Sunday Musings

Why we do the things we do? Hmm… probably a wrong question to start with. We do a lot of things subconsciously, a lot of things because they are part of what we reflect outwards, few things deliberately. The things I am referring to here are our thoughts, actions and emotions. Right now I am trying to meditate with my eyes closed, breathing and searching through these past two weeks. Why? Because I said a lot bad things to someone I know- retaliating. A few years back or maybe more, it’d be fine and it wouldn’t upset how I act or what I say. Even now sometimes I do think that dropping to other person’s level and lashing out can be a good way to deal with certain individuals- especially narcissists and individuals that exhibit psychopathic traits or are perhaps psychopaths.

Obviously it is better to keep away from such people, however, we cannot always choose who we encounter in our lives and if I were to personally take a long look back, I think I have learnt a lot from some of the people I wish I hadn’t encountered. These individuals can be a good test of character and resilience. People are tested through other people. It’s part of human society. Life is not a bed of roses… certainly not for me in the present haha… but this doesn’t mean that there is nothing in life to be grateful for. Rather gratitude should always be first… we are always blessed with a lot of good. We just have to open our eyes and mind, feel the gratitude in our hearts. Life is not easy… life is a challenge and if you are not challenging yourself, you aren’t living up to your potential.

Every time I start writing, my mind just tries to delve deeper into the philosophy that has shaped my thinking so I have to take a step back and refer back to what I am trying to write instead of what I want to write. Would it be a good thing to just write out all my thoughts and how they are layered? It’s what I do in all my blogs… perhaps because of few recent encounters I am unable to. What gets to me is the fact, that I let my ego and old behaviours control me. It’s easy to drop to other person’s level, especially when other person is mean and malicious. I retaliated because I was perturbed. I was mean and harsh, said a lot things that I didn’t want to or think of. The blog sometimes is a cool way of letting out what’s going through my mind… let it all out and re-centre myself so that I can focus on the process and not outcomes. Our thoughts, emotions and behaviours our intertwined… how we act out is what gets filtered into other aspects of our lives. For example my writing and thoughts right now, in the present moment are distressed by recent encounters. This will filter into other pursuits if I don’t examine it and let it settle in my subconscious. So hence why, before it happens… I address it. I have given myself enough time to feel whatever happened. In the last 3 weeks or so… I cannot say that I have been focussed on following the process, routine and staying disciplined. So perhaps these are the reasons why my behaviour during the encounter though somewhat calm initially, couldn’t remain so.

When things go awry… it is time to take a step back, look at the discipline, routine and practice. This is what I am always to trying to achieve more in… measure myself against. A quote I love says, be grateful for the blessings you are blessed with and be grateful for the blessings you are denied. Therein lies divine wisdom.

Here one might think- am I denied a blessing because I don’t deserve it? This is surely a wrong way to think about it. A better approach would be to think, what would I be like had I been blessed with those things? Recognising the extent of evil and chaos that I could perhaps fall in, …. if I invert this, the way I am currently thinking about it or what I mean by it is, “You don’t rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems.” (J Clear) In trying to take a step too many, there is a greater chance of temptations and evil within us side tracking us or make us shoot for the wrong goals. Hence why, before we set out to create order, we create order within ourselves.

I cannot take back the words I said, however, in future I can show better display of character. That would be a good step forwards… in the present moment, I can show and feel gratitude, cherish the good people. Most of all… staying focussed on the process and routine.

How to Read A book?

Currently I am listening to Friedrich Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Beyond Good and Evil. The books are quite difficult to remember. I think they are meant to be this way. Even though I am taking my time listening, most stuff is really hard to grasp. I have started to think that for difficult books I should have the audible version and a paperback/hardback/kindle version. This is what I did when I Listened to The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan. I read and listened to it twice. Got to do it one more time. Anyhow, this is the reason why I haven’t been able to write anything because I am trying to decipher what I am listening to most of the time and that has taken away some ideas from me perhaps or maybe not because I am writing even though I am not actually writing about Beyond Good and Evil and Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Honestly, I think most of it went over my head and I can probably recall very few points. It was only the first listen anyway.

A philosopher according to Nietzsche, is a man who constantly experiences, sees, hears and suspects hopes and dreams, extraordinary things; who is struck by his own thought as if they came from the outside, from above and below as a species of events and lightning strikes peculiar to him; who himself is perhaps a storm which moves along pregnant with new lightnings; a portentous man, around whom there is mumbling and rumbling and gaping, something uncanny going on. A philosopher alas, is a being who runs away from himself, is often afraid of himself but whose curiosity always makes him come to himself again and again… (292 Beyond Good and Evil)

This reignited the thought, how to read a book? So, I went back and listened to this lecture by the humble man whose lectures are always insightful, thought provoking and full of wisdom. The book is titled ‘How to Read a Book’ by Mortimer J. Adler. Shaykh Hamza Yusuf includes his own learning experiences to give a fuller understanding of the book, he explains the book really well, the different levels of reading, the elementary reading, the inspectional/information reading, the analytical reading. He also talks about the 3 types of people, the dabbler, the hackers, and the masters. Dabblers take up a sport/hobby/goal to give up after they are bored, not getting any attention and/or validation. Hackers take up a goal and learn the principles and practise it but never perfect it, the masters spend years after years improving and enhancing their understanding, wisdom and skills in their field. A great book deserves to be read a minimum of 3 times. A great book is a book that you can come back to over and over again. Hamza Yusuf then goes on to explain how the books written by moderns can be summed up in a line and how each sentence written by ancients can be elaborated into a new book. This is very true with the new boon that kicked off for self-help, how to start your own business and how to become better at marketing. Most of these books can be summed up in a line and very few are worth reading again and again. He ends the lecture by analysing a poem. This is what I mean when I say that my auditory memory is good haha, I am surprised how much I can recall from the lecture. I haven’t even gone back for references. He also explains in the lecture the difference between literalists, who find it hard to extract the meaning of poem and metaphorical texts. He talks about classical reads/novels/books, he talks about understanding grammar, rhetoric, logic. The 3 R’s Reading, Writing and Rhetoric.

So, if you want to start reading difficult books, classical texts, and original books. I would advise you to start by reading Mortimer J Adler’s How to Read A Book or Listen to the lecture by Hamza Yusuf on How to Read a Book.

One of the reasons why collectively we are failing is because we do not make the effort to educate ourselves by reading and studying difficult texts. I remember in one of his lectures he said, “The giants of the past were vast.” In comparison to the work accomplished and level of literacy reached by the past generations, we may have advanced technologically, but in doing so we have become the slaves of it and we do not push to find our real potential, unravel our minds, we are addicted to comfort of our homes, tech, media. Our education system fails to raise up mentally healthy adults, this is a crisis we face. This is a crisis to address too. Hopefully, writing this gives me the courage, insights, and ability to chase after my own goals. Goals for creating a better educational system.