Character Answers All Questions
Fingers Pointing at the Moon
A saying from India goes: Wanting to reform the world without discovering one’s true self is like trying to cover the earth with leather to avoid the pain of walking on stones and thorns. It is much simpler to wear shoes.
An artist does not segregate his art from other aspects of his life. His life is art, from how he treats his family, his dog, to how he greets a stranger. The artist I am talking about here is in balance, in harmony, intuitive, and must earn his daily bread. This artist is not insane, petty, wracked by insecurity, or desperately chasing taste on the path toward the next big thing. There is an art to living, and like any art, the rewards come in proportion to one’s dedication.
Elsewhere I’ve written about the importance of having a standard. There is a simple divining rod that you can use to navigate toward the truth as you wind through the maze of finding out what is what.
Some years back a master artist put things into concise clarity by telling me that: “Nothing supercedes character.”
There, in one declarative sentence, he had cut through all the nonsense and density of the world. Here was the essence, the code of conduct, of what most people truly respect, even if they cannot yet put it into words. Here, he drew a line in the sand, the bottom line that showed on which side you stood. Do you stand for something or are you a fence sitter?
Integrity cannot be bought and honor can only be acquired by paying one’s dues in a currency minted in the realm of true grit. No degree from an institution is required to adopt this code. No prejudice exists among those who know and live by this code. All comers welcome. Here was the core of understanding one another as well as ourselves. Here was a life lesson about character my mother, by example, had taught me many years ago. Now, it was all coming together and the orchestration lifted me upward into a new place under the sun.
The direct implication of “nothing supercedes character” is this: Character answers all questions, which is the incantation for transforming a routine existence into a robust life. Put the code to the test and never stop. Here was the heart of lightness, a code that dismisses rhetoric and pathology by rewarding right action. Here was a code you can measure up to and prove your own level of success to your own satisfaction. The code is about personal responsibility, not perfection. If you are not God’s eyes and ears, who is? What else could you ask for? While we can’t always control our circumstances, we can control ourselves—one of the principles written and presented by James Allen in his 1904 self-empowering classic, As a Man Thinketh.
On The Books
Consider the taking of a life. We call this crime murder. Why do we have so many laws on the books trying to protect ourselves from ourselves? History reports how moral behavior has been codified and written down for the people—from the Code of Hammurabi, the Ten Commandments, to Buddha’s Eightfold Noble Path toward realizing Nirvana, which is the present moment as it is. On its most elemental level, why do we need a written law stating that we shouldn’t kill one another? The need to make murder illegal speaks volumes about society, about the beings called human. On balance, our species also produces heroes and poets, known and unknown.
The code of good character is simple, not complicated, transcending written laws and accepted behavior. It has been repeatedly proven that morality cannot be effectively legislated. More laws weaken a people, not strengthen them into becoming more fully realized as compassionate and wise. This code follows an unwritten set of rules that emanate directly from the soul and is communicated to you via your intuition, which is God, your conscience, speaking directly to you.
Be still and listen. Intuition is infallible.
Character is the fundamental building block of your conduct and your conduct is your standard, which is overt and tangible. Through self-discipline and inner guidance, a person of character learns to cultivate and live a distinctly uncorrupted life by her choice and her code, not because of society’s reprisals or even the wrath of a god. She needs no law enforcement agency, courts, or legal system to live an honorable life. She rights herself when she discovers she is wrong and confronts all that is negative from within. Character answers all questions becomes the barometer that measures the quality of her life and for those around her. This way of life is not an argument for anarchy since this code freely adopts and incorporates all laws that support a respect for all life and the privacy of the individual.
Universal truths are immutable and character is the material crucible for the metaphysical soul. To the pilgrim, truths often sound paradoxical. In traditional Buddhist imagery, words describing truths are like fingers pointing at the moon. If you watch the fingers, you can’t see the moon, and you miss the point. And what’s the purpose of getting to the point if you don’t know how you got there? Without the experience of the journey, the destination has no value. Character is forged and must face the hardships and brutality of this world. If the tests weren’t difficult, strength of character would have no meaning. Our daily lives exist in a universe of duality, that is why we have a choice between being seduced by the negative, or not.
Patience, Not Inertia
Character answers all questions. This is the credo that gives substance to my life; my standard is steadfast as it bears my art. No excuses. No whining. My code and I remain inseparable until I’m fortunate enough to confront a higher standard; in that moment I will immediately adopt the better understanding as my own; this is evolution.
You don’t have to understand everything all at once. It doesn’t work that way. Your development is organic, and it grows stronger over time. You do have a responsibility to step into the scene on cue. You do have to realize you have stumbled onto something significant. If there is a glimmer here for you, then get going. Do not put off that first blush of enthusiasm, for it is the magic that will transform your life into what you feel is possible. Right thought requires right action. While the world of hype around you is thirsting for the next big thing, you will know that you have already found it. Character answers all questions. All the rest is nonsense.
Remember, the fingers are not it; keep your eyes on the moon.»