History is littered with great civilizations that have each permanently changed the course of human culture in mostly positive ways. The following civilizations come to mind as prime examples that have had a profound impact on the world: Florence during the 15th century Italian renaissance, the scientific movement in England from the 17th to the 19th century, the east coast of the United States of America during the industrial revolution, and silicon valley California during the computer technology industry boom. Each of these special civilizations have contributed beautiful marvels of scientific and artistic achievement to the world that have left their indelible mark on the human race. These awe inspiring discoveries and creations often fundamentally alter the way we think and/or conduct a certain aspect of our lives. Each one of these great civilizations was spurred on by a handful of exceptionally brilliant and charismatic people. In the Italian renaissance, it was Michelangelo Buonarroti and Leonardo Da Vinci. During the scientific movement in England, it was the likes of Sir Isaac Newton and Michael Faraday. During the industrial revolution in the United States of America, it was Nikola Tesla, Thomas Alva Edison, John D. Rockefeller, and Henry Ford that dragged our collective consciousness forward and into the future. Andy Grove, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg have all played key roles in making computerized technology a lot more accessible to the lot of us during this current computer industry boom that we find ourselves in. The question that one cannot help but ponder when considering human accomplishment on this scale is the following: what part of our human psychology acts as the catalyst for the significant contributions that these great people and their respective civilizations have made to our society as a whole? Continue reading The beauty of human emotion
Since the invention of language, people have frequently used the qualities of inanimate objects to describe some of the most desirable human traits. “As good as gold”, “as solid as a rock’, “as tough as nails”, and in the words of famed ESPN SportsCenter™ anchor – Stuart Scott (may the good Lord rest his soul) – “as cool as the other side of the pillow”. These are a few examples of the general trend which uses the characteristics of inanimate objects as metaphors for desirable characteristics that we humans would like to embody. While all the above stated character traits are very desirable, it doesn’t take long to realize that attempting to embody the characteristics of any single one of the objects mentioned above is insufficient to live a fully balanced life as a human being. It is true that it is good to be as physically tough as nails if you are a martial artist who finds him or herself in a caged octagon opposite another person whose sole purpose in life for the next 25 minutes is to cause you as much pain as possible. However, that same physical toughness won’t really help you when it is time to have your first awkward conversation about sexual intercourse with your 13 year old son or daughter. Always being as “good as gold” could actually get you killed in the ghettos of Southside Queens, or fired in the corporate world… one must know when to be “bad” in order to survive in such tough environments. The above logic and rationale therefore begs the following question: is there any single inanimate thing or object that possess all the characteristics one can embody to aid growth in almost every area of life? I have pondered this question for many years and have picked the minds of some of the most philosophically brilliant people I know in search of an answer. As fate would have it, the best answer I could find to this riddle came from spending a Saturday afternoon watching video clips of Bruce Lee and Muhammad Ali on YouTube. Allow me to share what I have settled on as a solution to this riddle after many years of thought, intellectual discourse with others who have gained my respect, and a Saturday afternoon spent watching video clips of icons in the martial arts. Continue reading Be formless, shapeless… be like water
Many ancient warrior cultures such as the Spartans and Aztecs worshipped strength as the ultimate virtue that any human could aspire to. The surface reason for this is readily apparent because unlike in our modern times, physical combat was the accepted method for settling disputes back then. It follows therefore, that the more physically strong or battle hardened you were in those times, the more successful your life became because your strength furnished you with the ability to fend off rivals who threatened your eminence or position in life. Being a strong individual or empire in those days also gave you the resources required to snatch the property and possessions of other people and/or city states in order to fulfil the primal desire to expand reach and power. As important as it was to show strength in those ancient times, it was perhaps even more important to avoid a show of weakness as that could literally mean certain death. For example, a show of weakness in battle could mean the difference between leaving the battlefield with your life and limbs intact, or taking a lethal bronze sword through the jaw as your lack of confidence would arm your opponent with the requisite boldness to strike with deadly intentions. All of this might sound very barbaric to those of us living in the modern world today but society was much more blatantly ruthless and machiavellian back then. The fact that our world and the people that inhabit it have now become much more refined, begs the following question: is the need for strength now a thing of bygone eras? In the much more physically and socially forgiving environments that we all now live in, is the need for strength still just as important? Continue reading In search of the ultimate virtue…
Fear has been an integral part of the human emotional experience and psyche since the dawn of time. Every human being alive intimately understands the sensation of fear because it is literally wired into our DNA, and all of us have almost certainly felt it at one point or another. It is the emotion that makes your heart skip a beat when your mind registers a threat to your physical integrity. Fear can make your stomach churn, make you sweat profusely, and make your voice quiver unnecessarily as your heart beats faster than required. Fear can also temporarily paralyze a person and strip the brightest and most capable people of all confidence and verve. One of America’s greatest presidents – Franklin Delano Roosevelt – thoroughly understood how debilitating fear could be and this prompted him to famously tell the American public during one of his speeches that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. Right… if fear is so bad, why has the process of evolution allowed it to linger ever so strongly in our human minds? Why haven’t those of us who feel fear (pretty much all of us) been ruthlessly eradicated by the unforgiving process of natural selection? Continue reading Transcending your Fears
According to the age old saying, “Ignorance is bliss”. This implies that we can hope to stay blissfully happy if we remain ignorant of life’s inevitable pitfalls… or so the saying would want to make us believe. To be honest it sounds correct on the surface. After all, when you don’t know how ruthless and unfair the world can be, you are in effect shielded from the mental torment that such knowledge brings. When you don’t know how hard becoming a surgeon or mastering a musical instrument really is, you are more apt to paint a pleasurable vision of these accomplishments with a naive disregard for the intense hard work and drudgery these disciplines require over extended periods of time. When you don’t know how hard it is to love the same person for 30+ years, you are more likely to fetishize the idea of holy matrimony. On the other side of the coin, knowledge of a potentially negative outcome can make us fearful and skittish. For instance, fighters who have previously been knocked out in a combat sport become less likely to take the calculated risks needed for victory in future battles. People who have been fired from previous jobs refrain from asserting themselves at the next one for fear of repeating the same fate. Athletes returning from a serious injury sustained in their competitive sport of choice often lose the verve that once made them unstoppable. At first glance all these points seem to validate the “ignorance is bliss” cliche… but is this really true? Does the saying – ignorance is bliss – really stand up to intensely thoughtful scrutiny on a deeper level? Continue reading Is ignorance really bliss?