Andrew (perspectivism) wrote,

The Blissful Hero

Laurence Boldt penned Zen and the Art of Making A Living, easily the most enthralling career guide on the planet. kmo points to it all the time.

It's strange to see Laurence Boldt suddenly get all Ayn Rand, 'deriving' ethics from The Fundamental Alternative. Where he takes it is splendid enough that I've typed it up here:


The honest person must square up to the choice: To be or not to be. Among the living, there are but two kinds of people, those who have said YES to life and those who have ducked the question.

That which says YES to life, we call the heroic view of life. That which ducks the question: the anti-heroic. The heroic YES must be total, unequivocal -- the affirmation of a love that completely embraces human life exactly as it is. Anti-heroic avoidance is born of fear. It gives rise to a deep guilt, a gnawing self-contempt. It endeavors to build an abstract ideational world that emphasizes either the "good" or the "bad", but neither Pollyanna positivism nor cynical resignation are intellectually honest.

In life's work, bliss and sacrifice are two sides of the same coin, complementary opposites. It took disciplined effort to produce beauty in art, music, or the presentation of an evening meal. What is most pleasing to our senses often comes from meticulous effort. George Bernard Shaw said, "This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a a mighty one..." The joy is the bliss, the being used, the sacrifice. Shaw is saying that if we want to know the greatest joy in life, we ought to dedicate ourselves to a purpose we see as a mighty-heroic-valuable-meaningful one and give our very all to it.

Today we seek quick happiness, not lasting bliss. We want to have it all. Though we have been told of agony and ecstasy, of losing oneself to save oneself, we run from the pain of the world. We build isolating idealistic bubbles around ourselves, thick shells designed to keep out the pain of the world. In our effort to block out the pain, we miss the bliss.

Reclaim the bliss! Step out of roles and obligations, habits, and being "right". Step out of convention. Feel the breeze, dance naked in the moonlight, move freely, spontaneously, blissfully. It feels good out here.

You say yes to life, with all of its pain and beauty, horror and majesty, sorrow and bliss. It is good that life exists. It's as simple as that. You can do all you can to make the world a better place, but remember: that comes out of acceptance, not out of rejection. Love in its truest form is without condition. It accepts life exactly as it is. Paradoxically, love is also the strongest force of change.

Zen wants us to be the Mother of All Things, to embrace everything exactly as it is. To see all that is as "my will being done on earth". Total acceptance. Zen also asks us to be the Father of Creative Movement, to exert the will to transform, to change, to improve, to evolve. So, in this understanding, we can say with Lao Tzu, "Know the masculine, but keep to the feminine". Act for change from the embrace of things as they are. This is the only action or creative movement. All else is reaction.

(Zen and the Art of Making A Living, pp. 114-7, heavily edited)
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