More than just a sexy slogan.
Amitsar. North-west India. Just at the border to Pakistan.
I had some free time to explore the city, so I searched up some popular places, and decided to check out Gobindgarh Fort.
In the past, this place was a real military fort - towering walls that overlooked vast plains, watchtowers at each corner, and even a moat for additional protection.
Now, it has become a mini theme park - dancers, food vendors, elephant rides, camel rides, 6D cinema shows depicting legendary Sikh warriors.
I bought my tickets at the entrance, and stepped in.
A beautiful, massive compound.
But barely anyone in it. A couple of families watching the live dance, some uncles joining in too.
I walk past the food stalls, already licking my lips as I catch a whiff of my one guilty pleasure - masala chai.
Resisting the temptation, I walk on.
At the far end of the Fort, I stumble upon a museum. Well, its called a museum, but it was practically impossible to tell from the outside - it looked like a deserted part of the compound, less the one man sitting outside, who saw me and approached.
He collects the entrance fee from me, then I am escorted by his colleague as I enter the museum.
Its a Sikh museum - filled with artefacts: books, outfits, weapons - transporting you into the past. Tales of heroes, leaders, oppression and revolution.
Inside, I stop to read about this concept called Miri-Piri: Miri or Mir representing temporal authority, material power. Piri or Pir representing spiritual authority and power.
The Guru at the time (the Sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind) came up with this idea to capture the duality of life, a kind of contrasting yet complementary way of living.
You can’t just be fully spiritual, head in the clouds, forever suspended in theory and concepts.
You also can’t just be fully material, driven my money, power, fame, but with no spiritual, no ethical, no moral side.
Essentially you need to have both. Material prosperity and spiritual enlightenment.
In the Sikh beliefs, it is represented by the two swords they wear, symbolizing the warrior-like attitude they approach life with.
A kind of Yin and Yang.
You need to be both a Buddha and a Badass (if you know this reference, hit me up! you are my kind of person).
You can’t just be a monk in isolation somewhere - you need to also be someone who feels the pulse of the world and is able to exert influence over it, to conquer it, too.
At the same time, you can’t just be a conqueror, without higher-order values, without solid virtues to ensure that the material power you wield is being channeled to ‘good’ ends.
Coming out of the museum, I felt a strong resonance with this concept. Its amazing how life is - the things that have the greatest impact on you are oftentimes found in the places you least expect them to show up.
It helped me to make sense of some thoughts i was already having - I knew that I was doing alright in some aspects of life, but falling short in others. And I wanted a simple framework that could guide my worldview so that I would live a balanced life. So that I would stay focused on the right goals - the goals that would lead to a happy, healthy, meaningful, fulfilled life.
And so, came Spartan, Stoic, Sage.
You may recall the previous iteration of this tagline across my socials: ‘Imagineer | Stoic’.
Back then, I wanted to capture on one hand my more creative, innovative, playful, builder/engineer-esque mind, with the more philosophical, more cerebral, serious vibe.
At the same time, privately I have a set of affirmations, a kind of mantra, that I made, which includes the following two lines:
“Why do I have the strength of a Spartan?”
“Why do I have the soul of a Stoic?”
Eureka! things clicked and the new concept, the ‘Sage’, was added.
This is how I see them:
Spartan - the physical, the material, the tactical. Details. Career, money, investing, health, habits, productivity, projects.
Stoic - the mental, the psychological, the strategic. Ideas. Books, mindsets, emotional awareness and control, lessons.
Sage - the spiritual, the intangibles, the universal. Philosophical in the deepest sense. Love, relationships, connection, meaning of life, deepest vulnerabilities.
The Spartan is the man in the arena, the soldier on the ground, the hustler. What encapsulates him is the idea of ‘skin in the game’; walking the talk, and learning through experience, through iteration, through pain.
The Stoic is the thinker, the intellectual. Discipline, self-control, logic, rationality - these are the traits that he embodies. While the Spartan and Sage are largely inspired by Miri Piri respectively, I felt that our modern world is a highly intellectual one, ripe with innovation, with creative pursuits and knowledge workers. Hence, to be a strong player in this game, it is paramount for me to incorporate this aspect too. In some ways, the Stoic is a kind of opposite to both the Spartan and Sage - unlike the Spartan who takes action first, the Stoic observes and formulates a plan first. If the Spartan learns through Kensho, the Stoic grows through Satori, through insight. And where the Sage opens his heart to love, to embrace the full spectrum of emotions, the Stoic seems more closed off, more controlled.
The Sage - is there anything else that needs to be said about this guy? In essence, whenever people say ‘What would Jesus do?’ or when they visualize a spiritual role model, this is the guy they are calling to mind. He sets the foundation upon which everything else is and should be built.
I told myself that I would try out this framework for 2023, see how it goes, and review it at the end of the year.
It applies to how I allocate my time, how I think about my goals, and it has even become the guiding framework for these blog entries!! I make sure that I write equally about all 3 aspects, so that I don’t skew too much into one direction.
Spartan - Am I putting enough skin in the game? what have I learnt through my experiences thus far? which tactics are working and which should I change?
Stoic - what kind of content am I consuming? what gaps in knowledge do I have that I want to fill? how do my short-medium term plans look?
Sage - how am I showing up in relationships to others? what gifts am I giving to the world? what am I withholding from the world? have I taken enough time to connect with nature? to connect with myself, with my deepest thoughts, fears, desires?
The hope, of course, is that by looking at my life, at my ideal self, in this way, that I could move closer and closer to becoming all three.
It ties back to my previous post on my manifesto for future relationships (which is a more in-depth exploration of being the Sage), and even to Personal Iteration - what's the point of improving myself, if I have no idea of where I am going, right?
Hope you liked reading this! As always, do share your thoughts on it with me - love bouncing off ideas about this kind of stuff 🙂