On determination and time

Monk Thich Nhat Hanh wrote, “Success isn’t a matter of talent alone. There are many elements that contribute to success. Even if you’re the most talented person, even if you have real insight, if the right time has not come, you won’t be successful. So you just do your best, and if conditions are sufficient you’ll have success. You can never be sure that you’ll be successful. That’s the reality.” (p. 134)

This week I have been thinking about this quote and the way we think of ourselves doing things that we want, when we want to do them. Determination, ambition, drive, will, agency; these are the internal shapes of action. The external shapes and measures, those beyond our control, are what we try to control, as much as we try to control our own actions. These two things, and how we “make” time and our determination, are interesting parallel thoughts.

The first thought is supported by the second thought. The underlying division and assumption is that although these two are separate, they must be controlled. That we must somehow control ourselves and the external world to accomplish our solitary goals. This thought, that we can make and shape those internal and external forces to achieve what we decide, is a comforting one. I think we would have a broader definition of success if we loosened our ideas of determination and time.

What if we changed our thoughts on the external world and were more allowing than controlling? Not that we made time, or that we fixed our determination, but that we allowed time, ungraspable, to move accordingly. Perhaps our determination would then be to not control, but to be with whatever happens.

I set aside a day to write this blog. My first draft took 20 minutes. I sat with it, reread it a few times in passing while listening to the rain, and 5 hours later decided to publish it. I liked my time with this post, and I consider that, more than this post itself, a success.

BradyOn determination and time

On personal and political violence

After spending a week thinking about and studying for my psychotherapy exams, I realize that I have spent a lot of time thinking about violence as a personal experience while the nation thinks about violence as a display of patriotism; our veterans have sacrificed their lives and taken other lives for the idea of us as a country.

Violence occurs in many dimensions, and in many ways, and oftentimes it is done with simple notions of right and wrong. I realize that pacifism, to many people, is simply the antithesis of patriotic. I realize, too, that pacifism and the opposition to war can be seen as weak, and disrespectful to those that served in the military.

As a therapist, and as a pacifist, I have been called disrespectful and unpatriotic because I oppose war and violence. As a therapist, but also as a person, I strive to understand and humanize those that commit violent actions, which, I have noticed, war supporters do not do so in kind.

Whether a person is a pacifist or pro-war, I think it is important and necessary to think about war and violence in our own lives and the value that is placed on it. Sanitized notions of war as “defending democracy” deny the experience of war, for people are killed and people are killing each other. We like to think of those people that murder, that rape, that torture others as somehow monstrous, evil, and not really human. We also like to think of veterans and service members as heroic, honorable, and valued.

It is difficult, and deeply challenging, to remember that all of us, especially the angry and violent among us, are still human. We are still human when we commit violent acts out of personal pain, or out of patriotism, but it is violent.

Voltaire offered, “Every violent action destroys those small alterations in the features, which sometimes disclose the sentiments of the heart.” (1774, p. 64)

Perhaps it is true, that in wanting to destroy something else, we show our humanity as we deny others of theirs. Those small sentiments of the heart remain, even as we reduce others to victims, to monsters, to others.

-Brady

[reposted blog entry from my prior website]
About the Author

Brady

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I'm a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice down in the greater Long Beach, CA, area. I've been in the mental health field, formally, since 2005, and I consider it a deep and rewarding honor to see other people grow and live the lives that they want. If I'm not sitting on a couch with a cup of tea in hand, I'm probably on my bicycle, or lost in my own thoughts on the beach; meditating, tweeting, blogging, and talking into a video camera are also known to happen.

BradyOn personal and political violence