Sunday, September 8, 2013

Paradoxical Commandment #10 summary message contained in the Dr. Kent M. Keith’s Paradoxical Commandments resonates with an appropriate measure of cynical optimism.  In some ways, it seems as if he implores us to do our best while expecting the worst.  After only a surface reading, I would agree, but when taken as a whole, the commandments reveal a deeper truth rooted solely in optimism.  Paradoxical Commandment number ten continues in the same vein:
Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.
Dr. Keith’s commandments seek to weaken pessimistic arguments against them by including the very arguments in the commandments.  This best of/worst of pairing creates the paradoxical nature the commandments embody.  Dr. Keith acknowledges humanity’s own tendency towards the negative, the trend we feel to pull others down, and he tells us not to worry about it.  Our own nature combats this very same paradox on a daily basis.

Imagine the commandments without the negatives:
  1. Love
  2. Do good
  3. Succeed
  4. Do good
  5. Be Honest and Frank
  6. Think big
  7. Fight for the underdogs
  8. Build
  9. Help People
  10. Give the world your best
Without the negatives, the commandments ignore our own nature, losing much of their power to connect with us.  We know these are actions we should take, but our weak egos immediately throw up defensive fortifications based on previous experience:

  1. People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered
  2. People will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives
  3. You will win false friends and true enemies
  4. Good is forgotten quickly
  5. You will be vulnerable
  6. Small men and women with small minds will shoot you down
  7. People only follow top dogs
  8. What you build will be destroyed
  9. People may attack you
  10. You will get kicked in the teeth.

These are our ego’s defenses.  By splashing them on the page paired with our desired attributes, we eviscerate the ego’s defense.  We know these are all possibilities, but we don’t care.  We give the world our best anyway.

As your daily life unfolds in front of you, ignore the negative possibilities swirling around your every action.  Focus instead on the power of your good, on the vast love you hold for your fellow man, and on the possibility of success in your life. 

You are strong and you are powerful.  No matter what the world throws at you, be and do your best.  Do it anyway.

- I first encountered an adapted version of the “Paradoxical Commandments,” titled “The Final Analysis,” while listening to a Wayne Dyer audio CD in my early twenties.  The meaning and message struck me as true, helping guide my thoughts and actions as I developed from a big kid into a real adult.  Later, I discovered the poem was not actually written by Mother Theresa at all, but adapted, framed, and hung on the wall in her Calcutta orphanage.  She cared about its message enough to use it to empower the weak and marginalized children to whom she gave her life.

The Paradoxical Commandments are reprinted with permission.  © Copyright Kent M. Keith 1968, renewed 2001

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