“Setting Fire to the World”—The Unexamined & Undisciplined Life in Action


“The undisciplined person doesn’t wrong himself alone—
he sets fire to the whole world.”
– Rumi

If we’re not living an examined life—a life where we look deeply at our own actions and reactions and try to gain some real clarity about why we’re doing what we’re doing and how it impacts others—then we are the undisciplined person that Rumi is speaking of.

Self-examination—looking at oneself clearly, objectively, without bias and softeners—is what separates genuine adults from psychological children in adult bodies.

It is such a rare thing to come across in this world—a human being who is really willing to look fearlessly and fiercely at oneself, to confront oneself, to want to see oneself accurately and without flattery and distortion.

Many people in the world have very high standards for other people but do not hold themselves to those same standards. They let themselves off the hook. They live life as if they’re living behind a one-way mirror, conducting experiments, trying to discern what other people are really like, who’s trustworthy and who’s hypocritical, all the while betraying others, exploiting others, manipulating others, and acting even more hypocritically and duplicitously.

This is how wounded and hurt people go through life—so concerned with other’s trustworthiness that they take no care for establishing and working on their own trustworthiness. And so they end up adding more untrustworthiness to the nexus of human relationships by their own inconsistencies and untrustworthiness.

The world needs more people who are willing to live transparent lives where they are as they appear and appear as they are. And this level of integrity requires much self-discipline, self-honesty, clarity, and rigorous self-examination.

But every little bit helps. Why not be that person? Why not be the type of person that world needs so badly. Not another fun-loving flighty reactive mindless consumer and plaything of circumstance flitting over the surface of life, terrified of its depths, and setting fire to the world in the name of self-avoidance and not having to face and feel one’s fears and sorrows. Rather, why not live more deeply and authentically? Why not lead a much more contemplative and examined life? Why not lead a life of greater integrity and simplicity?

Life is short. No one gets out of here alive. So why get so caught up in gratifying one’s id and one’s lesser and discursive and escapist desires and fantasies?

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Denial & Impermanence


“We know that all is impermanent; we know that everything wears out. Although we can buy this truth intellectually, emotionally we have a deep-rooted aversion to it. We want permanence; we expect permanence. Our natural tendency is to seek security; we believe we can find it. We experience impermanence at the everyday level as frustration. We use our daily activity as a shield against the fundamental ambiguity of our situation, expending tremendous energy trying to ward off impermanence and death. We don’t like it that our bodies change shape. We don’t like it that we age. We are afraid of wrinkles and sagging skin. We use health products as if we actually believe that our skin, our hair, our eyes and teeth, might somehow miraculously escape the truth of impermanence.” – Pema Chödrön “The Places That Scare You