Doing what you must to get what you want

According to Marv Scherler

Discipline is doing what you must to get what you want.

But isn’t discipline as much about learning to want the right things, the things you really need, and to stop wanting the wrong things? Or is that confusing two levels of discipline — a disciplined mind in the service of a disciplined soul? (I say ‘soul’ metaphorically, for want of a better psychological term, not to suggest some immortal ghostly essence. In the former sense only I’d agree with the Biblical rhetorical question “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”)

On the lower level of discipline, evil geniuses like Genghis Khan and Adolf Eichmann displayed great mastery, yet if there were an Inferno, they would surely now be on one of its lower levels, too. (But — and at the risk of being Thomistic — would that fate hypothetically even be possible? It seems likely to me that this sort of human is congenitally deformed, missing the higher-level faculties altogether — that, roughly speaking, they are “soulless”.)

A case that’s more directly related to the daily bread of most of those with web access is our society’s disciplined devouring of the earth, each of us complicit in the strip mining of fish and forest and soil. The higher level of discipline rightly rebels against that system of things, of heading efficiently down a ski jump to oblivion, objecting “No, this beginning must lead to that end.”

Still, on both levels of discipline, I would agree with Thomas Huxley that

Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not; it is the first lesson that ought to be learned; and however early a man’s training begins, it is probably the last lesson that he learns thoroughly.

More blog entries on Effectiveness.
Days of Malta

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