4. Be The Master

March 13th 2020, Friday

Dear Blog,

I am such an idiot.

Vance replied to my message yesterday and apologized for the late reply. He was celebrating with his friend in Munich who had just finished his bar exam (Stattsexamen), which was incredibly hard. Most people would do nothing but preparing for it for a whole year.

“A whole year of studying! I would get so hammered if I were him.” Hanson replied.

“Haha yeah we absolutely did. I’m still a bit hungover from yesterday.” He texted back.

Me: “We would probably share the same fate next year when we finish our thesis.”

Him: “Yeah, I’m counting on it.”

I was almost giggly and ecstatic to know that he had not deliberately ignored me on purpose, but like a drug addict, I crave more the moment one craving is satisfied. I stopped myself from texting him any further, knowing whatever I say would be filled with the wrong intention, only to get attention from him while completely losing myself.

The truth may not tell us at all times what we should do, but it will always tell us what we should not do, or what we should stop doing.

—Leo Tolstoy

Or desires are like little children who are always restless and who keep on asking their mother for now this, now that, now another, but who are never satisfied with anything. The more one gives in to their demands, the more they carry on pestering.

—From Pious Thoughts

I craved attention from him. Now that I have gotten it, I immediately wanted more, which is why I stopped myself. If it seemed rude to him, so be it, though in retrospect I should have said something about his hungover, wishing him to get better or something. But it’s important to set boundaries. I will remember to be kind next time without walking in the wrong direction.

Unfortunately, that was about the most exciting thing that happened to me yesterday. By the way, I tend to write the daily blog of the events from the early morning of the day after. Because I find it easier to be objective with a night’s sleep. Remember what we said about the truth? One cannot see the truth without time. Sometimes I would be filled with such strong emotions that I want to immediately start writing for the next day, but I want to be the master and not let my emotions tower over me. I need to teach myself that in order to write, regularity is more important than a burst-of-the-moment inspiration.

Here is an excerpt from a wonderful little book that I have been reading.

In order to live more freely, or with more ease, Zen Buddhism teaches the importance of not labelling ourselves as ‘this or that kind of person.’

There is another you within yourself. This version of you is freer than the self you think you know, and rich with potential. It is your essential self. Within yourself lives your true protagonist.

In Zen terms, the word for ‘protagonist’ is also translated as ‘master‘. There is a famous story of a Zen monk who would address himself, saying, ‘Hey, Master!’ and his self would reply, ‘Yes?’ He would then ask, ‘Are you awake?’ and his self would again reply, ‘Yes!’ He would continue his questioning in earnest.

Each of us plays various roles in society. You may be an office worker, a mother or a cook in a restaurant. These are, without a doubt, our various ‘selves’. But we each have another self, the true protagonist that lives within us.

Do your best to awaken this other self.

Zen: The Art of Simple Living, by Shunmyō Masuno

I love this story so much that every time when I feel anxious I would just say “Hey, Master!” and an infinitely calm and wise version of myself would appear in my heart, replying “Yes?” Sometimes he would not appear on the first try, because the emotions are too overwhelming. But you need to keep on trying, bringing yourself back to the present moment, and learn to listen.

I was also kind of depressed from having to do a group report on Valuation, an elective class that I took mostly because I liked the teacher instead of the content. So stupid. This isn’t high school anymore. I can’t believe I am still taking classes based on which authority figure I would like to impress. But I just don’t really care about the content. I probably did a horrible job on the exam. Why do I keep doing this to myself?

My part of the report was very simple. A lovely teammate already did the calculation of the cash flow for me. All I need to do is just to write something about it. But my brain was blank. I simply do not know from which angle I should approach this question. I spent the majority of the morning procrastinating, reading aimlessly, getting agitated, and finally did it in the late afternoon when it was announced that all classes will be suspended starting on Friday and the presentation for the Valuation report would also be canceled. Now we just need to hand in the report instead of doing both the report and the presentation. Godsend. I think it’s a sign that God doesn’t want me to live in a lie anymore. Knowledge is infinite. There is simply no way for me to know everything. The quality of knowledge is more important. I will define what knowledge is essential for me and what is not, and focus on what I want to know rather than what I think I should know to get a job. There will always be a job, the lost time on useless things will never come back. You get the priority wrong.

Often people attempt to live their lives backwards: they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want so that they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then, do what you need to do, in order to have what you want.

—Margaret Young

Do only that which you find spiritually uplifting, and you will be sure that, in doing so, you will be of the greatest possible use to society.

—Leo Tolstoy

Let’s hope I have the courage to keep going. I simply must.

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