Attributes of Sage II

February 12, 2016 at 6:56 PM Leave a comment

Blog for February 14

We are in trouble if we are striving for wisdom! A wise woman or man – what the ancient Chinese called a sage – is instructed to avoid extremes. And what world do we live in? We definitely live in a world of extremes.

Our food gets supersized and our technology gets smaller and lighter. Our cars no longer go fast enough to get us from point A to point B. Instead, they go more than a hundred miles an hour. Who needs to go a hundred miles an hour? People who are extremely busy and extremely bored might think they need to go a hundred miles an hour.


Horseshoes and croquet are laughable sports. Triathlons and snowboarding are common and respected sports. We do not just boat and sail; we go white water rafting. We do not just fly airplanes; we jump out of them. I remember Judith Viorst writing that boys, three of whom she raised, often think, “Why do it plain when I could do it fancy.” She was observing, thirty years ago, that boys seem to like to take chances and try new ways of climbing trees and riding bicycles. Well, that was then. Now boys and girls seem to believe if it is worth doing, it is worth doing dangerously and with foolhardy abandon.


People no longer have affairs. They have threesomes and “swing” as a way of life. People do not take drugs because they need them for pain relief – they take drugs because they want them for the thrill of the high or the trip.


Every politician wants to lower taxes drastically while increasing the standard of living. Donald Trump says climate change is a “hoax.” I wonder who he thinks is perpetrating the hoax? And what exactly are they trying to accomplish? It is someone with a strong dislike for polar bears, trying to melt glaciers so the polar bears have nowhere to live? Very curious. Another rather “extreme” belief Donald Trump has is that half of all undocumented residents in America are criminals. How would he know that? Are they criminals because they are in jail?  I do not think the math would support that theory. And, if they are criminals who are not in jail, exactly how do we know they are criminals? Donald Trump has formed extreme opinions extremely unsubstantiated by verifiable data. I think we could call this extreme illogic.


Extreme religious sects are another startling example of the extreme times in which we live. We have all heard about the Unification Church, the Ku Klux Klan, the Branch Davidians and other apocalyptic doomsday cults, culminating in the People’s Temple where 900 people drank poison-laced Kool Aid. We could conclude that religions which preach doomsday fear mongering, exclude entire segments of the population based on skin color or “their” beliefs, or demand suicide from their followers are “extreme” and extremely dangerous. Deadly, even.


We have extreme economic polarity in this world, too, and it exists in the United States. Did you know 1.5 million Americans live on less than $2.00 a day? That means they have about $730.00 a year to spend. If all they did was eat, and they had no living expenses, they could spend about $60.00 a month on food. As we know from the yearly lists of billionaires, seven of the ten richest people in the world are Americans. Even below the billionaire standard of living, we have a portion of the population who enjoy an extremely lucrative lifestyle. Extremes.

As a therapist, the extremes that I see every day are the extremes of entitlement, emotional pain and mistreatment by others.

Entitlement is a word that did not even exist when I was growing up. Now, it is rampant. I suspect that without even thinking about it, you can name ten entitled people you know. If not, go on Facebook and read a few posts.


Emotional pain also seems to be coming in more extreme cases than ever before. I do not want to freak you out by telling you some of the things people do to themselves when they are in pain. Most of us have heard about “cutting” but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Too many friends and neighbors are immobilized with pain. People live silent lives of extreme desperation.

And the extreme mistreatment of human by human is appalling. I know this is a radical and extreme idea on my part, but if we disagree with someone, we can always simply walk away. Fighting, whether verbal or physical or emotional is entirely unnecessary. If someone cuts us off in traffic, we can slow down and pull back. Why has confrontation become the norm? What is wrong with using compassion instead of control?

Well, I am sure I have more than made my point. We live in extreme times that make it difficult to respond with moderation and mercy. Moreover, perhaps the more important concept here is to understand why a sage or a wise person would avoid extremes.

Extremes always indicate competition. Extremes always indicate dissatisfaction with the status quo. Extremes always reveal a desire to be better than someone else, stronger, smarter, faster, sleeker, sexier, better dressed (as determined by the people who will get rich from the money spent on following fashion trends), drinking finer vodka (which happens to be more expensive), driving finer automobiles (which happen to cost more and make someone rich). Side note: do you suppose the Ford factory worker who puts the bolts in the Focus gets the same pay as the Ford factory worker who puts the bolts in the Mustang GX? Yeah. I doubt the assembly line worker is the one getting rich.


Money, greed, competition, control, power, influence, radicalism, fear-mongering, bullying, rigidity, severity, drastic measures all lead to extremes in socio-economic terms, behavior and attitudes.


The opposite of an extreme is moderation. People who do not engage in extreme behavior are contended with the middle of the road, the modest, the average, the good. Perfection is the enemy of good. Extreme is the enemy of good enough.

The sage avoids extremes. People with anxiety often take fear to the extreme. People with depression have taken sadness to the extreme. People with PTSD  often take control to the extreme. When we take things to the extreme, we lose control instead of using self-discipline and discernment. Extremes are a way to prove our specialness. The sage is contented being ordinary, and it is in her very contentment that she becomes extraordinary.

“Know that enough is enough, and you’ll always have enough.”


Tony and Susan are wishing for each of us the wisdom of the sage who knows that enough is enough.


Coming soon: The Many Faces of Depression – an interactive workbook and study guide for our brothers and sisters suffering from depression.

Prayer Page:

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Supporting Scripture:

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV)

“For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul, and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord.” Psalm 10:3 (ESV)

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” 1 John 2:15-17 (ESV)

“or although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” 1 Corinthians 8:5-6 (ESV)

“When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.” Deuteronomy 24:19 (ESV)

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