This is the first in a series of short essays I hope to write over the course of the next year. The focus of these essays will be on the collected axioms and pearls of wisdom I’ve pinned up in my home’s living room for my family to learn from as my children grow up. This one comes to us courtesy of the lionized Zhuge Liang, whose name is synonymous with intellect, diligence, and integrity in China.
A little backstory: Zhuge Liang was, according to both fact and fiction, the brains behind Liu Bei’s Shu-Han empire of the fabled Three Kingdoms Period in Chinese history. He wrote numerous treatise on war, governance and strategy which survive to this day, and was a somewhat renowned inventor of his age (a repeating crossbow and improved, ratchet-geared wheelbarrow feature prominently among inventions credited to him).
The obvious takeaways from this quote are…well, obvious. He’s clearly advocating for education, as education orders thought and hones the mind. But more than that he is suggesting an order of supremacy for the power of the mind over the power of the body, or the strength of one’s arms. And it doesn’t take much more than a cursory glance at human affairs to see ample evidence in support of the notion that the mind is the most powerful instrument available to us.
I wholeheartedly endorse his statement, and would add a proviso to it which I think is universally apt:
“There is no greater weapon than a prepared mind–and no enemy is more dangerous than one’s own polluted mind.”
The idea here is simple: a prepared mind is one which is clear, incorporates all available information, and makes rational (or at least rationally-self-interested) decisions and judgments based on the available information. A polluted mind is one which, usually due to exposure to weak or stifling information/ideas (religious dogma, political tribalism, fear of reprisals for ‘wrong think,’ etc..), is unclear and therefore incapable of processing information rationally.
And really, the proviso I’ve attached seems to be obvious to me but I’ve included it anyway because sometimes it’s best to have a thought completed bluntly rather than having its completion implied. ‘Why does that proviso seem obvious?‘ you might ask, to which I would reply, ‘If *your* greatest weapon is a prepared mind, would your enemies not seek to deny you access to it?‘
The obvious, and hopefully disconcerting conclusion one must invariably draw from my hypothetical reply is simple: anyone, anywhere, who for any reason, attempts to cloud your mind and restrict your ability to think clearly, almost certainly thinks of themselves as your enemy.
And against our enemies, as our species’ history has amply demonstrated, we are well-served to have every available weapon prepared and at the ready.