I think that a life properly lived is just learn, learn, learn all the time. And I think Berkshire’s gained enormously from these investment decisions by learning, through a long, long period. Every time you appoint a new person that’s never had big capital allocation experience, it’s like rolling the dice. We’re way better off having done it for so long. But the decisions blend; and the one feature that comes through is the continuous learning. If we had not kept learning, you wouldn’t even be here. You’d be alive probably, but not here.
Aeschylus may have found some of his starting-points in contemporary events but he looked far beyond them to the lasting principles which they illustrated and which could best be presented in a mythical form without any distracting local or ephemeral details. If Pindar illuminates the events of his own time by myths, Aeschylus goes further and makes myths illustrate matters which pass far beyond the present and are often everlasting principles behind the changing scene.
He was the poet of the self’s motion downwards into the abysses of darkness and guilt and pain and isolation, upwards to the creative act in which darkness was transmuted into beauty. When the self became lost to the world, Whitman was lost for poetry. But before that happened, Whitman had, in his own example, made poetry possible in America.
The American poet and critic Ezra Pound once acknowledged Whitman’s prominence:
He is America. His crudity is an exceeding great stench, but it is America. He is the hollow place in the rock that echoes with his time. He does “chant the crucial stage” and he is the “voice triumphant.” He is disgusting. He is an exceedingly nauseating pill, but he accomplishes his mission. … He is content to be what he is, and he is his time and his people.
Lu Xun was a leading and influential figure in modern Chinese literature. A pioneer in the May Fourth Movement-inspired new literature of the early 1900s, he specialized in the short story, endowing this genre with new form and content. Chairman Mao Zedong in The Culture of New Democracy,
Lu Xun was the major leader in the Chinese cultural revolution. He was not only a great writer but a great thinker and a great revolutionist. . . . Lu Xun breached and stormed the enemy citadel; on the cultural front he was the bravest and most correct, the firmest, the most loyal and the most ardent national hero, a hero without parallel in our history. The road he took was the very road of China’s new national culture.
Since the May Fourth Movement, China has produced an entirely new and vigorous cultural force … And Lu Hsün was the greatest and bravest standard-bearer of this new cultural army … The direction of Lu Hsün is the direction of the new Chinese culture.
I have observed this in my experience of slavery, that whenever my condition was improved, instead of its increasing my contentment, it only increased my desire to be free, and set me to thinking of plans to gain my freedom. I have found that, to make a contented slave, it is necessary to make a thoughtless one. It is necessary to darken his moral and mental vision, and, as far as possible, to annihilate the power of reason. He must be able to detect no inconsistencies in slavery; he must be made to feel that slavery is right; and he can be brought to that only when he ceased to be a man.
When we really see, in our mind’s eye, a person we think we don’t like, and instead of solidifying our reasons for hatred we honestly wish them happiness, good health, safety, and as easeful life, we start to forget what we thought we hated and why we felt that way in the first place. A sense of equanimity toward everyone arises as we do this practice—we feel compassion for those who were once invisible to us, and our disregard and apathy morph into concern for their well-being and safety.
I became enamored of Buddhism when I realized its basic tenet began by saying, essentially, “Life sucks and then you die, so what’s that all about?” This was the religion for me. This was a framework I could use to examine my actual experience. Far from the promise of pie-in-a-big-sky afterlife, this was about dealing with the fear that comes when you realize nothing is going to save your ass.
As the English poets who, age after age, revolve about the centrality of Shakespeare, constantly extended themselves toward creation of a perfect circle, our poets, too, revolving around Rabindranath, will do the same.
In the end, just three things matter:
- How well we have lived.
- How well we have loved.
- How well we have learned to let go.
True emptiness is not empty, but contains all things. The mysterious and pregnant void creates and reflects all possibilities. From it arises our individuality, which can be discovered and developed, although never possessed or fixed.