Like so much of the common advice we get, it’s often very contradictory.
We can get these phrases of wisdom that say one thing, and then another phrase of wisdom to say the complete opposite.
And that just seems to be the way it is, because if there were some simple guidelines that could automatically make all our decisions for us, it would certainly be a lot easier to make wise decisions.
It seems like we always have to take these principles and then we have to sort of test them in the world of reality, where they mix.
different principles in conflict with each other, often disagreeing, and somehow, out of these sort of basic ideas, we then try to apply them to the actual complicated mix of things that are really going on, and out of that make some kind of decision that we hope is good.
So one example of that would be the idea of should you hesitate? Well, “Never hesitate.” “He who hesitates is lost.” OK, so you better make that decision quick.
On the other hand, “Look before you leap.” OK, so don’t just leap.
You should hesitate at the edge of the chasm and maybe take a look to see what the jump looks like, what the landing possibilities look like.
So there’s no one guide that can point you what you need to do.
You simply have both these guides and test them against reality, and maybe each of them can help to stop you from going too far in either direction, either blindly jumping off the dangerous cliff, or just endlessly sitting on the edge of a tiny crack in the sidewalk because you’re afraid to cross it.
So we’re always taking these two poles of ideas and we’re always sort of playing them against each other and finding some kind of wise choice, often in the middle.
Another idea like this that I find is just an endless question is “Stand firm”, “Hold by your convictions”, “Don’t abandon your principles”, “Stand strong no matter what.” On the other hand, “Go with the flow.” “Don’t try to fight against the flow of the universe.” “Bend, don’t break.” “Be the willow rather than the oak.” Or I think those are the trees.
So you have these two phrases of wisdom that are sending us in completely opposite directions.
And this may be one of the most important decisions we make, because we have to decide: are we going to somehow fight against the way things are, some aspect of the way things are, or are we going to just go with the flow? Of course, if we just go with the flow on everything then that would be what might be described as being spineless, because you don’t stand up for anything.
Spine is what helps you to stand up.
So being spineless, you’re just a blob on the floor.
Maybe you’re just rolling with whatever direction the slope takes you.
Just no ability to make any independent decisions or apply any will.
Just sort of whatever is the easiest, that’s the way you go almost like water flowing down.
“Be like water”: well, if you’re only like water, then you’re just flowing down formlessly, taking the easiest path forever.
But on the other hand if you have this spine that’s too stiff and just this belief that your convictions are absolute, and maybe too big a sense of convictions, that you have deep convictions about everything, that can never be bent under any circumstance: well, then it seems like you’re going to be constantly fighting against reality, constantly fighting against the universe, and really quite unnecessarily.
And you know, we only have so much ability to resist the flow of nature and the universe, so it seems like we’d better pick our battles.
And some things it’s better to just let ourselves go with the flow, and save our strength for the things that we decide to fight on.
So where’s this balance point between being a spineless jelly and being the tree that insists on growing exactly straight and then just gets broken? Somewhere there’s a balance and it seems like a big part of it is simply deciding what are our absolute principles? What are the things that we’re willing to stand up for so strongly that we will break if necessary in order to uphold them? Seems like a choice that is something to take seriously, and whatever we decide that we’re willing to break for, that’s no joke, and everything else, then, we can go with the flow.
So I’d be very curious to hear any ideas about how we can draw this distinction and find this balance.
#principles #standup #gowiththeflow