The Way of The Master: Life as Apprenticeship
Gary Z McGee, Contributor
“It is the height of selfishness to merely consume what others create and to retreat into a shell of limited goals and immediate pleasures. Alienating yourself from your inclinations can only lead to pain and disappointment in the long run, and a sense that you have wasted something unique.” ~Robert Greene
How do you become a prime mover? How do you become more self-determined, more self-aware, more responsible for your lot in life? How do you become your own boss, fully volitional, fully responsible, fully engaged, with more creativity, more adaptability, and more courage? How do you become a master?
It begins with self-apprenticeship. You must create your own momentum. Don’t be afraid of becoming an autodidact. Read a lot. Connect the dots. Seek out the shoulders of giants, not just to learn, but to see further than they did. Seek help, expertise, guidance, and wisdom from others, but then you must take responsibility for your own improvement. Take a leap of courage out of faith. Create a scaffold of knowledge. Its foundation is curiosity. Stay curious. Be Curiosity. As Joseph Campbell said, “follow your bliss.”
Mobilize your mind:
“Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” ~George Bernard Shaw
The immobilized mindset is a handicap. Living a full life requires movement. What does not move is dead. Let the mind move, let the mind flow, let the mind grow.
Don’t let your mind settle. A settled mind is a closed mind. A settled mind tricks you into believing that you have figured things out. It inadvertently sacrifices reason for anti-reason. It uses anti-reason to buttress itself against new knowledge.
Remember: knowledge is always your master. Don’t let your ego fool you. One does not master knowledge; one only learns it. The mind is simply too fallible, too inflexible, too imperfect to become a master of knowledge. True self-mastery is understanding that knowledge will always be your master.
Which is all the more reason to keep your mind active, fluid, flexible, and mobile. Don’t get comfortable. Take risks. Embrace change. It’s when you fight against change, when you deny it, repress it, ignore it, or rage against it that you suffer unnecessarily. When you embrace change, however, you’re in flow with it, dancing, flexible, and empowered, even when it hurts. Especially when it hurts. Because you know, pain is information. Pain is a teacher. Pain is a guide. Pain is merely procrastinating power. In the long run it will make you stronger.
The ability to loosen your mind, to alter your perspective, to reimagine imagination is one of the most amazing powers you have as a human being. Cultivate it through mindfulness. Activate it through No-mind. Avoid fixation. Avoid attachment. Avoid belief. Ponder what is absent to create a flexible open-mindedness that can persistently overcome itself.
As Jeremy Hammond said, “Your mind is programmable—and if you’re not programming it then someone else will program it for you.”
Embrace the almighty metaphor:
“As our eyes grow accustomed to sight, they armor themselves against wonder.” ~Leonard Cohen
Reality is a great mystery. Honor it. Let it continually fill you with awe. Don’t seek certainty. Just seek. Be with the curiosity. Be hunger. Be love. Be on the edge of your seat, flabbergasted and entranced, astounded and gobsmacked, dumbfounded and engaged, detached and aloof with the interconnectedness of all things.
Certainty is the creativity killer. Certainty murders mystery. Certainty cripples mastery. Avoid it at all costs. Being certain gets you nowhere but stuck in a box, closed off in a mental paradigm, stifled by a tiny comfort zone, or blocked by an inflexible boundary. It puts eye guards on when peripheral vision is needed.
Employ strategies of awe. Plant a maze in your mind and watch it grow into a labyrinth. Explore it. Transform your eyes into Over Eyes, your mind into No-mind, your soul into Soul Craft. Transform your life into a Hero’s Journey. Confront threshold guardians. And when your mind becomes fixed and settled, strategically plant a minefield in the mind field. Then sit back and enjoy the explosion, as your mind is blown into new ways of seeing the world.
Everything in life is Metaphor. From shapeshifting comes worldmaking. Life becomes art, and art becomes life. Forget genes. Forget memes. Carry mythemes and astonish the world.
Embolden what makes you unique:
“I would rather be a man of paradoxes than a man of prejudices.” ~Rousseau
Carl Jung stressed that an individual’s proper goal is wholeness, not perfection. You will never be perfect, but you will always be unique. Let notions of perfection roll off you like water off a duck’s back. Then double down on your uniqueness.
Real power is emboldened uniqueness. Uniqueness is true power. Everything else is moonshine. Everything else is smoke and mirrors. Focus on what makes you unique, what makes you come alive. Split the smoke. Shatter the mirrors. Let your authenticity boldly blast through it all.
You are a slice of Fate. You might be made up of the same ingredients as other slices of Fate, but your slice is arranged in a way that has never occurred before nor will it ever be repeated. You are a one-time phenomenon. You are beyond a force of Nature. You are a force of Fate. Use it. Fuel yourself with it. Be the tip of the spear and pierce through your life with purpose and meaning.
Becoming who you really are is shedding the skin of who you were conditioned to be by culture and then embracing the new skin of your reconditioning. It’s shaving away the superfluous and embracing the numinous.
When you are able to do this, you unleash your calling, your inner voice, your primal howl. This voice is intuitive, inquisitive, and hungry to be heard. If you listen intently, you will feel your own potential and your deepest longing to create and express your own uniqueness. This uniqueness is your life’s purpose. But it isn’t there for a reason. You must give it a reason to empower you.
Use probability to stay ahead of the curve:
“Consider nothing impossible, then treat possibilities as probabilities.” ~Charles Dickens
Truth or delusion is both a tripwire and a balancing wire. Either way you go, it is precarious. One man’s truth is another man’s delusion. Fortunately, there is validity and probability that you can use as a benchmark, as a way to measure what is more likely to be true.
A good rule of thumb, when faced with potential invalidity, is to ask: “Sure, it’s possible, but is it probable?” True mastery comes more from embracing and being fascinated by mystery and less from intellectualizing and labeling it. It’s more of a detached obliteration of “baskets” than a codependent clinging to them.
The key is to keep your eggs free of all baskets. Don’t settle on any single bedrock of thought. As Aristotle said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” Just flow through it all. Keep questioning. Keep swimming. Keep searching. Use probability as your Occam’s Razor.
Because nobody is off the hook for being wrong. The best we can do is get better at recognizing the hook for what it is so that we are less likely to get dragged away by it. By developing and practicing disciplined strategies for cutting the line and negotiating the hook before the Fisherman of Closemindedness can reel us into his Boat of Dogmatism.
Real mastery sharpens itself against probability. Keep using the sound tools of logic, reasoning, and probability. Keep deflating self-important seriousness into authentic sincerity. Have fun with it. Laugh at it. Play with it. Tease it. Dance with it. Reimagine it in ways that shock your soul into heightened awareness. Shoot yourself in the foot before someone else does, or before the passage of time deems your work outdated or uncouth.
Ever tried. Ever wrong. No matter. Try again. Be wrong again. Be wrong better. This will keep you ahead of the curve. It will keep you sharp against entropy. As it turns out, you are more likely to be right by admitting that you are more likely wrong than by declaring that you are absolutely right.
Allow healthy skepticism and an intimacy with probability to become your shifting bedrock, your foundational quicksand, your liberated measuring tool. This is the apprenticeship. When you are free to swim in the waters of uncertainty rather than remain chained to the pillars of certitude, you are more likely to achieve mastery.
About the Author
Gary ‘Z’ McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide awake view of the modern world.