Mastering the Art of Living

As John Lennon famously remarked, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”

Perhaps now more than ever in recent memory, we need to concern ourselves with the “Art of Living,” which is as important (if not more so) than the “Art of Making a Living.”

Nothing in this world is permanent. There are both shadows and light. Periods of feasting and periods of famine. There is great Good in this world, and there is unmitigated and unrepentant Evil. It has always been this way. Certain theological beliefs and arguments aside, there is little reason to believe it will ever not be so.

The Zentropist walks the Path of Mastery, and it has been observed (quite accurately in my opinion) that this is a path with no end, a journey whose destination is always beyond the horizon. This teaches us that it is the journey that shapes us, as we face various obstacles, obstructions and challenges, and in overcoming such adversity, we learn things about ourselves that we otherwise would never have known.  Perhaps we do get knocked down, and there are times when we are convinced that we cannot possibly go on, but this is an illusion. We can go on, and there is always a way.

Rather than batter ourselves mercilessly against an unyielding foe, sometimes we must flow around it, or find the means to re-direct the opposing energy so as to realize our own goals. As my own Sifu likes to observe, “In a given moment force can only have one direction at a time.”

This is true in the application of martial arts to a particular situation and it is true on the larger playing field of life. While it is probably a natural human desire to want to compartmentalize life, to artificially construct firewalls between the various aspects of our existence, this too is an illusion. How we approach life is expressed in our actions and attitudes, and the good news is that we have the power to adapt and change. We may not be able to always control what befalls us, but how we react and adapt to such opportunities and challenges is paramount.

The pursuit of Mastery is really about the pursuit of Excellence. Many are afraid to pursue Excellence because of self-imposed limitations, or because they are not willing to invest the time necessary. Make no mistake. Mastery only comes through the dedicated and consistent application of work over time. And not just any work. Focused and detail-oriented work. The most difficult of all.

Even those blessed with natural abilities in a given endeavor must do the work. There are no shortcuts. There are no “quick fixes.” Sometimes the rewards are external, such as recognition among one’s peers or even the general public, and sometimes they are monetary. All too often, the rewards may be internal, or will only manifest externally over a far longer timeline.

All that we have in this world is time, yet ironically, it is not our place to know how much of it we have. How we invest that time is ultimately how we are measured, and something that we do have control over.

Heed the wisdom of the late writer James A. Michener, who said:

“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both.”

So master the time that you have been given. Pursue excellence in all aspects of your life. Master the Art of Living in all its various expressions. Unleash the Zentropist within…

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