Sunday, March 13, 2005

Approach Life as a Banquet

"Think of your life as if it were a banquet where you would behave graciously. When dishes are passed to you, extend your hand and help yourself to a moderate portion. If a dish should pass you by, enjoy what is already on your plate. Or if the dish hasn’t been passed to you yet, patiently wait your turn.

Carry over this same attitude of polite restraint and gratitude to your children, spouse, career, and finances. There is no need to yearn, envy, and grab. You will get your rightful portion when it is your time."
- Epictetus

Approach Life As a Banquet...

Epictetus should be required reading in business schools, as his teaching would serve to temper much of the envy, greed, and ambition that might otherwise be in superabundance. Even this one quote can help a business person to realize that it is not polite to gobble up all the customers, but rather that it is better to help and nourish the few that are lifted or gifted from the sweettable of life.

As Epictetus says, all advantage has a price, and some prices are simply too high...

All Advantages Have Their Price
"Is someone enjoying the privileges, opportunities, or honor you desire? ...
Remember: You will never earn the same rewards as others without employing the same methods and investment of time as they do. It is unreasonable to think we can earn rewards without being willing to pay their true price. Those who “win” at something have no real advantage over you, because they had to pay the price for the reward.

It is always our choice whether or not we wish to pay the price for life’s rewards. And often it is best for us not to pay the price, for the price might be our integrity. We could be forced to praise someone who we don't respect."
- Epictetus

How many problems in the world might be solved if people heeded this advice? Ask yourself: Do people kill in order to gain advantage over "competitors"? Is this not too high a price? Do people steal and cheat in order to get the best desserts from the banquet table? All the time! And are they likely to be invited back? Not when found out.
Is being # 1 all it's cracked up to be?
Only when Numero Uno is such an exemplar that it benefits all by their being there.

When those at the top are caring stewards of that which they have been given temporary charge, including those below, then those below are more protective of, and productive for, those above.

Care for What You Happen to Have
Nothing can truly be taken from us. There is nothing to lose. Inner peace begins when we stop saying of things, "I have lost it" and instead say, "It has been returned to where it came from." Have your children died? They are returned to where they came from. Has your mate died? Your mate is returned to where he or she came from. Have your possessions and property been taken from you? They too have been returned to where they came from. Perhaps you are vexed because a bad person took your belongings. But why should it be any concern of yours who gives your things back to the world that gave them to you? The important thing is to take great care with what you have while the world lets you have it, just as a traveler takes care of a room at an inn.

Someone tries to rob you or steal from you. What do you do? Kill them? Would not this be a case of losing your integrity? Why should it be any concern of yours who gives your things back to the world that gave them to you?

No one wants to hear this, since people work hard for what they have...and yet to respond too strongly would be to put oneself on the same, or worse, footing than the person who is behaving badly. One never really knows what kind of situation the person who appears to be behaving badly may be in. What if they were told that your friends or family would be killed if they didn't steal from you? Then you kill them, and only later realize that they merely stole from you, but did so in order to spare your family or friends...

Granted, this is rarely, if ever, the case...and yet the situation might not be all that different.

Forgive Over and Over and Over
Generally, we're all doing the best we can. When someone speaks to you curtly, disregards what you say, performs what seems to be a thoughtless gesture or even an outright evil act, think to yourself, "If I were that person and had endured the same trials, borne the same heartbreaks, had the same parents, and so on, I probably would have done or said the same thing." We are not privy to the stories behind people's actions, so we should be patient with others and suspend our judgment of them, recognizing the limits of our understanding. This does not mean we condone evil deeds or endorse the idea that different actions carry the same moral weight. When people do not act as you would wish them to, exercise the muscles of your good nature by shrugging your shoulders and saying to yourself "Oh well." Then let the incident go. Try, also, to be as kind to yourself as possible. Do not measure yourself against others or even against your ideal self. Human betterment is a gradual, two-steps-forward, one-step-back effort. Forgive others for their misdeeds over and over again. This gesture fosters inner ease. Forgive yourself over and over and over again. Then try to do better next time.

Inner ease. How can one quantify that? Quality of Life. And yet to be forever this not to make one's self an easy mark? Perhaps this is why one needs to be selective, and not try to have ALL the customers, as surely some of all will be among those who would behave badly.

As businesses strive to become exemplars, they are going to be faced with difficult challenges. But these challenges should not be avoided just because they are difficult. In the business world...may the best businesses win.

-- Epictetus: The Art of Living, A New Interpretation by Sharon Lebell (© 1995 HarperSanFrancisco), p. 22.


Blogger melinama said...

OK, synchronicity reigns. I added a link to you at the bottom of this post I wrote yesterday:

8:18 AM  

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