Newsletter – June 2013













   “The struggle between ‘for’ and ‘against’
    is the mind’s worst disease.”



June Greetings, Dear Friends…

In May’s Musings I tried to share my impressions of PART I of Jonathan Haidt’s new book, “Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion.” (I was and am very impressed!) Hopefully you were, too, as I’m going to continue here with some insights his ideas have helped me see more clearly. If you haven’t read his book (which I heartily recommend), you can read his introductory summary in the piece that immediately follows.

Since reading Haidt’s book, old Father William has been examining his own “psychology of this struggle between ‘for’ and ‘against,’” and what I’ve been finding is not pretty. But, at 75, it is very useful.

One of the new things I’ve been discovering in this Third Age of mine is how frequently I now visit past scenes in my life. These flashbacks come out of nowhere in nano-seconds, substituting glimpses of my past behavior in place of what’s in front of me at the moment. Moreover, these glimpses are overwhelmingly unattractive to me in my present state of evolution. Not that they were unattractive when I was doing them; in fact, at the time I thought most of them “very cool.”

Not any more – most now strike me as arrogant, unkind or just plain stupid. It’s clear my elephant (Haidt’s PART I) was lurching along with my endless insecurities, and my tiny reasoning rider was supplying me with rationales that worked in my very extended adolescence.

Primary among these rationales was “being right” which translated into continually being ‘for’ or ‘against’ whatever my peer group was ‘for’ or ‘against.’ The only choice I saw back then was to know which side of whatever was ‘right’ and to be sure I was seen on that side – which meant behaving loudly and visibly ‘for’ THE RIGHT and ‘against’ THE WRONG.

From this Third Age perspective, that behavior can look arrogant, unkind and just plain stupid at first, but, this maturity now allows me to see those actions as simply immature; like everyone everywhere, I was just doing the best I could at the time, and most of it was not at all what I would choose to do now. Still, much of that immaturity continued through my 50’s into my 60’s. Wonder what I’d say about my 70’s from Elder Ed’s perspective at 95?

Being able to see my own past behavior as simply immature rather than RIGHT or WRONG has opened another portal for me now, and that is into identifying with what Zen master Sen-ts’an wrote 1200+ years ago:

   The Perfect Way is only difficult
   for those who pick and choose;
   Do not like, do not dislike;
   all will then be clear.
   Make a hairbreadth difference,
   and Heaven and Earth are set apart;
   If you want the truth to stand clear before you,
   never be for or against.
   The struggle between ‘for’ and ‘against’
   is the mind’s worst disease.11

I finally see with some clarity and consistency how my immature self was locked into polarizing reality and then fighting with it. What a fearful way to live that has been! And until reaching a level of experience and maturity that allows me to see and avoid ‘the mind’s worst disease’, I couldn’t even recognize I had a choice of a different game to play. Until very recently I thought reality had to be a WIN-LOSE, FOR/AGAINST game, and I believed the only option was to fight to be a winner.

And this is where we come back to the power of our elephants. I’ve taught Systems Thinking and, in particular, WIN-WIN theory (see GODDAMIT, MR. IDOL, THIS IS YOUR JOB!”) so I didn’t lack the concept or rationale needed to avoid WIN-LOSE. But, while our elephants have lived with WIN-LOSE for 500 million years, our tiny reasoning riders have been around for less than a million. No wonder we tell our kids, “Do as I say, not as I do!”

So old FW is using his unattractive flashbacks positively. Instead of using them to feel more guilt (an amazing feat for this ‘Recovering Catholic’), I’m using them as benchmarks to show me my growth in maturity, humility and kindness. While I may still have ‘miles to go before I sleep,’ I have, as Virginia Slims taught my tiny rider years ago, ‘come a long way, baby!’

Much love, FW

PS: For me, all the pieces that follow fit together to make a mosaic to complement what these Musings are  



In his new book, “Righteous Minds: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion,” Jonathan Haidt offers a research-backed perspective on how we human beings work. It’s a new level of understanding how our cognitive processes of moral intuition, moral judgment and moral reasoning function.

Haidt divides his book into three parts. In the first he offers convincing evidence that the combined power of our moral intuition and moral judgment overshadows that of our moral reasoning in a ratio of 99% to 1%. To give this ratio an image, he creates a metaphor of a huge elephant and a tiny rider. For Haidt, the elephant represents our hundreds of millions of years of dependence on intuition before the tiny rider’s language and reasoning appeared a scant few million years ago.

Introducing Part I, Haidt writes:

   “PART I is about the first principle: Intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second.7 Moral intuitions arise automatically and almost instantaneously, long before moral reasoning has a chance to get started, and those first intuitions tend to drive our later reasoning. If you think that moral reasoning is something we do to figure out the truth, you’ll be constantly frustrated by how foolish, biased, and illogical people become when they disagree with you. But if you think about moral reasoning as a skill we humans evolved to further our social agendas–to justify our own actions and to defend the teams we belong to–then things will make a lot more sense. Keep your eye on the intuitions, and don’t take people’s moral arguments at face value. They’re mostly post hoc constructions made up on the fly, crafted to advance one or more strategic objectives.

   “The central metaphor of these four chapters is that the mind is divided, like a rider on an elephant, and the rider’s job is to serve the elephant. The rider is our conscious reasoning–the stream of words and images of which we are fully aware. The elephant is the other 99 percent of mental processes–the ones that occur outside of awareness but that actually govern most of our behavior.8 I developed this metaphor in my last book, The Happiness Hypothesis, where I described how the rider and elephant work together, sometimes poorly, as we stumble through life in search of meaning and connection. In this book I’ll use the metaphor to solve puzzles such as why it seems like everyone (else) is a hypocrite9 and why political partisans are so willing to believe outrageous lies and conspiracy theories. I’ll also use the metaphor to show you how you can better persuade people who seem unresponsive to reason…

   “I concluded by warning that the worship of reason, which is sometimes found in philosophical and scientific circles, is a delusion. It is an example of faith in something that does not exist…Reasoning matters, particularly because reasons do sometimes influence other people, but most of the action in moral psychology is in the intuitions….”

   “PART II is about the second principle of moral psychology, which is that there’s more to morality than harm and fairness. The central metaphor of these four chapters is that the righteous mind is like a tongue with six taste receptors. Secular Western moralities are like cuisines that try to activate just one or two of these receptors–either concerns about harm and suffering, or concerns about fairness and injustice. But people have so many other powerful moral intuitions, such as those related to liberty, loyalty, authority, and sanctity. I’ll explain where these six taste receptors come from, how they form the basis of the world’s many moral cuisines, and why politicians on the right have a built-in advantage when it comes to cooking meals that voters like.

   “PART III is about the third principle: Morality binds and blinds. The central metaphor of these four chapters is that human beings are 90 percent chimp and 10 percent bee. Human nature was produced by natural selection working at two levels simultaneously. Individuals compete with individuals within every group, and we are the descendants of primates who excelled at that competition. This gives us the ugly side of our nature, the one that is usually featured in books about our evolutionary origins. We are indeed selfish hypocrites so skilled at putting on a show of virtue that we fool even ourselves. But human nature was also shaped as groups competed with other groups. As Darwin said long ago, the most cohesive and cooperative groups generally beat the groups of selfish individualists. Darwin’s ideas about group selection fell out of favor in the 1960s, but recent discoveries are putting his ideas back into play, and the implications are profound. We’re not always selfish hypocrites. We also have the ability, under special circumstances, to shut down our petty selves and become like cells in a larger body, or like bees in a hive, working for the good of the group. These experiences are often among the most cherished of our lives, although our hivishness can blind us to other moral concerns. Our bee-like nature facilitates altruism, heroism, war, and genocide.

   “Once you see our righteous minds as primate minds with a hivish overlay, you get a whole new perspective on morality, politics, and religion. I’ll show that our “higher nature” allows us to be profoundly altruistic, but that altruism is mostly aimed at members of our own groups. I’ll show that religion is (probably) an evolutionary adaptation for binding groups together and helping them to create communities with a shared morality. It is not a virus or a parasite, as some scientists (the ‘New Atheists’) have argued in recent years. And I’ll use this perspective to explain why some people are conservative, others are liberal (or progressive), and still others become libertarians. People bind themselves into political teams that share moral narratives. Once they accept a particular narrative, they become blind to alternative moral worlds.

   “(A note on terminology: In the United States, the word liberal refers to progressive or left-wing politics, and I will use the word in this sense. But in Europe and elsewhere, the word liberal is truer to its original meaning – valuing liberty above all else, including in economic activities. When Europeans use the word liberal, they often mean something more like the American term libertarian, which cannot be placed easily on the left-right spectrum.10 Readers from outside the United States may want to swap in the words progressive or left-wing whenever I say liberal.)

   “In the coming chapters I’ll draw on the latest research in neuroscience, genetics, social psychology, and evolutionary modeling, but the take-home message of the book is ancient. It is the realization that we are all self-righteous hypocrites:

   “’Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? …You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.’ (MATTHEW 7:3-5)

   “Enlightenment (or wisdom, if you prefer) requires us all to take the logs out of our own eyes and then escape from our ceaseless, petty, and divisive moralism. As the eighth-century Chinese Zen master Sen-ts’an wrote:

   The Perfect Way is only difficult
   for those who pick and choose;
   Do not like, do not dislike;
   all will then be clear.
   Make a hairbreadth difference,
   and Heaven and Earth are set apart;
   If you want the truth to stand clear before you,
   never be for or against.
   The struggle between ‘for’ and ‘against’
   is the mind’s worst disease.11

   “I’m not saying we should live our lives like Sen-ts’an. In fact, I believe that a world without moralism, gossip, and judgment would quickly decay into chaos. But if we want to understand ourselves, our divisions, our limits, and our potentials, we need to step back, drop the moralism, apply some moral psychology, and analyze the game we’re all playing.

   “Let us now examine the psychology of this struggle between “for” and “against.” It is a struggle that plays out in each of our righteous minds, and among all of our righteous groups.”





In 1964 I was in my first year of teaching for The Francis W. Parker School on the Near North Side of Chicago. It was February, and Webster Street was cold, gray and dirty with snow. Kids, teachers, parents – we were all drifting in the educational doldrums by this time. My sophomore English class was giving me a hard time, complaining about reading Henry IV, Part I and everything else. “We did Shakespeare last year,” they whined, as though reading literature was like learning multiplication tables. Clearly it was time to let them share the burden of curriculum responsibility.

On the next Monday I told them they could use the full week (four 40 minute periods) to plan which books they wanted to read during the next unit, and I gave a long list and some minimum requirements. Then I sat back to let them go to work. Of course this group of 15 and 16 year olds had neither the maturity nor skills to manage a complex consensus process like this one – and sophomore boys do not want to read the same books that sophomore girls do!

It was a disaster. The Monday class seemed to take hours as the frustration and volume grew. Tuesday was an eternity, and nobody felt good about anything or anyone by the time the bell finally rang. But I was committed. Come hell or high water, we were all going to see this through.

Wednesday came and these kids dragged themselves into my room as though they were being marched to an execution. Once again the brouhaha started. Tempers flared, voices rose, cruel insults bounced off the walls. I was caught. I knew this couldn’t go on, but I didn’t know how to stop it without losing face. A gift from the universe in the form of Maurice Ginsburg saved us all.

Maurice was a good-natured kid with salt-of-the-earth commonsense and a low tolerance for the bullshit of intellectual dilettantism. He was also big as a house and played tackle on the football team. Fifteen minutes into the Wednesday class Maurice rose to his feet and slammed his ham- sized fist down on the table.

   “Goddamnit, Mr. Idol, this is your job!”

The room went absolutely still. Not one of us had ever seen Maurice like this before, and it seriously scared most of us. Most important, it brought us all, especially me, to our senses. Something profound and powerful – too powerful for high school sophomores – had been happening, and Maurice’s frustration and directness gave us all a chance to learn from it. I was able to say,

“OK, let’s pull our chairs in a circle and talk about what’s happened to us.”


We spent the rest of the week looking at what had happened and trying to understand why it had happened. We were a group of people who genuinely liked each other, and in less than 100 minutes we had jeopardized relationships it had taken four months to build. We took the rest of Wednesday and most of Thursday exploring our feelings of frustration, hurt and impotence. The intensity of negative feeling generated was deeply disturbing, and I’ve never forgotten it. I’ve also never forgotten how beautiful that whole group of kids was as they helped each other and their teacher understand it was the situation, and not the people, that was the problem.

What I learned from this was humbling. In my ignorance and ego I’d put a group of wonderful people in a situation that could only bring them frustration, failure and fear of trying again. Probably only two outcomes were possible. The best would be a false consensus arrived at through exhaustion and most dropping out. The worst would be irreparably damaged relationships, perhaps even physical violence, and an avoidance of democratic process forever after. Nothing could have been further from what I meant to teach. How did this happen?


At the time I was only ten years older than Maurice and the rest of the class and didn’t know much more than they did about the way the world or people worked. I had no idea collaboration among peers was such a complex and tricky business so I provided none of the structure necessary for teenagers to have some chance of success. Up until this time in my life virtually all of my attempts at collaboration had been structured for me by more experienced adults – parents, teachers, coaches, camp counselors, priests and other bosses of various stripes. Even when we did work on our own (in fraternities, sororities, clubs, etc.), we functioned within very precise (and often ludicrous) rules and regulations. The result of this lack of experience was a colossal ignorance on my part as to what a peer group needs to function effectively, and so I didn’t provide it. This is how ignorance lets terrible things happen, and it becomes so easy when you have unquestioned authority over others as I did. The only real cure I know for the dangers of ignorance is life experience. At 65, my sense of my own ignorance is so much greater, and my behaving of it so much less; for this I am very grateful.


While ignorance let me make this mistake, it was ego that drove it. In those days my ego wanted everybody around me to think whatever I did was stupendous. The kids’ complaints about reading Shakespeare (a perfectly normal adolescent response to the Bard in gray Chicago February) triggered a totally unwarranted response in me. My ego took this as a humiliating personal rejection and, in its flailing about, seized upon this sadistic solution and kept me locked into it until Maurice rescued us all. I can’t count the times my ego’s paranoia has seen rejection, humiliation and attack where there was none and has driven me into corners from which I could find no escape. How much easier my life and the lives of others would have been if I could have seen my ego as only one useful part of me and not let it act as the whole for all those years!


In Game Theory, there are three kinds of games. Simply put, they are:

WIN-WIN: Everyone who plays wins (family holidays, a walk in the woods, cherishing a loved one). It makes sense to play these games as often as possible.

WIN-LOSE: Everyone who plays chances winning or losing (poker, the stock market). These games should be looked at carefully before, during and after playing.

LOSE-LOSE: Everyone who plays loses (nuclear war, terrorism, demeaning a loved one). It makes no sense to play these games.

We’ve all been caught in LOSE-LOSE games like the one I created for my sophomore class. Most of us will choose one of two paths. Many will just drop out rather than engage in the painful and seemingly endless conflict. Others will vent their frustration by entering deeper and deeper into the conflict like Brer Rabbit punching Tar Baby. A very few, like Maurice, will take on the controller of the system and demand that he or she change the game. This is the only hopeful choice. By confronting me, Maurice focused the group’s energy and attention where it needed to be – on the person who could change the structure of the situation. Way to go, Maurice! We need more of you!


Of course, the way to have a great life is to maximize the amount of time you spend playing WIN-WIN and minimize the LOSE-LOSE. It’s never too late to change the game, but it’s very hard to do once you’re caught up in it. The best way is to pause before entering any game and ask yourself, “Which kind of game is this?” If it’s a WIN-WIN, jump right in. If it’s all WIN-LOSE, check it out. It’s a LOSE-LOSE, either walk away or convert it at least to a WIN-LOSE. That’s what Maurice did for us – he interrupted a LOSE-LOSE game and allowed us to convert it to a WIN-WIN from which we all learned an enormous amount.


If you polled us before this incident, my guess is that very few of us would have guessed the leadership we needed in this situation would have come from Maurice. But it did, and with the power and force we needed to hear it. The longer I live, the less surprised I am by this phenomenon. “Out of the mouths of babes…” someone said, and that wisdom is everywhere when I have my ears open. Someone else said, “You may not get what you want, but you get what you need.” We certainly weren’t getting what we wanted in that gray February of 1964, but we got what we needed, and because we used it, we got what really mattered. That’s how it works.


Recognizing what kind of game I’m being offered and making a conscious choice about whether to play has been more valuable than I can say – and I only remember to do it about 25% of the time. But even that makes all the difference in the world…




As Leonard Cohen returns to play London’s O2 Arena, his biographer Sylvie Simmons reveals how the former recluse fell back in love with touring – and how wants to take up smoking again on his 80th birthday.

“I’m really looking forward to this moment,” the man in the black suit and rakish fedora says, slowly and conspiratorially, the same way that he sings. “A young nurse in a white uniform, white lisle stockings, carrying a pack of cigarettes on a silver tray, will walk across the stage … and the pack will be opened. It will be gleaming, like those pillars of the Parthenon”; of course it will. And the man will pull out a cigarette and tap it on his wrist, like he they did in the movies he saw as a kid, in Montreal. “And she’ll light me up. Yeah,” he says, taking a long, deep inhale. A pause. A slow smile crosses his face. “It’s going to be so good.”

Who else could this be but Leonard Cohen, at a recent concert in Kentucky, confiding with a large audience his plan to resume smoking on his 80th birthday. I first heard him talk about it – before it became honed and polished into one of his droll, Rat Pack-rabbi lines – a year and a half ago in the kitchen of his Los Angeles home – a remarkably modest duplex in an unremarkable neighbourhood that he shares with his daughter Lorca and her daughter (by the musician Rufus Wainwright) Viva. Cohen, dressed off stage as on in a dark suit and fedora, was rustling up a couple of lattes on an espresso machine, which he served, in the most elegant manner, in two of those cheap, promotional coffee mugs that companies give out – in this case promoting Cohen’s 1993 album The Future.

He had just finished work on a new album – Old Ideas, which was released in January 2012. And I was close to completing his biography – I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen, published last November. I had assumed, as many did, that my book would have ended in Las Vegas, with the last triumphant concert of Cohen’s 2008-10 tour. But Cohen had moved the goalposts, and I was there to interview him for the final chapter. He was on a roll – midway through writing and recording another album in the studio above his garage. Nearly three years solid of three-hour plus concerts had clearly had an effect.

Cohen’s own theory – the same theory he had to explain how he was finally cured of a lifetime’s depression – was that it all came down to age. He was in the latter half of his seventies and on the “homeward stretch” and, when it came to his work, his writing, he had no time to waste. This was plausible enough, except that Cohen was saying the same thing about mortality and knuckling down in his late fifties – not long before deciding to quit the music business and LA and live in a hut on Mount Baldy as a servant to his old Rinzai Buddhist teacher Roshi Joshu Sasaki. In truth, Cohen the septuagenarian seemed in much better shape than he was then. Certainly in better shape emotionally. And one major cause was this tour that he had begun, with the deepest reluctance, having been forced back on the boards after finding himself broke, his savings having been famously, and ironically, misappropriated while he was living as an ordained Zen monk.

Cohen hadn’t toured in 15 years – which was fine with him; he’d had never much liked touring. A creature of habits and a shy man, he also worried for his songs, afraid their purity would be soiled by being dragged before a paying crowd every night. He was also concerned that if he did tour, there might not be an audience – crazy though that sounds now after Cohen notched up one of the biggest-grossing tours of the new millennium. His return was greeted with a tidal wave of love that he’s been riding ever since, circling the world several times over, playing to the biggest audiences of his career.

Not only did he restore his missing funds, he’s added to them, considerably. He has no need to get on a plane and play another concert ever again, and no-one could have blamed him if he’d taken a final bow and slipped back into a life of stillness and (give or take the occasional female companion) solitude. Instead, Cohen decided – much as Dylan did – to play out his life on a never-ending tour.

When I asked him why, he sat at the little wooden kitchen table and thought about it, as if the question hadn’t occurred to him before. Quite possibly it hadn’t; he had previously told me that he didn’t examine his motivations much. “Before the pesky little problem of losing everything I had,” he said finally, “I had the feeling that I was treading water – kind of between jobs; a bit at loose ends. When the money problem arose, what bothered me most was that I was spending all my time with lawyers, accountants, forensic accountants… I thought, if God wants to bore me to death I guess I have to accept it.” It was a full-time job and “an enormous distraction”, spending day after day going through old emails and mountains of paperwork. Now and again he would, as he put it, remember he had had been a singer once. This long succession of concerts re-established Cohen as a singer and as “a worker in the world”.

Although he had gone on the road because he didn’t have the money to retire, he found that he had “no sense of or appetite for retirement”. And though he’d spent a good deal of his life craving solitude, he had grown to love and miss the band and the crew, this community of fellow travellers. When the tour ended, they had all stayed in touch; and with very few exceptions, they eagerly signed up again when Cohen decided that the new album was a fine excuse for another tour.

“I like the life on the road, because it’s so regulated and deliberate,” Leonard said. “Everything funnels down to the concert. You know exactly what to do during the day and you don’t have to improvise” – as you would if you were at home, composing or recording. He thrived on the strict regime of tour; he had always been drawn to an almost military discipline. Even as a young boy he had asked his parents to send him to military academy (his mother said no), and he’d named his first touring band – the one he played with at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival – The Army. Not without pride does he describe Rinzai monks as “the marines of the spiritual world”.

The road reminded him of the monastic life sometimes. “Once you get the hang of it,” he said, “you go into ninth gear and kind of float through it all.” You can tell he’s floating now by the way he skips on stage and jokes and flirts with the fans. As for the falling to his knees and the bowing – to the musicians who do him the honour of delivering his words, and to the audience who do him the honour of accepting them – they seem to satisfy an equally deep need in him of service and ritual. More than one reviewer likened Cohen’s concerts to religious gatherings, with a few going so far as to compare them to papal visits.

One thing conspicuous by its absence since 2008 has been the sacramental wine. Nowadays, Cohen rarely drinks. After a show, he goes back to his hotel room alone; he still has that need for solitude and quiet. As for drugs, the strongest substance I could find backstage on his US tour was a suitcase full of PG Tips – and his touring partners the Webb Sisters may have been to blame for that. But it’s nice to imagine Cohen backstage at the 02 Arena, sitting cross-legged under a pyramid tea bag, meditating on how that pack of cigarettes is only one year and three months away.

Leonard Cohen returns to the 02 Arena on June 21st. I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons is out now in paperback (Vintage) 




1. You Will Receive A Body – You may like it or hate it, but it will be yours for the entire period this time around.

2. You Will Learn Lessons – You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called Life. Each day in this school, you will have the opportunity to learn lessons – you may like the lesson or think them irrelevant and stupid.

3. There Are No Mistakes, Only Lessons – There is a process of trial and error; experimentation. The ‘failed’ experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiment that ultimately ‘works’.

4. A Lesson Is Repeated Until It Is Learned – A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can go on to the next lesson.

5. Learning Lessons Does Not End – There is no part of Life that does not contain its lessons. If you are alive, there are lessons to be learned.

6. ‘There’ Is No Better Than ‘here’ – When your ‘there’ has become a ‘here’, you will simply obtain another ‘there’ that will again look better than ‘here’.

7. Others Are Merely Mirrors Of You – You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects something you love or hate about yourself.

8. What You Make Of Your Life Is Up To You – You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.

9. Your Answers Lie Inside You – The answers to Life’s questions lie inside you. All you need do is look, listen and trust.

10. You Will Forget All This.

11. You Can Remember It Whenever You Want.




Letting go is can be a painful yet necessary part of life. And letting go can also result in feeling free. Read these quotes on letting go.

1.  Letting go doesn’t mean that you don’t care about someone anymore. It’s just realizing that the only person you really have control over is yourself. – Deborah Reber, Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul

2.  Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it. – Ann Landers

3.  Forgiveness means letting go of the past. – Gerald Jampolsky

4.  In the process of letting go you will lose many things from the past, but you will find yourself. – Deepak Chopra

5.  Letting go helps us to to live in a more peaceful state of mind and helps restore our balance. It allows others to be responsible for themselves and for us to take our hands off situations that do not belong to us. This frees us from unnecessary stress. – Melody Beattie, The Language of Letting Go

6.  Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values. – Dalai Lama

7.  Let go of your attachment to being right, and suddenly your mind is more open. – Ralph Marston

8.  The greatest loss of time is delay and expectation, which depend upon the future. We let go the present, which we have in our power, and look forward to that which depends upon chance, and so relinquish a certainty for an uncertainty. – Seneca

9.  Holding on is believing that there’s only a past; letting go is knowing that there’s a future. – Daphne Rose Kingma

10. We need to learn to let go as easily as we grasp and we will find our hands full and our minds empty. – Leo F. Buscaglia

11. Courage is the power to let go of the familiar. – Raymond Lindquist

12. You don’t need strength to let go of something. What you really need is understanding. – Guy Finley

13. Anything I cannot transform into something marvelous, I let go. – Anais Nin

14. People can be more forgiving than you can imagine. But you have to forgive yourself. Let go of what’s bitter and move on. – Bill Cosby

15. All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on. – Havelock Ellis

16. The mental and physical space we create by letting go of things that belong in our past gives us…the option to fill the space with something new. – Susan Fay West

17. When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need. – Tao Te Ching

18. Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go. – Herman Hesse

19. One problem with gazing too frequently into the past is that we may turn around to find the future has run out on us. – Michael Cibenko

20. To let go is to release the images and emotions, the grudges and fears, the clingings and disappointments of the past that bind our spirit. – Jack Kornfield

21. We must be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. – Joseph Campbell

22. You’ve got to make a conscious choice every day to shed the old – whatever “the old” means for you. – Sarah Ban Breathnach

23. Nirvana means to extinguish the burning fires of the Three Poisons: greed, anger, and ignorance. This can be accomplished by letting go of dissatisfaction. – Shinjo Ito

24. There’s an important difference between giving up and letting go. – Jessica Hatchigan

25. You can only lose what you cling to. – Buddha




So who thought the Protestant Work Ethic was a good idea? Who came up with the notion that 24/7 Type-A workaholics had a better shot at the Pearly Turnstile than surfers, sailors, hikers, fishermen and bookworms? Though there is a distinct possibility that couch-potato-TV-surfing-addicts are screwed; whoever seriously considered that relaxing your butt was any less holy than busting your ass?

As far as we can tell, no research anywhere has shown that by putting in 70-hour weeks, we can make the world a better place. Or feel better about ourselves. Or improve our happiness quotient. Or experience any closer connection to the Divine. No manic work-horse has yet come forward with a profound message from God or offered a plan for feeding the hungry or creating a lasting peace.

Hyper work-fiends do make their contributions to society, of course. They bring home fatter pay checks so they can afford to buy more Xanex, pay more therapists, hire more divorce lawyers and keep their health insurance paid up for that stroke that’s coming sooner or later.
OK, OK. It’s not that bad. Or is it? It just seems a shame to spend most of this one precious life doing things which don’t bring us joy. Or as the T-Shirt wisdom would say it: If you keep your nose to the grindstone, you’ll never smell the roses.









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