Ceci Tuera Cela: This Will Kill That
Life is nothing but a balancing scale.
In Victor Hugo’s novel Notre-Dame de Paris, archdeacon, or senior Christian cleric, Claude Frollo touches a print book and glances at the cathedral towers. “Ceci tuera cela,” he says. It translates to, “This will kill that.”
In his mind, the archdeacon was imagining how disruptive innovation would prove. The invention of the printing press meant that the flock would no longer rely on clerical proclamations to discover information that it would otherwise remain ignorant of.
But ceci tuera cela means much more.
The slogan doesn’t just apply to a new force that destroys an old one; it also applies to two hostile forces that can exist, but not coexist, in the same period. Nor does such destruction move in a single direction; it moves both ways. The pen is not the only force that kills the sword. The sword can kill the pen and spill its ink like blood all over too.
This slogan also applies to intangible, abstract concepts. Here are nine examples:
1. Shoshin And Hubris
Shoshin means “the beginner’s mind.” It refers to an attitude of openness, eagerness, and letting go of preconceptions while studying a subject.
Hubris seeps in when we overvalue our experience. It limits our ability to do our homework, seek disconfirming evidence, and question our assumptions.
Neither shoshin nor hubri allows each other to exist.
2. Education And Ignorance
Education is not the same as literacy. It’s the ability to use your mind, to know how to think, and to let your thoughts uplift you.
Likewise, ignorance doesn’t stem from not having information. It stems from depending on others to tell you what to think.
Education is a vaccine against ignorance while the “ignorance” virus destroys education.
3. Questions and The Status Quo
Conventional wisdom states that answers kill questions. But they don’t. Good answers can lead to more questions, fuel curiosity, and drive progress.
The status quo, the “because-society-says-so” syndrome, which pushes back against the unconventional, kills questions.
The more questions you ask, the more the status quo gets shaken. The more the status quo dominates, the more questions get suppressed.
4. Love And Apathy
In his novel The Secret of the Nagas, Amish Tripathi writes,
“The opposite of love is not hate. Hate is just love gone bad. The actual opposite of love is apathy. When you don’t care a damn as to what happens to the other person.”
When you love someone, you care about them. When you don’t care, love cannot exist.
5. Discipline and Enslavement
It takes discipline to show up and perform the important, unglamorous tasks every day. This feels like the end of freedom. But it’s not. When you keep working on what’s important, your actions multiply and result in a life you can live on your own terms.
But each time you abandon what’s important to chase a new shiny object or surrender to instant gratification, you mortgage the future for the present. And you remain a slave to life.
“Success takes five years. Put your head down for five years and make a dream come true. Momentum is like magic.” — Ayodeji Awosika
Discipline equals freedom. Laziness equals enslavement.
6. Consistency and Blockage
When you stay consistent, you set Newton’s first law into action: an object in motion stays in motion. When you feel stuck, you still take one step at a time. Then your blood starts flowing, your mind thinks freely, and you figure out the answer.
Then there’s “creativity block.” You feel low because you’re stuck for long. You step away and lock your work in a cage. By the time you muster enough courage to return, the work has turned into a frightening lion. And you’re too afraid to open the door.
Perseverance is the greatest agent of success. Blockage makes you throw your dream in the fire.
7. Thinking by First Principles and Thinking by Analogy
First-principles thinking is the act of boiling a process down to the fundamental parts that are true and building up from there. The question that begins this process is, “How can I use what’s available?”
Analogical thinking is the process of letting conventional wisdom and prior experiences dictate your decisions. The philosophy behind it is, “Let’s do things the way they’ve been done before,” or, “nobody has ever done it, so it must not be good.”
First-principles thinking moves you towards the future, whereas analogical thinking keeps you rooted in the past. The more you practice one way of thinking, the deeper entrenched it gets, and the more you reject the other way.
8. Social media and Peace of Mind
Repugnant arguments and shallow, peacock-esque highlight-reel displays that dominate social media make you miserable.
Working towards meaningful personal and professional goals make you happier and more productive. Instead of comparing your life to others, you realize that you’re enough.
Social media wrecks peace of mind, while a mind at peace avoids social media like it would avoid a vice.
9. Individualism and Idolatry
Individualism means thinking for yourself. When you can think for yourself, you join a tribe where your identity remains independent, where the tribe happens to match who you are. And if you or the tribe evolve to the level when the two no longer match, you’re free to leave.
Idolatry is the worship of mere power. This doctrine means everything for the people, nothing by them. The will of the idol replaces the conscience of the community and paves the way for oppression.
Individualism sets your mind free; idolatry entraps it.
In all the above cases, the two antagonistic principles are at opposite ends of a weighing scale. No principle dies forever. The scale merely tips from one side to the other depending on your actions.
Making one side heavier is not just a battle; it’s a war. Not with others, but with yourself.
Don’t try to win the war. Focus on winning daily battles. On some days you win. On other days you lose. But show up every day.
Eventually, you’ll defeat the side that doesn’t let you be true to yourself. Ceci tuera cela.