This morning I attended an inclusivity rally on the university campus where I work. Many of my students and colleagues are afraid; many have already suffered racist incidents since the election. And I’m hearing lots of calls for dialog and unity, peace and understanding. Which is nice. But as Ecclesiastes 3:8 says, there’s “a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.” A real warrior will embrace and practice love and peace, but be ready to face hate and war.
In a previous post I wrote about my personal mission to be a scholar-warrior. Now I wonder if the badge I designed for myself didn’t lean too much on the scholarly side of the equation. It’s my duty, as a scholar-warrior, to fight with and for my friends and my values. So I’m modifying it a little to emphasize that I will also defend freedom — my own and others’.
I’ve had very mixed feelings over the call for personal branding as an author or even just as an individual living in the 21st century. “Branding” sounds like “rut” to me; we don’t like it when our favorite brands change, right?
So I’ve been playing with the idea of a personal mission statement instead, trying to boil down concepts about the “right way to act” that I have absorbed over the years. Not surprisingly, many of the lessons I absorbed came from fantasy fiction — ideas about honor and defending the weak, about self-reliance and strength of conviction. But as I’ve grown, I’ve modified those early ideas a little, informed by feminism (most of the fantasy I read as a child was written by men about boys and men for boys and men) and Zen Buddhism and Taoism, among other philosophies and movements. For example, originally I thought a warrior needed to engage in physical battle. However, I’ve since read about the concept of a spiritual warrior and experienced enough other kinds of fights — for justice, for freedom, for health, and so forth — to understand that warriors come in many forms. As do, of course, scholars.
So here’s where my personal mission statement is right now, in the form of a graphic. It isn’t perfect. I’d like to add something along the lines of “In the pursuit of knowledge, every day something is added. In the practice of the Tao, every day something is dropped” … the acknowledgment that having a mission statement is itself kind of unnatural, an attachment to a certain self-definition or -aspiration that can be problematic. For now, “cultivate wisdom” encompasses that awareness.
Despite those problems, it seems to me to be a useful exercise, if nothing else because it’s helping me put into concrete terms those concepts that have guided my actions — what I’ve thought I’ve had to live up to and/or felt guilt about when I’ve failed to do. Knowing these things about myself, I can begin to modify this mission statement if I decide that it’s not good for me or others, after all. And until then it will serve as a personal reminder and inspiration.