Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Engaging The Brain

The other day I spoke of putting my mouth in gear before engaging my brain. I have held on to that thought since writing it here and mulled it over, as is so often my want. Sherry made a comment on the blog about the “Slow Drive” that she had not expected me to react in that way. Well in my defence it was some years ago, but here was a perfect example of the mouth out of gear. I am sure Sharon was right nothing was achieved and I only felt better for a very short time and have remembered it ever since and not with pride.

When I was very young and still a schoolboy in short trousers, yes we wore them till we got to secondary school, I had many things that brought their little problems. I was the smallest in my year group if not my school; I got the nickname “Titch”. I had carrot red hair and freckles. I came from a very poor background and although my mother tried hard to compensate I was aware of it. So I did not have much going for me did I?

The one thing I did have was a fast tongue and a fairly sharp mind and wit, which because of all of the above I tended to keep well hidden. The Tongue though got me out of many scrapes, and the bullying that might have been was often avoided because the giver preferred not to hear what I thought of them, and the smart nickname just might stick. Those of us with red hair do have a tendency to fiery tempers; I was no exception to the rule.

Those things I have struggled to keep in check and under strict control but the odd relapses do happen.

There is a story of the Prime Minister of the Tang Dynasty who was a national hero for his success as both a statesman and military leader. Despite his fame, power, and wealth, he considered himself a humble and devout Buddhist. Often he visited his favourite Zen master to study under him, and they seemed to get along very well. The fact that he was prime minister apparently had no effect on their relationship, which seemed to be simply one of a revered master and respectful student.

One day, during his usual visit, the Prime Minister asked the master, "Your Reverence, what is egotism according to Buddhism?" The master's face turned red, and in a very condescending and insulting tone of voice, he shot back, "What kind of stupid question is that!?"

This unexpected response so shocked the Prime Minister that he became sullen and angry. "Huh so this is how you treat me?" he said angrily.  The Zen master then smiled and said, "THIS, Your Excellency, is egotism."

This is a lesson I have tried hard to learn and then put into practice. Engage the brain before putting the mouth in gear. Sometimes I fail.

This is the way of Tao.

This Blog is linked to my other blog where the artwork used is discussed:- Be Still


  1. That is a great story to illustrate your point, Ralph. I think we could all do with practising engaging our brain before we open our mouth. It is interesting to read of your early school days. Have a lovely day and thank you for your kind comments on my Blog. xx

  2. Had to laugh, Ralph. My mouth often goeth before the fall. In fact, I can cut a wide swath of destruction with it. No need for fists in my world. I was born a red head myself, and though it darkened by the time I was in school, the freckles remained and kept that fiery temper alive. Love this painting!

  3. sweet--i can see the boy you were then...keep enlightening helps our hearts stay light

  4. I am grateful that with age I am just beginning to see the folly of my previous ways--not to mention that I often fall back into "ego" on a regular basis. Good painting in this post. Poppies are very open.

  5. I love the poppy painting. I am surprised it is still in your possession. I tried to contact you through your art website but I was not able to properly type the security code. Normally I am not a dunce at this, so I wonder if it is broken - or if I am.