Ledger is defined as “a book or other collection of financial accounts of a particular type.” We’re all likely familiar with this definition. However, it can also mean “a horizontal scaffolding pole,” or “a flat stone slab covering a grave.” The latter is sometimes referred to as a ledger stone or ledgerstone, which is usually found on the floor of churches with inscriptions about the deceased.
What’s interesting about the word “ledger” is that the essence of stoicism lies within all three of its definitions. To live stoically is to support (scaffold) our days by taking stock of what’s important in our lives and keeping our affairs in order, because we never know when the debt we all pay will come due.
We live soundly when we leave our days without loose ends. We sleep soundly when we are unburdened – when we leave nothing but rest undone. No pillow can support a head that carries the weight of the world.
When I first began reading Modern Drummer magazine in 1989, I recall there being an advertisement for a device that monitored a drummer’s rhythmic accuracy. It was cleverly called the Russian Dragon, because as it’s tag line suggested, it let drummers know when they were either rushin’ or “draggin’ their tempos.
If we look at our lives as songs, we each have our own song. Our songs have tempos. That tempo is not dictated by us. It’s dictated by time. We don’t always know how much time we have. We don’t know our songs’ duration. What we do know is that we have been known to attempt to rush through life by making unhealthy or unsafe choices. We’ve also been known to choose do to nothing for stretches of time as a means of falsely cheating time. The reality is that we have the choice to work on our timing; to develop a solid or deep pocket to use more drumming terminology. To be in the groove: the present.
When drummers are nervous about their meter (their ability to keep good time), they tend to rush. In non-drumming terms, this is anxiety. When we fear what comes next, we get anxious, and our minds rush with nervous anticipation. When drummers believe their meter sucks, perhaps playing a song while thinking about how much they’ve rushed the song in the past, they will drag their tempo. They play with a defeated cadence. In non-drumming terms, this is depression. When we are bummed about what’s happened before, while trying to be present. It will not work. There will be latency.
When we choose to focus our energy on either pushing or pulling, it’s extra effort – for our bodies and our minds. It’s best to lock into the groove. That’s where life innately want us to be, and yet for some reason, it’s also a paradox, because it’s also quite difficult to achieve. Perhaps when our minds race with thoughts or get bogged down by negative self-talk, what we sacrifice most is our ability to listen to the music. Sometimes we just need to take a moment to find the pulse: our pulse. Our pulse to our song.
In music, Ghost Notes hold a rhythmic value, but are intended to be dynamically subliminal. They are meant to be felt more than heard. They provide momentum and support to music whilst remaining anonymous. Remove them and suddenly the music has lost that certain Je ne sais quoi.
This serves as a good analogy for the purpose of right action in our lives. Sometimes we focus too much on the discernible notes. Are we playing enough notes? Am I playing loud enough? Am I doing enough? Am I busy enough? Are my actions making me visible enough? Am I being heard?
The real question to ponder then becomes: Does being loud about how busy we are for the purpose of making sure we are being heard make the quality of all we do any better?
Good leadership, good living, good action is a series of ghost notes. May we all aim to be felt more than heard!
Wearing a full Medieval suit of armor every day may offer us protection from some harm, but it’s certainly not practical. Our mobility would be sacrificed, our sight would be limited, no one would be able to see us, and we would still be susceptible to emotional harm. It’s a great deal of effort for a false sense of security. Although we’d be concealed by this shell of armor, it’s really only protect us from a small variety of threats. Life is neither a joust nor a sword fight. But, it’s a battle nonetheless. The emotional susceptibility is our metaphoric Achilles’ heel. We are most vulnerable where no weapon can harm us. One cannot be stabbed in their sadness, loneliness, anxiousness, insecurity, shame, guilt, etc.
The goal is to be completely visible. To allow others to see us as we are. The protection we seek is found in the daily practice of doing right. Not worrying about being right – just doing right. Focusing on our choices, which when made with reason provide the best protection. The confidence of knowing we are unable to be harmed by what’s outside of our control, unless we choose to be.
Let us look to a freshly waxed car for a better metaphor for armor. We all know the feeling of driving away after going through the car wash. Car is clean and waxed, tires are shiny, RainX on the windshield. Confidence is boosted. We’re looking good! We’re even secretly excited for the next time it rains. We want to see the rain bead-up and roll-off. That’s a life goal, isn’t it? Living with the knowledge we are protected by our reasoned choice to the point where daily obstacles simply bead-up and roll-off. Like wax, it’s an invisible top coat. Challenges still come at us – they will happen. The goal is not to learn to either avoid problems or invite harm, but to live without fear that what’s outside our control can penetrate to an emotional nerve. To get excited when we face challenges, because we know we will learn from our mistake and let the bothersome simply bead-up and roll-off.
“Anger is a gift” is a lyric from Rage Against the Machine’s song “Freedom.” True, since the ability to feel a wide spectrum of emotions is a gift of being human. However, like all emotions, it’s what we choose to do with it that speaks more to whether or not it is a gift. It’s situational. If we are using anger to motivate our own actions in opposition of what angers us, then yes, it is a gift. Anger can give us the gift of perspective to see how we don’t want to be, because we get to see how others whom habitually act in anger truly are. But is anger a gift we long to receive? Anger is defined as “a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.” Who wants this gift…other than Batman? I’m not speaking of extreme situations where anger blurs the line between law and justice. If anger is used to fuel our actions against others, this is not a gift. The true gift is learning how we can choose to not energize the anger because we know it will not enhance our day. This is not weakness. Choosing to avoid what knowingly makes you angry is the same as choosing to walk around a giant puddle. It’s a healthy avoidance tactic. Anger is as much an inconvenience as a soaking wet sock.
The word “snowflake” has been weaponized in recent years. We’ve moved away from the expression about how no two snowflakes are alike as being an innocent metaphor of uniqueness to something more malicious. To preface, my use of the word in this post is the former – speaking to uniqueness.
As an analogy, snowflakes and a snowstorm serve as an accurate reminder of reality. Yes, we are all unique. Yes, we are all human. And yes, we are all headed to same destination: the ground. We have one journey, one storm so to speak. A storm is defined as “a violent disturbance of the atmosphere or a tumultuous reaction.” All the beauty we know is due to the fact that we too have a keen understanding of the brutal intensity of life. There’s beauty in realizing that all the things we do to preoccupy ourselves with the notions of our uniqueness don’t matter. There’s foolishness in believing that uniqueness is synonymous with importance. Our actions determine our importance.
We often feel that practice is what we do in preparation for something we want to do well. If we don’t do it well, we practice to do it better. However, we tend to overlook that practice is the game. Regardless of how we’ve used it, we’ve all uttered the phrase, “I know better than that.” And we do! We do know better, but knowing better is meaningless without action.
Practice – Practice is knowing better in action. Practice is defined as “the actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method as opposed to theories about such application or use,” and as “the repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it.”
The goals we seek are merely wishes without discipline. Discipline is simply defined as “the practice of training.” The goals we set are simply the time bound assessments of how well we practiced.
We need nothing more than to do the things we know better to do!