Thursday, April 15, 2010

Arete

I've been reading The Art of Worldly Wisdom by Balthazar Gracian recently, and have found it truly useful. Not half way through yet, but getting there and already it is reminding me of the greek concept of Arete. That is something that Fr. Gracian seems to be encouraging us to develop. Refinement in the sense of a refined ore, or a prepared medicine. To bring a thing to their natural fullness, and most perfect expression. It is the same goal as Alchemy; the self same goal.

We must strive always for excellence in all we do. ALL we do. If you are stocking shelves at a supermarket, do that with excellence. Cutting lawns, practicing law, governing nations, practicing Magic, eating cereal, all of it. In striving to do our best at all we do, we constantly challenge ourselves and automatically become much more unfazed by criticism. It treats each task with the innate nobility given to it. By striving for excellence for its own sake you reach the pinnacle of your art almost effortlessly.

The effortlessness is not one that doesn't require work, but one that bears in it no mental anguish, no thoughts of quitting, and no fear of failure. It is a wordless striving, to do each thing to its own perfect expression, though it is an evolving perfection, never "finished" and never static. Over thinking ruins it, but the refinement of natural quality enriches it.

We accomplish all things to the best of our ability, and strive ever to be better because of our OWN nobility. In Greece it was Heroes and Aristocrats that were said to possess Arete. And the Arete of no two people were alike, nor any to beings. Each one has their own excellence, be they human, cattle, or plant, and in Alchemy we add minerals and metals as well. All can possess Arete, and one of the goals of society, mayhaps should be, seeing each to their own particular excellence.

It is very similar to the term Kung Fu in Chinese. Kung Fu's translation is more "A thing done well", or "A thing made art". Thus you can have Kung Fu in diamond cutting, wheel making, massage, or martial arts.

Let us strive always to do our best, to cultivate our greatest natural talents and buffet up those things in which we have deficiency. Let us strive for excellence in all we do, as it shows the innate Nobility of ourselves, reminds others of theirs, and acknowledges the sacredness and uniqueness of every moment.

Now, to the Arte of driving to work. Have a great day, all.

1 comment:

The Scribbler said...

I discovered Balhhazar about twenty years ago. I have a small pocket edition published by Shambhala. Every now and then I carry it around with me for a few days and randomly read aphorisms. It's not just to be read once. It's a life companion. It grows with you. Awesome stuff. Should be pressed into the hands of every young adult commencing on a career. Everything you might need to know to deal with just about any situation that might pop up is in there.

Come to think of it: maybe I'll pop that puppy in my pocket and start using it for bibliomancy!