Mantra. A statement on how we live our lives or how we like to live them. I haven’t really given it much thought until recently. I suspect neither have you. Life’s been too frantic to become deeply philosophical but I’m sure we all have some mantra we fall back on that pins down some basic thing we want to live up to. It might not even be our own mantra, just something someone else said that can’t be bettered. I often quote AE Van Vogt’s mantra of ‘always use your best ideas because you’ll keep getting better ideas.’ No one says you only need one mantra, so do you ever consider having more than one?
Putting on my thinking cap, I came up with another mantra above. One of my own. Actually, it started off as ‘I’m always learning’ but then you would have to think about just what I’m learning and it needs some justification, hence adding ‘to do better’ so that I’m always seeking to improve myself. To not do that would mean that I would have nothing to show for my efforts. When it comes to creativity, to not be on a continual learning curve risks becoming a hack. I might be prolific but there’s a marked difference between developing and just churning things out. Every piece of work is a stepping stone for the next with something learnt along the way. I don’t disown earlier work because it has its place in my development. The time-binding of General Semantics of dating any work puts anything into perspective as to when something is done or said then makes a lot more sense.
Looking objectively, one has to wonder whether there is ever a plateau when you believe you can’t do better? It also tends to suggest that I’m giving myself an impossible target to reach. In a word, no. There will always be new targets to reach or even to show one decent piece of work isn’t a fluke but repeatable and better. Even a potential downturn shows something to avoid in future or just another path that needs to be improved upon. It makes life interesting to seek them out and see how they apply.
I suspect to a lot of people, their personal mantras don’t have a verbal or written form and probably more than happy to fulfil the requirements of the so-called ‘normal’ life to propagate and have a good time. However, when it comes to the academia, science and the arts, one does tend to have a think about what it all means and mantras are a way to propel one’s thoughts and actions or at least to live up to.
Even these might not be spoken aloud which does make me wonder why they exist in the first place. Mantras are sourced from Hindi and Buddhist beliefs but I suspect that the only reason that they’ve only propagated across the world in the past couple centuries is more to do with how deep we think these days and how we see our place in the cosmos and that has a certain resonance. Having a belief as to what you want to achieve, to my mind, tends to be less about spiritual connotation and more with belief in one’s self and the means you want to achieve it. A mantra therefore tends to stand for the purist intentions although that could be true of all philosophical meanings.
Does it make us all deep thinkers at some point? I suppose it depends on the type of mantra. I mean, it can have philosophical or moral meaning or, in my example above, even an element of educational ambition. Rarely all at the same time. Mostly, I suspect, because they are only a short statement and if you want a different deep mantra, come up with another one or multi-layer the depth of meaning, but that might even be seen as heavy, even for me. There’s no limit to how many mantras you have, more a matter of remembering them all, let alone living up to them. Not that I have many. After all, I’m still on a learning curve.
Thank you, take care, good night and may your mantra go with you.
Observation: There are very few Net abbreviations that I use, mostly because I don’t use the uncontracted versions.
A Zen thought: We never stop learning.