Vanity of Resembling

David Hume writes in A Treatise of Human Nature:

There are instances, indeed, wherein men shew a vanity in resembling a great man in his countenance, shape, air, or other minute circumstances, that contribute not in any degree to his reputation; but it must be confess’d, that this extends not very far, nor is of any considerable moment in these affections. For this I assign the following reason. We can never have a vanity of resembling in trifles any person, unless he be possess’d of very shining qualities, which give us a respect and veneration for him. These qualities, then, are, properly speaking, the causes of our vanity, by means of their relation to ourselves. Now after what manner are they related to ourselves? They are parts of the person we value, and consequently connected with these trifles; which are also suppos’d to be parts of him. These trifles are connected with the resembling qualities in us; and these qualities in us, being parts, are connected with the whole; and by that means form a chain of several links betwixt ourselves and the shining qualities of the person we resemble. But besides that this multitude of relations must weaken the connexion; ’tis evident the mind, in passing from the shining qualities to the trivial ones, must by that contrast the better perceive the minuteness of the latter, and be in some measure asham’d of the comparison and resemblance.

The Great Surpassing Love of Interdependence

Reb Anderson writes in The Third Turning of the Wheel: Wisdom of the Samdhinirmocana Sutra,

A buddha is someone who sees the way things really are. When we see the way things really are, we see that we’re all in this together, that we are all interdependent. A great surpassing love arises from that wisdom, and that love leads a buddha to wish that all beings would open to this wisdom and be free of the misery that arises from ignoring the way things are. Buddhas appear in the world because they want us to have a buddha’s wisdom, so that we will love every single being completely and protect every single being without exception and without limit—just as all the buddhas do.

Level 5 Leadership

In Good to Great, Jim Collins elaborates on whether or not you can learn to become exceptionally effective leader:

My hypothesis is that there are two categories of people: those who do not have the seed of Level 5 and those who do. The first category consists of people who could never in a million years bring themselves to subjugate their egoistic needs to the greater ambition of building something larger and more lasting than themselves. For thos people, work will always be first and foremost about what they get—fame, fortune, adulation, praise, power, whatever—not what they build, create, and contribute.

The second category of people—and I suspect the larger group—consists of those who have the potential to evolve to Level 5; the capacity resides within them, perhaps buried or ignored, but there nonetheless. And under the right circumstances—self-reflection, conscious personal development, a mentor, a great teacher, loving parents, a signifcant life experience, a Level 5 boss, or any number of other factors—they begin to develop.

The Poetry of W. B. Yeats

American poet Macha Louis Rosenthal admires in The Poetry of Yeats,

Early and late he has the simple, indispensable gift of enchanting the ear. … It was not this gift alone which made Yeats the poet he was, though without it no poet can be great. He was also the poet who, while very much of his own day in Ireland, spoke best to the people of all countries. And though he plunged deep into arcane studies, his themes are most clearly the general ones of life and death, love and hate, man’s condition and history’s meanings. He began as a sometimes effete post-Romantic, heir to the pre-Raphaelites, and then, quite naturally, became a leading British Symbolist; but he grew at last into the boldest, most vigorous voice of this century.

The Ethics of Short-Sightedness

The firebrand “New Atheist” and neuroscientist-author Sam Harris writes in Lying:

A prison is perhaps the easiest place to see the power of bad incentives. And yet in many walks of life, we find otherwise normal men and women caught in the same trap and busily making the world much less good than it could be. Elected officials ignore long-term problems because they must pander to the short-term interests of voters. People working for insurance companies rely on technicalities to deny desperately ill patients the care they need. CEOs and investment bankers run extraordinary risks—both for their businesses and for the economy as a whole—because they reap the rewards of success without suffering the penalties of failure. District attorneys continue to prosecute people they know to be innocent because their careers depend on winning cases. Our government fights a war on drugs that creates the very problem of black-market profits and violence that it pretends to solve. We need systems that are wiser than we are. We need institutions and cultural norms that make us more honest and ethical than we tend to be. The project of building them is distinct from—and, in my view, even more important than—an individual’s refining his personal ethical code.

The Obstacles to Nowness

Buddhist meditation master Chogyam Trungpa writes in Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior:

You should regard your home life as a golden opportunity to experience nowness, by taking an interest in all the details of your life. Interest is simply applying awareness to what goes on in your everyday life—awareness while your cooking, while you’re driving, while you’re changing diapers, even awareness while you’re arguing. Such awareness can help to free you from speed, chaos, neurosis and resentment. It can free you from the obstacles to nowness, so that you can cheer up on the spot, all of the time.

The Genius of Pushkin

The Russian-born French writer Henri Troyat wrote in his biography of Alexander Pushkin:

Pushkin grew with the years. Every other writer claimed descent from him. Inexplicably, the whole of Russian literature proceeded from his genius. Poetry, novels, short stories, history, theater, criticism-he had opened up the whole gamut of literary endeavor to his countrymen. He was first in time, and first in quality. He was the source. Neither Gogol nor Tolstoy could have existed without him, for he made the Russian language; he prepared the ground for the growth of every genre.

Henri Troyat wrote a stream of biographies of Russian luminaries: Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, Alexander II, Nicholas II, Rasputin, Tolstoy, Gogol, Chekhov, and Boris Pasternak.

A Successful Romantic Relationship Is Never Easy

From Alain de Botton’s novel, The Course of Love:

Love reaches a pitch at those moments when our beloved turns out to understand, more clearly than others have been able to, and perhaps even better than we do ourselves, the chaotic, embarrassing, and shameful parts of us. That someone else gets who we are and both sympathizes with us and forgives us for what they see underpins our whole capacity to trust and to give. Love is a dividend of gratitude for our lovers’ insight into our own confused and troubled psyche.

Rather than some notional idea or perfect complementarity, it is the capacity to tolerate dissimilarity that is the true marker of the right person. Compatibility is an achievement of love; it shouldn’t be its precondition.