Sunday, July 22, 2007

Ah... What Beautiful Minds!

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Carlos Castaneda: The Four Natural Enemies of Knowledge
Carlos Castaneda: Warrior Who?
Carlos Castaneda: Controlled Fury
Abraham Lincoln: A Letter to his son’s teacher
Bertrand Russell: Pain and Wisdom
Oriah Mountain Dreamer, Native American Elder: The Invitation
A Message from Chief Seattle
Shri Aurobindo: Finding God
Patanjali: What Animates Behind Human Actions
Kathreen Raine: Traditional Indian Aesthetics
Scott Peck: The Unnconscious Always One Step Ahead
Rudyard Kipling: “IF”
Robert Graves: In Broken Images
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: A Psalm Of Life
Marvin Minsky: Against the Certainty of Definitions

Carlos Castaneda: The Four Natural Enemies of Knowledge

A man of knowledge is one who has followed truthfully the hardships of learning, a man who has, without rushing or without faltering, gone as far as he can in unraveling the secrets of power and knowledge. To become a man of knowledge one must challenge and defeat his four natural enemies.

When a man starts to learn, he is never clear about his objectives. His purpose is faulty; his intent is vague. He hopes for rewards that will never materialize for he knows nothing of the hardships of learning.

He slowly begins to learn--bit by bit at first, then in big chunks. And his thoughts soon clash. What he learns is never what he pictured, or imagined, and so he begins to be afraid. Learning is never what one expects. Every step of learning is a new task, and the fear the man is experiencing begins to mount mercilessly, unyieldingly. His purpose becomes a battlefield.

And thus he has stumbled upon the first of his natural enemies: fear! A terrible enemy--treacherous, and difficult to overcome. It remains concealed at every turn of the way, prowling, waiting. And if the man, terrified in its presence, runs away, his enemy will have put an end to his quest and he will never learn. He will never become a man of knowledge. He will perhaps be a bully, or a harmless, scared man; at any rate, he will be a defeated man. His first enemy will have put an end to his cravings.

It is not possible for a man to abandon himself to fear for years, then finally conquer it. If he gives in to fear he will never conquer it, because he will shy away from learning and never try again. But if he tries to learn for years in the midst of his fear, he will eventually conquer it because he will never have really abandoned himself to it.

Therefore he must not run away. He must defy his fear, and in spite of it he must take the next step in learning, and the next, and the next. He must be fully afraid, and yet he must not stop. That is the rule! And a moment will come when his first enemy retreats. The man begins to feel sure of himself. His intent becomes stronger. Learning is no longer a terrifying task.

When this joyful moment comes, the man can say without hesitation that he has defeated his first natural enemy. It happens little by little, and yet the fear is vanquished suddenly and fast. Once a man has vanquished fear, he is free from it for the rest of his life because, instead of fear, he has acquired clarity--a clarity of mind which erases fear. By then a man knows his desires; he knows how to satisfy those desires. He can anticipate the new steps of learning and a sharp clarity surrounds everything. The man feels that nothing is concealed.

And thus he has encountered his second enemy: Clarity! That clarity of mind, which is so hard to obtain, dispels fear, but also blinds. It forces the man never to doubt himself. It gives him the assurance he can do anything he pleases, for he sees clearly into everything. And he is courageous because he is clear, and he stops at nothing because he is clear. But all that is a mistake; it is like something incomplete. If the man yields to this make-believe power, he has succumbed to his second enemy and will be patient when he should rush. And he will fumble with learning until he winds up incapable of learning anything more. His second enemy has just stopped him cold from trying to become a man of knowledge. Instead, the man may turn into a buoyant warrior, or a clown. Yet the clarity for which he has paid so dearly will never change to darkness and fear again. He will be clear as long as he lives, but he will no longer learn, or yearn for, anything.

He must do what he did with fear: he must defy his clarity and use it only to see, and wait patiently and measure carefully before taking new steps; he must think, above all, that his clarity is almost a mistake. And a moment will come when he will understand that his clarity was only a point before his eyes. And thus he will have overcome his second enemy, and will arrive at a position where nothing can harm him anymore. This will not be a mistake. It will not be only a point before his eyes. It will be true power.

He will know at this point that the power he has been pursuing for so long is finally his. He can do with it whatever he pleases. His ally is at his command. His wish is the rule. He sees all that is around him. But he has also come across his third enemy: Power!

Power is the strongest of all enemies. And naturally the easiest thing to do is to give in; after all, the man is truly invincible. He commands; he begins by taking calculated risks, and ends in making rules, because he is a master.

A man at this stage hardly notices his third enemy closing in on him. And suddenly, without knowing, he will certainly have lost the battle. His enemy will have turned him into a cruel, capricious man, but he will never lose his clarity or his power.

A man who is defeated by power dies without really knowing how to handle it. Power is only a burden upon his fate. Such a man has no command over himself, and cannot tell when or how to use his power.

Once one of these enemies overpowers a man there is nothing he can do. It is not possible, for instance, that a man who is defeated by power may see his error and mend his ways. Once a man gives in he is through. If, however, he is temporarily blinded by power, and then refuses it, his battle is still on. That means he is still trying to become a man of knowledge. A man is defeated only when he no longer tries, and abandons himself.

He has to come to realize that the power he has seemingly conquered is in reality never his. He must keep himself in line at all times, handling carefully and faithfully all that he has learned. If he can see that clarity and power, without his control over himself, are worse than mistakes, he will reach a point where everything is held in check. He will know then when and how to use his power. And thus he will have defeated his third enemy.

The man will be, by then, at the end of his journey of learning, and almost without warning he will come upon the last of his enemies: Old age! This enemy is the cruelest of all, the one he won't be able to defeat completely, but only fight away.

This is the time when a man has no more fears, no more impatient clarity of mind--a time when all his power is in check, but also the time when he has an unyielding desire to rest. If he gives in totally to his desire to lie down and forget, if he soothes himself in tiredness, he will have lost his last round, and his enemy will cut him down into a feeble old creature. His desire to retreat will overrule all his clarity, his power, and his knowledge.

But if the man sloughs off his tiredness, and lives his fate though, he can then be called a man of knowledge, if only for the brief moment when he succeeds in fighting off his last, invincible enemy. That moment of clarity, power, and knowledge is enough.

Carlos Castaneda: Warrior Who?

Here is a piece of conversation Castaneda has with Don Juan (from “Journey to Ixtlan: The Lessons of Don Juan”)

He began to sing a Mexican song, very softly, and then hummed the tune. His head bobbed up and down as he followed the beat of the song.

“Do you think you and I are equals?” he asked in a sharp voice.

His question caught me off guard. I experienced a peculiar buzzing in my ears as though he had actually shouted his words, which he had not done; however, there had been a metallic sound in his voice that was reverberating in my ears.

I scratched the inside of my left ear with the small finger of my left hand. My ears itched all the time and I had developed a rhythmical nervous way of rubbing the inside of them with the small finger of either hand. The movement was more properly a shake of my whole arm.

Don Juan watched my movements with apparent fascination.

“Well… are we equals?” he asked.

“Of course we’re equals” I said.

I was, naturally, being condescending. I felt very warm towards him even though at time I did not know what to do with him; yet I still held in the back of my mind, although I would never voice it, the belief that I, being a university student, a man of the sophisticated Western world, was superior to an Indian.

“No.” he said calmly, “we are not.”

“Why, certainly we are,” I protested.
“No,” he said in a soft voice. “We are not equals. I am a hunter and a warrior, and you are a pimp.”

My mouth fell open. I could not believe that don Juan had actually said that. I dropped my notebook and stared at him dumbfoundedly and then, of course, I became furious.

He looked at me with calm and collected eyes. I avoided his gaze. And then he began to talk. He enunciated his words clearly. They poured out smoothly and deadly. He said that I was pimping for someone else. That I was not fighting my own battles, but the battles of some unknown people. That I did not want to learn about plants or about hunting or about anything. And that his world of precise acts and feeling and decisions was infinitely more effective than the blundering idiocy I called “my life”.

After he finished talking I was numb. He had spoken with out belligerence or conceit but with such power, and yet such calmness, that I was not even angry anymore.

We remained silent. I felt embarrassed and could not think of anything appropriate to say. I waited for him to break the silence. Hours went by, Don Juan became motionless by degrees, until his body had acquired a strange, almost frightening rigidity; his silhouette became difficult to make out as it got dark, and finally when it was pitch black around us he seemed to have merged into the blackness of the stones. His state of motionlessness was so total that it was as if he did not exist any longer.

It was midnight when I realized that he could and would stay motionless there in that wilderness, in those rocks, perhaps for ever if had to. His world of precise acts and feelings and decisions was indeed superior.

I quietly touched his arm and tears flooded me.

Carlos Castaneda: Controlled Fury

Here is a piece of conversation Castaneda has with the Yaqui Shaman… “I am happy that you finally asked me about my controlled folly after so many years, and yet it wouldn’t have mattered to me in the least if you had never asked. Yet I have chosen to feel happy, as if I cared, that you asked, as if it would matter that I care. That is controlled folly!”

We both laughed very loudly. I hugged him. I found his explanation delightful although I did not quite understand it...

With whom do you exercise controlled folly, don Juan?” I asked after a long silence.

He chuckled.

With everybody!” he exclaimed, smiling.

When do you choose to exercise it, then?”

“Every single time I act.”

I felt I needed to recapitulate at that point and I asked him if controlled folly meant that his acts were never sincere but were only acts of an actor.

“My acts are sincere,” he said, “but they are only acts of an actor.”

“Then everything you do must be controlled folly!” I said truly surprised.

Yes, everything,” he said.

“But it can’t be true,” I protested, “that every one of your acts os only a controlled folly.”

“Why not?” he replied with a mysterious look.

“that would mean that nothing matters to you and don’t really care about anything or anybody. Take me, for example. Do you mean that you don’t care whether or not I become a man of knowledge, or whether I live, or die, or do anything?”

“True!” I don’t. You are like Lucio, or everybody else in my life, my controlled folly.”

I experienced a peculiar feeling of emptiness…

Abraham Lincoln’s Letter to his Son’s Teacher

He will have to learn,
I know, that all men are not just,
all men are not true.

But teach him also that for every scoundrel there is a hero;
that for every selfish Politician, there is a dedicated leader...

Teach him for every enemy there is a friend,
Steer him away from envy,
if you can, teach him the secret of quiet laughter.

Let him learn early that the bullies are the easiest to lick...
Teach him, if you can, the wonder of books...
But also give him quiet time to ponder
the eternal mystery of birds in the sky, bees in the sun,
and the flowers on a green hillside.

In the school teach him it is far honorable to fail than to cheat...
Teach him to have faith in his own ideas, even if everyone tells him they are wrong... Teach him to be gentle with gentle people, and tough with the tough.
Try to give my son the strength not to follow the crowd
when everyone is getting on the band wagon...

Teach him to listen to all men...
but teach him also to filter all he hears on a screen of truth,
and take only the good that comes through.

Teach him if you can, how to laugh when he is sad...
Teach him there is no shame in tears,
Teach him to scoff at cynics and to beware of too much sweetness...
Teach him to sell his brawn and brain to the highest bidders
but never to put a price-tag on his heart and soul.

Teach him to close his ears to a howling mob
and to stand and fight if he thinks he's right.
Treat him gently, but do not cuddle him,
because only the test of fire makes fine steel.

Let him have the courage to be impatient...
let him have the patience to be brave.
Teach him always to have sublime faith in himself,
because then he will have sublime faith in mankind.

This is a big order, but see what you can do... He is such a fine fellow, my son!

Bertrand Russell: Pain and Wisdom

One day, Gilbert Murray came to Newnham to read part of his translation of The Hippolytus, then unpublished. Alys and I went to hear him, and I was profoundly stirred by the beauty of the poetry. When we came home, we found Mrs. Whitehead undergoing an unusually severe bout of pain. She seemed cut off from everyone and everything by walls of agony, and the sense of the solitude of each human soul suddenly overwhelmed me. Ever since my marriage, my emotional life had been calm and superficial. I had forgotten all the deeper issues, and had been content with flippant cleverness. Suddenly the ground seemed to give way beneath me, and I found myself in quite another region.

Within five minutes I went through some such reflections as the following: the loneliness of the human soul is unendurable; nothing can penetrate it except the highest intensity of the sort of love that religious teachers have preached; what ever does not spring from this motive is harmful, or at best useless, it follows that war is wrong, that a public school education is abominable, that the use of force in to be deprecated, and that in human relations one should penetrate to the core of loneliness in each person and speak to that. The Whitehead’s youngest boy aged three was in the room. I had previously taken no notice of him, nor he of me. He had to be prevented from troubling his mother in the middle of her paroxysms of pain. I took his hand and led him away. He came willingly, and felt at home with me. From that day to his death in the war in 1918, we were close friends.

At the end of those five minutes, I had become a completely different person. For a time, a sort of mystic illumination possessed me. I felt that I knew the inmost thoughts of every body that I met in the street, and though this was, no doubt, a delusion, I did in actual fact find myself in far closer touch than previously with all my friends, and many of my acquaintances. Having been an imperialist I became during those five minutes a pro-Boer and a Pacifist. Having for years cared only for exactness and analysis, I found myself filled with semi mystical feeling about beauty, with an intense interest in children, and with a desire almost as profound as that of the Buddha to find some philosophy which should make human life endurable. A strange excitement possessed me containing intense pain but also some element of triumph through the fact that I could dominate pain, and make it, as I thought, a gate way to wisdom. The mystic insight which I then imagined myself to possess has largely faded, and the habit of analysis has reasserted itself. But something of what I thought I saw in that moment has remained always with me, causing my attitude during the first war, my interest in children, my indifference to minor misfortunes, and a certain emotional tone in all my human relations… From Russell’s Autobiography 1972-1914.

Oriah Mountain Dreamer, Native American Elder: The Invitation

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.

I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting
your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are.

I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for dreams,
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon.

I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if
you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled
and closed from fear of further pain! I want to know if you can sit with pain,
mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it. I want
to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own;
if you can dance with wildness and
let ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without
cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, or to remember the
limitations of being a human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you’re telling me is true.

I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself;
if you can bear the accusation betrayal and not betray your own soul.
I want to know if you can be faithful and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see beauty even if it’s not pretty every day,
and if you can
source your life from God’s presence. I want to know if you can live
with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of a
lake and shout to the silver moon, ‘Yes!’

It doesn’t interest me where you live or how much money you have.

I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair,
weary, bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done for the

It doesn’t interest me who you are, how you came to be here.

I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied.

I want to know what sustains you from the inside, when all else falls

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself; and if you truly
like the company you keep in the empty moments…
From SQ: Spiritual Intelligence the Ultimate Intelligence by Danah Zohar and Ian Marshall

A Message From Chief Seattle

The following is a copy of a letter that was said to have been written by Chief Seattle, a man of great wisdom and sorrow. It's been widely reported that Chief Seattle wrote this letter to President Pierce as his people were being forced off their ancestral land. There is substantial evidence that this claim is in fact not true. Irregardless of who indeed the author of this piece truly is, the words are chillingly prophetic and have haunted me since the first time I read them over two decades ago.

How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?

Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people. The sap which coursed through the trees carries the memories of the red man.

The white man’s dead forget the country of their birth when they go to walk among the stars. Our dead never forget this beautiful earth, for it is the mother of the red man. We are part of the earth, and it is a part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters; the deer, the horse, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the juices in the meadows, the body heat of the pony, and man--all belong to the same family.

So when the great white Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land, he asks much of us. The great Chief sends word he will reserve us a place so that we can live comfortably to ourselves. He will be our father, and we will be his children. So we will consider your offer to buy our land. But it will not be easy. For this land is sacred to us.

This shining water that moves in the streams and the rivers is not just water but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you land, you must remember that it is sacred, and you must teach your children that it is sacred and that each ghostly reflection in the clear water of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people. The water’s murmur is the voice of my father’s father.

The rivers are our brothers, they quench our thirst. The rivers carry our canoes and feed our children. If we sell you our land, you must remember and teach your children, that the rivers are our brothers, and yours, and you must henceforth give the rivers the kindness you would give any brother.

We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother, but his enemy, and when he has conquered it, he moves on. He leaves his fathers’ graves, and his children’s birthright is forgotten. He treats his mother, the earth, and his brother, the sky, as things to be bought, plundered, sold like sheep or bright beads. His appetite will devour the earth and leave behind only a desert.

I do not know. Our ways are different from your ways. The sight of your cities pains the eyes of the red man. But perhaps it is because the red man is a savage and does not understand.

There is no quiet place in the white man’s cities. No place to hear the unfurling of leaves in spring, or the rustle of an insect’s wings. But perhaps it is because I am a savage and do not understand. The clatter only seems to insult the ears. And what is there to life if a man cannot hear the lonely cry of the whippoorwill or the arguments of the frogs around a pond at night? I am a red man and do not understand. The Indian prefers the soft sound of the wind darting over the face of a pond, and the smell of the wind itself, cleansed by rain or scented with the pine cone.

The air is precious to the red man, for all things share the same breath: the beast, the tree, the man, they all share the same breath. The white men, they all share the same breath. The white man does not seem to notice the air he breathes. Like a man dying for many days, he is numb to the stench. But if we sell you our land, you must remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also received his last sigh. And if we sell you our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where even the white man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow’s flowers.

So we will consider your offer to buy our land. If we decide to accept, I will make one condition. The white man must treat the beasts of this land as his brothers.

I am a savage, and I do not understand any other way. I have seen a thousand rotting buffaloes on the prairie, left by the white man who shot them from a passing train. I am a savage, and I do not understand how the smoking iron horse can be more important than the buffalo that we kill only to stay alive.

What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts soon happens to man. All things are connected.

You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of our grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin. Teach your children what we have taught our children, that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.

Even the white man, whose God walks and talks with him as friend to friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers after all. We shall see. One thing we know, which the white man may one day discover --our God is the same God. You may think now that you own Him as you wish to own our land: but you cannot. He is the God of man, and His compassion is equal for the red man and the white. This earth is precious to Him, and to harm the earth is to heap contempt upon its Creator.

The Whites, too, shall pass; perhaps sooner than all other tribes. Contaminate your bed, and you will one night suffocate in your own waste.

But in your perishing, you will shine brightly, fired by the strength of the God who brought you to this land and for some special purpose gave you dominion over this land and over the red man. That destiny is a mystery to us, for we do not understand when the buffalo are all slaughtered. the wild horses are tamed, the secret corners of the forest heavy with the scent of many men, and the view of the ripe hills blotted out by talking wires. Where is the thicket? Gone. Where is the eagle? Gone."

Shri Aurobindo: Finding God

On Friday, May 1st, 1908, I was sitting in the Bande Mathram Office, when Srijut Shyamsunder Chakravarty handed over a telegram from Muzafferpur. On reading it I learned of a bomb outrage in which two European ladies had been killed. In that day’s issue of the “Empire” I read another news item that the police commissioner had said he knew the people involved in the murder and that they would soon be put under arrest. At that time I had no idea that I happened to be the main target of suspicion and that according to the police I was the chief killer, the instigator and secret leader of young terrorists and revolutionaries. I did not know that that day would mean the end of a chapter of my life, and that there stretched before a year’s imprisonment during which period all my human relations would cease, that for a whole year I would have to live, beyond the pale of society, like an animal in a cage. And that I would re-enter the world of activity it would not be the old familiar Aurobindo Ghose. Rather it would be a new being, a new character, intellect, life, mind, embarking on a new course of action that would come out of the ashram at Alipore.

I have spoken of a year’s imprisonment. It would have been more appropriate to speak of year’s living in a forest, in an ashram or hermitage. For long I had made a great effort for a direct vision (sakshat darshan) of the Lord of my Heart; had entertained the immense hope knowing the Preserver of the World, the Supreme Person (Purushottam) as friend and master. But due to the pull of a thousand worldly desires, the attachment towards numerous activities and the deep darkness of ignorance I did not succeed in that effort. At long last the most merciful all good Lord (Shri Hari) destroyed all these enemies at once stoke and helped me in my path, pointed to the Yogashram, Himself staying as guru and companion in my little abode of retirement and spiritual discipline. The British prison was that ashram. I have also watched this strange contradiction in my life that however much good my well-intentioned friends might do for me, it is those who have harmed me – whom shall I call an enemy, since enemy I have none? – my opponents have helped me even more. They wanted to do me an ill turn, the result was that I got what I wanted. The only result of the wrath of the British government was that I found God… From Tales of Prison Life by Aurobindo Ghose

Patanjali: What Animates Behind Human Actions

"When you are inspired by some
great purpose, some extraordinary project,
all your thoughts break their bonds;
your mind transcends limitations,
your consciousness expands in every direction,
and you find yourself in a new,
great and wonderful world.
Dormant forces, faculties and talents
become alive, and you discover
yourself to be a greater person by far
than you ever dreamed yourself to be."
Source: Patanjali’s Yogasutra quoted by Wayne Dyer

Kathleen Raine: Traditional Indian Aesthetics

In India I came to understand that one of the greatest mistakes of modern Western civilization is to believe that, whereas it is important to provide the poor with food and "housing", they have no need for beauty, no need for a dream to live by. All those crafts museums are filled with the works of poor, illiterate, but deeply civilized people - those clay horses, little lamps, bangles and earrings, puppets of kings with curled beards and queens with great black eyes, dancers' masks, demons, gods and goddesses - these are the art of the anonymous poor. As indeed are the great temple sculptures, the very genius of India.

The reality of the need for beauty throughout society was illustrated by a story sent to me by a woman writer. It was about a woman (herself, as she later told me, when I met her) who wanted to buy a puppet to take home for a child, but had only a limited amount of money left to spend. The story describes how she had gone to the village of puppet-makers, now almost deserted, as the demand for puppets is all the time declining as other forms of entertainment become widespread. She finds just one old man who still makes puppets in the all but deserted village. He has two puppets, Radha and Krishna, and he tries to persuade her to buy both. "Look," he says, "you can't separate them; they love each other!" and he begins to play the two puppets, enacting their love. And the woman notices that the entrance to the puppet-maker's shop has become crowded with all the children, under the magic spell, the enchantment. She leaves the money she had brought, promising to return. The beauty of the story is in its understanding of the thirst for beauty and magic even among the poor… From "Resurgence" Magazine

Scott Peck: The Unnconscious Always One Step Ahead

There are no simple or easy formulas. In handling all life’s experiences, we must endure a degree of emptiness and the agony of not knowing… there are so many things we often go through life blaming others for. Since a big part of growing is learning to forgive, each time we must reconsider and debate, “Should I blame or should I forgive?” Or, “Am I being loving or am I being a doormat?” Or simply, “What is the thing to do?” It is a decision that must be made again in each situation and every different time.

Although there is no certain formula, there is a guideline to help in such decision making… It is to recognize that the unconscious is always one step ahead in the right direction or the wrong direction. We don’t always know if that still small voice we hear is the voice of the Holy Spirit, or Satan, or may be just our glands. It is therefore, impossible to ever know that what we are doing is right at the time, since knowing is a function of consciousness.

However, if your will is steadfastly to the good and if you are willing to suffer fully when the good seems ambiguous (which to me seems about 98.7 percent of the time), then your unconscious will always be one step ahead of your conscious mind in the right direction. In other words, you will do the right thing. But you won’t have the luxury of knowing it at the time of doing it. Indeed you will do the right thing precisely because you’ve been willing to forgo that luxury. And if this guideline seems obscure, then you might want to remember that almost all evil in this world is committed by people who are absolutely (italised by author) certain that they know what they are doing… From Scott Peck’s “The Road Less Travelled and Beyond”

Rudyard Kipling: “IF”

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!

Robert Graves: In Broken Images

He is quick, thinking in clear images;
I am slow, thinking in broken images

He becomes dull, trusting to his clear images;
I become sharp, mistrusting my broken images

Trusting his images, he assumes their relevance;
Mistrusting my images, I question their relevance.

Assuming their relevance, he assumes the fact,
Questioning their relevance, I question the fact.

When the fact fails him, he questions his senses,
When the fact fails me, I approve my senses.

He continues, quick and dull in his clear images,
I continue show and sharp in my broken images.

He in a new confusion of his understanding,
I in a new understanding of my confusion.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: A Psalm Of Life -
What the Heart of the Young Man Said the Psalmist

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,--act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;--

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

Marvin Minsky: Against the Certainty of Definitions

If you 'understand' something in only one way then you scarcely understand it at all. For then, whenever something goes wrong, you'll have no other place to go. But if you understand it in several ways, then when one of them fails you can switch to another - to see it from different points of view - until you find one that works for you.

Similarly, if you had only one ‘way to think,’ then you would get stuck when that that method fails. But if you have several ways to think, then whenever you get frustrated enough, you can switch to a different emotional state, or otherwise turn things around in your mind, until you find an effective approach… From Marvin Minsky’s Society of Mind