The title of this article is a quote from Robert Pirsig from his book “Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals.” Mr. Pirsig is best known as the author of “Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance,” widely regarded as the best selling philosophy book of all time. I highly recommend both books (for what that’s worth).
This article is not a discussion of either book, nor the philosophies expressed in them. They are controversial. And I am not equipped to jump into that controversy. That’s on you, if you so choose. I am here to discuss the quote above.
This particular quote is such an elegant approach to life. LIfe - whether yours or another person’s or your pet’s or your garden’s - moves onward. Move forward. Life never retreats. Lie doesn’t go backward. Life grows. And to grow, it needs space into which to grow. WIthout space, growth is stunted. WIth space, life is free to grow as big as it wants. And also in any direction it wants. Or in all directions. Because sometimes life looks like a bush. And sometimes it looks like a vine.
So it stands to reason that helping life have the space into which to grow is a good thing. There’s the necessary corollary that creating space for one life cannot intrude on the space of another life; otherwise, you cannot be said to be giving life space to grow. Or to put it another way, you cannot create space for one life to grow into at the expense of space for another life to grow into. So giving all life the space into which to grow is the goal of all life.
This brief statement therefore is actually a better guide to living than the Golden Rule. Not that there’s anything wrong with the Golden Rule. But the Golden Rule does not require reciprocation. If I treat you like I want to be treated, there is no demand I can make on you to treat me like you want to be treated. But if the rule is to create space for life to move, then I must create your space and you must create mine. It’s not enough to merely not impede my space, or not intrude into it. “The creation of space.” So not only is there reciprocity, there is also the necessity of cooperation.
Extending this simple sentence even further, it may obligate you to assist someone whose space is being encroached upon. Since the moral act is the creation of space, it logically follows that destruction of space for life to move onward is immoral. This not only makes assistance to others mandatory, it also eliminates offensive violence, but allows defensive violence. Maybe the discussion of violence is another article. For right now, let’s stop this discussion at you have to help others create their space and help them prevent others from diminishing that space.
Now this is not an abstract philosophical idea. It can be used very practically for situational leadership, for example. As a team leader, you can create the space for each team member to grow into, as well as make sure that no member is encroaching on someone else’s space. An example would be to make sure that assignments are distributed so that each team member is challenged to work above his or her level, and that other team members who help them work at that level are acknowledged and rewarded.
This simple approach can be used for stress management by reducing conflict (since it requires cooperation); for time management by setting priorities naturally (the items that allow growth are given priority); and for leadership by requiring you to make decisions for each team member individually and as part of the team and in line the team’s goals. A simple statement with powerful applications. Try it in your life.

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