As I get older, I place increasing importance upon self-improvement in both body and mind. Rarely a day goes by when I am not seriously reflecting upon all the ways that I can become even more self-actualized and humble. In pursuit of this progress, I incorporate gleanings from a variety of sources into my daily learning. For instance, upon rising mid morning, you can often find me studying a variety of texts, both scientific and mystical, from the I Ching and the Bible to the Malleus Maleficarum and The 48 Laws of Power. Most importantly, I pay close attention to the examples of several inspirational historical figures, considering them to be my mentors across time and space.
When I think of a sensible approach to living a rich and full life, it’s hard for me not to think of the late nineteenth/early twentieth century Russian mystic and holy man, Grigori Rasputin. I will grant you that, with his greasy beard and general Charles Manson vibe, the man also known as the Mad Monk may not be everyone’s idealized picture of mental and physical wellness. Still, here was an hombre who, despite being a heavy drinker and clearly more than just a little bit coo-coo-cachoo, managed to rise from humble origins, befriend Nicholas II (the last czar of Russia), and become enormously influential within his court.
Admittedly, he made many enemies along the way. Still, he managed to survive numerous assassination attempts, including stabbing, strangling, and drowning. For someone like myself, who tends towards hypochondria, this level of robustness is quite inspiring. In one such incident, Grigori fortuitously escaped cyanide poisoning because he had been eating honey-laden Russian tea cakes washed down with sweet madeira wine. You may feel that his is not a relevant example for you, as no one is out to get you, but you would be surprised! Also, having a well-developed taste for booze and pastries myself, I often like to trot this story out as an admonition to my more excessively diet-obsessed friends. I think most mental health professionals and inspirational speakers would agree that resilience, enjoying life, making an impact in the world, and ultimately being immortalized in a disco earworm by Boney M are all important hallmarks of a healthy mindset and well-lived life.
Nor is Rasputin the only example of oft-maligned figures to whom we should be looking for inspiration. Vlad the Impaler, for instance, has much to teach us about hard work and dedication. Both Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump exemplify the benefits of impressive self-esteem.
When we take the time to reflect, on a deeply personal level, about self-improvement and where to look for guidance and motivation, it behooves each of us to carefully choose the role models to suit our individual values. For me, these figures may be Caligula or the Unabomber. Others, though, may well feel that Mahatma Gandhi or even Martin Luther King are more closely aligned to their personal ideals. There is no right and wrong here; to each their own, no matter how quirky the choices of others may seem. I only hope that, in my own small way, I have been an inspiration to you, my faithful reader.