The Truth Hurts: What the Gurus Won’t Tell You, but I Will.


Searching for the truth is hard work.  Particularly in this era, we are surrounded by conflicting theories.  They are available to us at the click of a mouse, or the selection of an app.  It is very difficult to ascertain what is true and what is propaganda or delusion (this includes the self-delusion of the provider of the information).  Speaking of delusion and propaganda, we have our own biases to deal with as well.  Delusion is all around us, but we can still seek truth, no?

We want to believe in something…something magical, or mystical even.  When someone tells us “it will all be OK,” we want to believe them.  For this reason, we may accept what they have to say.  If someone tells us that, “all we have to do is visualize our future and it will become reality,” then we certainly want to believe that as well.  The success of self-appointed and celebrity-endorsed gurus is an indication that we all want to believe something, especially if it is something positive; especially if it means that we can have more control over our destiny.  I think most people choose this route…to believe.  It feels better to “feel” like we are in control, even if it is only in our mind.  Furthermore, we want the biggest payback with the least amount of work, toil and suffering.  I think we are just wired that way.

The problem is that most of these guru-issued assurances are lies.  They are pretty, they are comforting, they are delicious (like a dessert), but they are lies nonetheless.

Is this really sustenance?

Eventually, the sugar-high wears off and we are stuck with more hunger, and we feel lousy as well.  Throughout my life, I have read a wide assortment of New-Age gurus, religious apologetics, spiritual advisors, and self-anointed prophets (maybe I should have spelled it “profits”).  The most successful of these seem to be saying things like this

  • Your future is yours.
  • Trust in the Lord, and it will turn out all right.
  • All of us have a destiny, when you are aware of yours, you can’t fail.
  • Just believe and it will happen.

This advice may help us cope, but I don’t think it changes the reality around us:  You win some, you lose some and sometimes you just keep losing.

This is not to say that having a positive mental attitude is not helpful.  Certainly if we envision something, like a goal for instance, this can help us obtain it.  It can direct our energies toward accomplishing our own betterment.  But that is only the beginning, and it’s a long haul indeed.  What the gurus won’t tell you is the following:

  1. Accomplishment requires hard work.  Certainly our desires and passions drive us to work harder, but desire and wishing will not get us to where we want to be.
  2. Your success is not guaranteed.  People fail all the time, over and over again. Some will die in poverty, depressed, alone.  Some will be ill their entire lives, some will lose their life too soon, possibly the moment they think they have figured it all out.  This is not their fault, it is just fate.
  3. You will suffer, as long as you are on Earth.  It is all around us.  You will face disease, death, and destruction.  You cannot wish this away.

You must train for the struggle!

To know these truths is to be armed and ready.  Ready for what we will be challenged with, and ready for when things don’t go our way.  The simple fact of the matter is that a large majority of our lives are out of our control, and much of life will pummel us.  This does not mean that we shouldn’t have goals, or try to make things better.  Knowing these truths, while maybe brutal at first, should motivate us to do our part to serve, to excel, to care.  In my view, this is what calls us to try, to accomplish, to wrestle with existence.

But you can’t be a wrestling champ if you don’t train.

The Coming Catastrophe!


“All existing things soon change, and they will either be reduced to vapour, if indeed all substance is one, or they will be dispersed.” Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

One of the key elements of Stoicism is the concept of fate. Tragedy will befall you in some way, it is certain. Nobody really knows what fate has in store for them. It could be any number of good or bad fortunes.

So the other day I read THIS ARTICLE by Holly Drennan Deyo at It’s about preparing for a food crisis, and why I should do so. At first read, the article seems a little alarmist. I mean really, what are the odds we have a famine in this country? Seriously, do you know the odds? Hey, YOU, I am asking you the question…seriously: DO YOU KNOW THE ODDS OF A FAMINE IN THIS COUNTRY? I know the only answer that can be given: You don’t know the odds, I don’t know the odds, even the experts are unlikely to know the likelihood of a widespread famine where you live.

Could this be you? Is it possible?

The point that I want to make is not that this catastrophe is probable, but that indeed it is possible. Maybe it is not likely, or maybe it is extremely likely. This is a calculation for each of us to make. My calculation is that the chance is greater than any of us would like to admit, that food prices may soar through the roof. As a result, it might be extremely difficult for me to purchase what I need to feed myself and my family in the future (I don’t grow my own…yet).

As a Stoic, I feel fairly confident I am ready for this possibility mentally. As a Hero, I am way underprepared in physical terms. As a Stoic, I know the possible catastrophe ahead is completely out of my control. My preparation for it, however, is mostly in my control. I say mostly because, of course, I have limited resources to survive now, I have limited capacity to estimate how much time I might have, or how drastic the “catastrophe” will be, or if my wife thinks this is something to worry about enough to prepare for (we are currently in negotiation about what catastrophe preparation is appropriate . I don’t think we are on opposite ends of the spectrum, but certainly we have not come to an agreed upon strategy. UPDATE: I just read this post to her and she says we are definitely on opposite ends of the spectrum. The negotiation continues…). In essence, I must gamble with time and current resources on the possibility. Additionally, I must cooperate with those in my life on an agreed upon way ahead.

…or are you thinking of this? (a Margan Zajdowicz photo)

…or this? (by LotusHead,

For now, let’s return to Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. Read this one slowly, with the possibility of the coming famine in mind. You must read the whole thing but really let the last line sink in:

“None of these things ought to be called a man’s, which do not belong to a man, as man. They are not required of a man, nor does man’s nature promise them, nor are they the means of man’s nature attaining its end. Neither then does the end of man lie in these things, nor yet that which aids to the accomplishment of this end, and that which aids towards this end is that which is good. Besides, if any of these things did belong to man, it would not be right for a man to despise them and to set himself against them; nor would a man be worthy of praise who showed that he did not want these things, nor would he who stinted himself in any of them be good, if indeed these things were good. But now the more of these things a man deprives himself of, or of other things like them, or even when he is deprived of any of them, the more patiently he endures the loss, just in the same degree he is a better man.“

Your thoughts and comments, please!