Imagine a scene out of a science-fiction fantasy novel where an ancient wizard stands atop a cliff overlooking a battle between two warring clans. From here the wizard sees not just the entire landscape, but also the entire significance and context of this conflict. On the ground, the warrior feels every clash of swords, tastes every splatter of blood and mud, and smells the sweat and stench of the living and dead.
The warrior and the wizard, the tactician and the strategist, the one who lives in the moment and the other who is mindful of the future… these two archetypes represent in a simple way the tension between the small and large frames of thinking and acting.
For the seasoned warrior, there is a keen awareness and connection with the immediate environment. Years of experience has imbued this warrior with an almost magical instinct for doing the right thing. For the boxer who strikes at the right moment or the facilitator who intervenes, they both show an incredible tactical ability to move and adapt to the situation.
Now pull back in time and space where we see the one round of boxing or the one-hour meeting in the context of many such meetings, embedded in personal stories, embedded in the human story, and you find the aged wizard. Perhaps the wizard sees that the boxer is fighting for his family like in Cinderella Man, or that the facilitator is brokering a deal between arms dealers like in Lord of War.
In other words, what the warrior does only has meaning in the larger frames. Nevertheless the wizard can only be fully expressed in those tactical frames. The two work together in dynamic and dramatic ways.
Today, we have the problem that both of our warrior and wizard selves are atrophying. The safe bosom of civilization has eroded our ability to be autonomous warriors, to be keen observers of life. At the same time, the voice of the wizard who thinks systemically and globally fades into background as theoretical or academic noise.
Consider for example a debate on gun control I heard on the radio. The opponents of gun control declare, “I have a right to defend myself and my family.” Certainly at the level of that moment where you or your family’s life is threatened, you should be able to defend yourself.
At the level of society however, one might imagine that having large numbers of people carrying weapons who do not have their background or training checked would have implications. And what of the assumption that everyone has good anger management, has good judgment, or even honourable intentions? Without the ability to think and act from the larger vista of the wizard, the warrior is lost.
There is a reason that warriors in the past lived by a code. The code represented a connection with the transcendent frame. It guided their actions so that they can live the good life in the long run. Without the code… without the guidance of the wizard, the warrior becomes a mercenary for hire easily exploited by others. They become like Ronin.
So what does this mean for us?
It means that while we must train our ability to be like self-authorized warriors who engage directly with the reality of the moment, we must also train our ability to imagine potential futures and make meaning of unseen forces like the wizard. This is no small task. When we are busy doing what other people are telling us to do, and when we are busy running our day-to-day operations, there is little time to think our own thoughts or make our own meaning.
Allow me to leave you with these questions.
To the warrior in you, how clearly are you seeing reality in this moment? What is your code of conduct?
To the wizard in you, how much time are you investing in exploring areas of life that do not have immediate, practical benefits to you now at this moment? How broadly are you searching for meaning? How deeply are you looking?
Better Life… Better Business