…Amazon sells books from the greatest thinkers in recorded history for free or nearly free on the kindle store. Aristotle, Plato, Nietzshe, Lao Tzu, Seneca, Jacob Boehme, Julius Ceasar, Tabula Smaragdina and the Corpus Hermeticum from Hermes Trismegistus, even the Bible, the Koran, Bhagavad Gita, the Upanisads, and many others sell in the range of $0-$5. This is unbelievable!
I’d immediately downloaded some as soon as I bought the device (which I bought also because of the free roaming features by the way). I normally read a couple of things in the same time but nowadays I am mostly reading the thoughts of Marcus Aurelius (it was also free).
The key is death. Forgetting this is what makes life an illusion.
Lie down, close your eyes and try to die. Feel the body giving up and drifting away, gather the strength to focus, not to pass out, to stay alert so you can preserve yourself.
Maintain control in the face of the most elemental fear with an irrevocable determination to fight till the very end and not to succumb to nature. With the death of the body the significance of time becomes minimal – you’re still perceiving it but you know it’ll be gone, too. You realize that your life was nothing and that you got it all wrong.
You were dead and now you have the chance to live.
You remember only the small things now. The smallest things you missed; you realize how and where you screwed up. You realize: it was all about control. The control you need now to gather the power to survive this trauma. The rest was just a setting: parents, lovers, enemies, religion, kids, career, home; sogar dein Auto!
If only you had been aware of this!
You realize that this is your last chance to control your destiny. Not to forget! Not to let the experience overwhelm you, not to let it put you to sleep.
You understand: if you identify with what you experience, you are lost. To preserve yourself you must dominate your experience! You! Your mind screams: this is not me!!! Whatever you see and feel: this is not me!
You have always been alone!
And you remember the small details: the conflicts, the love, the hate, the anger, the pride, the shame, the guilt, the lies; …and the fear! That sneaky fear that remained under your radar but you always felt and that you let yourself get used to; all the instances when you forgot, fell asleep and let yourself be used by thoughts and emotions that you never owned.
You were owned!
You have been weak and stupid. You just didn’t know!!! The question of control never even came up. Your whole life was a void and now you see that it amounted to nothing. Only now that it’s gone it has become clear: this moment is the point. This moment has always been the point from the very beginning. What will you do? What can you do?
Are you going to fall asleep now or triumph?
Nobody really understands the greatest minds without this vantage point. Without experiencing this ultimate struggle, everything is just an abstraction, an illusion.
Marcus Aurelius starts his thoughts by taking stock of what he learned from whom. Taking stock of the “small things” where control and balance must be exercised:
Taking the time; thinking before speaking; not to speak unnecessarily; being considerate; not to get angry because of small things; not to be judgmental; not to daydream; not to be passionate; not to succumb to fame and fortune; how to receive compliments and criticism on an even keel; acting in accordance with one’s own nature; not to identify with others, not to be concerned with what others think, understanding and appreciating differences and many other things that require you to use all your powers to preserve yourself, just like on your death bed when it becomes clear what the stakes are.
The greatest lives and the greatest works all exude an intimate aura of death.
This vantage point is what turns mundane activities into rituals and this is what makes the differentiated man. NOT the 80/20 rule, not the ability to introduce balanced scorecards, not the brand message (God forbid: personal band), not executive education programs, celebrity coaches or books by Steve Jobs or Jack Welsh, not a dedication to perfection in product development, not the value investing “philosophy”, not anything in the business domain: these are just settings.
I have really no idea how to finish this one. Now I am going to write business proposals, have some business meetings, the usual stuff. Hopefully I’ll manage to bring an element of life into the whole thing.
Specialization has become a globalized religion. Specialization is a prerequisite not only for survival but for existence! The perception that called it forth, shot it to ontological levels.
We live in a world of specialists with very particular style elements. This world is – by itself- an illusion. A higher vantage point must be actively represented by a different breed so that integration may become possible. Without integration there is only decline and disintegration; disintegration that is prevalent today but obvious only to a few: to the elite.
Specialization without context is simply not credible; it is of course more than credible among those specialists who can’t perceive the context: for them it is the only perceived reality.
There is a reality higher than the horizontal field of specialized areas. In lack of a perceived context the number of the fields of specialization is increasing and the areas of specialization are becoming ever smaller.
Specialists suffer in a constant identity crisis since their identity is almost purely quantitative. If they don’t align to principles of integration, their existence is absurd, since it is based on a contradiction: the more focused their specialization is the more incompetent they are in the embedding system/environment; what/who is the best is defined by pure quantity.
Once we transcend the horizontal plane of specialization,
- leadership consultants are not credible in questions of principles,
- brain surgeons are not credible when it comes to healing,
- people devising new abstractions in physics are not credible in questions of space, time and matter,
- branding technicians are not credible in questions of identity,
- bankers are not credible in economics,
- politicians have no credibility and sensibility to hierarchy and the state (probably since Metternich and Windischgraetz),
- economists are not credible in questions of wealth,
- artists lost their way to directly experience higher realities and turned their attention the opposite way, exhibiting dead animals in formaldehyde,
- philosophers are not credible regarding the Truth,
- psychologists are not credible in questions of consciousness and the root cause of behavior
- business can’t comprehend leadership and
- academia lost its credibility in the question of elitism
- so on and so forth.
The problem is not with specialization of course. The problem is with the lack of willingness to align vertically to the principles providing the foundation for integration. When – driven by arrogance on the one hand and ignorance on the other - representatives of a small area start to think of their particular areas in absolute terms, we know we have a grave problem.
When we recognize that we have reached a stage whereby the fundamentals of the whole system must be challenged and the foundations are accepted by the overwhelming majority as facts that nobody may challenge, we have to make principle based choices; such choices demand leadership.
This question comes up in my conversations more and more often. In this post I will focus only on one single aspect of this question because I think this aspect is somehow missed by most people:
Business does not provide context for proper qualitative differentialtion between men and women; this means that the gender “question” is irrelevant.
If anything, it eliminates qualitative differentiation! In other words: decision making in context of profit does not call for masculine OR feminine qualities! No man or woman is qualified since there is no qualitative factor present. Ironically, the drive for business leadership roles only strengthens the tendency of undifferentiation, all under the aegis of diversity.
The answers to what constitutes virile/masculine or feminine qualities are to be found entirely outside the business domain.
Acknowledging this, and introducing principles (masculine, feminine and others) into the organization thus enabling the emergence of organic hierarchies, where economics are subordinated to its appropriate level, calls for leadership in a higher (than business) sense.
Image source: http://surfeurope.mpora.com/news/top-women-surfers-heading-for-mozambique.html
Honor, loyalty and superiority are terms that everybody tries to somehow mold to the conditions of business.
The business definition of leadership now serves inferior goals, honor is smiled at condescendingly, loyalty ultimately means keep showing up and making compromises for money (profit, quarterly goals, etc.), and superiority is completely quantified.
One can’t see efforts that attempt to transform business to the reality of honor, loyalty and superiority: this would be actual leadership.
Instead: businesses are struggling to live up to even lower level terms like commitment and honesty.
Commitment and honesty have a common denominator.
It is interesting to observe how inventive people get when it comes to avoiding commitment on the lower level of the organic (as opposed to the artificial) hierarchy. The most wide-spread lies in the corporate world are actually connected to the question of commitment.