Tag Archives: thinking

Are some people better than others?

My brother and I had a friendly discussion the other day. The discussion revolved around the question of, ‘are some people better than others?’

What does your gut instinct tell you right now? Can you admit that someone is better than someone else? Or, do you believe that we’re all equal?

My brother’s position was that no one is better than anyone else. We are all equals in his eyes. This seems very reasonable, I’ll admit. It feels like the right belief to have. In a way, I agree with this statement.

The neighbor is equal to the CEO of that big business, and the panhandler is equal to the friendly grocery bagging lady. No one is better than anyone else, and we all have the potential to do great (whatever your definition of great is) things with our lives.

On the other hand, I couldn’t help but feel that something was wrong with this statement of everyone being equal. I wasn’t comfortable admitting that Elon Musk was equal to me. I didn’t believe that Aristotle and Plato were equal to me. How could Albert Einstein, Voltaire and Ernest Hemingway be equal to me? It didn’t sit correctly. So, I ended up arguing for the side that some people are better than others.

I was okay admitting that Aristotle was a better person with me. I was perfectly comfortable saying that the other great minds of human history were better than me too. What’s wrong with that? I felt comfortable with the idea. Some people have done more for humanity than others.

As much as we want to believe that we’re all equal, I can’t help but think that we’re definitely not equal. Some people are better than others. Are you okay saying that? Does your ego allow you to think that?

Where do you stand?

Do you have real power?

What is real power? How do you define power?

Is it how many people you are in charge of (at work or at home)? Or, is it the ability to control the circumstances in your life?

It seems like real power is the ability to control and influence the direction your life is going in. If you’re just going with the flow, then you really have zero say in the outcome of your life. That definitely can’t be power.

In the major areas of life, do you have control of the direction it’s going in, or are you simply on a boat going where the water current takes you? I try to think about this, in regards to health, finances, and relationships/ social life.

What influences are you letting yourself be exposed to and which ones are you blocking out? The influences you let in will definitely play a huge role in the direction of your life.

These are ideas that I felt like thinking about today (Sunday).

As the years pass by, and technology continues to advance, the number of things not in our control is going to continue to shrink.

Epictetus and the Banquet of life

If you remain focused and really put in the effort to live a good life, then opportunities will present themselves to you. It is almost inevitable. Opportunities that you never imagined possible only months prior.

Sometimes it’s good to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself. Other times it is important to take a step back, to see your overall dream picture, and realize that passing up on an opportunity is a better choice. It can be a difficult decision, but better for your overall goals.

For example, an awesome late night networking event may present itself to you, but you know that right now your overall goal is to perform well at a new and/ or current job. Staying out late, on a weekday, will definitely hurt your productivity the following day.

As awesome and fun as the networking opportunity sounds, the correct choice is to pass it by and wait for it to present itself to you at a later time. Preferably once you are accustomed to your job, and can afford to show up to work on 4 hours of sleep, because you already have the hang of everything.

On the other hand, if you’ve been at your job for years and know all the ins and outs, maybe it is a poor idea to pass on the awesome networking event. It could present more benefits to you than a regular well rested work day. Showing up with less than 4 hours of sleep, might be a reasonable trade off for one day.

It’s up to you to analyze your current circumstances and take into consideration the overall picture of what you are trying to do.

Here’s what Epictetus has to say about it:

“Remember to conduct yourself in life as if at a banquet. As something being passed around comes to you, reach out your hand and take a moderate helping. Does it pass you by? Don’t stop it. It hasn’t yet come? Don’t burn in desire for it, but wait until it arrives in front of you. Act this way with children, a spouse, toward position, with wealth – one day it will make you worthy of a banquet with the gods.”

-Epictetus

Will Durant – A Shameless Worship of Heroes

Who are your heroes? Who are your icons? Do you practice the worship of heroes that will do you no good in life?

Below is a powerful chapter by Will Durant that claims we should worship the geniuses of human history. I agree. Somewhere along the way we forgot about that, and decided to worship icons that do nothing for us. The Jersey Shore cast, Kardashians, sports teams (even my precious Los Angeles Lakers) and the lifestyle that rappers/ musicians sing about. A little of all that is cool, if you must, but worshiping rap lyrics and TV characters can’t be good for your life.

How about the worshiping of heroes, such as Aristotle, Voltaire, Seneca, Franklin, Lincoln and Einstein? Where did that go? Those guys will do you tremendous good if you were to worship them and follow their advice regarding how to live life. Like Will Durant talks about, somewhere along the way we forgot about that. We lost touch on what’s truly important. We lost touch on the true matters of life. Forget what the television is peddling, or what the politicians peddle for you to learn in school, how about the geniuses that shaped our modern world?

Imagine how great our lives would be if we all worshiped the geniuses of human history. Would we even have a ghetto part of town? Would we have mass shootings and terrorist attacks? Would people commonly use drugs to escape their miserable lives?

It’s hard to factually say, but all those cases would probably be much much much much much less.

Do you want a better life? How about learning from some of the greatest thinkers who have dedicated their entire waking hours to thinking about what constitutes a better life.

Do you want to be rich? There are geniuses who have mastered that as well. Do the names Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger ring a bell?

Do you want to be fit and/ or really healthy? How about checking out what the cutting-edge researchers are saying about sugar, exercise and the other health areas.

Below is the exact chapter by Will Durant. The entire, short, paragraph has been copied below. Enjoy it, and I hope it sparks something in you.

Of the many ideals which in youth gave life a meaning and radiance missing from the chilly perspectives of middle age, one at least has remained with me as bright and satisfying as ever before – the shameless worship of heroes. In an age that would level everything and reverence nothing, I take my stand with Victorian Carlyle, and light my candles, like Mirandola before Plato’s image, at the shrines of great men.

I say shameless, for I know how unfashionable it is now to acknowledge in life or history any genius loftier than ourselves. Our democratic dogma has leveled not only all voters but all leaders; we delight to show that living geniuses are only mediocrities, and that dead ones are myths. If we may believe historian H.G. Wells, Caesar was a numbskull and Napoleon a fool. Since it is contrary to good manners to exalt ourselves, we achieve the same result by slyly indicating how inferior are the great men of the earth. In some of us, perhaps, it is a noble and merciless asceticism, which would root out of our hearts the last vestige of worship and adoration, lest the old gods should return and terrify us again.

For my part, I cling to this final religion, and discover in it a content and stimulus more lasting than came from the devotional ecstasies of youth. How natural it seemed to greet the great Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore by that title which so long had been given him by his countrymen, Gurudeva – (“Revered Master”) – for why should we stand reverent before waterfalls and mountain tops, or a summer moon on a quiet sea, and not before the highest miracle of all: a man who is both great and good? So many of us are mere talents, clever children in the play of life, that when genius stands in our presence we can only bow down before it as an act of God, a continuance of creation. Such men are the very life-blood of history, to which politics and industry are but frame and bones.

Part cause of the dry scholasticism from which we were suffering when James Harvey Robinson summoned us to humanize our knowledge was the conception of history as an impersonal flow of figures and “facts,” in which genius played so inessential a role that histories prided themselves upon ignoring them. It was to Karl Marx above all that this theory of history was due; it was bound up with a view of life that distrusted the exceptional man, envied superior talent, and exalted the humble as the inheritors of the earth. In the end men began to write history as if it had never been lived at all, as if no drama had ever walked through it; no comedies or tragedies of struggling or frustrated men. The vivid narratives of Gibbon and Taine gave way to ash-heaps of irrelevant erudition in which every fact was correct, documented – and dead.

No, the real history of man is not in prices and wages, nor in elections and battles, nor in the even tenor of the common man; it is in the lasting contributions made by geniuses to the sum of human civilization and culture. The history of France is not, if one may say it with all courtesy, the history of the French people; the history of those nameless men and women who tilled the soil, cobbled the shoes, cut the cloth, and peddled the goods (for these things have been done everywhere and always) – the history of France is the record of her exceptional men and women, her inventors, scientists, statesmen, poets, artists, musicians, philosophers and saints, and of the additions which they made to the technology and wisdom, the artistry and decency, of their people and mankind. And so with every country, so with the world; its history is properly the history of its great men. What are the rest of us but willing brick and mortar in their hands, that they may make a race a little finer than ourselves? Therefore I see history not as a dreary scene of politics and carnage, but as the struggle of man through genius with the obdurate inertia of matter and the baffling mystery of mind; the struggle to understand, control and remake himself and the world.

I see men standing on the edge of knowledge, and holding the light a little farther ahead; men carving marble into forms ennobling men; men molding peoples into better instruments of greatness; men making a language of music and music out of language; men dreaming of finer lives – and living them. Here is a process of creation more vivid than in any myth, a godliness more real than in any creed.

To contemplate such men, to insinuate ourselves through study into some modest discipleship to them, to watch them at their work and warm ourselves at the fire that consumes them, this is to recapture some of the thrill that youth gave us when we thought, at the altar or in the confessional, that we were touching or hearing God. In that dreamy youth we believed that life was evil, and that only death could usher us into paradise. We were wrong; even now, while we live, we may enter it. Every great book, every work of revealing art, every record of a devoted life is a call and an open sesame to the Elysian Fields. Too soon we extinguished the flame of our hope and our reverence.

Let us change the icons, and light the candles again. -Will Durant, Chapter 1 – The Greatest Minds And Ideas Of All Time