2 min read
In our daily interactions, we often try to consider what elements combine to create real "wisdom." The challenge is that wisdom is really a mental construct. That is to say that it is something that exists only in our minds. Other constructs include motivation, creativity, and intelligence.
Mental constructs are hard to consider, yet we know that they are there. We primarily understand and accept them through outward behaviors and our actions.
The following quote from Robert Thurman tries to help crystalize exact what constitutes true wisdom.
Wisdom is tolerance of cognitive dissonance.
One of the reasons I love this quote is the inclusion of the term "cognitive dissonance." Cognitive dissonance is the stress or imbalance that occurs mentally when we try to hold two competing thoughts in our mind. True learning occurs when there is this imbalance in our mind and actions.
An example of cognitive dissonance would be a person that considers themselves to be environmentally friendly, yet they drive a vehicle that does not have good gas mileage.
A lower level example of this would be regularly cooking with specific tools and methods, and then trying to cook food from a different region. Imagine regularly cooking pasta, and then trying to cook some Vietnamese food with a wok and unfamiliar ingredients.
In Thurman's quote, he suggest that true wisdom comes from this imbalance or stress that occurs as we learn new things. It is in this discomfort, in these attempts to learn and struggle that we achieve true wisdom.
2 min read
We've all been put to sleep by somebody who's told us all these wonderful facts that didn't matter because information without emotion is not retained.
Emotions play a large part not only in garnering attention, but also in memory and learning. The amygdala (the brain's emotional gatekeeper) imprints memory when experiences evoke strong emotions.
This is why we all remember where we were when the combination of context and emotion helps cement vivid memories. An example would be remembering exactly where you were when the Twin Towers were attacked in 2001.
Keep in mind that this doesn't mean that you should just start a class, lecture, or speech by scaring participants.
Research suggests that it is the emotions aroused, not the personal significance of the event, that makes such events easier to remember.
The memory of strongly emotional images and events may be at the expense of other information that you may intend to focus on. You may also be less likely to remember information if it is followed by something that is strongly emotional.
Some other factors to remember:
In this I believe that Marcus Aurelius is reminding us of our connection to nature, but also identifying a possibility for us to not be over attached to perspectives and actions outside of our own.
As indicated in previous posts, we have a lot that we can learn from our partners, friends, and colleagues. We can also learn from nature and our environment. The challenge is that we need to focus on our own goals and direction in life while striving for a life filled with virtue.
To remain focused on events in your locus of control, the following activity known as "the view from above" is recommended. This is a guided meditation that is aimed at focusing on the bigger picture in life and understanding your role in the world.
3 min read
Thank you to friends Doug Belshaw and Eylan Ezekiel for pointing me to the events for Stoic Week 2016. This year's theme is on "stoicism and love." You can review the handbook for the week's materials here.
The website is full of materials if you're interested in exporing stoicism and possible impacts on your life. I was most intrigued by the self-assessment they provide as you begin this journey. I'll share more on this later.
I start my day with a period of meditation, exercise, and then some reading and journaling. The events of stoic week 2016 will consist of a daily meditation and some written reflections throughout the day.
The iniitial prompt for today is the following:
From Maximus [I have learnt the importance of these things]: to be master of oneself and not carried this way and that; to be cheerful under all circumstances, including illness; a character with a harmonious blend of gentleness and dignity; readiness to tackle the task in hand without complaint; the confidence everyone had that whatever he said he meant and whatever he did was not done with bad intent; never to be astonished or panic-stricken, and never to be hurried or to hang back or be at a loss or downcast or cringing or on the other hand angry or suspicious; to be ready to help or forgive, and to be truthful; to give the impression of someone whose character is naturally upright rather than having undergone correction; the fact that no-one could have thought that Maximus looked down on him, or could have presumed to suppose that he was better than Maximus; and to have great personal charm. – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 1.14
The intent of this prompt from the organizers of Stoic Week is to have us consider our life as an ongoing project, and the journey of ethical self-development.
For me this is an important element of my life as I try to understand, or at least make room for the thoughts and habits that make me who I am. Meditation has helped me to quiet (at times) much of the noise of self-doubt and anxiety. By resetting each morning through meditation and reflection, I try to learn more about myself and who I would like to be.
Learning is a fundamental part of my philosophy and action. Through the aquistion of new knowledge I believe that we can understand and hopefully "change" most anything in our lives.