Listen to everyone, follow no one


We are social beings. Our values and opinions are created by exposing ourselves to others. That’s why it’s essential to join conversations and to be challenged by new (or even better, opposing) ideas.

In this, novices to this practice usually have an easier time than veterans. The reason is simple; veterans are grown to a particular viewpoint, backed up by many examples, quotes, and ideas. They feel they know themselves. Being exposed to new ideas creates friction, it’s hard to reconcile a new thing when we carry already so much. However, you cannot value a new view unless you understand it, and to understand one must listen.

But then, novices have the hardest time with the second part of the equation; having less friction to new ideas, they adopt new things with no questions at all, and that leads to dogma.

When the spiritual teacher and his disciples began their evening meditation, the cat who lived in the monastery made such noise that it distracted them. So the teacher ordered that the cat be tied up during the evening practice.

Years later, when the teacher died, the cat continued to be tied up during the meditation session. And when the cat eventually died, another cat was brought to the monastery and tied up. Centuries later, learned descendants of the spiritual teacher wrote scholarly treatises about the religious significance of tying up a cat for meditation practice.

Novices had their tea cups empty, and they were drinking daily from the master’s knowledge. Unexposed to new ideas, their critical thinking goes underdeveloped. Tying cats becomes the path to enlightenment.

When exposed to new ideas and practicing the act of reconciling it with your existing values, one must examine not only the idea, or who said it, but most importantly the why. Once knowing the why, you can either add it to your cup or reject it – you’re always free to do so.

So everyone has their challenges, but it all leads down to how we treat the why: are we open enough to it, are we seeking it truly?

And please, stop tying up cats.


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