How to be a scumbag

January.5. 2016

I have been a keen student of scumbology over the years, having wittingly or unwittingly made the acquaintance of some of its finest exponents over the years.

So this short essay is culled mostly from personal experiences, not first hand, of course, but from observations.

As a subspecies, scumbags are usually not the smartest cookies in the world.

But what they lack in intellect, they more than make up for in their acute understanding of the human mind.

And this is crucial to their modus operandi.

Which is sucking up to get what they want. (In some parts of the world, this is referred to as holding a log.)

To suck up to someone, first, you must know the person’s weaknesses.

For example, if a person is vain, you have to appeal to that vanity.

Or if a person is insecure inside and need constant validation, accord him special respect, stroke his ego, and he’s yours from then on.

But what’s wrong with according someone special respect or making him feel good?

Nothing wrong except that in the field of scumbology, there’s an essential added component which we might call the “flipside.”

This flipside is crucial, without it, a potential scumbology action will not qualify as one.

The flipside is this.

For every show of respect you show someone, you must show an equal disdain for someone else.

If you show respect to everyone, irregardless of who they are, you are just a nice guy.

To qualify as a scumbology action, your schmoozing must be selective.

In other words, the scumbag differentiates between people.

(In Chinese, this is often referred to as “look at people.”)

He reserves his special attention only to a select few, those who he thinks deserves his respect.

And the rest of the world? Well, they’re losers so they deserve only his disdain.

And this is what really separates scumbags from the rest of the world.

To the scumbag, the world is divided into the haves and the have-nots—those who “have” his respect and those who “have not” his respect.

In the former category is anyone who is useful to him, powerful people, his bosses, his superiors, maybe a school principal (so he can become the head prefect), or maybe a rich patron, (especially someone he once knew at school).

In the latter category are those who have not attained any great status in life, people who are beneath him at work, people who clean his offices, former friends who he deems to have lost to him in the game of life. In other words, the losers (in his mind) of the world.

Once he has neatly divided the world into these two camps of winners (according to his criteria of winning) and losers (according to his criteria of losing), then he simply accords to them the appropriate actions.

Knowing the art of scumbology is useful in all areas of life.

It’s particularly useful in the workplace.

Don’t waste any time on the lowly janitors, or the clerk, or that secretary. Treat them like the losers they are. Be short and abrupt with them to keep them in line. You know if you’re too nice to them, they’ll start climbing all over your head.

But your superiors? Keep a smile ever ready for them. Every morning, greet them with a warm friendly smile. Ask them how they are. Ask them about their family. Be prepared to laugh at the slightest joke.

You want them to know you’re the friendliest and most helpful guy around.

Scumbagging is important too outside the workplace.

Especially when you need something from someone.

If you need a favor from anyone, make sure you give them the full treatment too—the charming smile, the ever ready laugh, the jovial attitude, the helpfulness.

But of course, once you have accomplished your goals and gotten what you want from them, don’t forget to turn on the flipside.

Toss them onto the dungheap of losers where they belong.

Sure, you’ll make a few people unhappy with this kind of abrupt about-face but life is too short to worry about people who don’t mean anything to you.

Best to put it down to jealousy—they’re just jealous you’re getting on in life while they’re not.


Two movies

January.1. 2016

Imagine a disaster at sea, a ship full of people—men, women, children.

The ship sinks, people are thrown into the sea, there’s general mayhem.

And then what happens?

Men start fighting each other for life jackets, men stabbing each other for a piece of plank. And men snatching life jackets away from little children.

Hard to believe, but apparently, it did happen in the sinking of the “Great Peace,” sometime around 1949.

What manner of men would snatch life jackets away from children?

It brings to mind that other disaster, the Titanic, where the opposite happened, gallant men giving up their places in lifeboats to women and children.

Admittedly, both depictions are fictionalized scenarios—in the Titanic and the Crossing II.

It’s hard to know what really happened.

The worst part of it (for me anyway) is, is it a cultural thing?

Did the disaster in the Crossing II really happen as envisioned by John Woo?

Are the Chinese people really so selfish and cruel, will they do anything at self preservation?

Recent stories coming out of China seem to confirm it, that the mercenary and mean side of the Chinese psyche cannot be underestimated.

Melamine spiked milk, dumplings filled with lard enhanced cardboard and what else. To the point where these days, I refuse to buy any food made in China.

Among some of the subplots in the Crossing is that of a woman by the name of Yu Zhen played by beautiful Zhang Ziyi.

The woman, in searching for her true love, had to resort to prostitution to try to get a ticket to Taiwan where she was told his battalion had ended up. Throughout it all, she remained pure in heart and spirit.

At one point, a dying soldier entrusted her with a ring to give to his family.

She found the family, but they were already dead from starvation, and went back to the soldier to find that he had died too. Instead of keeping the ring and selling it to get the ticket she so desperately needed, she put the ring back on his dead finger.

It just goes to show, you can defile a person’s body but you cannot defile the spirit.

Talking about prostitution, I saw the Force Awakens recently too.

And what a letdown it was.

Trust Disney to take a great franchise and turn it into corporate crap.

With precious little plot to speak of, and what little there was were complete rip-offs of earlier Star Wars movies.

It doesn’t take much to connect the pieces together and figure out that Lucas had sold his great legacy to the highest bidder, a fact he unwittingly let out in an interview with Charlie Rose.

Mr. Lucas, you are right, no need to backtrack. Disney is a bunch of white slavers.

It just goes to show, with money, you don’t have to defile a person’s body to defile his spirit.


The Three Wise Men from the East

December.10. 2015

On this advent season, my thoughts turn once again to the three Wise Men from the East.

No, not the fabled three riding on their camels through the desert following the Wandering Star, but rather the other three wise men, the three who actually left their wisdom behind.

Buddha, Jesus, and Lao Tzu.

It’s interesting how the three perfectly complemented each other.

One dealt with how to live with oneself–by following the middle path.

One dealt with how to live with others–by loving your neighbor.

And one dealt with how to live life itself–by working with nature.

Three great philosophers, each dealing with one area of life.

If you think about it, these are the great fundamental issues of life:

Living with oneself.

Living with others.

And living life itself.

Interesting too, how all three had their philosophies later twisted and turned into organized religions that were more intent on enslaving man’s minds than in freeing them.


Priorities

December.9. 2015

Just watched a PBS Newshour story on gun control. (Typical knee jerk reporting from the lame stream media.)

Somehow the focus shifted to Australia and their gun control laws after the 1996 massacre. Apparently the conservative PM of the time, John Howard, had to ram the legislation through despite opposition from his own party. But he did it, which includes complete background checks and a ban on all assault weapons.

In the story, the reporter asked an Aussie gun shop owner how he felt about the legislation, since he could be making a lot more money if it had not been enacted, to which he replied, “There are some things more important than money.”

Now here’s a man who’s got his priorities all wrong.

There’s nothing more important than money!

Who cares about a couple dozen kids blown to pieces in their school or some holiday party goers going down in a hail of bullets.

It’s all about making money, and the more you can make, the better.

I suggest he come to this great country and learn a thing or two from the NRA about priorities.


Season of joy

December.4. 2015

With the holiday fast upon us, and the season of Black Friday joy just behind us, it means just one thing–that it’s time for my annual introspections.

And my thoughts turn to Father Christmas.

That old warm fuzzy Giftster from the North Pole.

All a bunch of myths of course.

Old fairy tales.

But, nevertheless, still exerting a very powerful pull on our emotions. (Mine at least. Christmas was a big event at the Hii household when I was growing up.)

It brings to mind all the other myths in our general human consciousness about the figure behind these myths.

How much of it is fiction, how much fact?

Who was the man who left behind all those radical sayings?

Things like “love your neighbor.”

Or “turn the other cheek.”

Or “blessed are the meek.”

Powerful stuff.

But what does an old geezer from the North Pole have to do with this otherwise obscure wise man from some desert in the Middle East?

Or for that matter, a manger and sheep grazing in the night?

And three wise men bearing frankincense and myrrh?

We’ll never know of course if these stories are fact or fiction. (My money is on the latter, just like old Santa.)

But it doesn’t really matter.

Fact or fiction, myths have amazing power.

That power came from us of course.

When we place our belief in something, that thing automatically assumes the power we ascribe to it.

For example, when you worship a tree or a rock for a long time, sooner or later, that tree or rock will begin to assume the power that you project to it through your belief.

Whether that power is real or not is immaterial because your belief makes it real.

And so too with ancient myths and beliefs.

Our beliefs in them make them very real.

But this holiday season, my thoughts turn once again to this wise man lost in the distant mist of time.

And the teachings he left behind.

Still powerful, despite the attempts to subvert them and turn them into another tool to control man’s minds, or money making machine for others.

Some have tried to turn this great wise man into a divine miracle worker, a glorified supernatural magician.

But the true miracle of this man lies in the teachings he left behind.

(The teachings that are collected in the authentic books, like the Gospel of St Thomas, not the government approved versions.)

I find it absolutely amazing that a man two thousand years ago could have attained such a high level of enlightenment. And left us teachings that are still eluding us, in the twenty-first century.


The subtractive approach

November.16. 2015

According to Lao Tzu, the virtuoso accomplishes his objectives through daily subtraction rather than through daily addition.

I find the strategy works in many areas of life.

Subtraction is of course getting rid of the fluff, the unnecessary. It’s only by getting rid of the unnecessary that we can focus our attention on the necessary.

And that’s where the strategy works best, in focusing.

The method is surprisingly simple.

If you want to focus on something, just remove everything else.

When you have removed all the unnecessary peripheral stuff that surrounds a thing, you’re left with only that thing, which means that you’ll be able to focus all your attention on it.

The problem is in determining what is necessary and what’s not.

Here, the dispensability test that I wrote about earlier comes in useful again.

When you remove something, does it have an appreciable impact on the end result?

If it does, it’s necessary, if it doesn’t, it’s unnecessary.

Try it.

If you want to get better at guitar playing, get rid of all the toys and paraphernalia of modern life, delete your Facebook account, empty your fridge, change your cell number, whatever else you need to do to regain control of your life.

When you strip your life down to the bare essentials, if you have nothing to distract you, I guarantee that you’ll be playing that guitar all day long.

If you want to focus on your schoolwork, get rid of everything that gets in the way, minimize your commitments and I assure you that you will graduate in no time.

The subtractive approach is really the virtuoso approach to life.

Because it provides you with an effortless way to attain all your goals.


A spiritual journey

October.12. 2015

I had mentioned the materialistic component of virtuosity in a previous post, which might give the impression that I am all about materialism.

And that might be true.

Unfortunately, we live in materialistic times.

Unless you live in a cave somewhere, it’s hard to live a virtuoso life if you’re struggling with the basic necessities of life.

Of trying to put food on the table.

Or if you have to work two jobs just to pay the bills.

To me, a virtuoso life has to include all the basic creature comforts of life, being able to do all the things you want to do without having to worry about constraints, financial or otherwise.

But as I also mentioned, it’s not something you have to worry about.

Because if you attain virtuosity in what you do, that virtuosity will almost always result in some material gain for you, either directly or indirectly.

But virtuosity itself has little to do with materialism.

In fact, the reverse is true; all journeys into virtuosity are spiritual in nature.

No I do not mean spiritual in a pseudo religious sense. (In fact, most religions have less to do with spirituality and more to do with enforcing strict rules of conduct and conformity.)

The word ‘spirit’ here refers to the essence of things.

The soul of things.

As in “capturing the spirit’ of a thing.

All journeys into virtuosity are a search for that essence, for that soul.

For it is only in discovering the essence that we can achieve mastery over it.

In guitar playing, it’s about finding the soul of the guitar, understanding it in every detail, and knowing how to blend with its lines of energy so that we can achieve a perfect union with it.

The only way to achieve this perfect union is to spend countless hours with it, day after day, week after week, year after year.

With no thought of material reward, driven only by the thought of knowing that one day all its secrets will be revealed to you.

Hardly a description of someone in search of material wealth.


Additional thoughts 2

September.25. 2015

One way to look at the virtuoso life is from a materialistic viewpoint.

Consider a doctor and a guy in the street pushing a shopping cart rummaging through trashcans for discarded soda cans.

How many soda cans do you think does the guy need to find before he can make a buck?

And how long does he have to push that cart around before he finds enough of them to make a buck?

That’s a life of struggle.

Compare that existence to that of a doctor who can easily make a few hundred bucks with a 5 minute diagnosis.

One person is a virtuoso in terms of earning power, the other is just struggling.

From this angle, virtuosity in life does have a strong materialistic component. That’s not surprising given that we live in a materialistic society.

So does that reduce the pursuit of virtuosity in life to the pursuit of material wealth?

No, but in one of those ironies of nature, even if material gain is not a goal of virtuosity, it is usually a byproduct.

That is, if you achieve virtuosity in some area of life, your virtuosity will almost always translate into material success.

(Material wealth in itself, however, is not always an indicator of virtuosity as in the case of someone who gains his wealth from an inheritance, through no virtuoso effort of his own.)

Let’s say if you are a plumber and you achieve a high level of virtuosity in your work and this result in outstanding work.

Your customers love you for your attention to detail and workmanship (all characteristics of the virtuoso mindset), soon word gets around and in no time at all, you have more work than you know what to do with.

But if you’re one of those plumbers who can’t wait to be done with your work and your work is so bad, your customers have to call other plumbers to fix what you’ve done, with this kind of shoddy attitude, who’s going to call you back again?

And if no one calls you for more work, you may have to start looking for that shopping cart to push around soon.

The same is true in every field, every line of work.

If you put everything you have into your work, you will come up with extraordinary results, and extraordinary work is almost always rewarded with material success.

So the key to a life of virtuosity is to focus on execution, to become a virtuoso in what you do.

When you achieve this virtuosity in life, all the material wealth and success that you need will automatically flow towards you.

You don’t even have to search for it, it will happen naturally of its own accord.


Additional thoughts

September.21. 2015

So how about the principles of lightness and fluidity and rhythm?

Do they apply to the virtuosity of life also?

Yes, but in more subtle ways.

In the performance of physical movements, those elements exist at a physical level.

When you watch musicians or dancers or any other performance artists, what you see are the physical manifestations of those principles.

In life, however, the principles exist at a metaphysical level.

For example, lightness of touch in physical activity becomes lightness of approach in life.

To be light in life, you avoid conflicts, you tread lightly in your daily interactions. Instead of forcing situations, you allow them to play out naturally.

All this makes for a relatively stress-free existence.

Which enables you to focus fully on what you do.

Fluidity, another key virtuoso principle, is reflected in how we transition from one action to another.

In physical activity, fluidity is mostly achieved through anticipation.

The same is true in life.

In life, you exist in a state where the present is not some static thing that has to be experienced mindfully, whatever that is.

Instead the present is a dynamic thing that is constantly moving and evolving.

So instead of focusing on the present moment, you focus on the next moment.

And when it arrives, you’re already on the next moment again.

In this way, you’re always ready, you’re never caught by surprise.

It allows you to transition seamlessly from one moment of life to the next, from one cycle to the next.

Rhythm is timing in both the physical and metaphysical realms.

It is self explanatory so no further words needed.

So too the other principles, that of economy, looseness or release.


Some ideas on how to achieve virtuosity in life

September.18. 2015

Some people will define a virtuoso life in terms of material comforts, others in earning power, yet others in spiritual enlightenment.

For me, virtuosity in life is all about execution.

Because it doesn’t matter what station of life you attain, what level of enlightenment, if you can’t execute effortlessly, you’re struggling through life.

And struggling is no virtuoso living.

Execution here refers to how we perform specific tasks in life.

From such mundane daily tasks as doing the yard, to cooking dinner, to working in the workplace, how we approach these tasks will determine how effortless they become.

The key to effortless execution lies in two things.

First, reduce resistance.

Resistance is anything that can get in the way of your execution and prevent you from performing at an optimum.

Most resistance is caused by lack of technique.

When you lack technique, you have to compensate with brute force which will result in you having to expend greater effort, which will in turn sap your energy and waste time.

So to achieve virtuosity in life, acquire skills and technique.

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done.

Because it takes a great deal of time and effort to learn skills and technique. To get to that level of mastery, you’ll have to do it day and night, every chance you get.

And this is just to master one task.

What about all the other tasks which you have to master too?

Well, you don’t, instead you harness the energy of others to do the things that you can’t do yourself, such as doctors, plumbers, car mechanics, any kind of task that will come up in the course of living.

So an important caveat in effortless living is that you mustn’t be greedy.

You must choose one or two areas of expertise and leave other areas for others to master.

If you try to master everything, you will end up mastering nothing.

Resistance can also be caused by conflicts.

If you want to move effortlessly through life, you must minimize any potential conflicts that will stop you in your tracks or slow you down.

What kind of conflicts am I talking about?

Every kind. The kind that gets you fined for not paying your taxes, the kind that gets you arrested for breaking the law, the kind that gets the neighbor mad at you for letting your dog bark all night long.

If you have to deal with conflicts, you will have no time to devote to your task.

Second, reduce what you have to do.

Take out all unnecessary steps, simplify procedures, streamline your work, and if it makes no appreciable difference to the end results, maybe don’t even do it at all.

Early on in life, I discovered that there’s such a thing as real work and busy work.

And I quickly learned that if I want to do the real work well, I’ll have to cut down on the busy work.

Because the busy work will distract you from your real work and prevent you from doing it well.

So what’s real work and what’s busy work?

Real work is what gives you your desired results, busy work what makes you appear to be doing your job but makes no real contribution to your end results.

Obviously, you want to focus on the real work and cut down on the busy work.

To do this, be very clear in your mind what your task is.

Then focus all your energy toward that task.

Do whatever it takes to get your end results.

Even if it means breaking the rules or changing the process or challenging the status quo.

Rules and traditions have a way of constraining your creativity and making you waste valuable time on useless and obsolete procedures.

Rules do serve a purpose, that of providing structure for you but once that usefulness is gone, you are free to dispense with them.

Remember, there’re no rules in life, only what works.

Unfortunately depending on where you work and who you work for, many organizations these days are more about busy work than real work.

For example, as a teacher, you’re supposed to spend more time explaining to the bureaucrats how you’re doing your job than actually doing it.

It’s as if to be a good guitar player, all you need to do is explain to me your practice schedules and how they impact your playing than actually practicing, and you’d be a good player.

If only life were that simple.

But of course, here you have to tread carefully, keeping in mind the conflict avoidance principle.

If busy work is what they require, then busy work is what you need to give them, that is, if you want to keep your job.

Better to have a job and do it with mediocrity than to have no job at all.


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