Principle 7, third week
This month’s Principle is #7 from chapter 13 of the book (The Inner Look). It is also called “The Principle of Immediate Action” it says: “If You Pursue An End You Enchain Yourself. If Everything You Do Is Realized As An End In Itself You Liberate Yourself.”
Our focus this week is on how I applied, or could have applied the principle in in past situations. Next week we’ll look at how it might apply in the future.
Meanwhile here’s some personal considerations about this principle. I hope they prove useful in your own reflections.
Last week I was thinking about the implications of — or at metaphor in — a possible neurobiological basis for this principle. This week my attention was drawn by something quite different. I started wondering about the phrase: If Everything You Do Is Realized As An End In Itself.
The first thing I did was look up the phrase in dictionaries of idioms and phrases — yes there are such things. Here’s a sample;
“…existing for its own sake; existing for no clear purpose. (*Typically: be ~; become ~.) For Bob, art is an end in itself. He doesn’t hope to make any money from it. Learning is an end in itself. Knowledge does not have to have a practical application.
See also: an, end, in, itself”
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
“…if an activity or action is an end in itself, it is important to you not because it will help you to achieve something else, but because you enjoy doing it or think that it is important Education should be an end in itself.
See also: an, end, in, itself”
Cambridge Idioms Dictionary, 2nd ed. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2006.
Considering these examples of common usage drove home the idea that it was not a question of an absence of goals (quite the contrary) but of having the desired “end” co-present and my focus on each step. That often means enjoying each intermediate stage as fully as possible, but even where that’s not possible or appropriate knowing I can attend to this step and do it with all the care I can muster.
One interesting place to learn and practice this principle (among others) is in those processes we call crafts. Their practice also gives new intuitions about, and inspirations regarding, the principles. Historically the crafts have been tied to those most central of the works of Silo’s school, the systems of self-transference called disciplines. The disciplines however are not everyone’s interest — requiring as they do, special conditions, preparation, and dedication. On the other hand, the crafts are of more general use, and far more accessible. Unlike in daily life where they might be practiced to create beautiful or useful objects in our ambits they are used to create beautiful or useful attitudes. We can call these: Permanence, Care, and Tone.
One form of permanence is in giving your actions the time they need to develop properly. Care can also be translated, as precision, or even attention to detail. Tone is a matter of measure and proportion and so related to what in another time might have been called temperance from the Latin temperantia ‘moderation,’ from temperare ‘restrain.’ An idea related to another “old” sounding word prudence, using that word in something like its original sense (Latin: prudentia, from providentia meaning “seeing ahead, sagacity”).
These three attitudes, permanence, care and tone, are cultivated in the crafts and can cast an interesting light on the application of the principles in daily life and on this principle in particular.
These notes have been sent to the email list of our meditation group, posted on Facebook, on and on this blog.
We’d all love to hear your comments, thoughts about, considerations of, or artwork inspired by, any of this.