I want to share an essay that has helped me develop a much greater sense of inner peace. I first stumbled upon it on artofmanliness.com during my senior year of college, and I like to reread it whenever I find myself feeling overwhelmed by life. It’s called “The Majesty of Calmness.”
I really hope you can get some value from it.
“The Majesty of Calmness”
From Self Control, Its Kingship and Majesty, 1905
By William George Jordan
Calmness is the rarest quality in human life. It is the poise of a great nature, in harmony with itself and its ideals. It is the moral atmosphere of a life self-reliant and self-controlled. Calmness is singleness of purpose, absolute confidence, and conscious power—ready to be focused in an instant to meet any crisis. The Sphinx is not a true type of calmness—petrifaction is not calmness; it is death, the silencing of all the energies; while no one lives his life more fully, more intensely and more consciously than the man who is calm.The Fatalist is not calm. He is the coward slave of his environment, hopelessly surrendering to his present condition, recklessly indifferent to his future. He accepts his life as a rudderless ship, drifting on the ocean of time. He has no compass, no chart, no known port to which he is sailing. His self-confessed inferiority to all nature is shown in his existence of constant surrender. It is not—calmness.The man who is calm has his course in life clearly marked on his chart. His hand is ever on the helm. Storm, fog, night, tempest, danger, hidden reefs— he is ever prepared and ready for them. He is made calm and serene by the realization that in these crises of his voyage he needs a clear mind and a cool head; that he has naught to do but to do each day the best he can by the light he has; that he will never flinch nor falter for a moment; that, though he may have to tack and leave his course for a time, he will never drift, he will get back into the true channel, he will keep ever headed toward his harbor. When he will reach it, how he will reach it matters not to him. He rests in calmness, knowing he has done his best. If his best seem to be overthrown or over-ruled, then he must still bow his head—in calmness. To no man is permitted to know the future of his life, the finality. God commits to man ever only new beginnings, new wisdom, and new days to use to the best of his knowledge.
Calmness comes ever from within. It is the peace and restfulness of the depths of our nature. The fury of storm and of wind agitate only the surface of the sea; they can penetrate only two or three hundred feet—below that is the calm, unruffled deep. To be ready for the great crises of life we must learn serenity in our daily living. Calmness is the crown of self-control.
When the worries and cares of the day fret you, and begin to wear upon you, and you chafe under the friction—be calm. Stop, rest for a moment, and let calmness and peace assert themselves. If you let these irritating outside influences get the better of you, you are confessing your inferiority to them, by permitting them to dominate you. Study the disturbing elements, each by itself, bring all the will-power of your nature to bear upon them, and you will find that they will, one by one, melt into nothingness, like vapors fading before the sun. The glow of calmness that will then pervade your mind, the tingling sensation of an inflow of new strength, may be to you the beginning of the revelation of the supreme calmness that is possible for you. Then, in some great hour of your life, when you stand face to face with some awful trial, when the structure of your ambition and life-work crumbles in a moment, you will be brave. You can then fold your arms calmly, look out undismayed and undaunted upon the ashes of your hope, upon the wreck of what you have faithfully built, and with brave heart and unfaltering voice you may say: “So let it be—I will build again.”
When the tongue of malice and slander, the persecution of inferiority, tempts you for just a moment to retaliate, when for an instant you forget yourself so far as to hunger for revenge—be calm. When the grey heron is pursued by its enemy, the eagle, it does not run to escape; it remains calm, takes a dignified stand, and waits quietly, facing the enemy unmoved. With the terrific force with which the eagle makes its attack, the boasted king of birds is often impaled and run through on the quiet, lance-like bill of the heron. The means that man takes to kill another’s character becomes suicide of his own
When man has developed the spirit of Calmness until it becomes so absolutely part of him that his very presence radiates it, he has made great progress in life. Calmness cannot be acquired of itself and by itself; it must come as the culmination of a series of virtues. What the world needs and what individuals need is a higher standard of living, a great realizing sense of the privilege and dignity of life, a higher and nobler conception of individuality.
With this great sense of calmness permeating an individual, man becomes able to retire more into himself, away from the noise, the confusion and strife of the world, which come to his ears only as faint, far-off rumblings, or as the tumult of the life of a city heard only as a buzzing hum by the man in a balloon.
The man who is calm does not selfishly isolate himself from the world, for he is intensely interested in all that concerns the welfare of humanity. His calmness is but a Holy of Holies into which he can retire from the world to get strength to live in the world. He realizes that the full glory of individuality, the crowning of his self-control is—the majesty of calmness.
It may sound weird, but I believe certain influences – people, books, ideas – come into our lives exactly when we need them. These influences can change us in ways we never imagined.
My first experience with this was when I read “The Power of Now” in the summer of 2013. That book helped lift me up from a sea of misery and unconsciousness. My next experience was barely six months later when I came across “The Alabaster Girl” by Zan Perrion. It’s this experience that I want to talk about here.
A Very Important Year
My senior year of college was a very interesting one for me. When I returned home from studying in Madrid three months earlier, I was consumed by wanderlust. But the reality of my last year as a student quickly pushed thoughts of travel and adventure to the back of my mind. Being a senior meant it was time convert those years of academic stress into a high-paying job, and most of my friends and peers seemed dedicated to that cause. Days into the first semester I was already hearing talk of job applications and potential interviews. The pressure was on.
That pressure did little to motivate me, though. Despite the urgent and practical nature of getting a good job, I felt absolutely zero passion for that goal. Actually, I felt the opposite of passion. Getting a typical job sounded like a straight bore.
At the time, I was convinced that my lack of enthusiasm for finding a job was just a sign of laziness, and there might have been some truth to that. The thought of sitting in an office and trying to focus for eight hours a day gave me the chills. However, my core problem was one of passion. Looking at all the jobs I could apply to, there wasn’t a single one that inspired the slightest bit of excitement in me. And in the back of my mind, I could feel the desire to see the world nagging at me.
The Spark that Lit the Fire
I read “The Alabaster Girl” about halfway through my senior year. Ironically, my motivations for reading it were not at all related to finding passion in my life. The author, Zan Perrion, was a well-known dating coach, and all I was expecting were some tips on how to meet women. What I found was something entirely different.
It’s hard to say what the book’s main theme is. It centers around the author’s profound love for women and seduction, but themes of beauty, passion, and the spirit of adventure are interwoven throughout. I guess you could describe it as a wise man’s musings on what it means to live a truly magical life. Women just happen to be the primary source of magic for the author.
While I did resonate with Perrion’s talk of romance and seduction, it was his views on beauty that really struck a chord with me. “Beauty needs a witness,” he repeats throughout the book, and in describing his worldview he paints a picture of a man entirely in love with life and all the beauty it has to offer.
I had never given beauty a second thought before reading that book. I could recognize it when I saw it (at least I thought so) but it wasn’t something I ever sought out. Maybe it was his flowery style of writing or just the conviction behind his words, but as I read I felt something awakening inside of me. It was what I felt during my time in Madrid, but hadn’t been able to identify. It was the desire for a life filled with beauty, passion, and adventure. The desire to be utterly seduced by life.
From there, I knew that going the typical job route was no longer an option. I wanted something out of life that a 9-5 could never give me, and I would do whatever it took to find it. Why not find a way to move back to Spain? Yeah, that seemed like a good enough plan.
Three years have passed since that decision, and I’m living in Spain like I wanted to. But I’d be lying if I said the desire for a life filled with beauty and passion was my prime motivator for the past couple of years. Somewhere along the way, that romantic vision got pushed to the back of my mind. I started, once again, to view life as a race to be won instead of a journey to be enjoyed. Achievement and success became my primary focuses. All this time abroad, surrounded by so much beauty, and I’ failed to truly appreciate it.
Adjusting My Sails
I want to reconnect with my desire to be seduced by life and all the beauty it has to offer.
How do I do this? Well, just like I mentioned in my post on true north principles, the most important thing I can do is commit to the vision that drove me abroad in the first place. That means slowing down and looking deep within, not letting my surface level desires for achievement and success distract me from my core desire for a life filled with beauty and passion.
I also want to start using this blog as a place to develop and share my vision. It’s time for “An Appetite for Beauty” to live up to its name.
Just a typical weekend in Seville.
Last summer I wrote a post about Stephen Covey’s “First Things First.” One of the big takeaways I got from the book was the idea of “true north” principles, which are ageless principles such as kindness, fairness, and respect. They can be seen throughout history in almost every religious and spiritual tradition, as well as in the behaviors of the world’s most influential individuals. Covey suggests that the only way to have a truly fulfilling life is through acting in accordance with these principles.
Recent events in my life have inspired me to take a step back and reflect on the last few months. Have I been acting like the man I want to be? What principles have been governing my actions?
In truth, I can hardly identify the principles I’ve been following lately, though they certainly weren’t any of the true north principles that Covey talks about. While I made a lot of progress towards my goals since moving to Seville, my motivations weren’t too healthy. I was seeking a lot of validation and instant gratification. I was focused more on the results I wanted than the process of taking action. I even let impatience and selfishness affect some of my personal relationships.
Overall, I’d say my actions in the past few months were far more ego-based than principle-based. I want to start correcting that.
The first step is simply identifying the true north principles I want to live my life by. The ones that immediately come to mind are:
That’s a pretty steep list, but everything on it seems to be intertwined. Presence breeds calmness, compassion begets giving, gratitude helps cultivate positivity, etc. They all fall under the umbrella of what I would describe as “goodness.” Not only do these principles produce better results in the long-term, they produce a happier internal state as well.
This all seems like common sense, right? Of course you want to live according to principles that promote happiness and well-being. Yet actually living by them is much easier said than done. My mission now is finding reliable ways to keep those principles at the top of my mind. Here are a few ideas I have for that:
- Reviewing them twice a day, once in the morning and once before bed
- Taking time for daily reflection. This means sitting down and really considering whether or not my actions were based on true north principles.
- More in-depth weekly and monthly reflections
- Keeping my list of principles nearby and visible throughout the day
- Read more books based on true north principles. Two that come to mind are “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius and the “Tao Te Ching.”
Of course, the most important thing I can do is make a commitment to living a principle-based life. I don’t expect myself to be perfect in this, but I think just making a consistent effort in this area will bring me a lot of fulfillment.
This year was filled with many valuable lessons, but none had a greater impact on my thinking than a concept called thriving versus coping. I actually heard about this concept a couple of years ago, but this year it seemed to be a common thread across most of the content I consumed.
There are quite a few ways I can describe thriving versus coping. It’s the difference between actively seeking out happiness and just trying to avoid pain. It’s the difference between really living and merely surviving. It’s progression versus regression. It’s living in abundance instead of scarcity.
The Cost of Coping
I think coping can be accurately summed up by the phrase, “just getting by.” And the more I consider this idea, the more obvious it is that I often live with a coping mindset. This mindset manifests in a variety of ways:
- A scarcity mentality
- Avoiding failure (“prevention focus”)
- Living unconsciously
- Letting my circumstances dictate my emotional state
- Expecting people and situations to make me happy
- Taking value
- Waiting for inspiration to take action
- Stagnation and regression
All of these behaviors/habits result in my viewing life as something to be endured, not enjoyed.
Choosing to Thrive
According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary to thrive is:
- To grow vigorously
- To gain in wealth or possessions
- To progress toward or realize a goal despite or because of circumstances
While all of these definitions are accurate, the one I resonate with most is “to grow vigorously.”
When I’m coping in life, growth is rarely a priority, even if I’m working towards an external goal. Instead, I’m focused on avoiding negative experiences. I would rather stay nice and comfortable than go through the inevitable pain that comes with growth. I liken it to treading water in the ocean; I may not be drowning, but I’m definitely not getting any closer to the shore.
Thriving, as I see it, is the complete opposite of coping. It means:
- An abundance mentality
- Pursuing success (“promotion focus”)
- Being present to the moment
- Taking full responsibility for my emotional state
- Cultivating my own happiness
- Giving value
- Taking right action, even when it’s uncomfortable
- Constant growth and progression
One of my key intentions for 2017 is finding ways to shift from coping to thriving. In the past couple of months, I’ve already started using this concept as a lens through which to evaluate my life. Now it’s time to make some concrete changes.