Sometimes I wonder if life is endlessly difficult or if we just take it harder than we should.

Then I read in THEE, which is completely about doing things (hence the “Endeavour” in Taxonomy of Human Elements in Endeavour). I find this strangely discouraging in a way because I’m always doing things and sometimes I don’t want to do anything at all! Or is it that I don’t want to do anything that might be difficult?

I hear children, when asked to do something by their parents, whine: “But it’s too hard!” This is particularly infuriating for adults when what they are whining about is as simple as putting their toys away or riding their bicycle.

I have some attraction to the good ‘ole boy method of handling life’s relentless onslaughts. Maybe it’s my upbringing amidst the rugged mountains and dusty fields of Idaho where everywhere you turn, it’s clear that the American Old West is far from dead. Around here, if a child can’t swim, we throw them in the water and let them work it out while bellowing, “It’s just like life, kid. You sink or swim.” And we pat ourselves on the back for being so clever.

Luckily for my daughter, these tactics are only passing thoughts in my head. I’m actually a big softie when it comes to her. Plus, my wife would kill me! Still, the Old West, tough-old-codger way of thinking keeps me going sometimes. I’ll hear the echo of my grandfather’s voice when I’m tired: 

“Sleep? There’s plenty of time to sleep when you’re dead!”

Or discouraged:

“I had a bad day too once. It was called D-Day.” 

It makes me chuckle now, but at the time, I would think, “Geez, grandpa, let’s just calm down with all the tough guy stuff.”

I think he’s right, though. His words are just colloquialisms whose message transcends any culture, epoch or context. He and the weathered, leathery old cowboys I grew up around here in Idaho have their own, special way of instilling age-old concepts of handling life’s challenges. Like them, their wisdom is coarse and a little bit crass, but endearing.

THEE, simply being a map of life, has come to the same conclusions as these cowboys—the difference being the science behind it and, of course, the use of a more logical language. To understand a cowboy, you have to understand his context, and most cowboys, being rather proud and protective of their identity, will say you don’t. So, as an Idaho boy, born and bred, let me do some translating for you.

"A good horse is never a bad color."

I interpret this one as gratitude. A sense of entitlement is poisonous. In THEE, gratitude is connected to producing goodness in the world and is one of the methods for healing yourself and overcoming pain

“Shoot straight and speak the truth.”

I see this one as authenticity. It’s about having integrity and character. Be honest, do your best—you know, schoolyard stuff.

“Your belt buckle don’t shine in the dirt, get up.”

Ah yes, the old cowboy call for perseverance. “Get back on the horse” might be more recognizable, but I like the image of a big, cumbersome, shiny belt buckle and the slow, bowlegged gait that goes along with it.

Every group—cowboys, clowns or card players—have their own wisdom, expressed in their own way. Every culture and subculture passes lessons and encouragement down through the ages using turns of phrase or metaphors to which the next batch of members can relate. It’s even been the subject of much academic study.

So, is THEE simply lifting age-old wisdom from the great oral and written traditions of human history? Yes! (With the added benefit of a coherent, useful, validated structure to back it up.) THEE is life and these traditions came from people living life with awareness and commitment. People know how to live; they’ve been doing it for ages. Sometimes we just need encouragement and sometimes we just need to hear it in a new way.

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