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Seeing Fully

--by Ajahn Brahm (Mar 10, 2014)
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We were poor monks who needed buildings. We couldn't afford to employ a builder — the materials were expensive enough. So I had to learn how to build: how to prepare the foundations, lay concrete and bricks, erect the roof, put in the plumbing — the whole lot. I had been a theoretical physicist and high-school teacher in lay life, not used to working with my hands. After a few years, I became quite skilled at building.

Being a monk, I had patience and as much time as I needed. I made sure every single brick was perfect, no matter how long it took. Eventually, I completed my first brick wall and stood back to admire it. It was only then that I noticed— oh no! — I'd missed two bricks. All the other bricks were nicely in line, but these two were inclined at an angle. They looked terrible. They spoiled the whole wall. They ruined it.

By then, the cement mortar was too hard for the bricks to be taken out, so I asked the abbot if I could knock the wall down and start over again — or, even better, perhaps blow it up. I'd made a mess of it and I was very embarrassed. The abbot said no, the wall had to stay.

When I showed our first visitors around our fledgling monastery, I always tried to avoid taking them past my brick wall. I hated anyone seeing it. Then one day, some three or four months after I finished it, I was walking with a visitor and he saw the wall.

"That's a nice wall," he casually remarked. "Sir," I joked in surprise, "have you left your glasses in your car? Are you visually impaired? Can't you see those two bad bricks which spoil the whole wall?"  What he said next changed my whole view of that wall, of myself, and of many other aspects of life. 

He said, "Yes. I can see those two bad bricks. But I can see the 998 good bricks as well."

--Ajahn Brahm


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On Mar 13, 2014 rajnikant wrote:

 

To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.

- Winston Churchill - Human beings are subject to errors or mistakes.
But we must realize that we committed a mistake.
And so long as we do not realize it, we cannot come out of our mistakes. 


On Mar 12, 2014 ANANTHARAMAN wrote:

Years back we were tying up machinery for brick manufacturing from a Belgian company. We had taken with us some of our handmade bricks, field fired,  which in our eyes were bad quality. The Belgian bricks were strong and of standard size while ours was absolutely nonstandard and of low strength. While we were feeling ashamed of our bricks and regretting taking them with us, the Belgian architect  was thrilled with the brick samples and remarked that they were like god made, each different from the other, unique in all respects. He also mentioned that strength was not all that important since they will be used as partitions and for pointing for elevation. He was so thrilled with the bricks that he ordered a container load of bricks at a very exorbitant price. like they say beauty in the beholder's eyes and prfection is many times disempowering.



On Mar 11, 2014 rajnikant wrote:

 We have been discussing all relative things which are temporary and perishable. The important thing is the thought behind what we do and how we process the information internally as have been pointed out by our friends. Then comes the opinion part. If we process the information in a negative way then we process it negatively and our opinion comes out negative. On the flip side if we process it positively then our opinion comes out positive. The process part is based on our beliefs. We have to change our beliefs that we want to be positive in all circumstances, in seeing, hearing, smelling, touch and thoughts no matter what. This can be our mantra. This would lead to inner happiness. This is certainly under our own realm. It is said that things don't cling  to us....we cling to them. Many of our friends have experienced it from their comments and changed their beliefs to be happy. Then the relative things will automatically be placed in a positive way whether it is the  See full.

 We have been discussing all relative things which are temporary and perishable. The important thing is the thought behind what we do and how we process the information internally as have been pointed out by our friends. Then comes the opinion part. If we process the information in a negative way then we process it negatively and our opinion comes out negative. On the flip side if we process it positively then our opinion comes out positive. The process part is based on our beliefs. We have to change our beliefs that we want to be positive in all circumstances, in seeing, hearing, smelling, touch and thoughts no matter what. This can be our mantra. This would lead to inner happiness. This is certainly under our own realm.

It is said that things don't cling  to us....we cling to them. Many of our friends have experienced it from their comments and changed their beliefs to be happy. Then the relative things will automatically be placed in a positive way whether it is the other person, object, interaction or our own thoughts or reactions.

It is said that Opinion is the Father of Mind, and the Language is the Mother of Mind. Due to circumstantial forces and prevailing situations, a person is placed in, opinions are incessantly formed consciously or unconsciously.  These opinions that form in the mind may be on any number of subjects, such as people, world, time, nation, religion, sect, society, creed, etc.  Thus the mind becomes the cause of bondage to worldly life.  It is our own opinion that binds us, and not things external to oneself or other people. Positivity is the key to happiness in imperfection situations. This way there is no compromise in the result of one's work. 

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On Mar 11, 2014 ganoba wrote:

 this story is not worth following. what kind of a monk is this guy, holding onto judgments of good-bad for years and trying to hide them from others? The lay visitor seems more enlightened than him. his earlier training as a scientist and the points of view picked up then are still controlling his mind.



On Mar 11, 2014 Hillary wrote:

  “Pull the thorn of existence out of the heart! Fast! For when you do, you will see thousands of rose gardens in yourself.” Rumi Nature can be seen as a great example: even the most beautiful roses have thorns. Nothing is “perfect,” but everything is perfect the way it is. Our commitment to evolve spiritually has much to do with learning to look at things from a more helpful perspective, learning to look at existence from the soul’s agenda, and, yes, learning to see the big picture. Looking from the soul’s agenda, it is pretty obvious that we are not here to build the perfect wall, to become the perfect mom, to sing the perfect notes, to love the perfect way . . . I believe it is not what we do or what we can do; it is what we learn, what we remember, and how we feel while we do what we do. As human beings, our beingness matters more than our doingness, or the end result of our doingness. In the big picture, in the grand scheme o  See full.

 

“Pull the thorn of existence out of the heart! Fast! For when you do, you will see thousands of rose gardens in yourself.” Rumi

Nature can be seen as a great example: even the most beautiful roses have thorns. Nothing is “perfect,” but everything is perfect the way it is.


Our commitment to evolve spiritually has much to do with learning to look at things from a more helpful perspective, learning to look at existence from the soul’s agenda, and, yes, learning to see the big picture.


Looking from the soul’s agenda, it is pretty obvious that we are not here to build the perfect wall, to become the perfect mom, to sing the perfect notes, to love the perfect way . . .


I believe it is not what we do or what we can do; it is what we learn, what we remember, and how we feel while we do what we do. As human beings, our beingness matters more than our doingness, or the end result of our doingness.


In the big picture, in the grand scheme of things, the crooked bricks on the imperfect wall are totally, absolutely irrelevant. The feelings while we build the wall, of joy, of contentment, of mindfulness, of gratitude . . . are what matter and what will remain as the energetic expression of our eternal beingness.


(Note: I used to be a perfectionist . . . until I learned recently to shift my focus, from the thorns to the roses :-D)


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1 reply: Jo | Post Your Reply
On Mar 11, 2014 Jagdish P Dave wrote:

 This story deeply resonates with me. If I look at and focus on the bent and rotting branch of a tree, I miss the beauty  and health of the whole tree. It is like paying and focusing   my attention only on what I have not completed  and blaming myself  rather than seeing  what I have  completed.  In my counseling experience I often hear one person complaining about what the other did not do or say right thing rather than recognizing and exoressing so many right and good things the other has done. It is important to recognize where I went wrong so that I learn from my mistake. When I dwell on my wrong doing and get obsessed with it, I am missing what I have  done right and feel good about it. In relationship, this perspective applies to both persons. Pointing a fault finding and critical finger towards me and or towards the other is a sure way of making oneself and the other miserable. I see  See full.

 This story deeply resonates with me. If I look at and focus on the bent and rotting branch of a tree, I miss the beauty  and health of the whole tree. It is like paying and focusing   my attention only on what I have not completed  and blaming myself  rather than seeing  what I have  completed.  In my counseling experience I often hear one person complaining about what the other did not do or say right thing rather than recognizing and exoressing so many right and good things the other has done.

It is important to recognize where I went wrong so that I learn from my mistake. When I dwell on my wrong doing and get obsessed with it, I am missing what I have  done right and feel good about it. In relationship, this perspective applies to both persons. Pointing a fault finding and critical finger towards me and or towards the other is a sure way of making oneself and the other miserable.

I see this limited and narrow way of seeing in economics, politics,  and seeing people coming from different cultures creating separateness and ill feelings. We as human beings are not perfect and we all have our shortcomings. No country is perfect and no culture is perfect. When we look at ourselves and others, our culture and other's culture with this fault finding  and narrow perspective, we miss the goodness and beauty of the whole and big picture. 

Last year I went to my native country India with  two couples from America.It was interesting to see how each saw the same country, people and culture from different lenses and had different kinds of  perceptions, experiences, opinions. and reactions. Those who looked with a comparative and critical mind set, missed the positive aspects of the culture. Two of them decided to leave earlier and let us know they would never come back to India. The other couple enjoyed and appreciated the positive aspects of the culture and extended their stay in the country. By focusing only on the shortcomings of the country, they missed the opportunity of enriching their lives.

I always appreciate and value receiving this once a week gift  and remaining connected with many without even hearing their voices and seeing them.

With gratitude,

Jagdish P Dave

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2 replies: Kristin, A | Post Your Reply
On Mar 11, 2014 Keshav wrote:

Nothing in this world is perfect.If you believe in GOD,well He/She is Perfect.So why try to be perfect? Let's not strive for perfection in each and everything we do.Imperfection in nature adds to its variety.Imagine human beings cast perfectly in an identical mould physically.What a disaster it would be!No beauty to admire.



On Mar 11, 2014 Kristin Pedemonti wrote:

 We are all of us "perfectly imperfect"  at times when I say "Oh that's bad."  I am reminded of a Folktale: A farmer buys a new horse, it runs away. The people say, "Oh that's bad." The farmer says, "maybe yes, maybe no." The horse returns with a Stallion. "Oh that's good." Maybe yes, maybe no.The farmer's son rides the Stallion and breaks his leg. "Oh that's bad." say the people. "Maybe yes, maybe no." All the able bodied young men are drafted into the army for war. The farmer's son is left behind because of his broken leg. "Oh that is good." And in this case it was. He healed and was able to help his father on the farm. We never know of the blessings that may be in something we consider "bad." And often we assign meaning to something without seeing the Bigger Picture. Indeed the 998 "good" things we've done. Many cultures purposefully leave flaws in artwork, to illustrate that none of us is Perfect. Thank your for the reminder. HUG



On Mar 11, 2014 Jyoti wrote:

 I know a kid whose mom works late at night so she sleeps in the morning, leaving him to get up on his own, get his own breakfast and get himself to school by bus. He does this day after day. Occasionally, he is a tired young man who sleeps through his alarm and misses the bus, and get to school late. Ten unexcused absences had him hauled in to principal's office with orders to attend Saturday school to make up for the missed school time. He thinks he needs more will power to make himself get up everyday and not be late again. Hie mother thinks he is an exceptionally strong willed young kid who needs to be allow himself the compliment that he accomplishes what not too many kids are doing at his age. The two mislaid bricks are like the 10 absences on his school attendance. Who, other than his mother, can see that he gets himself to school on time with no assistance on all other 170 days, while other parents are urging their kids to wake-up, fixing them breakfasts and driving them  See full.

 I know a kid whose mom works late at night so she sleeps in the morning, leaving him to get up on his own, get his own breakfast and get himself to school by bus. He does this day after day. Occasionally, he is a tired young man who sleeps through his alarm and misses the bus, and get to school late. Ten unexcused absences had him hauled in to principal's office with orders to attend Saturday school to make up for the missed school time. He thinks he needs more will power to make himself get up everyday and not be late again. Hie mother thinks he is an exceptionally strong willed young kid who needs to be allow himself the compliment that he accomplishes what not too many kids are doing at his age. The two mislaid bricks are like the 10 absences on his school attendance. Who, other than his mother, can see that he gets himself to school on time with no assistance on all other 170 days, while other parents are urging their kids to wake-up, fixing them breakfasts and driving them to school !

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1 reply: Mish | Post Your Reply
On Mar 11, 2014 Jeff Hutner wrote:

 Wabi-sabi (侘寂?) represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete" Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, asperity (roughness or irregularity), simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes. "[Wabi-sabi] nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect."[3]  See full.

 Wabi-sabi (侘寂?) represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete"

Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetryasperity (roughness or irregularity), simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes.

"[Wabi-sabi] nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect."[3]

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On Mar 11, 2014 the ancient brain wrote:

Yes, it's called "practice" for a reason!--there is no perfect. There are always thoughts, doubts, and more thoughts and issues of self and dwelling in the past, rather than "re-starting" in the now. There is no perfection and, as it turns out, this is true on a cosmic level, as well. You see, after the Big Bang, all matter (then just gas) was being spread out evenly in all directions as space, time, matter, and gravity were being created. But were it not for the minutest of imperfections in the gas (some very small areas were "thinner" than others) as the universe expanded, gravity would not have had an opportunity to take hold, and bind together the matter into what we know today as our universe. So, in a sense, without imperfection, we would not exist.



2 replies: Rajnikant, A | Post Your Reply
On Mar 11, 2014 Mish wrote:

 The eye of the beholder _/\_



On Mar 11, 2014 Cindy Wilson wrote:

 I am a massage therapist and have been practicing for 21 years. Yes, I did say practicing.  I have used the results of my clients to determine whether or not I am good at what I do.  I have a very busy practice and many people who have been seeing me for years.  That alone, one would think would be enough to determine a successful practice.  During this 21 years I just now realize and accept that I make up stories around the successes and so called failures to determine my self worth.  Just like the brick story above, I focus on the imperfections and not on the areas that I love about myself.  I am now letting go of the stories I have been telling myself that always point to the self belief that I am not good enough. I embrace the imperfections and let go of the story telling to confirm beliefs that no longer align with who I am.  I soften and show up in the mystery of it all. 



2 replies: Arthur, Mish | Post Your Reply
On Mar 11, 2014 Gopal wrote:

 How do I know when it is time to move on to the bigger picture? Well, it is a soft murmur at first coming from deep within ( often missed by me in the clutter of noises around me) and then after some days, it becomes a loud voice impossible to ignore. Sometimes, this voice comes from within and sometimes a wise friend will point it out to me. Like last week I was fretting over how some of my projects just refuse to take off the ground due to bureaucratic hurdles and how very little meaningful work that has seemed to come my way in Jan and February. After listening to me, a friend quietly pointed out the work I had done on myself and grown at accepting people as they are not as I want them to be. Once I stepped back and saw the effort that had gone in that, I felt much more peaceful. Detachment to work results is something I was fortunately introduced to in the "Talks on the Gita" by Vinoba. It has helped me focus on doing my best and not be driven by results.  As my work in  See full.

 How do I know when it is time to move on to the bigger picture? Well, it is a soft murmur at first coming from deep within ( often missed by me in the clutter of noises around me) and then after some days, it becomes a loud voice impossible to ignore. Sometimes, this voice comes from within and sometimes a wise friend will point it out to me. Like last week I was fretting over how some of my projects just refuse to take off the ground due to bureaucratic hurdles and how very little meaningful work that has seemed to come my way in Jan and February. After listening to me, a friend quietly pointed out the work I had done on myself and grown at accepting people as they are not as I want them to be. Once I stepped back and saw the effort that had gone in that, I felt much more peaceful.

Detachment to work results is something I was fortunately introduced to in the "Talks on the Gita" by Vinoba. It has helped me focus on doing my best and not be driven by results.  As my work involves engaging with govt. agencies in education, at times - the results of my work would be largely invisible to me. Moving towards excellence, not perfection is still difficult but I am getting there :) 

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On Mar 10, 2014 Dan wrote:

How then, can you shift from accepting imperfection as real and not a lazy way out?
 



On Mar 10, 2014 Rajnikant wrote:

 What I have learned from Holistic Science is always be positive and even in a negative situation there is positivity. Things happen so one has to learn from it and move on. I am retired now but in my profession there were times where quality of workmanship was missed and we had issues in design and or during construction. Things happened with all the checks and balances in place so first thing you do so to make a plan of recovery without blaming anyone and more on and then do the root cause analysis and implement lessons learned. This helps me in my life tremendously to be calm and serene internally. 



On Mar 8, 2014 david doane wrote:

 I believe it's always time to move on to the bigger picture in the sense of keeping a balance between the big picture and the small steps.  It's easy to become obsessed with the individual bricks and lose sight of the whole wall -- at least it is for me as I've done it many times.  I can identify with the monk in the story.  There is a saying that perfection is the enemy of the good.  I remind myself of that often to help me keep in mind the big picture.  I remind myself to look at what's right, see the 998 good bricks, and not focus on what's wrong.  Sometimes those reminders help, but it's a struggle.  I develop the detachment by letting myself go and not critiquing, second guessing, censoring each step as I go along, and letting my process flow rather than trying to control every step and the final outcome.  My personal mantra of process, not outcome, also helps, and the quality of the final product turns out to be better.



On Mar 7, 2014 Amy wrote:

 26 years ago, I fell in love with "a little stool".  It was built by a man, of our church, to be sold at an annual fundraiser for our school.  Built out of a knotty piece of oak, this little stool found a home with us.  
When I ran into Carl, it's builder, he said the wood he used to build it was scrap.  His wife did not think he could use the "scrap" because it had an "unattractive" hole in the very center of the usable length.  
When Carl shared this with me, I told him, "I was drawn to the hole".  If the wood hadn't had "the hole" I would NOT have purchased it.  I am drawn to imperfection.  
Imperfection says, "I am real".



On Mar 7, 2014 navinsata wrote:

 Mother use to tell us look for good things in life you will find it, second part of question how do you develop detachment to the result of work ,lord krishna explains in song of god geetaji on karma yog ,nishkamta[no personal  selfish desire to nurture ego plus neg virtues] mahatma gandhijis anasakt yog, sheds light on this subject ,happy journey always love navinchandra



On Mar 7, 2014 Conrad P Pritscher wrote:

 I do not know when it is time to move on to the bigger picture as opposed to continuing to strive for perfection I do not know how to develop detachment to the result of my work without compromising on my commitment to its quality.  A personal story when I was reminded of "the bigger picture," is reading the book Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance by Robert Persig, and when I read Todd May's Introduction.to Gilles. Deleuze. I notice I am imperfect and I notice when I accept my being imperfect that I see a bigger picture. One of the biggest pictures I see is, "the way that can be said is not the way. this leads me to think that there is great value in "my not knowing." Accepting myself as I am and accepting other people and things as they are has been helpful for me. I must admit that I have trouble accepting the 1% when they are taking such a large portion of the wealth away from many people who are poor and hungry. I am now writing about that and I have trouble sayi  See full.

 I do not know when it is time to move on to the bigger picture as opposed to continuing to strive for perfection I do not know how to develop detachment to the result of my work without compromising on my commitment to its quality.  A personal story when I was reminded of "the bigger picture," is reading the book Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance by Robert Persig, and when I read Todd May's Introduction.to Gilles. Deleuze. I notice I am imperfect and I notice when I accept my being imperfect that I see a bigger picture. One of the biggest pictures I see is, "the way that can be said is not the way. this leads me to think that there is great value in "my not knowing." Accepting myself as I am and accepting other people and things as they are has been helpful for me. I must admit that I have trouble accepting the 1% when they are taking such a large portion of the wealth away from many people who are poor and hungry. I am now writing about that and I have trouble saying kind things about the 1%. Accepting that little bit of trouble is helpful to me. I am now reminded of the Zen story about one's noticing, not that they have finally found their home, but rather, noticing that they have never been away. Seeing that the journey and the destination are one has been helpful for me.Thank you for the opportunity to respond. Warm and kind regards to everyone. 

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On Mar 7, 2014 Smita wrote:

After reading this passage, I thought...why see those 2 bricks as "bad?"  Why not also see them as beautiful, along with the other 998 "perfect" bricks?  I can't say I know much about the Japanese concept of wabi sabi, but what I understand is that it's about seeing beauty in imperfection.  I'm also reminded of these lyrics from Leonard Cohen's song, Anthem: "Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."  Imperfection seems to be the nature of things.  So why not embrace it, love it, and see it as a gift? Embracing imperfection hasn't been easy for me; I tend to want precision and perfection in certain things.  I have a sharp eye for picking out mistakes and imperfections.  What's helped me, though, is to be kind to myself whenever I make a mistake...whether it's saying something I later regret, or doing something with less than perfect understanding or awareness.  If I can clean up the mes  See full.

After reading this passage, I thought...why see those 2 bricks as "bad?"  Why not also see them as beautiful, along with the other 998 "perfect" bricks?  I can't say I know much about the Japanese concept of wabi sabi, but what I understand is that it's about seeing beauty in imperfection.  I'm also reminded of these lyrics from Leonard Cohen's song, Anthem: "Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."  Imperfection seems to be the nature of things.  So why not embrace it, love it, and see it as a gift?

Embracing imperfection hasn't been easy for me; I tend to want precision and perfection in certain things.  I have a sharp eye for picking out mistakes and imperfections.  What's helped me, though, is to be kind to myself whenever I make a mistake...whether it's saying something I later regret, or doing something with less than perfect understanding or awareness.  If I can clean up the mess, I often will.  And if I can't, I can't.  Either way, I try not to beat myself up for making the mistake in the first place, which only adds to suffering.

Something else that's helped me is giving myself permission to make mistakes.  One small example is...for a few weeks last summer I was inspired to draw and write with my left hand.  I'm right handed, so using my left hand is more challenging and less "perfect."  It was really nice to let myself make a little mess, to draw something imperfect, and to admire it anyway.

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On Mar 6, 2014 Abhishek Thakore wrote:

To me the question is - Why perfection? The quest for 'perfection' as a spiritual practice or from a space to serve those who stand to benefit from the perfection is very different from being perfect because one 'should' be perfect. One of my mentors had to write a referral letter for me for a very competitive fellowship - he spent hours crafting it. For someone of his stature, it wasn't something that would take too long - and yet he worked on it. In fact, he spent more time on that one recommendation letter than we did on our entire application! He is no more - but when I reminiscence about him, the realization was that the quest for making the perfect letter was integral to him. Not perhaps as much for me or for the letter, but just because his way of being and doing was dedicated to perfection. But then there is the bigger picture too. I remember meeting a veteran environmental activist. I asked him what was the crux of what he learnt, what does the environmental movement needs? H  See full.

To me the question is - Why perfection?

The quest for 'perfection' as a spiritual practice or from a space to serve those who stand to benefit from the perfection is very different from being perfect because one 'should' be perfect.

One of my mentors had to write a referral letter for me for a very competitive fellowship - he spent hours crafting it. For someone of his stature, it wasn't something that would take too long - and yet he worked on it. In fact, he spent more time on that one recommendation letter than we did on our entire application!

He is no more - but when I reminiscence about him, the realization was that the quest for making the perfect letter was integral to him. Not perhaps as much for me or for the letter, but just because his way of being and doing was dedicated to perfection.

But then there is the bigger picture too.

I remember meeting a veteran environmental activist. I asked him what was the crux of what he learnt, what does the environmental movement needs?

He said - I don't know if your or my actions will add to anything meaningful. But meanwhile, enjoy the journey.

In the bigger picture, who knows what our actions will add up to? What I can say for sure is that working for excellence is working on purifying myself.

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