The Six Mistakes of Man

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In the early 90’s, while doing research for a book, I spent a couple of months reading every book of quotes I could find. I went to several used bookstores and bought every quote book they had. I ended up with about 30 or 40.

Before sitting down to read them, I decided I wanted the right music in the background.

I figured if I was going to be spending my time with some of the best things anyone has ever said, it would be perfect if the sound track was a collection of some of the best music ever written. So I turned to the classics and bought collections of Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Debussy, and many more.

The combination of great quotes and great music made for an inspiring era. Some of my favorite quotes are sprinkled throughout these articles on this website.

“It’s a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations.” – Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

Listening to all that classical music enriched my subconscious mind and is made a difference with my own compositions. Not that I compose or perform classical music, but all of the time spent soaking up the soaring melodies and inspiring harmonies is a good way to learn, if only by osmosis. Listening to as much of the world’s great music as possible is bound to make a difference when composing and performing my own original compositions of uplifting music for personal development.

Whether uplifting music or inspiring ideas for personal development, why not learn from the best and glean as much as possible from the brightest humanity has to offer?

When reading the thousands and thousands of quotes, one thing made a big impression on me: So many of the ideas were familiar, poignant and relative here and now. Even though some of the quotes were written a long time ago in lands far away, the authors were expressing ideas, concerns and life lessons people are wrestling with right now – all over the world.

Some of these quotes were current, penned in this century. Others were written over a millennia ago. Others were written thousands of years ago, like these for instance . . .

“When a man is willing and eager, the gods join in.” — Aeschlyus (525-456 B.C.)

“Light is the task when many share the toil.” – Homer (c. 850 B.C.)

It took me by surprise that people living so long ago had many of the same dreams, the same concerns, and were perplexed with some of the very same struggles we face today.

“He who does not know the force of words cannot know men.” – Confucius (551-479 B.C.)

Isn’t it fascinating to realize that these people who lived centuries before us were so much like us in so many ways? The same sun warmed their skin. The same moon inspired them, just as it does us. Their bodies were made of the same elements as ours, and it’s even possible that we share some of the very same atoms. Their brains were virtually identical to ours and like us, they only used a very small percentage of its potential. Still, they pondered some of the same lofty ideas and wondered about life’s mysteries.

“You cannot step twice into the same river, for other waters are
continually flowing in.” – Heraclituc (c. 500 B.C.)

Besides being moved by big thoughts and bold philosophies, they also shared many of our human foibles. They had many of the same short-commings. They fought many of the same inner battles, as they too moved along, in their own way, in their own quest for personal development. For example . . .

“The Six Mistakes of Man

1. The illusion that personal gain is made up of crushing others.
2. The tendency to worry about things that cannot be changed or corrected.
3. Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish it.
4. Refusing to set aside trivial preferences.
5. Neglecting development and refinement of the mind, and not acquiring the habit of reading and study.
6. Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do.”

- Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 B.C. — 43 B.C.)

When I first read Cicero’s list of the six mistakes of man, I was amazed. All of these sound like concerns of today, regardless of which country we call home.

My next question was who was this guy and did he know what he was talking about? I learned that Cicero was a statesman and was known as Rome’s greatest orator and most articulate philosopher. In fact, his memory is honored by referring to the last era of republican Rome as “The Age of Cicero.”

If these six points were his observations of over two thousand years ago, obviously much remains the same even though much has changed since Cicero walked the earth. The outer experiences of mankind have changed dramatically, but the inner experience appears exactly the same. Let’s look at them, one at a time:

1. The illusion that personal gain is made up of crushing others. Wouldn’t Cicero be amazed at how we, as a race, have taken this point to a whole new level?! He was talking about one person at a time. We can crush considerably more these days at the touch of a button.

Today, as then, many are still focused on competitiveness and view life experience as a limited, finite vessel from which you must take and hide as much as possible, as soon as possible. I wonder, in Cicero’s day, if there were a few forward-thinking individuals who saw life experience as infinite and could approach the inexhaustible fountain of abundance with whatever size vessel they wished to fill? Did some live their lives from this creative center, rather than the more common competitive approach?

Did they all try to be taller by cutting off their brother’s head?

“The only competition worthy of a wise man is with himself.” – George Washington Allston (1779-1843)

2. The tendency to worry about things that cannot be changed or corrected. Evidently in Cicero’s day, as in our own, most people never learn the art of creative visualization to sculpt the life of their dreams by conscious directed thinking and deliberate intent. If they knew how to do that, they certainly wouldn’t be squandering away their energy by worrying.

“Don’t worry about anything. Worrying never solved anything. All it does is distort your mind.” – Milton Garland (At 103, the oldest worker in the U.S.)

They would realize that worry is simply creative visualization performed backwards.

“Worry is interest paid on trouble before it is due.” – William Ralph Inge (1860-1954)

When someone worries, they are holding a clear picture in their mind of something they do not want to happen. They add urgency to their mental picture by accompanying it with strong emotion — specifically, negative emotion such as fear, dread or foreboding.

This is the recipe for manifestation as detailed in The Subtle Side series of articles, so The Law of Attraction goes to work, with no questions asked and sets the wheels in motion to deliver exactly what is pictured. Remember, you get what you think about most, delivered to you on a schedule determined by the intensity of your feelings, whether you want it or not.

“Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight.” – Benjamin Franklin (1706-90)

3. Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish it. Imagine a day in the life of Cicero. Suppose you were to take a ride in a time machine and engage him in conversation over 2000 years ago. You casually bring up subjects like genetic engineering, nuclear imaging, splitting the atom, and space travel. Forget the big stuff and imagine what he would think about the small stuff we take for granted like cell phones, televisions and personal automobiles.

Consider the tremendous strides forward our race has made in just the last century compared to all of the previous centuries that man has been here pronouncing things “impossible.”

“The impossible is often the untried.” – John Goodwin

Just because we have not yet stretched our imagination far enough to see exactly how a thing could be done certainly does not make it impossible.

“The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible, and achieve it, generation after generation.” – Pearl Sydenstricker Buck (1892-1973)

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” – Saint Francis of Assisi (1182-1226)

My grandfather was born in the horse and buggy days. In his single lifetime, man invented automobiles, then airplanes, then spaceships which took us to the moon! Now extrapolate that same incredible explosion of science, new ideas, and possibility thinking into the future 100 years . . . 500 years . . . another 2000 years.

“The only place where your dream becomes impossible is in your own thinking.” – Dr. Robert H. Schuller (b. 1926)

From this vantage point, it seems like pure folly (or even blatant stupidity) to label anything with the word “impossible.” Anything!

“The word impossible is not in my dictionary.” – Napolean Bonaparte (1769-1821)

It used to be “impossible” to run a four-minute mile. After it was done the first time, many more have done it. In figure skating, it used to be “impossible” to jump and do a double twist . . . until someone did it. Then everyone was doing a double, then a triple, then a quad!

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” — Walt Disney (1901-66)

4. Refusing to set aside trivial preferences. We are social creatures, and as such, we often live together. Stubborn attachment to trivial preferences creates unnecessary friction between people. The trick is recognizing when a preference is trivial. Too much energy is spent and good will forfeited between people over mundane details.

Ask yourself, “If I choose not to set aside this trivial preference, will it have made any difference in 100 years? In a year? Tomorrow? Will it make a difference now if I set it aside now? ”

Wouldn’t you really rather be at peace? Be flexible and give a little to make room for the other guy so this moment is a more pleasant and peaceful experience for all concerned.

“In the end the aggressors always destroy themselves, making way for others who know how to cooperate and get along. Life is much less a competitive struggle for survival than a triumph of cooperation and creativity.” – Fritjof Capra

“If you want to get along, go along.” – Samuel Taliaferro Rayburn (1882-1961)

5. Neglecting development and refinement of the mind, and not acquiring the habit of reading and study. Consider the fundamental difference: In Cicero’s day, most people couldn’t. In our day, most people won’t.

“Natural abilities are like natural plants; they need pruning by study.”- Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

Compared to the people of ancient Rome, we are more educated and have more “disposable” time thanks to technology. Still, few people choose to involve themselves in on-going exercise of the mind. It’s a muscle, you know, and like any other muscle, it atrophies when it’s not used. Use it or lose it.

“Active minds that think and study,
Like swift brooks are seldom muddy.”
- Arthur Guiterman

I congratulate you and appreciate you — one of the few who chooses to take the next step toward your own personal development by visiting this website and exploring ideas, viewpoints, philosophies and opinions, even though they may differ from your own.

“Never utter these words: ‘I do not know this, therefore it is false.’ One must study to know; know to understand; understand to judge.” – Apothegm of Narda

Why are so many not interested in continuing to read and study for the sake of mental, emotional and spiritual refinement? Perhaps the masses are still caught up in the first point about personal gain by crushing others, just as it was in Cicero’s day.

“Never regard study as a duty but as an enviable opportunity to learn to know the liberating influence of beauty in the realm of the spirit for your own personal joy and to the profit of the community to which your later works belong.” – Albert Einstein (1875-1955)

It’s not a matter of who is right or who is wrong or whose way is best . . . there are many “right” ways to find peace.

“In the matter of religion, people eagerly fasten their eyes on the difference between their own creed and yours; whilst the charm of the study is in finding the agreements and identities in all the religions of humanity.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82)

It’s simply a matter of moving forward from wherever you are, one step at a time, in order to continually grow into the best version of ourselves we can be . . . which brings us to the last point:

6. Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do. One of the best cures for that I have ever seen is world traveling.

As I write this, I am overlooking a lush rain forest on the northern shore of Trinidad. Dozens of tropical birds are singing in an amazing symphony of sound as waves crash in the background. In our travels together, my wife, Janey, and I have been in all 50 of the US states and many foreign countries. We have lived for extended periods of time in many diverse cultures and have met fellow travelers from literally all over the world: England, Australia, Canada, Africa, Japan, South America, Europe, China, etc. The list goes on and on.

It has always struck me how much we have in common even though we are so different in so many ways. It has also struck me how totally different we are, even though we have so much in common. It works both ways.

This is a big planet and our world travels have taught us that diversity is alive and well. That’s a good thing. Through the mind-boggling diversity of human experience, we all get to experiment in order to discover what we like and what we don’t like. Then, through the power of our thoughts and creative visualization, we can continually move toward what we prefer and away from what we dislike. It’s a beautiful system.

To expect anyone else to come up with the same list of likes and dislikes is ridiculous (and egotistical). We all get to have our own experiences in order to determine our own preferences.

If we don’t like how someone else does it, we have successfully learned something about our preferences and we can direct our attention the other way — toward the way we prefer to do it.

“Live and let live” is a credo to live by that is apparently as hard-won today as it must have been two thousand years ago in Cicero’s day.

We have come so far, so fast, in so many ways, but some of the most important aspects of the human experience seem to be lagging behind. We have tools and technologies at our fingertips that may have outgrown our maturity and commitment to responsibility and moral sensibilities. So much on the outside has changed quickly while so much on the inside remains the same. So what can we do about it?

Change, personal development, self-realization and enlightenment happens one person at a time. We can work on ourselves, and see to it that our own path of personal development continues. As a result, we may help inspire others to pursue their own unique path, in their own way. As individuals, perhaps we can do our part to help make Cicero’s list obsolete by:

1. Lifting up others by our example and our commitment to living our lives in such a way that everyone and all of life benefits.

2. Developing the habit of directing our attention deliberately toward what we intend rather than what we choose to avoid.

3. Keeping an open mind, knowing that all things are possible, even though right now, from our limited viewpoint, we may not see exactly how.

4. Choosing peace rather than the need to be right or to always do it our way.

5. Continuing to read, study and compare ideas from many different ideologies, philosophies, religions and opinions. Brains are better suited for comparing and then encouraging original thought rather than remaining in mental ruts. A good idea can come from anywhere, and just one good idea can make a dramatic difference in the quality of life.

6. Doing it your way and allowing all others to do it their way. Comparing and sharing can be uplifting and inspiring while trying to coerce others to adopt your way builds walls. Instead, build bridges by delighting in the diversity while sharing discoveries, insights and personal victories without needing anyone else to choose exactly like you choose. Allow freedom, and have confidence that the other person’s experience will lead to choices that are best for them, just as your experiences have led to choices that are best for you.

Whether in Cicero’s time, or our own time, or in the time of Zorok living on a planet in the Andromeda system 2000 years form now, personal development and inspiration happens to each of us, one person at a time. It happens because we are interested in it. We choose it when our experiences bring us to the point when it’s the next logical step. And we attract it by the thoughts we choose to focus our attention upon.

We share the journey, even though each journey is unique. It’s encouraging to know others are also interested in the mysteries of life. It’s inspiring to see others dedicated to living life to the fullest, and as a by-product, making Cicero’s list of man’s mistakes a relic of the past.

While reading, did you choose to hear the relaxing instrumental music linked at the beginning of this article? To learn more about it, click here.

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Way of the World
Life is so huge . . . so diverse . . . the possibilities are literally infinite. What’s the best way to sort it all out and carve out a little niche of our own?
http://www.somemusicmatters.com/DescX.html#Anchor1

Life is a River
Explores the diversity of water . . . liquid, ice, and steam – all the same stuff but very different – just like non-physical reality manifesting itself into the deversity of physical experience.
http://www.somemusicmatters.com/DescHere.html#Anchor17

Songs by Tupelo

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This is the end of the article entitled The Six Mistakes of Man published by Tupelo Kenyon on May 18, 2007 at 6:00 am | In Awareness, Productivity, Relationships - Copyright 2007 - All rights reserved worldwide.


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  1. [...] Kenyon presents The Six Mistakes of Man posted at Tupelo Kenyon, saying, “We share the journey, even though each journey is unique. [...]

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  2. [...] The Six Mistakes of Man We share the journey, even though each journey is unique. It’s encouraging to know others are also interested in the mysteries of life. It’s inspiring to see others dedicated to living life to the fullest, in spite of the fact that humanity has been making some of the same mistakes for centuries. [...]

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  3. [...] The Six Mistakes of Man We share the journey, even though each journey is unique. It’s encouraging to know others are also interested in the mysteries of life. It’s inspiring to see others dedicated to living life to the fullest, in spite of the fact that humanity has been making some of the same mistakes for centuries. [...]

    Pingback by TupeloKenyon.com » Make Assumptions Obsolete by Communicating — July 7, 2008 #

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