The Palimpsest of Sawbones Surio

Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will

Speech is silver, but silence is golden

with 8 comments

Jacob’s old, tongue in cheek post from a couple of weeks ago, “In praise of mystics” initially flew past my head, as I am more used to the Indian association of the word “Siddha” for the word “mystic”. That Wikipedia article covers a lot of ground, so enjoy yourself.

From what I remember reading about Siddhas from elsewhere, Silence was a big part of their teachings. Indeed this is one of the common threads that connects many of the World’s religions. Other religions have also advocated (Buddhism, Sufism, Benedictine…etc…) silence as a means for raising one’s level of consciousness/awareness. Indeed silence is a misnomer here. It is not silence in the meaning that we commonly know and use, but that of stilling one’s mind, the originator of all thoughts (that eternal gaggler!). “Just be” is a more appropriate admonition here, rather than “Be quiet” :-P!

Cut to today. It is getting more and more difficult, if not downright impossible for “the Organisation man” to perform the act of wilful ceasing and stilling of thoughts in order to to engage in simple soul-searching for self-actualisation, let alone take stock of where the hell is this train-wreck heading towards:

  • A side effect of our infoglut culture with easy access keeps us on overdrive all the time. 😐
  • Digital Taylorism – Enough said. Ermine, our resident stoatwizard wrote a post on it. This modern ill that plagues us, ensures we are forever in an agitated frame of mind and in a bellicose mood that is brought on by that feeling of powerlessness.
  • Overspecialisation on the job front. Ermine touches on this also, but it is not what I meant to convey. Heard of DO-178B? That’s what is used when they try to develop avionics software. And fear not dear stressed-out, already overworked developers, there’s a new version coming out this year! And that’s just for the software. Don’t forget the hardware now! And just remember, you’ll be sued and jailed for negligence if something goes wrong, but your CEO will still collect his bonus and get himself another job.

“Special”, “customised” service, Sir? Watch the video. Enough said!

And the net result of our “modern times” is that

……the share of Americans who considered themselves very happy was 53% in September 1956 and 49% in December 2006, even as their personal computing powers increased infinitely……

—- Vaclav Smil on an online talk.

Vaclav Smil’s Latest article on American scientist: At very low and low per capita consumption levels, higher use of energy is clearly tied to rising index of human development, but once energy per capita reaches about 150 gigajoules per year, the correlation breaks down. More is not better. Read full article

So, one thing is very clear. Things are not going to be better if you are dependent on a monthly salary. After all, “You, Sir, are a ‘tool’ “ and you are about to get even more smaller and overwrought as we get more Specialisation and more energy-intense lifestyles. Double Whammy? Double Whammy is the right word indeed.

If you feel that you need to discuss with someone about these misgivings, then all the better. Just please spend some time and read this brief parable by Kahlil Gibran:

Four frogs sat upon a log that lay floating on the edge of a river. Suddenly the log was caught by the current and swept slowly down the stream. The frogs were delighted and absorbed, for never before had they sailed.

At length the first frog spoke, and said, “This is indeed a most marvellous log. It moves as if alive. No such log was ever known before.”

Then the second frog spoke, and said, “Nay, my friend, the log is like other logs, and does not move. It is the river that is walking to the sea, and carries us and the log with it.”

And the third frog spoke, and said, “It is neither the log nor the river that moves. The moving is in our thinking. For without thought nothing moves.”

And the three frogs began to wrangle about what was really moving. The quarrel grew hotter and louder, but they could not agree. Then they turned to the fourth frog, who up to this time had been listening attentively but holding his peace, and they asked his opinion.

And the fourth frog said, “Each of you is right, and none of you is wrong. The moving is in the log and the water and our thinking also.”

And the three frogs became very angry, for none of them was willing to admit that his was not the whole truth, and that the other two were not wholly wrong.

Then a strange thing happened. The three frogs got together and pushed the fourth frog off the log into the river.

—- Knowledge and Half-knowledge.

Moral of the story? “It depends” 😉

But two things stand out in the story for me.
1. The silent frog had in fact put more thought into their happenings than the so called “observant frogs”.
2. In the end, the cacophony of “factual”, on-the-ground observations will either win you over or crowd you out. In case of the frogs, the latter happened.

Minor Edit:

Very uncanny. A respected fellow commenter of great insight, Maus over at ERE forums has just completed a “fast from the Internet”. My two big takeaways, which I ought to place here.

  • I decided that my daily use of the internet had become a bit compulsive. I was frequently checking a handful of websites that I’d found interesting in the past. It began to seem to me as if I was doing this to avoid dealing with work responsibilities that were neither urgent nor interesting, and probably to avoid the larger question of whether my career as a lawyer has plateaued… I was taught that fasting (usually from food) helped one to obtain detachment and clarity of thought or intention. And my experiences at that time generally confirmed this. So, I decided to fast from the internet.
  • I wanted to recapture a sense of intentionality about my use of this incredible tool for communicating and obtaining information. The very ease of access had led me to take it for granted and to squander its potential to truly add value to my life. Having returned to the Net, I can say that my fast was very satisfactory. While I missed the ebb and flow of commentary by familiar “voices,” I can see that I did not miss anything truly earthshattering or fundamentally important to the realization of my core values.

So, don’t become the fourth frog in trying to engage the (half-)knowledged crowd. Become your own master. Indeed, this is when you’ll find, “Speech may be silver”, but “Silence is golden”! Some of the links on the right will help you on your road to mastery of your own life.

But, in the end you need to truly “meditate” on the options present, and come up with an action plan. May the force of the “mystics” be with you.

Written by Surio

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Posted in Musings, Philosophy

8 Responses

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  1. There seems to be something about being a lwayer which seems to lead to a high degree of dissatisfaction with work.

    It took me until the last decade of my working life to get to that stage. Those in the legal profession (Maus, Dreamer…) seem to get there in their 20s or 30s

    What is up with that…?


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    • Minor point. Maus turns 50 this year. 😉

      But I know what you mean.
      There’s mikeBOS at Lacking ambition also.
      And yes, how can I forget dreamer (Folks, we’re talking about her).

      But that doesn’t mean disenfranchisement is exclusive to lawyers He He 😉
      Also not to mean, people in their 30s are not allowed to get disenfranchised 🙂

      Pretty much what you write in your “hate work” series, all of us experience in many forms. You got to have adamantium coated mindset for it to bounce off unscathed.
      But who decides to act on their disenfranchisement?


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  2. @ermine

    “There seems to be something about being a lwayer which seems to lead to a high degree of dissatisfaction with work.”

    I am not a lawyer, and my involvement with law is primarily military in nature. I saw the drill while I was assigned to the Judge Advocate General’s corps as a scribe for a couple years. This is nothing special, just a glorified admin clerk for Courts Martial. We carried the water and held the coats of the Officers appointed to traveling boards of inquiry. All this to keep you interested knowing I was “exposed”.—somewhat.

    I burnt out on the above within a year. At first it was glorious. In fact I was excited about it. I felt authority, and liked being “masked” behind the scene of the Army dragging their ash and trash into court to “try” them. What turned me around was the sickening “One Upmanship” that goes around. It was and is all about who had the dialogs, who learned the latest “buzwords” and could apply them the fastest. Later, while a Notary Public, I was called into court to testify to my signature on a land sale document. (I was a Notary as in civilian life as well as military). I took the stand the Lawyers went at me with a zest. I was in uniform, and the defense would not agree that I was qualified to testify as a civilian NP. This went on to the toxic stages of One Upping, until the Judge, himself, got so upset he dismissed my testimony to get rid of the issue. One Upping–I always hated that.
    By virtue of it’s nature, toxic attitude and “snottiness”, is prevalent in Law.


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  3. So Mr Surio

    Possibly you remember me being the one who rejected a computer on my desk. (From another post somewhere, I mentioned that). Problem was, the world did not reject digital surrender out of hand. I would have certainly have voted “against” them in 1988 at my first in your face exposure. In those days we had the old “Zenith 256” which can probably be seen in a museum these days. What a piece of crap now, but at that time, one thought one was something of a superman to run one. Then came personal email. “My email addy is 1234@5678! What’s yours?” or “I’m with AOL, which later was known as AO HELL.
    Anyway, I would have gladly voted “no”. I am nonethewise sure it has done much for us as a human race.
    However, it was necessary for that Super Computer in Brussels that will track us all one day, if they aren’t already.
    Cheers Gov!! You watchin’ the Royals tonight? No, I don’t mean the ball team. LOL


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    • @Spence,
      I am unable to catch the exact train of thoughts here, but
      1. I believe the “PC revolution” is somewhat overrated. Don’t buy my word for it. See this Economist debate on this issue here
      2. As a practising ERE, who ditched TV in 2007 and an individualist with anti-imperial posts under my belt, the royal wedding with its sales generation of pointless tat is the last thing on my mind now. 😛 However, having said that, marriage in itself is a great occasion in anybody’s life, so let me take this moment in time to congratulate the Prince and his consort with “A very Happy married life” 😉


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      • And she is pleasing to the eye, no? Unlike his mother who I could never see what the fuss was all about. He is no oil painting…


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      • Yes you’re right! she looks very cute. I too think the same way as you did about the mother :-D. I was very unpopular with the ladies in my office when I told them so about his mother. :-D! Good to know there are others.

        >> He is no oil painting…
        Definitely not! 😀


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  4. […] a comment » Hello everyone! I am back! Inspired by Maus’ “internet fast”, I had undertaken a somewhat similar one myself. I would heartily recommend it to anyone. Regular […]

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