By Frank J. Rich
It is said that the Ancients found ways that belie present day humans. Their conclusions were not so prodigious as necessary; they had neither the technology nor the data we rely on today. Their “will” was a “must.” Far different, we move by the conveniences of this latter-day sainthood; the earnings of a world whose urge is to ease life; not to improve it. It’s an arguable position, but for a measure of the emotional intelligence of today’s species. America may be the saddest nation in this world, for the level of depression that afflicts its people. To assuage the pain of “too much to deal with” we have given ourselves over to a mutation that both multiplies and divides us at the same time. It is the progenitor of directives that ease us into a “must do” world that relieves us of the responsibility of old, to solve our own problems.
Yes I will; No I won’t; I must! Which will I choose?
The answer may begin with self-awareness, and the choices that compel us by it, or the guilt that cripples; depression. Our path is the measure of Emotional Intelligence, and not IQ. Though much is made of the two, vogue notions of the adaptive-self helps little; it is ancient man that informs best. This is not because we have inferior tools; rather, that we have little energy for more than the “daily do’s.” We don’t have time for all things, so spare little time for things that slow the clock to live the meaning in our lives, and not its busyness; the inveigling of an anxious spirit.
Kahlil Gibran is noted for his wisdom. In it he offers that he learned “silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet, strange, I am ungrateful to those teachers.” If this sounds like a prescription for depression, you’d be right. So how did he, and do we find the same productive mood. He slowed time by the self-awareness of his condition; then gave it over to consideration. He understood the importance of doing all things with time, because nothing else retains it.
Much like the Lebanese poet, painter and philosopher Gibran, the poet JD McClatchy wrote in his meditation on the contrast and complementarity of love and desire: “Love is the quality of attention we pay to things,” and what we choose to attend to — our fear or our faith, our woundedness or our devotion to healing — determines the quality of our love. How we navigate our oscillation between these inescapable polarities is governed by the degree of courage, openness, and vulnerability with which we are willing to show up for and to our own hearts. “The alternations between love and its denial, constitute the most essential and ubiquitous structural feature of the human heart.” Martha Nussbaum
The force of Gibran’s words, and others, sounds very much like the urgings of Jesus. But the world respects its own; unlike God, who selects His own. To our benefit or demise, as both contend for our attention, we have lapsed into the religion of “right virtue signaling, a perjorative neologism; the daring imposition of one upon another. The “must” in social upheaval. How then might we survive this new wave of “good and evil” taking up swords?
If the ingenuity of this age is to manufacture ease, the wisdom in the ancients was to find it in themselves. However inconvenient, we are ultimately alone with our choices and their consequences. These are the bane and the boon of our existence: to be one, while desiring the other. In this matter, the integrated elements of Emotional Intelligence are instructive: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.
The mind may carve a path to reconstruction that focuses on the failure in others. We might, in this vein, bear enmities toward them as motivation for behavioral modification. “I hate people like that,” is a typical epithet for the emotion we expect to fuel desired change in us. It would be a mistake; it doesn’t! Just as succeeding in the market requires a focus on competitors’ strengths, not their weaknesses, reveals opportunity; so too must we find good behavior as a model motivation. In simple terms, a model of healthy living is to relax, exercise, and eat real food. Few would argue against the value in it. Then why do we expect that by 2030, 50 percent of our population will be considered obese, with a body mass index above 30? The seductions awaiting an anxious spirit are simply too compelling. Don’t believe me? Next time you’re in a food market look carefully at the baskets of others to count the volume of convenience foods purchased; especially young mothers stocking up to feed their children. A Walmart Super Center devotes single aisles for each of the following items: snacks, ice cream, candy, frozen meals, and a deli counter with such delights as mac n’ cheese, mayo and tuna, chicken, egg, and ham otherwise known as salads, a euphemism for “comfort food.” Try making tuna salad with a piece of fresh tuna and EVOO and spices. You probably won’t like it, yuk. It tastes nothing like Bubble Bee.
Self-awareness counts knowing one’s own strengths and weaknesses; a first step to a life of real ease. Ask what events or behavior triggers anger, sadness, and joy in you. Once you have these in mind, you can adapt and redirect your moods, growing patience with your thoughts and actions; taking time. This is self-regulation. Next find the motivation in your approach to things, the real meaning or purpose in what you do, or hope to accomplish—your goals. Helping others provides enormous satisfaction. But you cant give something to others that you don’t have yourself. This is where Empathy helps. It feels another’s state—their fears and discomfort. It awakens the desire in them to feel worthy of another. This level of relationship heals—them and you. Social Skills make empathy easier to accomplish, and to transfer in relationships. We need others. It’s the rung on the ladder to self-fulfillment that leads to self-esteem. Our belonging to others is vitally important; the loss of our sense of community is the root cause of American’s sadness. We matter to each other, not just Black lives. This requires a willing spirit, the ability to manage through conflict, and the empathy that builds relationships.
Faith and fear cannot occupy the same moment. Learn to trust yourself, love yourself, and to love others as yourself. The Ancient of ancients, Jesus, wasn’t wrong about this fundamental learning. We will come to a consensus with this view, or we will lose everything. The Ancients knew.
Frank Rich is founder and CEO of Encore Príst International, an organizational development company that helps individuals
and organizations reach their full potential through the practice of effective business fundamentals. You may reach him at
email@example.com, or by phone at 866/858-4EPI.