Fighting back against assaults on mastery

While visiting my in-laws this past weekend, I was flipping through some old copies of Birds and Blooms magazine, looking at some landscaping ideas (and the excellent bird photography). On the inside back cover of one issue was a story by a woman who recounted how her grandmother had taught her how to get birds to eat seed out of her hand.

It was a long (several day) process, that required patience and a lot of ‘failure’ before the birds were comfortable approaching the woman (then a little girl) and eating from her hand. Though not exactly a tale of ‘mastery’, it nonetheless embodied key aspects of the master’s path.

In my last post, I alluded to what George Leonard refers to in Mastery as “America’s War Against Mastery:”

If you’re planning to embark on a master’s journey, you might find yourself bucking current trends in American life. Our hyped-up consumerist society is engaged, in fact, in an all-out war on mastery….

The quick fix, anti-mastery mentality touches almost everything in our lives. Look at modern medicine and pharmacology. “Fast, temporary relief” is the battle cry.

I was pleased to see that mastery, or at least the ideas of mastery, were fighting back in this war. The grandmother, obviously a true master of birds and blooms (sorry, couldn’t help myself), passing on her knowledge and wisdom to the next generation. Unfortunately, I was quickly disappointed and realized that the assault on mastery is still in full force.

The article ended with, and indeed turned out to be a prelude to, an advertisement for a ‘patented bird attraction’ system that guaranteed you would have birds eating out of hand “within minutes, on your first try.” Ack! Phbbt!

In the closing sentence of this chapter Leonard writes:

In the long run, the war against mastery, the path of patient, dedicated effort without attachment to immediate results, is a war that can’t be won.

This may be true for the ‘big picture,’ but I still have faith in individuals to carry on the good fight.

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