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Life is Like A Battle of Chocolates

An Essay By Trevor Stone

October 1997, Senior Year, New Vista High School

[Author's note: I wrote this in response to an unsuccessful discussion about Sun Tzu's Art of War.]

Perhaps the biggest objection to The Art of War was that people didn't see their lives like a war. "It's fine if this guy sees his life like a war because he's a general but I just don't see it that way." -- Maya. If you can't see your life like a war, you aren't trying hard enough.

Life is quite definitely like a war. You must fight many battles to survive: against other beings for food; against fate, gravity, and predators to stay healthy and not injured; against yourself to get up in the morning. Many of of Tzu's observations can be very useful. Do not travel hundreds of miles through land of the enemy to find food, let the food grow where you are. If you fight with others to get the best of something you will lose your own resources. Instead, go for the places that are not defended and though you gain less, you lose less too. Life can quite definitely be seen as a war.

This is not to say that life cannot also be seen as a box of chocolates. The stuff that tastes the best makes you the fattest. If you eat the carob an and nuts instead of the dark chocolate and yogurt you will be healthier, but not as hedonistic. Life can also be seen as a seminar. Everyone has no clue about the text and is fighting about little parts of it. Life can also be seen as a condom. You're here once, you save some lives, you kill some people, then you die, never to come back again.

The problem of discussing eastern philosophy with western students is that the students are stuck in the dogma of western thought: this IS the way the world is, if you don't accept that view I'll kill you. Western thought is full of passages like "I think, therefore I am," while eastern thought is full of passages like "The consummation of forming an army is to arrive at formlessness." The former tries to prove that an idea is true, the second accepts the idea as true and tries to get the thinker to discover why.

Therefore when an western group discusses an idea they talk much and all use the same text, when an eastern group discusses an idea they talk little and use different texts.

Anything can be looked at as something else. The empire state building is like a whirlpool, life is a roll of toilet paper. We learn facts with our senses, wisdom with our minds. Everything has truth, a the sage must find it for himself.

We can know everything about a simple object. We can study a flower, a building, or a battle. Given time and a teacher we can study something complex like society or war. Yet no one can know all of life, for Tao cannot be sensed. Tao is like gravity, we can only see its effects on things, we cannot see Tao itself. Therefore the sage must look at everything to see what is Tao, and then forget it all.


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