The Coach's Notes #57
time for integration, the well educated mind, and facing your fear
“I don’t need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod; my shadow does that much better.” ~Plutarch
I hope these notes find you in good cheer. We’re halfway through our second full-scale lockdown here in the UK. I confess, it hasn’t been as big a mind scramble as the first one. Instead of a new normal, it just feels normal. Saying that, I am looking forward to being able to freely travel about and not just down to Tesco’s but to the mountains and other places. I’m making a list (and checking it twice).
It’s been a good week of seeking knowledge. I started reading Sam Harris’s book, Waking Up: Searching for Spirituality Without Religion. I’ve also spent some time with Mark Vernon’s book on Well-Being, which has expanded my thinking on the subject of wellbeing and what it is and isn’t.
Ok. Here’s the playlist to put on while you read.
A time for integration
Pythagoras coined the word philosopher to mean “lover of wisdom” which is a path I’ve pursued most of my life. Even as a boy, my sanctuary - my church - was the library. I spent countless hours in the library, wandering the stacks, reading books at random. It didn’t matter the subject. If I could glean knowledge from it, I read it. And in reading (although not consciously at the time) but over time, I’d turn the knowledge into wisdom.
Walt Whitman redefined the poet to mean “lover of life.” Another path I’ve pursued from time to time, gleaning knowledge and wisdom from the metaphors of life, from trees and mountains, and the sea, from nature in general. The first poet to really blow my mind was T.S. Eliot. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and The Hollow Men changed my life forever and set me on a different path. One I still walk today.
Inbetween the philosopher and the poet, I pursued the way of the warrior. A pursuit that required me to be radically present in the here and now, maintaining an acute awareness of both myself and my surroundings while striving to act within my full capacity. I have tried, not always successfully, to apply this mindset to my everyday self.
I feel the next turn of the wheel for me is to integrate the philosopher, the poet, and the warrior to achieve total mastery of self.
From The Well Educated Mind
We are a post-literate culture meaning we don’t read much in the way of classical literature anymore. Books are considered an outdated form of communications and what is now contained in print, will all be presented in multimedia formats. With so much information coming at us on a daily basis - from emails, text messages, the Internet, streaming media (Netflix, Prime Video, Apple TV, Hulu, Disney, Now TV etc), and social media - we have little time for classical literature especially classical literature written in a style of language that seems impenetrable.
I love the classics though and try to make room for them in my reading mix each month. This week month, I’m revisiting Homer’s Iliad. It can be hard work reading the classics, I mean just look at this of names in Lib I of the Iliad:
The underlined names are the ones I’m familiar with. The rest I have to look up.
Paraphrasing Isaac Watts’s Improvement of the Mind
At least once a day checking in with yourself:
What new truths have you gained?
What truths you already know have been confirmed?
What new advances have you made in any part of your knowledge?
Your journal is a great place to record the results of this self-inquiry.
“Why are you worshipping the teapot instead of drinking the tea?”
The search for enlightenment is a fool’s errand and is doomed to fail because as Wu Hsin said “all searching is for some-thing and that which is being sought is no-thing. And if it is not an object, how can it be found?
Just sitting; Without a goal, Without a schedule, Without an intention, Without form and Without deliberateness. The seed opens into the fruit. Just sitting. Can I just sit here with my coffee? Does that count?
Last year sometime (or may it was the year before), I had it in mind to watch the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” franchise because it’s meant to be one the greatest television shows ever if you view the show as an allegory for the transformation from childhood to adulthood when we realise the world is not a perfect place.
Buffy remains the most intensely studied television series by television critics and scholars in the history of television. There are numerous books and essays and academic conferences covering every conceivable aspect of the series. - Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Myth, Metaphor, and Morality - Mark Field
And critic Robert Moore identified Buffy as the moment in which TV became art.
It was press like that made me want to explore Buffy in more depth. I didn’t watch the TV show when it debuted. It just didn’t appeal to me at the time.
As I said, I started the journey but never completed it. And now I’m in the mood to restart the journey despite my wife and daughter making fun of me for watching a “teen” show. They refuse to watch it with me (their loss)!
I watched episode 10 - Nightmares - this weekend. The big takeaway for reflection was on the nature of fear.
Fear “is the most powerful force in the human world,” even more powerful than love according to The Master. “We are defined by the things we fear.”
That’s worthy of reflection: we are defined by the things we fear. What is it that you fear? And how does your fear shape your life as you live it currently?
I fear not having lived a life worth living. I don’t want to die wondering if I could have lived life better? Did I do all that I was capable of doing? Could I have made better choices? Could I have done more to help the human condition advance? These are the questions that plague me.
Something the Master says: “Fear is in the mind and because it’s in the mind, like pain, it can be controlled.” “If I can face my fear, it cannot master me.”
Facing your fears is an essential step in your transcendence of self. No one can save you from your fears, but yourself. It is your responsibility.
I’ve only just started listening to the Psychology Podcast from Scott Barry Kaufman, and what I’ve listened to so far has been really good - lots of notetaking going on. In this episode, he talks with Shellye Archambeau one of high tech’s first female African American CEOs and author of Unapologetically Ambitious: Take Risks, Break Barriers, and Create Success On Your Own Terms.
That’s it for this week’s installment of the Coach’s Notes. Keep the feedback coming. It helps. Be sure to ‘like’ the Notes and feel free to share them with others in your network who might be interested in communing here with us.
Oh and don’t forget to listen to The Wisdom Experience Radio Show. On this week’s show, we explore the sometimes confusing waters of well-being, how self-care may be too feminine of a word for men to relate to, the quality of one’s experiences, and boundless love.
Peace and Love,