Rethinking ACTION

One of the 64 Essays on Change is posted each consecutive Sunday. The choice is decided either by requests made on the Contact Page and/or immediate relevance to current events. See the UPSG Essays page for a description of the structure-within-structure format of the Essays, an overview of CONSCIENCE: Your Ultimate Personal Survival Guide, and an alphabetical list of the Essays from which to choose.

On the new moon of March 9, 2014, the first of the Essays to be posted was Number 61 on PEACE. It was selected as a timely response to events in the Ukraine. The following Sunday, the very first Essay, CRIME, was selected, followed by its companion Essay Number 18 on MOTIVES.

The final Essay, Number 64 has been selected for Sunday, March 30th, the second new moon in the month of March. It completes a triad that started with CRIME, then MOTIVES, and now, consequent ACTION. This Essay has immediate applications to the progression of world events.

Bloggers have likened Putin’s actions to the strategy of Sun Tzu’s Art of War. America’s leaders have been faulted for lacking the ability to think in terms of positive action responses. It therefore behooves everyone, everywhere with an eye to the future, in the interests of human survival, to fill in that void.

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64. ACTION

“Military action is important to the nation — it is the ground of death and life, the path of survival and destruction, so it is imperative to examine it. . . The Way means inducing the people to have the same aim as the leadership, so that they will share death and share life, without fear of danger.” — Sun Tzu, The Art of War

“The warrior is always alert. He is always awake. He knows how to focus his mind and his body. He is what the samurai call “mindful.” . . . As a function of his clarity of mind, he is a strategist and a tactician. He can evaluate his circumstances accurately and then adapt himself to the “situation on the ground.” — Moore & Gillette, The Warrior in His Fullness

“We cannot stop the seasons of history, but we can prepare for them. Right now, in 1997, we have eight, ten, perhaps a dozen more years to get ready. Then events will begin to take choices out of our hands. Yes, winter is coming, but our path through the winter is up to us. . . History’s howling storms can bring out the worst and best in a society.” — Strauss & Howe, The Fourth Turning

THE FRONT

Webster’s defines action on a sliding scale of meanings. Taking in the full spectrum as a whole is an eye-opener. Originally it was a physics concept, the state of being in motion. From there the definition changes to habitual conduct characterized by energy and boldness. It changes again to include the effect produced by something (like a drug), or the way organs or machines work.

Action is used to describe the function of a piano or a gun. It shifts to take on the connotation of a legal proceeding by which one seeks to have a wrong put right. It’s the term used to describe military combat. Lastly, in slang it denotes excitement, specifically gambling.

Over a life-time, novelist Earle Stanley Gardner worked to develop a best-seller formula: a virtuous hero whom everyone loves to see in action. The result, Attorney Perry Mason, solves crimes and puts wrongs right in the court of law. He’s a deliberate blending of Robin Hood and Sherlock Holmes. Robin defended the betrayed and down-trodden. He took from the rich to give to the poor, helping them stand against oppressors. Sherlock used his highly trained powers of observation and deduction to trace devious crimes to the unseen hand of the evil Moriarty, then courageously drew the villain out to defeat him.

New law students are often grieved to find reality so far removed from fiction. Just so. Gardner knew people bought his books exactly because they longed for what’s missing in their lives. But fiction soothes without solving. The times call for a multitude of Positive Perrys taking positive action every day, here and now.

Movie action heroes also exemplify the intellect-action blend of leadership we miss. To become a Jedi knight, Luke SkyWalker first must train to attune himself to “the force.” Indiana Jones similarly blends the best of right and left brain worlds. Both he and Nazi opponents search out the arc of the covenant, then the grail. The enemy wants the key to world domination; Indy and his beloved father seek “illumination.” They respect the wisdom of ancient times and adventure to recover lost treasures. The I Ching is another of the ancient lost treasures, both used and abused by seekers through the ages.

Unlike these action heroes, intellectuals who contempt practical people and workers who enviously mistrust the educated are equally lop-sided actors. For positive results, scholars and street-smart frontliners must join ranks. Better still, we should each train ourselves like action hero role models to balance self-awareness and action, to live fully effective, each in our own way.

George S. Patton, the general who defeated Hitler’s army, quoted scriptures like a bishop, knew Shakespeare’s verse by heart.

THE BACK

The opposite of action is inaction. This may be appropriate. Those who patiently wait also serve. Other times it’s due to indifference or paralysis of will. Procrastination, delaying action, may be a result of ambivalence. Lack of commitment or conflicting goals and beliefs often work unconsciously to sabotage consistent action.

A perversion of action is hyperactivity, sometimes the result of a chemical imbalance, other times an effort to avoid thinking. Restricting youthful energies, forcing children to sit too long inactive, can trigger rebellion as an extreme and opposite reaction to boredom.

————

  • Sun Tzu, The Art of War, trans. Thomas Cleary. (Shambhala: Boston, 1988.) p. 41.
  • Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette, “The Warrior in His Fullness,” in The Awakened Warrior: Living with Courage, Compassion & Discipline, ed. Rick Fields. (Putnam’s Sons: New York, 1994.) pp. 29-30.
  • William Strauss & Neil Howe, The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy. (Broadway Books: New York,1997.) p. 7.
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