao is not mere adaptability, mutability and passivity. To become one's true self involves actively seeking to discover one's true nature, and to differentiate it from that which we're told by others we ought to be. To use meditation as a aid is a very positive choice. The discovery of the true self is NOT a thing that many people care to actively pursue - out of fear, vanity, egocentricity, false pride, sloth, etc.

Ashes News

Ah yes - the cricket. What a joy it is to see young people who have dedicated themselves to being the very best they can be in life being brilliantly successful in their trade or profession by virtue of their application, concentration, determination, self-examination, selflessness and skill development. To perform as well as these guys are doing you need to be right 'in the zone' for just about 100% of the time - both on the pitch and off it.

Very well done Cook, Bell, Strauss, Prior, Anderson, Swann, Bresnan and Tremlett. Thank you all for living up to expectations yesterday, and also for helping Australians to feel that at least they lost to the better team. Another 500 in the first innings and another victory by an innings will do nicely.

Trott - will continue to improve, and will learn to avoid ducks. Not quite there yet, but soon will be.

Pietersen - MUST do better. Not holding out much hope, though. Too big an ego. Too little EQ and SQ. Let alone IQ. This is a man who seems to believe that this Ashes success is all down to his heroic and selfless act of getting himself sacked from the captaincy. How immense is that? That's enough ego to fill a whole city. This is a man who gets himself out to crappy hook shots when good sense, concentration, hard graft, application and good judgement are needed.

Collingwood - possibly concentrate on becoming a useful medium pace bowler. We still need a good all-rounder at Number 6. As well as all-rounders at 7, 8, 9 and 10. Take a bow Mssrs Prior, Broad, Swann and Bresnan.

We can allow Jimmy Anderson to be in the team purely as a bowler, since he does so well as the night watchman. Tremlett and Finn to be his back-ups.


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