An experiment in form…
The approach to the work is sacred and personal. You need to believe the words before you can feel them. Then, and only then, can you have a true dialogue. I hope you like it.
Somewhere during the week I found myself back on Arête, an ancient Greek term I stumbled upon years ago when I was searching for a purpose and meaning to life. I had grown tired of what had become a very treadmill existence. Get up. Go to work. Come home. Eat. Sleep. Rinse and repeat with very little variation to the routine. So what, I can hear you saying, that’s the story of most of our lives. And you’re right, it is.
The difference that makes a difference is mindset.
How you approach your daily tasks, the routines that must be done as a part of normal everyday life, makes all the difference. The mind, as John Milton reminded us in Paradise Lost, is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven. As a mindset, arête was my lifeline giving me the power to make a heaven of my hell.
Arête as the ancient Greeks saw it, was the pursuit of excellence in all the ways possible for a person to be excellent - morally, physically, intellectually, spiritually, and practically.
For the ancient Greek it meant that a man, especially if he aspired to be of heroic calibre, should be:
…a great fighter, a wily schemer, a ready speaker, a man of stout heart and broad wisdom who knows that he must endure without too much complaining what the gods send; and he can both build and sail a boat, drive a furrow as straight as anyone, beat a young braggart at throwing the discus, challenge the Phaeacian youth at boxing, wrestling or running; flay, skin, cut up and cook an ox, and be moved to tears by a song. He is in fact an excellent all-rounder.. - H.D.F. Kitto
The liberation for me was the mindset shift to pursue excellence for excellence’s sake, to do one thing as you do all things. There are no ordinary moments.
The ancient Greeks knew what they were doing.
The human being, to put a modern twist on arête,
should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialisation is for insects.
Specialisation is for insects! (bares repeating)
In case you were wondering about the style I’ve adopted for this issue of The Notes, it’s a homage to some of my favourite writers and thinkers. Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil; David Shields, Reality Hunger: A Manifesto; Christopher Ross, Tunnel Visions; Wu Hsin, Aphorisms For Thirsty Fish, to name a few.
This also happens to be the way my brain works - associative, fragmentary, and non-linear. Thinking in a straight line has never been my strong suit.
When life gets too serious….*
Make a list of 3 to 7 things you enjoy most in life...activities that you think: this is what it means to really be alive...then go do them!
For me, the list was this:
Climbing mountains or wandering in a forest
Reading metaphysical books that blow my mind
Travelling and visiting places I’ve never been before
Sitting around a camp fire with family and friends drinking beer and sharing stories
Exercising my creativity...writing, making art
Exploring my intellectual curiosity through books and reading
What’s on your list?
Desire and attachment...
The desire for things to be different than they are...to always we be trying to get the next thing...and when you get the thing you want, suddenly there’s something better (buyer’s remorse, happens to me every time I buy a new iPhone) and you want that now...
Attachment - trying to hold on to things you know won’t last forever to include your on life and others.
It’s an easy trap to fall into to want things to be different than they are. I mean who doesn’t look around their lives and wonder “how could my life be better?” The problem with us human is good enough is never good enough. We seem always to want more or a newer, bigger, faster, smaller, thinner, tastier version of what we already have. Some say that’s how we keep from growing stagnant. Other say that’s why anxiety and depression are more prevalent today.
For all our intelligence and rationalism, why do we insist on holding on to things that we know won’t last forever?
I know you’re a super-human and can do it all, but remember even Superman had his Fortress of Solitude. Make time to recharge your battery.
Images from my week
I hope you had a fab week of learning, exploring, and self-actualising. Hit me up on the reply and let me know how your week went - your successes and failures and things that brought you much delight.
A couple of things before you go:
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Ok, peace and love to you my friend,