Principle of Well Timed Action — Week 2
This week we continue with our meditations on “The Principle of Well-Timed Action”. It says: “Do not oppose a great force. Retreat until it weakens than advance with resolution.” It can be found with the other Principles of Valid Action in chapter Xlll of the book “The Inner Look”, by Silo.
Over the month we will consider and discus this principle and its implications, whether, and in what ways, it can be useful, etc. This week we will look at how I applied it or could have applied it in past situations and how things might have been changed. Our next meeting will give us an opportunity to discuss the thoughts, doubts, questions, and insights arising from these considerations.
So in trying to deepen my understanding of this principle and its applications, I started to ask myself some questions. Simple things like, how did I know when a force was great? Did I sometimes misjudge and retreat in front of, what were really, minor inconveniences? How did that work out?
After a moment I found I had lots of questions.
Is there some way, besides hindsight, that allowed me to reliably judge the strength of the opposing force?
I hope you won’t be turned off by my “violent” examples but, perhaps because of the word “retreat” when I think of this principle I immediately think of military tactics in general and a couple of famous battles in particular. The martial arts are full of examples where this basic idea is applied. Here are a few. I’m sure someone more knowledgeable could supply many more examples. You don’t have to turn to the Eastern arts of Ju Jitsu or Aikido, both of which are famous for turning the attackers energy against them. Western boxing for example has its famous example of Muhammad Ali’s “rope a dope,” where the fighter takes on a protected stance like lying against the ropes, which can then absorb some of the the punch’s energy while the opponent slugs away tiring themselves out.
Remember Napoleon in Russia? Military historians still argue about what mix of events beyond the military (the weather, disease, etc) tipped the scales. But in both cases the apparently stronger invaders pushed ahead while the Russian armies retreated, stretching the enemies supply lines, providing the opportunity for some combination of weather, disease, fatigue, and hunger to decimate the troops demoralize the troops. When the enemy weakened the retreat transformed into attack —with the help of General Winter and his colleagues General Snow, General Ice, General Cold combined with a willingness of the Russians to sacrifice themselves on a terrifying scale.
However it is clear that, “retreat” like the other key terms here will mean different things in different circumstances. For example, to wait things out, to go in another direction, to go along with something, etc.
What has “retreat” meant for me in previous situations? Probably, it wasn’t about pulling my troops back toward Moscow. Did I find appropriate ways to retreat for the situation in which I found myself? Could I have been more skillful in how I applied this? What was a situation where I retreated but I could have done it even better?
And lets not forget the second part! Then did I advance with resolution? Were there times where having retreated I then used that as an excuse to give up, or as a convenient way to forget that I had originally wanted to go in another direction? What about those situations where I advanced but only in a half-assed way (without resolution)?
Can I think of three occasions where I applied this principle successfully? What difference did it make?
Next week we’ll look at how this principle might apply in situations in which I’m anticipating finding myself.
These notes have been sent to the email list and Facebook page of The Community of Silo’s Message Toronto Annex, as well as here.
We’d all love to hear your comments, thoughts about, considerations of, or artwork inspired by, any of this.
PS. Since they made these notes twice as long and always contained the same information I’m no longer including the general information about, the principles, materials, parks, etc that were included each week. You can find more info at the Silo Net website and here at The Silo’s Message website.