Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"The Art of Strategy" By Sun Tzu, translated by R. L. Wing.

The Art of Strategy

A New Translation of Sun Tzu's Classic

The Art of War

By R. L. Wing

Report by


HPE 2340

Pleasure Reading Book Report

Spring 2009

The Art of Strategy

The Art of Strategy is R. L. Wing's reinvention of Sun Tzu's The Art of War. Wing took an original manuscript of Sun Tzu's Thirteen Chapters and translated it into English from Chinese. He further broke it down into a total of fifty-two passages, four for each chapter, to be read in the course of one year. The intention being for one to muse on the philosophy of one passage for a week before moving on to the next.

The thirteen chapters are: The Calculations, The Challenge, The Plan of Attack, Positioning, Directing, Illusion and Reality, Engaging the Force, The Nine Variations, Moving the Force, Situational Positioning, The Nine Situations, The Fiery Attack, and The Use of Intelligence. At the beginning of each chapter, Wing has added an introduction to each chapter detailing how the concepts discussed in the chapter proceeding it apply to Conflict with the Self, Conflict in the Environment, Conflict with Another, and Conflict Among Leaders. There is also space reserved with each passage for the reader to make notes.

The first chapter, “The Calculations”, is divided into the following four passages: The Five Fundamentals of Strategy, Examining the Fundamentals, The Tao of Paradox, and Foretelling Triumph. It is primarily concerned with tallying up one's forces and organizing a plan prior to entering an engagement. It emphasizes analyzing the conflict.

The second chapter, “The Challenge”, is divided into the following four passages: Knowing the Costs, Swift Strategies, Using the Opponent's Resources, and Incorporating the Opponent's Strength. It deals primarily with the costs of conflict and encourages one to use an opponent's resources in lieu of one's own. The expense of transporting supplies to an army in the field is weighed against taking advantage of supplies available in the enemy's territory. It further explains the consequences of housing an army within your own city's walls and the subsequent inflation of the local economy. It is a general chapter for estimating the costs and a good example of paying attention to unintended consequences.

The third chapter, “The Plan of Attack”, is broken down into the following four passages: Engaging the Entire System, The Rule of Numbers, Three Errors of Leaders, and The Essentials of Triumph. In this chapter development of strategy and a few fundamental rules of strategy are discussed. It brings forth the concept of skill not being how many battles you've won, but how many engagements you've won while avoiding conflict. It emphasizes developing an error-free strategy. This chapter is also where the famous quote of knowing yourself as well as your enemies comes from.

The fourth chapter, “Positioning”, contains the following four passages: The Power Defense, The Triumph of No Effort, The Position of No Error, and The Five Strategic Arts. Sun Tzu here emphasizes working with the Tao(the way of things, balance, nature, it has various definitions) in order to ensure triumph. He states that it is not skill that leads to triumph, but a lack of errors and a willingness to take advantage of opportunities when they arise.

The fifth chapter, “Directing”, consists of the following four entries: The Positioned Strategy, The Power of Surprise, Moving the Opponent About, and Using Others to Create Momentum. The point made here is that events in motion move quickly, thus one has to setup triumph before hand and allow the opponent to blunder into error. This is achieved by direct and indirect manipulation of an opponent's movement.

The sixth chapter, “Illusion and Reality”, subsists of the following four passages: Creating Imbalance, Distorting the Opponent's Position, Adjusting the Opponent's Numbers, and Reacting with Systematic Positioning. It details camouflage in the sense of hiding one's position in order to encourage the opponent to spread the forces thinly, thus allowing you to attack a smaller force with your larger force and ensuring victory. Essentially, be as water and have no discernible fixed position.

Chapter seven is entitled “Engaging the Force.” The four sections are: Direct and Indirect Tactics, Avoiding Competition, Flexibility and Imitation, and Controlling the Variations. It deals mainly with anticipating an opponent's disposition and taking advantage of the idle or distracted moments as they present themselves. Attacking when an army is just waking up and preparing is not as advantageous as attacking as they are bedding down for the night.

Chapter eight is “The Nine Variations.” It gives us the passages known as: Situational Strategies, Combining Advantages and Disadvantages, Anticipating the Opponent, and Five Weaknesses in Leaders. In this chapter we are advised to be flexible in our plans and avoid weaknesses that an opponent may take advantage of. Similarly, we are to take advantage of any weaknesses the opponent shows by way of an indirect attack, therefore not opening ourselves up to attack in turn.

In chapter nine, known as “Moving the Force”, we are given the following passages: Using the Situation, Determining the Opponent's Strategy, Determining the Opponent's Vulnerability, and The Cultivation of Allegiance. This chapter is varied. Again we see the resumption of distinguishing an opponent's moods and how to take advantage of them, but also we are advised on how to marshal our own forces to be able to take advantage of those moods. The strategy of defense by avoiding weak positions and exploiting strong ones while avoiding feints and lures from an opponent is reinforced here as well.

The tenth chapter, “Situational Positioning” holds the passages of: The Six Positions, The Six Strategic Mistakes, Superior Leadership, and Knowing the Situation. In this chapter we are told to strive for triumph without the motivation of glory or honor, but as a practical and detached matter of course. Taking a less emotional stance and advancing or retreating based on the Tao of the situation, your position, and your opponent.

Chapter eleven, “The Nine Situations”, gives us the passages of: Situational Response, The Spirit of the Corps, The Way of the Adventurer, and The Strategy of the Superior Leader. Throughout most of the book it is emphasized that conflict should be avoided. Here, however, the true art of conflict resolution is expounded on. To fight or to flee, all the while throwing dust and trickery in the eyes of your opponent, depends upon the situation you find yourself in.

Chapter twelve, “The Fiery Attack”, brings us: The Five Fiery Attacks, The Five Fiery Variations, The Decisive Techniques, and The Ultimate Restraint. Sun Tzu elaborates further on knowing when, why, and if one should attack and the advantages of distraction through conflagration. The intended and unintended consequences should be observed and analyzed to determine whether or not the determined action is advantageous.

Finally in chapter thirteen, “The Use of Intelligence”, we gain the last four passages of: Obtaining Foreknowledge, The Divine Web, The Importance of Counterintelligence, and The Essence of Strategy. As the title implies, this chapter drives home the utmost importance of intelligence gathering being the most important aspect of conflict resolution. Sun Tzu says that nothing is more important nor should any expense be withheld towards those who gather intelligence.

This was an incredible book. It was thought provoking while still being common sense. The fact that it was originally written over 2300 years ago truly makes me understand why it is such a classic piece of literature. Not only because of its survival, but of the importance of its message.

R. L. Wing did a phenomenal job of translating this work. During my foray into The Art of Strategy I perused other translations, and while the additional perspectives were advantageous, they did not have the same clarity of thought and poetic flow of R. L. Wing's work. The introductions to each chapter gave me a base of reference without predisposing me to perceiving the accompanying passages in anything less than a neutral frame of mind. The addition of footnotes on each passage giving alternate translations of words used in the text greatly increased my understanding of the concepts through a synthesis of alternate ideas. I also found the translator's choice of breaking each chapter into four passages highly appropriate and incredibly well organized.

I do not know how to convince you or anyone else to read this book. I believe everyone should, without a doubt. After reading it I can understand why it is recommended reading for anyone planning to go into politics. I can easily see where the concepts could be applied to corporate strategy and why it would hold a place on every major CEO's desk.

This was not simply a piece of literature, it was a timeless work of art. To give a more depth explanation on why I feel you should read this would require more time than I currently have. Suffice to say, once you read it from cover to cover and if you actually internalize what is said, you will undoubtedly understand. Thank you for your time.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

"Voluntary Controls" By Jack Schwarz

A yogi walks up to a hot dog stand. The vendor asks, “What'll it be?” The yogi replies, “Make me one with everything.” The vendor rolls his eyes as the yogi chuckles merrily. When the hot dog is finished the vendor asks for three dollars. The yogi hands over a twenty and the vendor hands him the hot dog and pockets the bill. The yogi looks at him quizzically and says, “Where is my change?” The vendor grins and replies, “Ah, but change comes from within.”

The book I read was Jack Schwarz's Voluntary Controls. It was the second in a series of books that laid the ground work for the holistic field of study. Since I was very young, alternative methods of achieving goals has been a pursuit of mine and this concept directly applies to the field of holistic research not by ignoring the methods currently in practice but by questioning how they work and asking if there might be a simpler, more effective way to reach solutions to problems. I am going to explain to you who Jack Schwarz was, what Voluntary Controls is about, and why you might benefit from reading it.

To begin with, Jack Schwarz was an extraordinary man. Born in Dordrecht, Holland on April 26th, 1924; he was a pioneer in the field of holistic health. He was also a fakir, a concentration camp survivor, and the father of the Aletheia Psycho-Physical Foundation.

In 1943 just before his 19th birthday, Jack Schwarz began traveling around as a fakir: which at the time was defined as someone who performed extraordinary acts with the human body, such as laying on a bed of nails naked or walking across hot coals barefoot. His act included piercing his skin with needles and making the wounds heal, dancing on swords, and holding red hot coals in his hands. He would also use hypnosis on audience members to the delight of crowds. However, his career was cut short when he was captured by Nazis for being a supporting member of the resistance.

Jack Schwarz was taken for 6 months to Hamburg, Germany for torture and forced labor. He returned to Holland and became an underground double agent. He was caught again 9 months later and taken to Sachenhausen concentration camp. He escaped after one month with two other prisoners by digging under the wall. He enlisted in the British army, attaining the rank of Sergent, and returned to Holland as part of the liberating forces. After traveling the world, getting married, and having three sons; Jack immigrates to the United States in 1957.

In 1958 Jack Schwarz founded the Aletheia Psycho-Physical Foundation. The Aletheia Psycho-Physical Foundation is a non-profit organization founded for the research and practice of Holistic studies. Their primary fields of study are brainwaves and Autogenics, which is where Progressive Muscle Relaxation is derived from. The Aletheia Psycho-Physical Foundation is still in operation today in Grants Pass, Oregon.

Jack Schwarz died on November 26th, 2000 after a two year long fight with his degrading health. However, Jack left behind his knowledge in a series of books.

This brings me to my second point.I actually started the book Voluntary Controls before this semester while sitting in a Krystal's and eating with my family. It has been out of print since 1978. I acquired it from the local Goodwill. Voluntary Controls details posture, breathing exercises, and visualizations.

It emphasizes three main postures, but generally expects the practitioner to find whatever position is most comfortable for him or her. For instance, one could sit in a chair comfortably with ankles crossed and hands laid in the lap clasped together. This posture could be modified slightly for group use by placing the hands palm up and uncrossing the ankles while facing the group in a circle.

Of course, the traditional Full Lotus position is always acceptable. The book gives fairly general rules of comfort, spinal alignment, and conservation of energy.

The book also gives fairly general rules regarding breathing patterns as well. The first pattern being a simple eight count inhale, holding the breath for a count of four, and then releasing it over a count of eight again. The breathing patterns build on this structure by keeping the four count hold, decreasing the inhale to a four count, and exhaling an eight count again. The final pattern resulting in a short four count inhale, four count hold, and exhaling as long as is comfortable. This systematic lengthening of the exhalation phase is intended to encourage deep inhalations involving both the thorax and the diaphragm.

Likewise, the visualizations are intended to build upon each other in a systematic fashion.

The author goes through fairly simple exercises using geometric shapes, simple stories, and even classic mythological legends. Rather than trying to adhere to one concept or achieve a state of emptiness or even nirvana, Jack Schwarz advises us to observe and record those elements within our own minds and not fight when thoughts intrude upon our meditative state. Instead, he says, try to work out what those ideas that intrude upon your meditation mean to you and your own personal symbolic associations.

The book ends with a discussion of the practical application of these techniques and delves into the use of the Chakras and the traditional associations of colors and shapes. The use of these techniques, he concludes, can assist the body in self-regeneration.

Finally, it is my personal belief that most anyone could benefit from reading this book.

The use of these visualizations gives one access to the subconscious mind, allows a person to attain a relaxed state by exerting control over a normally involuntary action, and gives one the tools with which to expand that control over many of the body's physiological functions.

Through the use of the creative meditation techniques described in this book one can observe the hidden elements of the subconscious and make conscious effort to understand and change those aspects of ourselves that we find lacking. For example; upon meditating upon a simple geometric pattern with no guidance upon what color that pattern presents itself to us, we can draw meaning from the observation of what hue it appears to us in. Similarly, observation of background details that our mind fills in gives an expansive picture of what the subconscious mind is dwelling on. Recording these details and then pondering not only the traditional associations, but our own personal associations with the symbolism represented allows one to engage in a sort of dialog with our subconscious.

Being that the subconscious is also the seat of our involuntary functions, we are given the key with which to unlock our body's control mechanisms. After learning to control our breathing, a normally involuntary function, we are able to enter that state of relaxed meditation at will.

A trained response can be developed allowing our bodies to associate a certain visualization or breathing exercise with the relaxation of tense muscles. Extending that relaxed state to the mind allows all the stressors of the world to wash away. During this relaxed state, one can use the techniques described in this book to determine the root cause of one's problems instead of being side-tracked by the multitudes of symptoms. Use of this knowledge expanded to the rest of the body's systems may yield astonishing rewards.

Using these newly discovered keys to the subconscious in association with observation of the body's involuntary actions can lead one to discover how to control any automated process of the mind or body. In the film Mind and Hand in the CBC series The Nature of Things, Jack Schwarz demonstrates the ability of the mind to exert control over various physiological functions while having electrodes record his physiological condition. With no access to these bio-feedback readings, he proceeded to stick an unsterilized 26 gauge steel needle through his left bicep. According to the recorded data, he felt no pain and the needle marks visibly healed with no bleeding in a matter of moments. The potential stated here, even if one is unable to follow through to the level the author achieved, is phenomenal in a society that seems to make unreasonable demands upon our minds and bodies on a constant basis. This is why I believe this book should be brought back into circulation and nearly everyone could benefit from reading it.

It has been my intention to interest all of you in who Jack Schwarz was, why his book Voluntary Controls is important, and why you may want to get a copy for yourself. The mini biography I gave you of Jack Schwarz's life is by no means complete and I encourage you to discover him yourself. His series of books, or what is still in print, can be obtained at various websites such as Amazon.com or directly from Aletheia at holistic.org. Various other tools to assist you in your personal journey through meditation can also be found there. If I've peaked your interest, I invite you to ask any questions you may have and I will answer them as best I can. Thank you very much for your time.


Aletheia Psycho-Physical Foundation. 2007. 15 April 2009

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What D&D character are you?

I Am A:
True Neutral Human Wizard (4th Level)

Ability Scores:







True Neutral A true neutral character does what seems to be a good idea. He doesn't feel strongly one way or the other when it comes to good vs. evil or law vs. chaos. Most true neutral characters exhibit a lack of conviction or bias rather than a commitment to neutrality. Such a character thinks of good as better than evil after all, he would rather have good neighbors and rulers than evil ones. Still, he's not personally committed to upholding good in any abstract or universal way. Some true neutral characters, on the other hand, commit themselves philosophically to neutrality. They see good, evil, law, and chaos as prejudices and dangerous extremes. They advocate the middle way of neutrality as the best, most balanced road in the long run. True neutral is the best alignment you can be because it means you act naturally, without prejudice or compulsion. However, true neutral can be a dangerous alignment because it represents apathy, indifference, and a lack of conviction.

Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Wizards are arcane spellcasters who depend on intensive study to create their magic. To wizards, magic is not a talent but a difficult, rewarding art. When they are prepared for battle, wizards can use their spells to devastating effect. When caught by surprise, they are vulnerable. The wizard's strength is her spells, everything else is secondary. She learns new spells as she experiments and grows in experience, and she can also learn them from other wizards. In addition, over time a wizard learns to manipulate her spells so they go farther, work better, or are improved in some other way. A wizard can call a familiar- a small, magical, animal companion that serves her. With a high Intelligence, wizards are capable of casting very high levels of spells.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

Detailed Results:

Lawful Good ----- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (16)
Neutral Good ---- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (17)
Chaotic Good ---- XXXXXXXXXXXXXX (14)
Lawful Neutral -- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (17)
True Neutral ---- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (18)
Chaotic Neutral - XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (15)
Lawful Evil ----- XXXXXXXXXXX (11)
Neutral Evil ---- XXXXXXXXXXXX (12)
Chaotic Evil ---- XXXXXXXXX (9)

Law & Chaos:
Law ----- XXXXXXX (7)
Neutral - XXXXXXXX (8)
Chaos --- XXXXX (5)

Good & Evil:
Good ---- XXXXXXXXX (9)
Neutral - XXXXXXXXXX (10)
Evil ---- XXXX (4)

Human ---- XXXXXXXXXXXXX (13)
Dwarf ---- XXXXXXXXXX (10)
Elf ------ XXXXXXXXXX (10)
Gnome ---- XXXXXX (6)
Halfling - XXXXXXXX (8)
Half-Elf - XXXXXXXXXX (10)
Half-Orc - XX (2)

Barbarian - (-2)
Bard ------ (-4)
Cleric ---- (-4)
Druid ----- (0)
Fighter --- XX (2)
Monk ------ (-19)
Paladin --- (-21)
Ranger ---- (0)
Rogue ----- (-6)
Sorcerer -- XX (2)
Wizard ---- XXXXXXXXXX (10)