Thursday, 24 July 2014

7 The Ten Golden Rules on Living the Good Life

7. Be a Responsible Human BeingApproach yourself with honesty and thoroughness; maintain a kind of spiritual hygiene; stop the blame-shifting for your errors and shortcomings. Be honest with yourself and be prepared to assume responsibility and accept consequences. This rule comes from Pythagoras, the famous mathematician and mystic, and has special relevance for all of us because of the common human tendency to reject responsibility for wrongdoing. Very few individuals are willing to hold themselves accountable for the errors and mishaps that inevitably occur in life.  Instead, they tend to foist these situations off on others complaining of circumstances “beyond their control.” There are, of course, situations that occasionally sweep us along, against which we have little or no recourse. But the far more typical tendency is to find ourselves in dilemmas of our own creation — dilemmas for which we refuse to be held accountable. How many times does the average person say something like, “It really wasn’t my fault. If only John or Mary had acted differently then I would not have responded as I did.” Cop-outs like these are the standard reaction for most people. They reflect an infinite human capacity for rationalization, finger-pointing, and denial of responsibility. Unfortunately, this penchant for excuses and self-exemption has negative consequences. People who feed themselves a steady diet of exonerating fiction are in danger of living life in bad faith — more, they risk corrupting their very essence as a human being.

9...The Ten Golden Rules on Living the Good Life

9 The Ten Golden Rules on Living the Good Life

9. Don’t Do Evil to Others. Evildoing is a dangerous habit, a kind of reflex too quickly resorted to and too easily justified that has a lasting and damaging effect upon the quest for the good life. Harming others claims two victims—the receiver of the harm, and the victimizer, the one who does harm.
Contemporary society is filled with mixed messages when it comes to the treatment of our fellow human beings. The message of the Judaeo-Christian religious heritage, for instance, is that doing evil to others is a sin, extolling the virtues of mercy, forgiveness, charity, love, and pacifism. Yet, as we all know, in practice these inspiring ideals tend to be in very short supply. Modern society is a competitive, hard-bitten environment strongly inclined to advocate self-advantage at the expense of the “other.” Under these conditions, it is not surprising that people are often prepared to harm their fellow human beings. These activities are frequently justified by invoking premises such as “payback,” “leveling scores,” or “doing unto others, before they can do unto you.” Implicit in all of these phrases is the notion that malice towards others can be justified on either a reciprocal basis or as a pre-emptive gesture in advance of anticipated injury. What is not considered here are the effects these attempts to render evil have upon the person engaging in such attempts. Our culture has naively assumed that “getting even” is an acceptable response to wrongdoing — that one bad-turn deserves another. What we fail to understand is the psychological, emotional, and spiritual impact victimizing others has upon the victimizer.

10 The Ten Golden Rules on Living the Good Life

10. Kindness towards others tends to be rewardedKindness to others is a good habit that supports and reinforces the quest for the good life. Helping others bestows a sense of satisfaction that has two beneficiaries—the beneficiary, the receiver of the help, and the benefactor, the one who provides the help.
Many of the world’s great religions speak of an obligation to extend kindness to others. But these deeds are often advocated as an investment toward future salvation — as the admission ticket to paradise. That’s not the case for the ancient Greeks, however, who saw kindness through the lens of reason, emphasizing the positive effects acts of kindness have not just on the receiver of kindness but to the giver of kindness as well, not for the salvation of the soul in the afterlife, but in this life. Simply put, kindness tends to return to those who do kind deeds, as Aesop demonstrated in his colourful fable of a little mouse cutting the net to free the big lion. Aesop lived in the 6th century B.C. and acquired a great reputation in antiquity for the instruction he offered in his delightful tales. Despite the passage of many centuries, Aesop’s counsels have stood the test of time because in truth, they are timeless observations on the human condition; as relevant and meaningful today as they were 2,500 years ago.