"We will develop and cultivate the liberation of mind by lovingkindness -- make it our vehicle, make it our basis, stabilize it, exercise ourselves in it, and fully perfect it." The Buddha

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Why Love is Strength Aplenty

"Those skilled in warfare cultivate the Way, and preserve the Law; therefore, they govern victory and defeat." Sun Tzu

Today, let's go on an intellectual exploration, beyond Vietnamese-American issues.

When I was young, I used to think that strength is a matter of physical power that culminates to the use of military power. Whoever has the most lead (and gold) wins. In many respects, this isn't wrong, except in the one respect that matters most: longevity. The point of view I was missing was time. Time is the ultimate power and equalizer, not military might.

Throughout history, military might seemed to rule. But that's only half the story. The other half is how many military powers ruled. Numerous. Dead leaves piled upon dead leaves. There is no constancy. Hated rulers invariably experienced bad endings for themselves. Yet ruthless individuals vied for power as if they could live forever. They couldn't. For those ruthless individuals, power usually starts no earlier than when they are 40 years old. How many more years can they live, even if I were generous enough to give them the benefit of hanging onto power -- despite their enemies -- until their miserable death? Another 40 years? Considering the stress they're continuously under, I would say less. This is like rulers who started their reign in 1980 but now are out of power and forgotten by 2020. The world could handle them, and certainly the natural world could handle them. They represent a thin sliver, barely visible, along the wide grand spectrum of time.

In contrast, what is relatively constant and what lives on since the dawn of recorded time is civilization, the outcome of civilizing, from acts of outstanding wisdom, refinement, and effectiveness such that they produce more than the daily necessities. Civilization is the social and cultural advancement of a nation, people, planet. We aren't completely there yet but we will get there eventually. Civilization is the product of the human brain, what it is aptly evolved to accomplish. Our minds are wired for teamwork and organization that are formidable against any other species on earth, even within ourselves. Evil individuals can try to do their best to thwart its progress but it would be like them trying to "catch the deluge in a paper cup." Good leadership is no guarantee of success, and far less likely in scenarios of bad leadership. Therefore, no matter how bleak the current situation seems to be, the mission of human beings has always been to advance our will, which is the desire for a better tomorrow, such as for our children. Some generations might be unsuccessful temporarily, but that doesn't mean our natural human inclination and effort had ever stopped.

Nature, i.e., the natural world, is breathtakingly beautiful. It can also be terrifyingly heartless. More relevantly, nature is mysterious, tricky, even deceiving. It is coy and evasive when it comes to revealing its inner workings. Nature demands every living being to do things right, or else it unfeelingly doesn't return a positive result, or worse. In short, nature is one huge game of competition, where the ones who survive and thrive are the ones who figured out the game the best. But when those ones feel dominant about their place in the current environment, nature changes it up again. Who was first is now last, and who was last is now first. Astronomers look far and wide to see if there are other life forms in the universe. So far it has been a futile search. A variable that we must take into consideration is the element of time, a facet that is wider than any galaxy. It's a possibility other life forms had come and gone long before we evolved into who we are. And it's a possibility that other life forms will come into existence long after we are all gone. The instrument of change that nature uses is time. Without time, nothing changes, and that is actually a bad thing.

For the time being, we human beings have our own instrument that leverages our skill to discover new solutions to existing problems: our creative minds that cooperate with each other through communication. The significance of each additional person isn't a simple plus one, but each person added has a multiplier effect due to the sharing and building onto old ideas. Thus, a few individuals might not find the answer but the likelihood of resolving a tough problem -- name any problem -- when a million people are involved is actually quite good. I wouldn't bet against them.

It's interesting to note the definition of the English word "resolve." Resolve has two main meanings. The first meaning is to find an answer to a problem. The second meaning is perseverance and determination, presumably to find an answer to a problem. In essence, if at first you can't figure out something, throw more people, resources, and creativity into it. Keep on doing it until there is success. Would you wager against them? I wouldn't.

The reason I wouldn't bet against success is because possibilities exist. To illustrate, in the game of chess, even with pieces limited to their specific moves, the possible number of games played only after three moves is 121 million. Now if you're curious on what the total number of games would be after all the moves are made, that number is so large that it would dwarf the number of all the atoms in the known universe (which is 10^81, or 10 to the power of 81). But human beings aren't constrained chess pieces on a board with 64 squares. Our moves, as are our ability to effect desired results when multiple people are involved, are practically limitless.

So to not employ everyone as much as possible isn't only unwise but also weak. Seek wisdom and strength, and avoid ignorance and weakness. I once observed a man questioned a woman, "Why can't you be more like a woman?" She promptly replied, "Why can't you be more like a man?" As a man, I can only speak on being a man. I cannot speak on what it's like being a women. As such, there is no such thing as a strong or a weak man. It's like differentiating between a striped or a non-striped tiger. He is either a man or he's not. A man is automatically strong -- strong enough to make sound decisions based on reality, not ego, because he is strong enough to care more about others than himself.

The reason why a man has the strength to go about his business taking care of others is because he has love in his heart. He has the energy to follow through because his purpose is clear. He resolved to himself that his last act wouldn't be to save himself but to save another. Ironically, he would live on past his lifetime in another's heart. So in business, a man understands that the fundamental belief of economics in self-interest is fundamentally flawed. Power doesn't reside in one self but in multiple selves. The purpose of business is to improve society. Everything else is secondary. This contradicts self-interest, which is an idea based on cynicism. Cynicism is a position of fear and weakness. Nobody strong chooses it, much less make it the core principle of an entire discipline. For once, I would like to see economists predict a market crash. They can't. Because the tool they use doesn't accurately measure society and its true motivations. Too many companies are fooled by self-interest as well. A company can be one thing inside and another outside -- weak and fearful, trying to preserve itself -- but the pretty covering it wraps itself around is figuratively flimsy and can be torn away easily. Don't be cynical and go down that pointless path, no matter how many people swear to its validity. Rather, kick away the ladder and bravely move forward. Build a strong foundation based on substance, apart from a facade. Be patient and build each piece while focused on increasing strength, even if slow, such that the sands of time cannot sweep it away.

Self-interest prevents personal refinement in other ways. Too many people are concerned about what others do instead of what they themselves do. Recently I mentioned to a group of Asian Americans that I am helping out Italy with medical supplies, as I did for China when they were in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. On two different occasions, about half of Asian Americans disagreed with me. They reminded me about racist Italians blaming and attacking Asians. They said people would laugh at me for being so naive. I immediately left that cynical Asian group. I was disappointed in them. First of all, people laughing at me for being myself doesn't affect me one iota. I know my true worth. My goal is to help those in need. If being laughed at is part of it, then so be it. Second, love is unconditional. It transcends race, gender, income, etc. If we Asians only protect and promote ourselves, how are we better than the racists? We would not be better. And third, being selfish and petty is a position of fear and weakness. How can I call myself a man if I think small and act with fear and weakness? Personally, I gain renewed energy when I support others. I walk with more vigor, purpose, determination. Few things make me happier and more satisfied than to know what I did helped others in some way. I love the feeling! When it comes to other people and the unknown, I move with confidence and strength. But when it comes to myself, I move with caution, prudence, and deliberateness. I want to ensure my actions are of benefit. I don't want to do more harm than good. I want to act with plenty of love because that is how I know I am in a position of strength.

Therefore, in lieu of choosing fear, weakness, and self-interest, shape your world with great effectiveness by choosing love. Our inherent motivation to cooperate with other people is love. Working hard and being useful are acts of love. Civilization is the culmination of love. When love ends, so too our society as we know it. See Sir Isaac Newton's first three laws of physics in his book, Principia Mathematica Philosophiae Naturalis, published in 1687. I believe from a social and cultural perspective, the first mover was an act of love. Someone was strong and fearless. He or she decided to plant the seed of civilization.

But we don't stop at the first brilliant move. We must think several moves ahead. To perpetuate what we want to happen past our lifetimes depends on whether our descendants will take up the mantle. That would depend on their own desires and motivations, even when we're not around. That would, in turn, mean love has to pervade in our approach teaching and leading people. The political philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli admitted that although fear is a pragmatic and at times necessary means of leadership, love is always the preferred goal. He apparently understood that when the source of that fear is gone, then people will tend to do the opposite. In fact, Machiavelli expounded that the worst position to be in is to be hated. As a leader, be anything, Machiavelli warned, but be hated.

What is the opposite of hate? Love. So why be lazy and use fear? Instead, be patient and wise and think bigger. Strive for love, my friends. You will find tremendous strength surrounding yourself with love, both internally and externally. Let others discover for themselves your true self. The more they dig, the more they reveal the authentic foundation of your strength. Imagine them discovering what's really hidden in your closet: more love. For in the world you are truly a light that cannot be hidden. If the world becomes darker, your light shines even brighter! You can sleep well at night. You can smile during the day. Extraordinary strength and achievement, even in the martial arts, can be found in the principles of Sun Tzu, the enlightened military general who is still widely read to this day, 2500 years later. He is immortal and timeless. Sun Tzu said, "The greatest skill isn't to win 100 times in 100 battles, but to win without fighting at all." Because this magnanimous accomplishment went beyond the ordinary victories often obnoxiously touted by military might, it takes more than mere strategic acumen. It requires a deep well of wisdom that can only be filled by a big heart. And to have a big heart requires neither talent nor training, only the decision to fortify and strengthen a heart with much love each and every day. ๐Ÿ’›

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"Irrigators channel waters; fletchers straighten arrows; carpenters shape wood; the wise master themselves." The Buddha