Sunday, June 19, 2011

Three Questions

“It once occurred to a certain king, that if he always knew the right
time to begin everything… he would never fail in anything
he might undertake.” Tolstoy, Three Questions

I read Tolstoy’s Three Questions, the other day, and fell in love with it! This is the first of the three questions Tolstoy’s Emperor deemed imperative for success. It got me thinking, how do people determine when to act, to pursue an endeavor, to act upon a decision, or anything, really?

I would hope that in such instances as the story illustrates, helping a feeble man out, as well as reviving someone to life, that all of us would act at that moment. But it represents a larger picture. What spurs people to action?

You can ask any number of people’s advice, and get the same number of answers. If you asked my dad, for instance, he would bring out his calendar, and a yellow legal pad and map it all out with charts, graphs, and a Venn diagram for good measure.

When any sort of decision had to be made, [much to the chagrin of my more abstract mother and I] the legal pad was out [it is never far away]. Whether my parents were deciding to make the move from upstate New York to Charlotte to deciding whether to buy a Ford as opposed to a Honda, the legal pad was out, covered with my notes written in dad’s all-caps print.

There’s something comforting about lists, I’ll grant you. I’ve been known to bring out a legal pad for big decisions. Anything more elaborate, and it’s easy to forget what my original aim was.

If you asked my boyfriend, he would say, to go the Nike route, and Just Do It. He said that the things that have worked best for him is when he didn’t plan or analyze, but just acted.

Many times, there is no time to plan, you have to just act. The Emperor saw that the Hermit needed help immediately, he didn’t wait until he had the correct equipment or his work shoes. He jumped right in. When they both saw the dying man stumbling on the field, they stopped what they were doing and acted.

Our decisions are ultimately influenced by self. How can I best meet MY needs?
There is really nothing wrong with that, we are programmed that way. If you happen to be strolling in the jungle one day, you will not find too many lions looking out for any other lions, but themselves, [except mother lions, of course]. But one could argue that she is looking after a part of herself,

We, humans have been blessed with higher functioning brains than any of the jungle creatures. Along with our self- centered reptilian brain, we have two other reasoning, considering, brains. The neocortex and the limbic system. We are able to consider whether our instincts are appropriate, and help others, when we see a need.

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