“Once, a long time ago, there was a wise Zen master. People from far and near would seek his counsel and ask for his wisdom. Many would come and ask him to teach them, enlighten them in the way of Zen. He seldom turned any away.
One day an important man, a man used to command and obedience came to visit the master. “I have come today to ask you to teach me about Zen. Open my mind to enlightenment.” The tone of the important man’s voice was one used to getting his own way.
The Zen master smiled and said that they should discuss the matter over a cup of tea. When the tea was served the master poured his visitor a cup. He poured and he poured and the tea rose to the rim and began to spill over the table and finally onto the robes of the wealthy man. Finally the visitor shouted, “Enough. You are spilling the tea all over. Can’t you see the cup is full?”
The master stopped pouring and smiled at his guest. “You are like this tea cup, so full that nothing more can be added. Come back to me when the cup is empty. Come back to me with an empty mind.”
This teaching it’s so famous, and well known, that now it’s almost trivial, and yet the opportunity to be applied in today’s World at large, is practically endless!
A less well known phrase is Shoshin (初心) is a word from Zen Buddhism which means “beginner’s mind“. It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would. The term is especially used in the study of Zen Buddhism and Japanese Martial Arts.
The well known Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki said:
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”
Changing People’s Minds
The famous french woman writer Anais Nin once said: “we don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.” To see things as they are, instead of how we are, it requires leaving preconceptions behind, a receptive open mind, quieting of the ego, and a cultivation of the beginner’s mind.
We live in a political system known as democracy, even if it’s just a name, not a reality, and we feel, are entitled to our own opinions, and we see fit free to express it, regardless if we cannot add a single thing that can make any sense, or if it’s needed, when out of politeness people do not say nothing to avoid confrontations, despite the stupidity a particular individual may show.
One of the greatest tasks you can ever start, it’s to change people’s mind regarding any subject, a thing most of us avoid at all cost, we rather avoid the person in question than trying to set him straight.
We have made phrases of wisdom like: ‘Never argue about politics, or religion.’
Therefore our conversations are mainly trivial stuff, who almost nobody really cares, specially with those you got to deal not out of friendliness, but by duty, like family, or people you work with, specially if they are above you in rank. If you really want to talk about something important you go to a like minded friend, who you know he/she will not challenge you but confirm, and share your ideas, after all who needs a bad time confronting someone? In fact we choose friends more based on comfort, and ‘friendliness,’ instead of choosing people who can have a positive influence on us, and teaching us good things, despite the difficulties of being corrected, and told we are wrong.
On True Learning
Well, our focus, it’s not about our ideas, and how we see the World, but about our readiness to learn new things, so pardoning the digression above, just to show the rigidity of our minds, and how we are use to live with our preconceived ideas about almost anything, regardless of how little we may know about it.
Contrary at what most people’s think, learning it’s not difficult, actually what’s really difficult it is to change our attitude!
Perhaps it’s better today, I wonder, but reflecting, and being honest, even as children most of us with few exceptions granted, we went through school, as a duty, and found it a drudgery, only dissipated by the ring bell telling us recess was next, and it was time to play with friends, or it was finally time to go home!
Attitude, The Key Element To Learning
We know things, or we do not know, or maybe we know a little, but not enough, we have not even an idea, or we think we know better, but in reality it’s common to know nothing.
Humbleness it is a key to learning, admitting we do not know a subject it’s essential to learning, so to look for a qualified teacher to teach us, is the first step we need to take. A teacher can be many things, a person, a book, and above life, is the best teacher, by being humble we are accepting we are in lack of knowledge and we desire to improve, so we set to the task at hand which is to learn what we are in need to.
Now, observe we do not ask children to know if they approve, or desire to go to school, or not, children are in most countries obligated to attend school, some countries even penalize parents who do not take children to school.
As adults we are the ones who have to self motivate ourselves, and there is no way around it. Therefore our attitude to learn is primordial, otherwise it’s a no go situation, we are stuck!
Once we change our attitude, we are ready to, for whatever it’s necessary in order to learn, all these things may seem self evident, but if they are, how come so few people pay any attention to them?
There is a Hispanic saying: ‘Desde que se inventaron las excusas se acabaron los idiotas.’
An equivalent will be: ” Inventing an excuse, eliminates looking like an idiot.”
Excuses are just a way, to avoid changing our attitude, and they not remove the the obstacles for learning.
And therefore emptying the cup it’s a total change of attitude, and a preparation to open our senses, and our attention, and be ready to learn.
Now, pay attention and be ready to listen, and do the right thing, be alert!
Now in a lighter tone a long list, of random quotes on foolishness, and stupidity:
The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.
Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
The doctor sees all the weakness of mankind; the lawyer all the wickedness, the theologian all the stupidity. Arthur Schopenhauer
Stupidity is a talent for misconception.
Edgar Allan Poe
In politics stupidity is not a handicap.
Stubborn and ardent clinging to one’s opinion is the best proof of stupidity.
Michel de Montaigne
You know when you’re young, you have this unbelievable stupidity and arrogance and ignorance all mixed in?
People’s ignorance really pisses me off. Stupidity is when you can’t help it -ignorance is when you choose not to understand something.
Never attribute to malice, that which can be reasonably explained by stupidity.
I have had to experience so much stupidity, so many vices, so much error, so much nausea, disillusionment and sorrow, just in order to become a child again and begin anew. I had to experience despair, I had to sink to the greatest mental depths, to thoughts of suicide, in order to experience grace.
Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish.
People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.
Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.
You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.
Talk, talk, talk: the utter and heartbreaking stupidity of words.”
Irony is wasted on the stupid
Beauty fades, dumb is forever.
When a great genius appears in the world you may know him by this sign; that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.
If your brains were dynamite there wouldn’t be enough to blow your hat off.
Kurt Vonnegut Jr
Start a huge, foolish project, like Noah…it makes absolutely no difference what people think of you.