Article #4: Wit, Wisdom And Willpower by Edwin Flatto, N.D., D.O.
Once upon a time there was a wise man sitting on top of a mountain meditating over a jug of water. A villager, observing him, inquired of the Sage: “Tell me, what is the secret of your wisdom?”
The learned man replied, “I fast, meditate and sip this water when I am thirsty.” The villager implored him: “Please, I must have some of that water… name your price!”
Relunctantly the pundit agreed to sell him a pitcherful of water for a piece of gold.
After paying the price the villager eagerly gulped down the water. A few moments later, upon reflecting over the transaction, the naive one complained to the sage, “Why did I have to pay for this water when I could have gone directly to the spring and obtained it for nothing?”
“See!” exclaimed the wise one triumphantly, “you’re getting smarter already!”
Wisdom has been a quality most sought after throughout the ages, and fasting has long been one of the tools used to help acquire it. However, the principle underlying purpose of fasting is the development of self-discipline.
Nevertheless, few of us are willing to recognize the importance of developing this quality. Since time immemorial, wise men have constantly advocated employing this power as the only honest solution to many of our most serious problems. And the fools have never paid heed.
C.J. Van Fleet, in his provocative book, Conquest of the Serpent, shows that, throughout legend and folklore, the serpent or dragon has always symbolized lust. The famous allegory, St. George and the Dragon, for example, portrays the seemingly invincible fire-breathing dragon as the destroyer of humanity. St. George, however, possesses a miraculous shining sword which alone can slay the dragon. The sword represents willpower and as soon as St. George learns to use it, the dragon of lust is
Self-discipline is like physical strength. In order to strengthen our muscles, they must be exercised. Every experienced weight-lifter knows he must start with light weights and by constant practice progress to heavier and harder tasks. Likewise, self-restraint must be diligently practiced by commencing with comparatively easy conquests and gradually progressing to the more difficult feats.
There are those who will not deny themselves the gratification of a single impulse regardless of the consequences. They will throw up their hands and say, “But learning self-discipline is impossible!”
Impossible, no. Difficult, yes!
Sending a man to the moon is difficult also. Nevertheless we do not hesitate to make the effort. Yet learning self-discipline could well be more of an accomplishment.
Some of humanity’s most perplexing problems could be speedily resolved by learning and applying methods to Strengthen this wondrous quality of self-control. For instance, an honest approach to the solution of the so-called “population explosion” would be teaching people the means of developing this attribute (self-control) instead of resorting to abortions, contraceptive drugs and other dangerous devices. Another readily-apparent example is given by the millions of overweight individuals who could become slender in short order by its development and application.
Narcotic and tobacco addiction, as well as alcoholism, could be conquered if this characteristic were generally practiced. Even a truly crimeless society might become a reality. This, of course, would mean a major step in evolution to a higher form of humanity. It entails higher ethical standards. It rules out gluttony and self-indulgence. It frees us from the coils of the serpent.
Unfortunately, the so-called “old-fashioned” virtues of self-control and self-restraint are no longer respected. Today we are living in an era of materialism and conspicuous consumption. Buy now—pay later! Enjoy now— suffer later! Gratify all your appetites instantly! Why bother to practice self-restraint or self-denial? This attitude shows up in our current moral codes and the growing crime rate. “Credit” may play an important part in keeping the wheels of our economy turning; however, for millions it has become symbolic of a self-indulgent way of life. We are never taught the most important quality in life—the art of mastering one’s self.
As mentioned previously, fasting has long been recognized as a potent tool for the development of self-control, and for releasing the full potential of the human mind. Fasting, however, like exercise, is a means to an objective, not an objective in itself. One important purpose of fasting is to instill and reinforce self-discipline. Consequently, if this objective is not diligently followed after the fast, much of the benefit of the fast may be sadly wasted.
The pendulum has surely swung to the extreme in our hedonistic existence. Isn’t it about time to re-examine our thinking, our attitudes and practices? Or shall we continue the same approach as the fool in our parable who thought he could acquire wisdom by merely buying water with gold?
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