Sun Tzu said: The art of war is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.”

“All warfare is based on deception.”

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“If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.” “If he is taking his ease, give him no rest.”

The point above is one that those who desire success in whatever sphere of life, must bear in mind. People who focus on the task ahead, with a clear vision of success usually have no time for wicked schemes; consequently many of such persons fail to realize the amount of scheming that goes on around them. This is a grave mistake that must be avoided. Although the use of provocation as discussed by Sun Tzu is targeted at those with choleric tempers, enemies of progress, will seek to elicit this response even from those normally of a calm disposition. They will relentlessly and unreasonably provoke at every opportunity, hoping to achieve their desires. Have you ever wondered why some persons are always on your case despite the fact that you have never offended them? All you have done is mind your own business. It’s no mistake, it’s meant to irritate and provoke you into actions you will later regret. Self awareness and alertness are required to identify such persons. Whether you identify them or not however, if you make forbearance a lifestyle, you will never fall for their schemes. Always respond with gentle answers, even when it would make you look stupid or “loose face”. Note that when you do this, they will become even more incensed at you, but they have nothing on you. Brace up, they will only hit harder next time, and again you must bear such blows calmly.

Although Sun Tzu submitted that life is war, and indeed it is, he also said the greatest general is one who wins battles without firing any shots. That life is war therefore does not mean we should live in apprehension; it is also not a call to arms, but a call to be alert and apply wisdom. It is not for us to despair, but a call to forbearance despite extreme provocation, in the hope that we will excel despite the battles. For the Teacher said, wisdom is better than strength, wisdom is better than the weapons of war!

That life is war is not a call to arms for the excellent man, may be described with the following analogy: imagine you are driving a car with a fly trapped inside. This fly can be cause for extreme irritation and provocation, but one must thread with care and circumspection to avoid the temptation to kill a fly with a sledge hammer as this could lead to a fatal accident. Maintain your cool and calmly swath the fly away. Those nuisances in life, whether in public or private affairs, are like that annoying fly.

Ande Elisha

The Amateur Philosopher

Excerpts From
The Art of War
Sun Tzu