Choices: Dignity in Life, Choices over Terror and Death
There’s duality in fear for living and embracing death. For samurai, choosing a worthy cause to die for is a means of embracing the presence of life and inevitable reality of death. The result: life is fleeting, live in the present as if you will die today.
Choice is fundamental for human dignity, yes. Terror happens when one’s in a situation that makes severe irreparable harm or death seem imminent and you’re unable to find or create any other choices for living.
-A fragmented note to myself from 11/3/14 found in my draft box
Back to the present:
Approaching life from grasping death first can be a very severe, spiritually violent, and overall dark approach.
Even for me today, the opening sentence was a little unclear. I think I was also touching on moments when someone is genuinely afraid of stepping into living their life fully — because with all the joys it can bring, you’re also choosing to accept and embrace the consequences of failures too.
A caveat on foolhardy failure: In my experience, the slogan “fail faster” that gets hyped in silicon valley/startup circles glorifies the downside and understates the resources necessary for recovery. Failing faster also requires proportionate tools and support to respond or rebound quickly. For people living in severe situations where balancing life and death, genuine poverty, etc. are at stake it’s a naive and misleading attitude.
We need to set parameters for failure. It doesn’t need to intrude on the sum of your existence, find ways to contain, govern, or facilitate it. Failure isn’t always bad, if you learn and grow from it. But what we’re really supposed to focus on are controlled or informed risks that we can successfully navigate. Where possible, fail forward — choose to fail in a direction of your preference so you can learn from it and still know how to stay on track. Immersing yourself in failures that go beyond your capacity to move on or focus on what’s worth failing for however, becomes a detriment one’s existence.
But this idea, really deciding to commit to living your moments fully, genuinely overwhelmed me into nihilism at times. The most overwhelming moments looked like shutting down, or believing it was important to stay with any accessible pain because that seemed like an essential part of living fully.
When some aspect of the idea made less sense to use as guidance for life, it also manifested into isolating myself in existential angst and numbness for months at a time. Of course, I still sought to show up online in minor ways and at work to keep me up to date with the rest of reality on topics I knew were important, but bridging the gap between what you think and what you believe can be quite the challenge.
The connection to choice: Life, Death; Dignity, Terror
Understanding the link between choice and dignity matters as much or even more than understanding how terror works. Terror is designed to happen when it deprives people from their sense of choice. Choice is fundamental to dignity. It requires a degree of consciousness to discern and make a genuine choice. Paraphrasing my mom: “Even into death, you have choices.” The trick is to see what they are, choose from the best, or create better ones.
Dignity and terror reflect life and death in their simplest forms. They hinge on your ability to discern, and choose with some sense whether active or intuitive.
The best practical tools for overcoming the designs of terrorism I know of boils down to three things: Joy, Truth, and Love.
It sounds unrealistically naive and Utopian at first — especially when considering that I came across them listed in a song written by my friend, Markita Moore. But the more I thought about those three around the time the Orlando shootings took place, the more I realized each element has clear, practical components that allow most of the public to deal with reality in a way that doesn’t make them beholden to reactions spurred by fear from terrorist acts.
Of course, counter-terrorism work still has an important place in the world, but for the general public in the long-term, I think this goes a long way to prevent or overcome terror:
Joy can be shared, draws people together, and builds cohesion. It inspires curiosity and deeper understanding on a voluntary basis. People are often drawn to humorous and positive moments. It can soften entry to challenging dialogues and conversations through assurance that comes from sharing a common experience — so long as it’s not used divisively at someone’s expense. It’s a significant topic in research for effective education.
Truth, upholding it and understanding it, shows us that we have more choices than what terror wants us to believe. It reminds you that a supremacist ideology is flawed putting your beliefs into proper scope with additional realities. Presenting or facilitating the truth also holds people accountable.
Love revolves around manifesting the best in and with people, which includes celebrating them as they are and the effort, history, and legacy that surrounds them in its most humane light. You can look at it in subtle forms like the discipline it takes to prepare meals for your kids even when you’re dead tired, care for the state of society, or consider the camaraderie and solidarity earned from common hardship and purpose.
Love is one of the most powerful motives used for framing purpose. Military boot camps in part are designed to cultivate an iteration of love — in terms of camaraderie — among service members and for the country. Simon Sinek, an anthropologist focused on leadership, cites similar examples in several of his talks. If you spend time speaking with service members, veterans, or yourself served you probably hear this too.
Coincidentally, scientists notice love and hate share many neurological pathways in common. What distinguishes a lively hate group from a healthy successful organization is the way they force dependent relationships and control information. But they start out and often frame their cause in terms of loving an identity, or protecting who they are. The rest of the hallmarks of their process actually mirror characteristics you’d see in healthy organizations that would appear in a Zappos/Delivering Happiness case study.
As a nation, the same applies: beyond taking care of the basics, don’t react to terrorism out of fear — else you play into someone else’s game by doing so. Focus on the things people would do in the first place when combat isn’t imminent: joy, truth, and love. It draws people to the righteous reality from their own volition, or asserts the truth without necessarily escalating violence.
But I keep returning to the general concept that making choices for death and life presents us. Major turning points basically revolved around thinking: “what’s something worthy of dying for/living for?” there’s more to say about the question itself, but that was a big starting point for my life in 2012.
Last year I met a wonderful woman who demonstrated the same idea but with an opposite (in my opinion, much healthier) approach — I’m still working on going about it from a joyous angle but it’s the same goal as far as living fully is concerned.
On “fail faster”
Example of common narratives around “fail faster” — I may or may not have a tendency to attempt living ideas to straw-man proportions, if you must try in that fashion too, don’t do it the way I did. Resilience comes from the ability to rebound instead:
What would have been nice to hear more often with “fail fast”
I especially wish this was something I read in 2014 to affirm some of my own questions about the slogan, but it’s nice to see today now that I’m reading up on how other people looked at it. Also note that someone created an entire company/consulting practice around “fail forward” — focused on dissecting failures. I guess it was bound to happen:
Three Chords: Joy, Truth, and Love (song excerpt by Markita Moore)
[side note for those following our band’s progress: we’ve finalized the recording, moving to fundraise for filming a video with the students who sang in the song and coordinate its release with the video, ideally around October]
Humor in education (need to follow embedded links within this article for the research):
Humor in Education via the APA, learning — it seems mostly focused on higher education, I’ve yet to read in-depth for source articles, etc.:
Other iterations of love, many Latin rather than Greek, a good framework, I think Ubuntu should be considered too though it’s of African origin:
Military — trust, co-operation as interpreted by Simon Sinek in his research referenced multiple times in his talks:
Simon Sinek speaking on “Why Leaders Eat Last”:
First-hand story on service leadership from Lt. Col. Drowley (the A-10 pilot mentioned in Simon Sinek’s book and talk, “Why Leaders Eat Last”):
Recovering from hate: how hate groups function and the neurological wiring behind love/hate
Delivering Happiness, p. 173 Happiness Framework 1:
On choosing worthy reason(s) to die. Also contains practical instruction for one-strike swordsmanship (iaido) in addition to the philosophical context that informed/s the martial art: Flashing Steel, Second Edition: Mastering Eishin-Ryu Swordsmanship by Masayuki Shimabukuro (Author), Leonard Pellman (Author)
[seek out the second edition, supposedly a worthy improvement from an already excellent first edition]
This post originally appeared at: https://wordpress.com/post/iandtran.wordpress.com/3271