After too many readings to remember, I’m still at a loss to summarize my thoughts. The difficulty is that this is an area of my life with which I currently struggle daily.
There is a basic challenge-level to reality: There is a stone in my shoe. It’s time to mow the lawn. This bill should be paid. I’m great at handling huge numbers of these basic sorts of challenges. Unfortunately, the positive thinking of chapter 17 doesn’t give me a handle on solutions to basic challenges. …and I am completely swamped with these sorts of basic challenges.
Don’t conflate basic with easy. All of the easy, basic challenges I have under control; They are already done, or are managed by reliable systems. What I’m left with are the remainders—a pile of difficult, basic challenges. Things for which positive thinking still gives me no purchase.
I don’t have much of a grasp on this chapter. But then, that’s why I’m studying this book and using its chapters as jumping-off points for my thoughts.
This leads me to the point I wish above all to emphasize, namely, that when a person has reached a given stage of unsatisfactory use and functioning, his habit of ‘end-gaining’ will prove to be the impeding factor in his attempts to profit by any teaching method whatsoever. Ordinary teaching methods, in whatever sphere, cannot deal with this impeding factor, indeed, they tend actually to encourage ‘end-gaining.’ The instruction given to the golfer of our illustration to keep his eyes on the ball is typical of the kind of specific instruction given by teachers generally for the purpose of eradicating specific defects in their pupils, and, as we have seen in this case, this instruction was a stimulus to him to try harder than ever to gain his end, and so to misdirect his efforts worse than ever.
~ FM Alexander, The Use of the Self, pp66-67, 1932 (emphasis added)
I think there’s a lot more context necessary for that to make sense. One could go read the book; It’s small. But setting that aside for the moment.
Alexander raises the important point that what feels right may in fact be wrong. So the harder I try to do something correctly, by trying to do what feels right, the more likely I am to reinforce doing what is wrong. This starts to make more sense once I understood that the Brain is a Multi-layer Prediction Model. Once something is modeled incorrectly—when I move this way, it feels right—it’s going to be really difficult to change that model.
And here I would like to add a word of warning to those I am trying to help, for a study of the letters in which the writers tell of experiencing difficulty in understanding, show signs of having been written after a quick reading rather than a close and careful study of the subject matter. I read recently an article suggesting that people should practise reading quickly, although the habit of too quick reading in which understanding becomes dominated by speed — that royal road to the physical and mental derangement of mankind — is an only too common failing today. This is only one example of the habit of too quick reaction to stimuli in general, and to its prevalence may be traced most of the misunderstandings, misconception and misdirecrion of effort manifested by the great majority of people today in conducting matters relating to the body politic.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer has now classified overnight shift work as a Group 2A carcinogen. This means that staying up late repeatedly, and working overnight, is a strong enough cancer-causing agent to be lumped in with lead exposure and UVA radiation. That might sound crazy, but there s now a ton of scientific data showing exactly how this happens.
A while back I wrote a piece on Sleep. It turned into three parts and after writing it, I felt I had only scratched the surface. Then I stumbled over this book.
I read the book and it’s really good! I blasted through it agreeing all the way. If you know everything about sleep, you’ll still enjoy seeing it all laid out in an approachable fashion. If you have NOT YET MASTERED SLEEP — wait, what is wrong with you?! Sleep is the single most important thing in your life. It is the activity you spend the most aggregated time doing. Remind me why you have not spent time studying sleep and improving yours?
In Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Howl” (1955), Moloch is used as a metaphor for capitalism and industrial civilization, and for America more specifically. The word is repeated many times throughout Part II of the poem, and begins (as an exclamation of “Moloch!”) in all but the first and last five stanzas of the section.
I just recently, (in the scale of my life,) stumbled over an explicit reference to Moloch. I was all like, “Moloch? Who the what is that? *bookmark*”
I finally got around to reading the WikiPedia article and realized that there’s a huge amount of Moloch wriggled into and behind a ton of the classic fiction which I love.
If there is such a thing as a great scientist … that greatness can certainly not be transferred by what is commonly called teaching. What the disciples learn are the mannerisms, tricks of the trade, ways to make a career, or perhaps, in the rarest cases, a critical view of the meaning of scientific evidence and its interpretation. A real teacher can teach through his example — this is what the ducklings get from their mothers — or, most infrequently, through the intensity and the originality of his view or vision of nature.
For this reader follows the poet not the way a horse obeys his driver but the way a hunter follows his prey, and a glimpse suddenly gained into what lies beyond the apparent freedom of the poet, into the poet’s compulsion and passivity, can enchant him more than all the elegance of good technique and cultivated style.
I’ve now read the entire book several times, and Chapter 6 never ceases to inspire!
I may not be the strongest. I may not be the fastest. But I’ll be damned if I’m not trying my hardest.
It ofttimes requires heroic courage to face fruitless effort, to take up the broken strands of a life-work, to look bravely toward the future, and proceed undaunted on our way. But what, to our eyes, may seem hopeless failure is often but the dawning of a greater success. It may contain in its debris the foundation material of a mighty purpose, or the revelation of new and higher possibilities.
Failure is often the turning-point, the pivot of circumstance that swings us to higher levels. It may not be financial success, it may not be fame; it may be new draughts of spiritual, moral or mental inspiration that will change us for all the later years of our life. Life is not really what comes to us, but what we get from it.
~ Chapter 14, “Failure as a Success”, from Self Control, Its Kingship and Majesty, by William George Jordan, 1907
The application in the Ways is to falls in life. To be able to take a disaster or a great failure, with the whole personality, without shrinking back from it, like the big smack with which the judo man hits the ground. Then to rise at once.
Not to be appalled at a moral fall. Yet it is not that it does not matter. The judo man tries by every means not to be thrown, but when he is thrown it does not hurt him and in a sense it does not matter. It matters immensely, and yet it does not matter.
‘Falling seven times, and getting up eight.’
~ “Falling”, from Zen and the Ways, by Trevor Leggett, 1978