The conceptual framework for a man's search for meaning

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When Phobos Strikes Again, Racism and the Return of Hope

June 27th, 2013 by dimpledbrain

Croesus is a rich king in ancient Greece who is quite enamored with his own wealth. When the wise man Solon comes to visit his kingdom, Croesus asks Solon if he had ever seen greater opulence than his own. Solon replies that birds like peacocks are incomparable in their beauty. Croesus disagrees, and he tries to impress Solon with a list of vanquished foes and claimed territories. Solon still disagrees, telling Croesus that the happiest man he had ever met was a peasant in Athens. He explains that the peasant worked hard, raised a family, and was content with what he had. Croesus takes this as an insult and Solon leaves. (source: wikipedia)

And Solon answered: “The observation of the numerous misfortunes that attend all conditions forbids us to grow insolent upon our present enjoyments, or to admire a man’s happiness that may yet, in course of time, suffer change. For the uncertain future has yet to come, with all variety of future; and him only to whom the divinity has [guaranteed] continued happiness until the end we may call happy.” (Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets, Nassim Nicholas Taleb)

Previously we talked about ‘the greatest emotion’ i.e. fear and some practical steps to overcome it. Readers may recall that we use the analogy of a new driver to illustrate the role that fear plays and how through unfortunate turn of event this fear could stick in our mind. Over the long run, our futile attempt to avoid any similar experience will paradoxically cause us to encounter more of it; hence “what we focus on is what we usually get.”

If at this point we naively think that by overcoming failure we can overcome fear, we are dead wrong. Success too can produce fear.

Suppose that I was born with a silver spoon and everything in life turned out as well as I would like them to be. In those areas of life, I might grow intolerant of others not achieving the minimum standard that I deem appropriate, i.e. when I start drawing a circle and label everything outside as ‘stupid’. This intolerance actually stems from my fear – because I am afraid of even imagining what it would be like if I was like that. The intolerance serves as a convenient shield over my vulnerability.

Recall the incidents when we scold others – is it out of our own fear? Why do some people hold onto extreme ideologies? Why do people resort to racism?

Now I am not a proponent of mediocrity. All I am just saying is that such rebuke should come with the understanding and reminder that (a) we are lucky not to be in that position and (b) it’s just for that person’s own good.

Indeed, the wisest among us would note, “anyone who has truly transcended a fear doesn’t look down upon those who haven’t because they don’t have anything to fear.” That’s true wisdom.

When I scour through ancient texts and modern scripts, I find the same consistent understanding. The immortal philosopher, Kahlil Gibran once said, “When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.” Much in the same light, Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture echoes, “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.”

What is left then for us to boast?







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