Beginning with the Beginning

In reading Chapter 1 of The Art of War, and the accompanying commentary, it becomes evident that a student of The Art of War needs to have at least a rudimentary understanding of Eastern/Taoist/Chinese philosophy. Since I am writing this blog for the individual, the Cube Dweller, who is simply trying to successfully navigate the aisles without being Mongol-ed by Genghis Kahn (and without becoming Genghis Kahn), I will work to give a basic, straightforward and un-nuanced explanation of terms (accompanied by the jagged blue line so you can explore the topic to your heart’s content).

Some concepts I’ll take more care to interpret as – though I’m reading The Art of War for the first time – my previous readings of Eastern philosophy emphasize the same words and I believe we’ll be seeing them throughout this entire book.

Chapter 1: Making of Plans

Master Sun said:
War is
A grave affair of state:
It is a place
Of life and death.
A road
To survival and extinction,
A matter
To be pondered carefully.

There are Five Fundamentals
For this deliberation,
For the making of comparisons
And the assessing of conditions:
The Way,

In this first part of Making of Plans, it is directly stated that making War (causing conflict with the purpose of winning something) is a grave matter, undertaken very often too lightly (don’t we know that!). War always changes the status quo, a positive outcome usually reserved for the victor. War should be chosen only as a last resort.

(Most of the commentators point out that those who take pleasure in creating conflict are wrong and criminal; there is no beauty in victory.)

There are five elements of every situation which must be assessed before choosing this last resort. And the analysis must be thorough and honest in comparing Your strengths and weaknesses with those of The Enemy.

The Five Fundamentals
o The text states: The Way; Heaven; Earth; Command; Discipline
o Translation for Generals: Compassion, integrity of the ruler; The Seasons; The Terrain; Chosen Leader; Authority over the troops
o Tranlation for Cube Dwellers: The Moral High Ground; Timing; Corporate Culture; Others' opinion of you; Are you prepared to do what is necessary

(This table is subject to change as my understanding grows with the reading.)

The Way is a difficult Taoist concept to explain, and it is even said that “the Way that can be spoken of is not the true Way”. Every endeavor has a Way – how you treat others has a Way, waiting your turn at Starbucks or the gym has a Way, finding a lounge chair at a crowded beach resort has a Way. It’s an intangible concept, not easily stated, but everyone inherently knows what is right (the Way) and what is not.

In this case it means are You, the Cube Dweller who is considering War, operating within the value system of the organization, do you hold the moral high ground in the issue which is causing you to contemplate War?

As earlier stated this must be honestly compared against the moral ground and value system of your stated Enemy. Never underestimate the value of the moral high ground.

Next installment: Chapter 1 continued.

(In the background I can hear from my TV Beatrix Kiddo is using her Hattori Hanzo sword on O-Ren Ishi.)

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