5 Boss Quotes from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War
In the last in the Recovering Man trilogy on the Chinese Masters, having looked at Confucius and Lao Tzu already, this final piece draws out 5 classic quotes on personal conduct, inner mastery and outer expression from Sun Tzu’s classic The Art of War.
Like Lao Tzu and Confucius, Sun Tzu is more mythical than he is man, with the bulk of scholarly endeavor during his era (545 – 470 BC) attributed to him, despite it not being totally clear if he wrote everything he is said to.
In fact, some scholars even doubt his existence at all!
However, like Homer in the Greek tradition, the cultural power of Sun Tzu and his magnum opus The Art of War is huge.
Below are 5 boss quotes from The Art of War:
1: “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.”
This quote shows us that there are eternal truths in our world.
While being written 2,500 years ago, this aphorism takes us to a central truth of life that Recovering Man seeks to embody: that within suffering lay the seeds of growth.
Without this truth in the centre of our hearts, minds and souls, we are prey to despair springing from the torture of meaningless pain.
However, when we see that every obstacle has the potential to evolve us, it gives our suffering meaning and eventually builds our character beyond its previous limits, rendering a wealth of new realities possible.
2: “Opportunities multiply as they are seized.”
Following on from the prior quote is another axiom of life that comes once we have taken the right actions to evolve and grow.
In essence, when we muster the courage to put ourselves forward, the return we get is two-fold: firstly, we broaden our conscious understanding of our own limits, thereby unleashing greater power and aptitude.
Secondly, others around us see this manifesting and in that moment their perception of us changes too, opening us up to new people, new paradigms and new possibilities.
3: “Even the finest sword plunged into salt water will eventually rust.”
Everything material will fade. That is something we must accept and is also a first step towards a more transcendent state.
In reality, all forms come and go, they are reshaped and remolded, sometimes over millennia and sometimes in milliseconds, either way, the result is the same.
Henceforth, this quote is spiritual in essence, pointing us towards that which cannot perish as well as helping us rightsize our fear.
The ‘finest sword’ here represents ultimate danger, that which we fear in our egocentric view of life and death, yet even that ultimate danger will fall to the flow of life as represented by ‘salt water’.
4: “Build your opponent a golden bridge to retreat across.”
Have you ever noticed how the finest martial artists and martial art forms are unrelenting in their rigid ethical approach to personal conduct?
Despite perfecting techniques which can immobilize a man, even kill him, the emphasis is never, ever on attack, aggression or violence, and always on peace.
It seems wise masters and great teachers are cognizant that violence, whether by hand or by the tongue, should always be minimized except for in the most extreme and rare of situations – once in a lifetime, and maybe not even then, according to the Karate tradition.
This could well be because violence has no end once the cycle is enacted.
As one man wrongs another, dreams of revenge dominate the mind until more violence is inevitable and this cycle goes on until ultimate demolition has been achieved.
This is surely why Sun Tzu advises us to ensure we offer our enemies and tormentors a chance to end all confrontation with their pride and body intact, thereby minimizing the risk of resentment that will end in more destructive violence.
5: “One may know how to conquer without being able to do it.”
Talking the talk and walking the walk are wholly different things.
I know this personally working on Recovering Man, I write a lot about discipline and growth based on overcoming my addictions and inner pain, yet I am prone to procrastination, a relapse into watching porn, eating junk food and so forth.
I have to own this and therefore be humble, peaceful and accepting knowing that I have much to learn and that action is always the measure of truth, never just words.
Secondly, this quote shows us that action and intellect are very different things.
Many men can articulate quite beautifully how Mike Tyson was so dominant in the ring, but who can really move like him, duck and weave and hit lightning-fast combinations as he could?
Hence, we must remain humble and let our actions speak for us, never talking above our station and open to growing in reality, not in the realm of the intellect.