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Issue 20,  August 31, 2009     —      Soupios and Mourdoukoutas, The Ten Golden Rules

In this issue:   FEATURE: Soupios and Mourdoukoutas, The Ten Golden Rules   Laura Howard West, The Real Secret to Success in Your Business         Guy Finley, Letting Go a Little Bit at a Time   Davis Goss, The Availability of Infinite Supply   Sharon Elaine, Affirmations for Healing the Planet                 Donna Gunter, 10 Steps to Creating Your Internet Marketing Plan   Wider Screenings, The Universality of Human Rights   Events   Reviews   Earlier issues   Submit Article   No Limits TODAY
The Ten Golden Rules:
Ancient Wisdom from the Greek Philosophers on Living the Good Life
by M. A. Soupios and Panos Mourdoukoutas


John was a successful car mechanic. He was a master in his field. He could perform magic on car engines, identifying and correcting even the most difficult problems. He was also a good family man, raising three children and putting them through school, and a good citizen, casting his vote in local and national elections. But he wasn’t master of himself, of the inner desires that shaped his lifestyle. He was a heavy smoker and drinker, and he constantly craved junk food. Worse, he never tried to honestly assess his inner desires. Instead, he deceived himself by rationalizing his misguided desires with all kinds of spurious arguments, like “people don’t die from smoking, drinking, and eating; they die from the stress and anxieties created by the restrictions doctors impose on them.” As it turned out, they do! John passed away in his late forties from a massive heart attack.

John’s story is neither new nor unique. It highlights people’s failure to master themselves, underlining the fifth rule of spiritual living by reason:

One of the more concrete ties between ancient and modern times is the idea that personal freedom is a highly desirable state and one of life’s great blessings. Today, freedom tends to be associated, above all, with political liberty. Therefore, freedom is often perceived as a reward for political struggle, measured in terms of one’s ability to exercise individual “rights.” This is especially the case in true democratic societies, like the United States and the European Union, where individual freedoms and rights are warranted by law and people consider themselves the masters of their own lives.

Yet individuals who are fully protected under a system of political rights and enjoy immunity from external oppression may not be fully protected from negative physiological and spiritual forces. Democratic constitutions and laws allocate citizens’ freedoms and protect them from oppression, but they do not reach far enough to assure the more comprehensive freedom implied by Epictetus’s term self-mastery.

Long before Sigmund Freud and the advent of modern psychology, the ancients argued that the acquisition of genuine freedom involved a dual battle. First, a battle without, against any external force that might delimit thought and action. Second, a battle within, a struggle to subdue psychological and spiritual forces that preclude a healthy self-reliance. The ancient wisdom clearly recognized that humankind has an infinite capacity for self-deception, to believe what is personally useful and convenient at the expense of truth and reality, all with catastrophic consequences. Individual investors often deceive themselves by holding on to shady stocks, believing what they want to believe. They often end up blaming stock analysts and stockbrokers when the truth of the matter is they are the ones who eventually made the decision to buy the stocks in the first place. Students also deceive themselves into believing that they can pass a course without studying, and end up blaming their professors for their eventual failure. Patients also deceive themselves that they can be cured with convenient “alternative medicines,” which do not involve the restrictive lifestyle of conventional methods.

Self-mastery isn’t a divine endowment people receive at birth, but a daily struggle, an inner war, a combat between rational and irrational elements, which is far more difficult and intimidating than any struggle against external opponents. Winning this war takes a ruthless honesty and a capacity to critically assess the choices, values, and lifestyle by which we choose to live: it requires that we stop blaming others for our shortcomings or wasting time manufacturing excuses. In the process of reconstructing themselves self-mastered people proceed without pity or leniency: they candidly assess their weaknesses, particularly the bad habits that undermine their well-being.

Most fundamentally, self-mastery requires the full understanding of who we are, and an accurate and unambiguous self-image that nourishes, informs, and updates everything we do. Self-mastery requires an inner direction and self-determination in accordance with standards and principles arrived at through the crucible of critical self-examination. Self-mastered people are self-assured without being self-satisfied, quietly confident without being vain or proud. In short, the self-mastered individual represents the integrated personality, a person operating at the highest level of human functioning deemed “free” because the highest liberty is an understanding of self devoid of illusion.

The Meditation Grid

≈ Resist any external force that might distort your thoughts and actions.

≈ Avoid convenient and self-justifying rationalizations.

≈ Complete liberty necessitates a struggle within, a battle to subdue psychological and spiritual forces that preclude a healthy self-reliance.

≈ Be ruthlessly honest with yourself; always critically assess your motives.

≈ Don’t blame others for your shortcomings.

≈ The highest liberty is an understanding of self devoid of illusion.

About the Authors

M. A. Soupios, PhD, is a professor at Long Island University, where he has taught for nearly 30 years. He has received several teaching awards and holds eight graduate degrees, including four earned doctorates.

Panos Mourdoukoutas, PhD, began his academic career at State University of Pennsylvania and continued at both Long Island University and Economic University at Athens.

Living the good life doesn't require a lot of money or even any faith. The Ten Golden Rules condenses the wisdom of the ancient Greeks into 10 memorable and easy-to-understand rules that, if lived by, can enable modern readers to have rich, meaningful lives.
Each chapter examines a rule:

1. Examine life

2. Worry only about those things under your control

3. Treasure friendship

4. Experience true pleasure

5. Master yourself

6. Avoid excess

7. Be a responsible human being

8. Don't be a prosperous fool

9. Don't do evil to others

10. Kindness to others tends to be rewarded
All chapters begin with a quote from one of the great Greek philosophers who inspired the rule, followed by a story or explanation of the rule and its importance in life, and end with teaching points on which to meditate and reflect.
Any reader searching for meaning will return to this simple, slim volume again and again to find tried-and-true wisdom that spans the ages to speak to us today.

The Ten Golden Rules is a wonderful resource for busy people with a philosophical frame of reference and would make a great gift for a high school or college student. Concise and well-written, it offers simple, yet profound, insights into the things that make life enjoyable. I was struck by the fact that most of the ideas here have been recycled countless times in the more recent "self-help," genre, but the authors have provided a boiled down philosophical framework that leaves out the puffery and focuses on the critical principles that will help improve the quality of life. Each chapter starts with a brief object lesson and fleshes out the history and the conceptual issues in a manner that is engaging and useful.
—D. Buxman

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