Tag Archives: Attitude

Defeat

A wise man once said sometimes you win, sometimes you LEARN

So my scars are not defeat, they represent my Experience

My tear stains are not defeat, they represent my Understanding

My mistakes are not defeat, they represent my Education

My humility is not defeat, it represents my Wisdom

J.M. Cortés

Copyright © 2013 J.M. Cortés 

Rise and shine

“The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him. What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows? Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings. It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink.”

The door opened and the curtains were drawn back as the king awoke to the admonition of a very concerned mother. Choosing her words cunningly, she spoke to him with regard to his standing in the eyes of the nation he led. Actions unbecoming a king would undermine his authority. If a king could not rule his own nature, how could he rule a kingdom positioned for world dominion? Jewish Rabbis recount a tale regarding an event with this king. On the day of his marriage to Pharaoh’s daughter, the king assembled musicians from far and wide. As the festivities unfolded, a day of celebration progressed into a night of excessive drinking and revelry. By the forth hour of the following day (10am) the king was found passed out with the keys to the Temple under his pillow. It was then his mother went looking for him and the words at the beginning of this post were the start of what she had to say. Sometime later when King Solomon would narrate this proverb, it was said that scribes used a pseudonym to protect his character of wisdom.

While resolve declines in some quarters, there is a movement of those who desire to advance beyond the vices and shortcomings. Not everyone is born into greatness but everyone can position themselves for it. Though our feet are on the earth, our spirit is not subject to it. The confines of the natural can take precedence to the supernatural. There is a limitation placed by some on whatever is not quantifiable or qualifiable by scientific measures. I believe in systems of reason and logic, I believe in the sciences. But I also acknowledge that humanity is a work in progress and we do not know 100% of what there is to know about anything. Thus we should be growing and like King Solomon sometimes we need a voice of reason in our life to facilitate that growth.

Many choose to remain within the boundaries of their predisposition and knowledge base thus they never grow. These boundaries must be expanded and the territory must be extended otherwise progression becomes impossible. Ordinary sliced bread remained virtually unknown to the world for 15 years after the inventor first came up with how to do it. Otto Rohwedder limited his energies on the processes of mass produced sliced bread. It was Wonder Bread that took the concept to the next level through mass marketing the concept, thus generating the infrastructure for mass production.

Is there anything in your life that could undermine your position? Is there anything that stands in the way of your progression?

Whatever you wish to achieve in the future must be actively worked toward in the present. I was told that the farmers of the distant past set their eyes to a fixed object as they plowed their field. This would keep them plowing in a straight course. Sometimes we get off course by choices that evolve into things unplanned. When it happens, we need someone or something that can wake us and realign us with our purpose.

Copyright © 2013 J.M. Cortés 

Hidden among the stuff

We are now on the other side of Black Friday which was preceded this year by the newly christened Black Thursday (formerly Thanksgiving). The big players in major retail hatched up another way to confiscate even more money from the masses; stores traditionally closed for the holiday once known as Thanksgiving would now be open. While I did not hear of anyone being trampled to death, some frenzied consumers did act out. Reports appeared of stabbings, assaults, shootings, and police dragged by cars driven by shop-lifters. Obviously the stores are not solely blamed but we can thank them for creating the environment. Oh well, there is a price to be paid for capitalism and some consumers are willing to do whatever it takes to save a buck.

I know it is cliché and all, every Thanksgiving the posts appear in the varied social media forums appealing to all to keep the thanks in Thanksgiving. It is ironic that an effort to preserve the traditional essence of the holiday is even necessary. A time for family and a time of expressing gratitude should come without effort. But the cultural climate has changed and traditional values in society have shifted. Dissatisfaction rules the day; people are unhappy with the jobs, unhappy in their relationships, and just unhappy in general.

Zig Ziglar has been heard to say “the healthiest of all human emotion is gratitude”. Gratitude is born of an understanding; understanding that where we are and what we have in life is the result of choices we’ve made. It is born of an understanding that things could be worse. It is the understanding that life is fragile and the future is uncertain. It’s understanding what the loss of everything and the work of rebuilding is like. The yoke of labor and sacrifice weighs heavy upon those who bear it. Yet from that heaviness strength arises. The earlier you learn to work hard for what you want and then appreciate it once it’s yours the sooner you will learn gratitude. “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth, he sitteth alone and keepeth silence because he hath bourne it upon him”.

When people fail to have or express gratitude it is because they overlook certain truths. It is the schedule, it is the struggle, it is the hardness that life brings. Yet what are we missing out on?

In 2008 a social experiment was conducted in a subway of Washington, D .C. on a busy workday morning. Award winning, Carnegie Hall playing violinist Joshua Bell situated himself in a high visibility area and for nearly an hour played classical pieces. In a region of the U.S. defined by sophistication and cultured tastes, it was predicted that masses would gather to witness such a performance. Even if skill alone did not arrest attention, surely the renowned musician would be recognized. But the reality was no one even noticed him. No one recognized his talent, no one recognized him, and no one even recognized his costly $3 million dollar violin. Other things had their attention. Schedules, the work place, finances, familial issues, health concerns, relationship matters, etc. Logically these things are not inherently wrong, but where does it end?

At some point, we all reach a place where we decide not to get caught up in the race. Detach from the temporal. Divest yourself of futile efforts. The masses are buying stuff they don’t need, with money they should not waste, to impress people that really don’t care. I shake my head when I think about ways I’ve wasted time, money, and energy in my life. I am now wanting to just be grateful for what I see and hopeful toward what I will soon see.

Copyright © 2013 J.M. Cortés

The Snare of a Glass Jaw

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This week I was supervising numerous 2 minute boxing matches. The participants were all adolescents and mostly inexperienced. Having sparred informally as well as in tournament settings, it was easy to discern what most of their movements and decisions were based on. Many entered the ring without thought about stance, breathing technique, or the 120 seconds between them and the whistle. They appeared to enter the ring with a short game mentality of swinging continuously and wildly at their opponent’s face. In addition to this, the 30 other preteens standing in anticipation outside of the ring only provoked their adrenaline all the more. Cheers, laughs, and shouts of instruction had them all in a frenzied state and it was a high energy environment.

For the most part, everything went positive and there was only one event of tears so it was an overall good experience. Every so often, an underdog would rise to overcome their opponent. But it did not take more than a third of the match’s time to know who had the upper hand. As already stated, the participants were mostly inexperienced and evenly matched so technique was not the giveaway. It was not the amount of swings thrown nor even how many hits to the face were taken.

The telltale sign was the spirit of the competitor.

Every student of combat sports is taught self defense techniques. Whether it is how to react to strikes or being grabbed, every system has its own ideal defense. I have trained in multiple martial arts and over the years I have seen many impractical lessons that only work in a simulated encounter. Every instructor imparts technique and execution with hope the student never needs to use it. Repetition and cultivating muscle memory drives the lesson down into the student and it becomes a part of their skill set. But only one thing will prove whether it ‘took’ or not; the day the real test arrives. There is no lesson like the lesson of experience. Its pace of instruction accelerates faster and travels further than any simulated lesson can.

I still remember the first time I was punched squarely in the face. It was not a friendly environment or a safe place of training; it was neither in play nor in practice. I was hit by a person that outweighed me and stood taller than I did. I was seated and they were standing, I never knew it was coming and they knew all along. I will also not forget the look on their face when I pushed myself off the ground and stood to face them.

Anyone familiar with boxing or other combat sports has heard about the infamous “glass jaw”. It is a term used to describe combatants with limited ability to suffer strikes, typically to the face. A combatant may have speed, technique, and physical strength but if they cannot handle attacks they are already undone. To counterbalance this (mostly) mental state, instructors will drive it down into the student’s spirit – “it’s all in your mind”. When the mind is overcome, the body and willpower follows. So an instructor pushes the student (or should) to a place that feels physically intolerable but is really just mentally painful. The student’s empowered mind will pursue dominion; the body is captive to the sheer force of their resolve.

The term “roll with the punches” is an idiom used to convey the will to persevere through difficulty. But literally, one of the techniques taught concerning being hit is moving with the direction of the blow. Continuing with the momentum of the attack decreases the force of it. Another technique is to keep the mouth closed. Obvious reasons like keeping the teeth in the head are there but it also can prevent a broken jaw or the tongue being bit in half.

These points have not been exhaustive but for the basis of this commentary the last point I will make regards breathing. In Karate and Tae Kwon Do, I was taught about the importance of the Kiyap. The Kiyap is the well-known guttural yell of martial artists and is related to the exertion of breath during striking movements. It is akin to the boxer’s audible breaths expelled from their noses and gritted teeth when they punch. The importance of these is explained a number of ways but the crux of the matter is breathing. The combatant must breathe!

Adversity in life, regardless how it manifests, is best handled like a punch in the face:

1. Sometimes fighting back is counterproductive: the force of resistance can be minimized if you go with the flow. It’s no different than swimming downstream instead of upstream; it’s obvious which direction is the easiest.

2. Keep your mouth shut. “It’s better to be silent and thought a fool then to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” We’ve all witnessed mudslinging and it never looks favorable on anyone’s part. Be careful to hold your tongue lest you bite it off.

3. Breathe: Don’t let difficulty steal your breath but instead regulate your breathing and on your own terms. Keep calm and carry on.

Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés

Lesson learned…

“Me, I want what’s coming to me….”

“Oh? Well, what’s coming to you?”

“The world, chico, and everything in it.”

These notorious lines are repartee of the protagonist and his counterpart in a tale about the rise and fall of a drug cartel leader. While the banter assumes an influx of ill-gotten materialism, the intention and motive is the same – destructive ambition. This tale I’ve referenced is neither unique nor original; as far as humanity goes back there have been people with unbalanced appetite and unwavering drive to attain whatever they want.

When the foundation is wrong, it is to be expected the subsequent phases will be just as wrong. Typically how something is begun is how it will end. The end of the character quoted above found him lying in a pool of his own blood, victim of assassination. While this example is not only extreme and rooted in fiction, there are many with a tale of ruin simply because they were controlled by destructive ambition. There are no shortcuts to any place worth going and no quick routes for gaining that which holds true value. The enjoyment of having what is ill-gotten is short lived compared to that which is gained honorably.

A fresh awareness of this came to me as I arrived at the conclusion of a particular venture in my life. This event started 581 days ago and resulted from an emotionally charged decision. I excused the decision under the pretense of it providing a form of income (which is important) and pride (which can become one’s undoing). I launched out thinking all would be well and something good could come from it.

Needless to say, 581 days later I not only accepted the venture cost me more money than it made me I lost some other things along the way. Starting off I knew what would come from it and its limitations. But hoping for something better to evolve from it and influenced by pride I jumped into it feet first. However if I would have jumped in with my mind first I would have never entered at all.

But as things that are begun wrong can do, it came to an end in an unexpected way. The consolation in all of this is two-fold though. I’d probably have continued to waste my time on a situation that could never yield a return of discernible value. More importantly, I learned a valuable lesson about decision making during emotionally charged times…don’t do it…for when emotions run high, judgment runs low.

 

Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés

Perspective

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Raising the window shade to look again, I still could not see anything. First it was 15 minutes, then 30, and soon an hour had passed. There we sat waiting to begin our flight out of Washington and yet our plane had scarcely moved from the loading bridge. I could not recall a time where I had seen fog so dense, it was as if we were surrounded by billows of smoke. Finally the fog dissipated enough for the Captain to announce we would depart and I was hoping he could see more than I could. Taxiing along the runway then launching forward, we soon took flight. Climbing to 10,000 feet, then 20,000, we finally were cruising at nearly 40,000 feet. The view from that same window now presented a much different perspective; a clear blue sky and hardly any clouds could be seen.

This experience represents how perspective influences response to a situation. Nothing changed concerning the weather, but our perspective changed when we rose above it.  Many times perspective becomes obscured by difficulties, interactions with negative people, or having a pessimistic attitude. While we cannot prevent every difficulty, we can control how we respond to it. We cannot transform the negative outlook others  have but we do not have to be influenced by it. And of all these things, the one we have most power over is our own attitude. Our attitude is formed and shaped by our perspective.  “Two men look out through the same bars, one sees the mud and one the stars” (F. Langbridge)

Perspective and Difficulty

When we are confronted by difficulty, regardless of its degree, the mind immediately formulates a response. The situation may be different but the response is typically consistent with our nature.  As the density of the fog hindered visibility for flight, difficult times can hinder our vision. It’s hard to believe when everything is falling apart that a resolution is possible. Or at the least, it has an end.  The day before posting this article, I was flying in a small non-commercial aircraft. As we began our descent, the pilot told me we would encounter turbulence very soon. Descending into clouds that had been below us, we now flew in a pattern that kept us surrounded by them. Visibility was zero. The pilot responded to my surprise by stating the instrumentation is what we were now relying on. When flying in zero visibility, a pilot cannot follow feelings or perspective. Spatial disorientation might cause them to feel they are going one way when they might be going another.  When difficult times disorient us, our perspective can become our undoing. This is where the importance of positive (and higher) influences becomes most evident.

Perspective and Negative People

“Protect your spirit from contamination; limit your time with negative people.”  – Thelma Davis

Naysayers, whiners, and skeptics are everywhere. These people walk among us criticizing and complaining about everything. Some of them do not even view “the glass as half empty”; they have a readymade presentation about the insufficiencies of the glass itself. They are trained well in the art of minimizing potential and maximizing limitation. These people have rallied associates for their cause as well; an alliance based on their ability to offer fear and anxiety. They see the dark side of things; citing chapter and verse on how pitiful things are. They see the worst in people and the worst in every situation. Avoid their toxicity; they should not be permitted the opportunity to distort your perspective.

Perspective and Attitude

Remember “Tough times don’t last but tough people do”. Once I have reached the other side of a trial, I know it helps to reflect on the perspective I had during it. I try to think about how I felt and how I was thinking when it started, then the same when it was over. This helps me to work toward attaining a proper perspective when the next trial arises. Proper perspective of the past helps to have a proper perspective of the future. On the flip side, I am reminded of material I used to teach anger management that used an allegory of “life views and windows of time”. The material created a metaphor of people standing before “windows of the past, present, and future”.  Viewing life (and thus living it) from a window view of the past is not constructive. You cannot undo what has happened and regret will only create negative feelings for today. Living life from a window view of the future can create anxiety and stress. The material encouraged focus on living life from a window view of the present. We cannot change the past but the future is best prepared for by focusing on the present.

“It’s your attitude, not your aptitude that determines your altitude”.  If you’ve ever heard Zig Ziglar speak, you probably have heard him say this!

What kind of perspective do you have? Where has it taken you? Or by contrast, what has it taken from you?

Seek a higher perspective and once you have attained it, seek a higher one than that.

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Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés

Fear Unfound

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“Confrontation!” demanded Greatness, choice lost when I said yes

Standing behind me I was found wanting and darkness covered me

Flight to a light with hope I’d escape this fright

Warm tears testified against me, terror brought me to my knees

What I feared most had come upon me

Confrontation?  No! Fear itself was my dread

I arose, running away from the light to which I had fled,

I now ran toward the darkness instead

Standing there I saw more than anywhere else

Standing there I now could see myself

And standing there in the darkness my fear was not found.

More often than not, poetry is born from personal experience. I wrote this particular poem after experiencing a frightening event. Rarely do I share my poetry and furthermore I do not think it is always appropriate to interpret poetry for the reader. I believe poetry needs to interpret itself before the reader. Having said that, I feel the essence (and inspiration) for this poem may help someone so I will offer insight regarding it.

Fear is very powerful and has the ability to manipulate. Fear is a crippling and exhausting emotion. Fear is a subjective response to perception (s); whether real or perceived its influence is the same. Fear has the ability to go beyond influencing the mind to a place where its toxicity can literally cause physical health issues. With statistics in place showing 40 million people in the United States suffer from some form of anxiety related disorder, it’s clear that fear is powerful.

But of all that fear can do, what it cannot do is destroy someone determined to fight back. To some it is easier to submit to fear’s wishes or suppress its affects through medication. But once someone becomes tired of fear’s chains and fetters, they will go looking for a way to be set free. Since fear’s power increases over time more than in a single moment, it must be broken in the same manner. The war with fear is won over time; its fighting a battle here and there then celebrating each moment of victory.

A lesson in fear’s methodology is demonstrated in how a lion overcomes its prey. Lions will sometimes pursue their prey for distances that they could close much sooner. If their prey is much larger and heavier than them, it is easier to pursue them to a point of exhaustion. Then when their prey has worn down beyond running further, it will fall down and the lion attacks.

The issue with running from fear is that never catches you; how can it? The intangible has no teeth or claws to sink into you. Furthermore it is impossible to outrun something in your mind! Success in overcoming fear is not found in outrunning it, it’s found in not running it all. We have to confront our fears ‘head on’ (pun intended).

The essence of this poem I have shared is that fear must be confronted. If you start running, you will never quit.

Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés

The Process in Becoming

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2013 approaches and the start of a new year is typically a baseline for new ‘things’. Diets, exercises, good habits launched, bad habits ceased…ad infinitum. Obviously a new year is a fitting launch point and so reacquainting with a certain concept is sought: “How long does it take to develop a new habit?” This query returns a number of answers; some say 2 weeks while others say 21 days. The end result is what inspires it all, the inspiration to BECOME. To become healthier, stronger, wiser, etc.

But there is a Process in Becoming that must be accepted; it is the gatekeeper to your Goals. This Process is also a catalyst to your growth. Since it’s standing between you and your goals and is responsible for your growth, it’s obviously crucial for Becoming. So what is the Process? Listed below and not in any particular order are 3 necessary elements of the Process:

LISTENING

No one likes lecturing or criticism but both are essential to development. If we want to Become something we are not, then logically we must listen to those who have already Become. Only a fool closes their eyes to what they have to show. Only a fool closes their ears to what they have to say. Only a fool closes their mind to what they have to teach. What you see, what you hear, and what you already know has not been sufficient to take you to that place you pursue. These have to be laid aside to receive something greater. This takes a great deal of courage! Shut up and listen; while you are speaking all that’s coming out is what you already know. Be still and hear so you can absorb something greater.

FAILURE

Friedrich Nietzsche said of Failure: “A thinker sees his own actions as experiments and questions, as attempts to find out something. Success and failure are for him answers above all.” What a perspective! It removes the stigma of failure by simply assigning it a place in the steps of the Process.

How many have never tried because they were afraid of failure? The potential alone was enough to detour them. But what if failure (or the perception of it) could be accepted beforehand? What if it could be considered, by default, a part of the Process? Its influence would not go away but rather it would be channeled into a productive force. Thomas Edison was quoted as saying “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”.  A former supervisor once told me that the sign of a great technician is not what they fix but what they break. What this idea communicated to me was, it all comes down to experience. I have a friend who is known to take mechanical things apart once they quit working simply to learn about how they functioned. To most, these things lost their use when they broke but to him a lesson could be extracted from them.

DECISION

The etymology of our English word “decision” is from the Latin “decidere” which has within its connotation the meaning “to cut off”. Some ties have to be severed. Negative voices, destructive influences, and things that take from you but never add to you must go. They are like dead limbs on a tree or “suckers”; they partake of the substance of the root yet never contribute to the production of fruit. Get the shears out and sever these suckers off. They manifest in all forms; they can be habits, attitudes or relationships. Deal with them or they will keep doing what they want with you.

There are many more elements in the Process of Becoming than these I’ve listed. Furthermore, I did not even get close to exhausting the 3 I mentioned. But I hopefully have offered you something to think about.

The inspiration for this commentary was no doubt the reflection of something in my subconscious that played out in a dream I had this past Friday. In my dream, I was at the base of a mountain and at the summit of this mountain it was raining. The rain seeped down the side of the mountain and as I climbed the mountain it would wash down over me. During my ascent I could not tell if the rains hindered or helped me. At times I was forced to suspend myself over open areas that to fall through would mean certain death. But all the while it continued to rain and the waters flowed passed me as well as over me.

Finally I reached the top and when I hoisted myself over, I saw others who had already climbed lying down and resting. Someone rose up and asked me “are you going to take this mountain” and I replied that I would continue beyond it. When I looked beyond where we stood, I saw another set of mountains whose top was covered by clouds. As I started to walk toward them I woke up. The symbolism was not lost on me as I replayed the dream over in my mind. The Process in Becoming is akin to climbing a mountain, it is difficult but there is a mountain top experience that waits for us.

Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés

An Indomitable Spirit

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Few things are more awe inspiring than someone’s refusal to accept defeat. You are witnessing greatness when you see someone persevere through adversity with absolute confidence they can achieve their goal. Perseverance through adversity is evidence of an indomitable spirit. I believe resolve is like a well spring deep within everyone but the ground must be broken up for it to spring forth. When someone wants to take short cuts and retreats from hardship, they are suppressing this well spring of resolve. Allow the rains of adversity to shower the grounds above this well spring. These rains will soften the ground and make it easier for the good to break through.

An Indomitable Spirit is revealed by the choices one makes. Giving up is a choice and persevering is a choice. These choices are the result of whatever is influencing us the most. Past failures, a poor or nonexistent support system, and deficient integrity can influence the wrong choices. Previous successes, a great support system, and internal strength can influence the right choices. Nevertheless, the right or wrong choice is a conscience decision that is up to the individual to make. Environment is a powerful influence but the choice is still up to the individual. Examples abound of people who overcame a negative environment and its influence to achieve success. Examples also abound of people who failed to achieve success though they had a positive environment to thrive in. The words of Henry Ford ring true: “Whether you think you can or think you cannot, you are right”.

The record setters, record breakers, and all who have made an imprint on history were individuals who made a choice. Their Indomitable Spirit pushed them beyond limitations and defeat. Edmund Hillary was the first to lead a group of mountaineers to the summit of Mount Everest. But his first attempt was not successful and even took the lives of some of those he lead. In spite of this defeat, the British Parliament moved forward with an event to celebrate his efforts. As he entered the building, a standing ovation commenced. However Edumnd Hillary appeared to only notice  a picture of Mount Everest set up in the auditorium. He walked directly up to it and while shaking his fist at the image of Mount Everest he declared: “You won this time. But you are as big as you are ever going to get. And I’m still growing.” History reveals he would not let that defeat be final and eventually he stood on the summit of Mount Everest.

A common occurrence takes place in marathon races stretching out over significant distances,. Once first place has been secured and the other leading contenders have crossed the line, it is normal for those still far behind to drop out. An attitude prevails that since, the primary victory slots have been attained continuing the race becomes optional. Throughout my martial arts training, I have heard more than one instructor say: “You are not in competition with those around you; you are in competition with yourself”.

Zoe Koplowitz has been called “The World’s Slowest Marathon Runner”. At 64, she has participated in over 20 marathon races. The quality most distinct about her participation is not her age but the fact she has battled multiple sclerosis for more than half her life. Each time she has crossed the finish line she has been a winner. It may have not been a first place winner but a winner nonetheless. Her completion time for a race has been as much as 31+ hours. Her response to this: “It doesn’t matter how long it takes me to finish, it’s that I finish and I finish from the heart”. An Indomitable Spirit forges through the false concept that only races won, count. The Indomitable Spirit knows that some races are won strictly by virtue of finishing them.

“He who gives up when he is behind is cowardly; he who gives up when he is ahead is foolish.” –William A Ward

Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés

The Quest for Identification?

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The nature within humanity causes it to set out early on a quest for identity formation. The established ideas on this vary concerning exact age or specific catalysts that initiate the quest; but for the most part all agree it begins in adolescence. We first become aware of social dynamics then we subconsciously construct an identity for our social interactions. For each social arrangement, an identity develops and this creates a place for us in them. Identity formation assimilates us into our demographic creating perspectives for us in things such as cultural or religious beliefs.

The power that identification possesses is significant. Wars have been the direct result of contrary religious, cultural, and political views. Social distress or racial tensions are typically the result of identifications that seem to oppose one another. Opinions, ideas, and beliefs are inextricably connected to identity. When these are opposed or perceived to be opposed, it can be viewed as opposition to someone’s identity.

At the beginning of this commentary are three pictures which symbolize some manners in which humanity identifies itself. The first picture has symbols of religious systems: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Taoism. Each system has a ‘mother land’, revered texts, leaders, and an overall structure to follow. While each of these systems has core beliefs, internal factions arise due to identities that are distinct from each other. These are examples of how human nature enters into a quest for religious identification.

The second picture has members of the Almighty Latin Kings. Casual designation would simply classify them as gang members. But within their organization they possess a manifesto and multiple paradigms exist which identify them uniquely from other street gangs. Members are in pursuit of higher levels of membership (Kingism or Kingship). They have uniformity in colors and patterns for the clothes they wear. This is an example of how human nature enters into a quest for social identification.

The third picture is the Pulitzer Prize winning photograph by Joe Rosenthal. In 1945, these men in his photograph are shown raising the United States flag upon Mount Suribachi. This took place during World War II and the raising of this flag demonstrated the triumph of America over Japan on the island of Iwo Jima. This act embodied the conquering power of the American military with the flag serving as national identification. A nation’s flag is an emblematic display of its essence, organization, and constitution. Since 1776, people living on the North American continent entered into a quest of national identification.

The world is what it is because of humanity’s quest for identification. A natural desire for distinction and individuality is at the core of this quest. We see this displayed in commercialized business by use of unique logos, slogans, and operational plans. We see this displayed in The Arts by unique genres of what is seen, heard and tasted. Why is identification so important? Why does humanity have this within its genetic makeup?

Could it be that this is the result of a struggle between two natures seeking identification? The struggle between the tangible and the intangible; the evanescent and the eternal? The Hebrew language offers insight about this struggle through the etymology of its word for ‘face’. It appears that the Hebrew word for ‘face’ (which is ‘panim’) is assigned a pluralistic meaning as though it could never be used in a singular sense (i.e. faces). This theory is upheld by the idea that all humanity has two faces (natures), their physical and their spiritual.

There are multiple lists compiled by various thinkers regarding what are considered “fundamental human needs”. Almost always, Identification is listed as one  with supporting points in the human need for Being, Having, Doing, and Interacting. It appears that the basic need for Identification is the sum of our communal nature. If we are to find our place in ‘our community’ we require Identification first.

Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés

The Vice Grip of Vanity

Vanity is a self-destructive trait. There are those controlled by it with understandable cause; their beauty, money, possessions, and status of life are considerable. Then there are those filled with vanity but for reasons that are far less discernible. When held captive by the grip of vanity, what is taken exceeds what is given. What does vanity give? Self-affirmation, feelings of accomplishment, and a sense of greatness. In moderation these concepts are not inherently wrong. But what does vanity take away? It takes away far more than it gives.

To be manipulated by vanity surely means to be set on a never ending path. Vanity has an appetite and therefore it will need to fill that void.  The all seeing eye of vanity is never satisfied. When that hunger is filled something comes along and provokes a greater appetite. Some people are never satisfied with what they have because all they see is what they do not have. Their line of sight is on things beyond their possession so what they have is no longer within their focus. Vanity takes away contentment; someone said the greatest enemy of contentment is comparison and I believe it.

When a person is controlled by vanity, it causes them to lose the respect of those around them. It doesn’t mean that people will not admire their ‘things’ or who they are. But when a truly vain person is in action, they turn off those around them. Placing themselves or their things on display creates distaste in those observing with a discerning eye. When a vain person becomes aware they are turning people off, a straw man argument such as accusing them of envy or hating is available. But that informal fallacy is easy to disregard. A person’s true nature always manifests, no matter how much they attempt to suppress it.

I do not think that the only prevention to vanity is to be unattractive, poor, or unmotivated to accomplish anything in life. A person who parks their vehicle in a highly visible area so all can see it and the person who parks theirs where no one can both have an issue with vanity. The assertion I make is control your spirit and outlook instead of allowing external things to manipulate you. Be you and be the best you. I believe a person can attain any level of success, be attractive, and accumulate possessions without being a prisoner to vanity. A proper perspective is acknowledging nothing lasts forever. External beauty fades, physical abilities end, and possessions cannot be taken to the grave.

We are not defined by ‘things’ we are defined by who we are. If our identify is reduced to what we have or a status in life, we turn ourselves over to a world of illusion. Possessions only derive their significance from the imaginary importance we attach to them. Refuse to be a prisoner held by the grip of materialism, lust for position, and vanity.

Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés

Paid the cost to be the Boss

I am 3 years into the study of my 5th martial art. Granted, I have not invested the same amount of time into every art I have studied but overall my interest in martial arts began 27 years ago. During the last 3 years I have noticed a common mind-set among those who casually pass by the world of martial arts. It is an attitude of wanting to be “known or recognized as a martial artist” but avoiding the cost of becoming one.

Simply signing a contract and committing to a term of training does not make a martial artist. Irregular attendance to class and never independently practicing will never make one a martial artist. Many want to take the quick road to talent, success, and recognition. But that road doesn’t exist. I only briefly studied Kung Fu but something the Sifu said has stayed with me. “To execute one good kick you will first need to execute a thousand kicks”.

“There are no short cuts to any place worth going.” – Beverly Sills

Who doesn’t want to be healthy and fit? But who is willing to exercise, quit eating garbage, and follow a healthy diet? Who would not mind being wealthy? But who is willing to save their money, wisely invest their money, and avoid wasting their money? Who doesn’t want a powerful mind? But who is willing to allow its dimensions to be expanded by learning? Whatever you are in pursuit of, if it has intrinsic value, you will have to spend and be spent to attain it.

Overnight successes are an exception and never the rule. And there is a crowd already gathered of those who are legends in their own mind. If you want to stand with them, there is plenty of room. But if you are not afraid to pay the cost, you can be their Boss.

Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés