The Oppressive Burdens Of The Powerful

Many men are in the habit of seeing only the privileges of the powerful, while failing to take note of the crushing burdens that such men must carry.  Nothing in this world is gifted to us for free; there is a price to be paid for every acquisition, every privilege, and every benefit.  This cost may not be apparent at first; but over time, it will make itself known.

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The Journey Through Life, And Out Of Life

When one examines the characters of different civilizations, one begins to notice commonalities of concern.  That is, recurring patterns.  Especially in the most ancient of civilizations.  There is this obsession with capturing the Spirit of Life, mastering its principles, and using that Mastery as a sort of pole-vault—if you will—to leap over the Wall of Life into the realm of the After-Life.  Look at those old Assyrian stone reliefs, showing the bearded kings pollinating their date-plants, which were the staff of life in the ancient Near East.  Look at the pharaoh smiting his enemies with a mace, and enjoying every minute of it.  Mastering life in order to master death, in other words.

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Rejecting Cynicism And Nihilism, And Embracing An Ennobling Vision

It is the responsibility of every man to keep himself out of the abyss.  Yet he cannot do this job alone; a set of guiding principles must light the way along the dark and confusing pathways of the forest.  In some cases, he must be hectored, badgered, cajoled, and—in the end—forced to keep along the path; in other cases, he need only be guided by gentle instruction in the illuminating lights of philosophical inquiry.  Every situation is different, and calls for different remedies.

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Military Adventurism Brings Disaster To The Reckless

In the year 1260, Tuscany was engulfed in war.  The cities of Florence and Siena were engaged in mutual hostilities.  About twenty-five miles from Siena was located the small town of Montalcino, which happened to be a friend and ally of Florence.  The Sienese hoped that by staging an attack on Montalcino they might be able to compel the Florentines to send an expedition for its relief–an expedition that, they hoped, they could lure into a trap.  To this end, the Sienese government publicly announced their intention to move against Montalcino, and watched to see what the Florentine response would be.

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A Jaguar Hunt On The Taquary, And The Precepts Of Pythagoras

Every man is a jumble of paradoxes.  The same man can harbor sentiments of the noblest, most generous, and elevated type; and at the same time, he can retain the capability to deliver lethal blows for necessity or sport.  It is almost as if the altruist or artist needs a bit of tempering with a dash of Tamerlane.  Consider Theodore Roosevelt, the president generally considered the primary voice of conservationism in the twentieth century.

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The Hand Of Ibn Muqla: Do Not Envy Those Who Wield Power

There was once a government official and literary figure of the Abbasid caliphate in Baghdad named Abu Ali Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Muqla al-Shiraz.  He is known to history as Ibn Muqla, and he lived from about A.D. 885 to 940.  According to his biographer Ibn Khallikan, Ibn Muqla began his government service career as a tax collector in the city of Fars.

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The Meaning Of Self-Denial: The Herdsman And The Monk

One of the primary virtues that Ibn Zafar believes a good leader should possess is the virtue of self-denial.  In Arabic this word is زهد, or “renunciation” of worldly things.  What he means by this is that no leader–or any other person, for that matter–can ever become truly great until he learns how to subordinate his desires in the face of higher purposes.

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