A brief history of Lingchi

In Imperial China there are many methods of torture that were used to punish criminals and corrupt officials but one of the more particularly gruesome techniques was called Ling Chi and it stoked the morbid curiosity of Western people, who would occasionally write about and sometimes photograph the ritual in all its gory detail.

The term Ling Chi has been traditionally translated as death by a thousand cuts. And in the typical depiction of practice what happens is the Executioner uses a sharp knife to methodically cut small cuts and pieces of skin from a victim’s body. This happens over a period of extended time for several hours and sometimes even days resulting in excruciating pain and eventual death.

It goes back as far as the Zhou Dynasty Circa 1045 to 256 BCE. And it was used as a punishment for egregious crimes like treason or murder and sometimes it even use it for political rivals in order to deter them I guess if you’re the boss you can do whatever you want.

In 1905 Lindsey was officially abolished in China but used one last time in April of that same year to torture a poor Mongol guard who had murdered his regions Lord. Those 12 photos from the execution still exist today.

Anyway, nobody is sure if every Lingchi sentence was carried out in the Gory fashions in which they were depicted by some westerners since they were told secondhand by most travelers. So we might never know how accurate these accounts are but we’re not concerned with the ghastly details, instead we’re interested in the metaphor itself.

What is in the metaphor of Ling Chi Death By A Thousand Cuts?

Glancing at the latest newspaper headlines you might think it’s easy to gawk and horror at the deplorable crimes that managed to make the front page. All the murders the muggings the bank heist of course these are indeed Wicked acts. But they don’t constitute the majority of human failings. Most of us, even with all our many personal failings, are actually quite restrained. Even the most violent criminals among us are usually only violent for a few moments in their entire life; the rest of their time is spent in relative peace.

Maybe it’s possible that you know someone… who committed an nefarious crime such as homicide rape or grand larceny, and it’s probable that you’ve never participated in an offense like this yourself. But for most of us our lives are not defined by a single horrific Act of violence. The little daily offenses that never make it to our awareness Our lives are  burdened by Thousands of  little decisions made or not made. These little mishaps and slips never make our own version of our 5:00 news in terms of our awareness a thousand little sins or a thousand little Cuts end up leading to one big scenario.

If you were to look back at your life’s challenges whether in health, wealth, and or relationships, you’ll find that personal failures are typically not the result of just one problem. Instead, the big problems in life, the issues that really matter, they are usually the result of many little problems; the uncountable and seemingly minuscule at the time tiny issues that we allow to accumulate year after year like

  • Like the extra cheeseburger you ate during the Backyard Barbecue when you were starting your vegan diet.
  • Like the wild Sunday night you went and had instead of studying for your exam.
  • Like the Monday morning when you showed up late to the office or your meeting
  • Or maybe all the corners you tried to cut when you  produced your last product 🤔 
  • How about the little white lies you told at the last office party?

If you take each one of these one by one they’re small infractions and they’re hardly noticeable. But over time it’s the accumulation of these issues that result in a disastrous outcome. It’s a thousand little problems that come together to form one big problem so your life goals are subject to Ling Chi that is death by a thousand cuts. The most common philosophical phrase that you hear today that relates to this idea is the straw that broke the camel’s back to describe the final result of the accumulative process.

So the Ling Chi metaphor helps to remind us of our limited ability to identify the root causes of complex problems. It’s very easy to blame our failures in “The Game of Life “ or blame it on just one circumstance or one person, like an emotionally distant parent, or an unfair teacher, an unscrupulous boss, or an abusive partner. It’s true that these types of toxic relationships in our life contribute to our Miss fortunes for sure ,but as you look back upon your past can you identify the ways in which your own behavior had a bad effect towards what you are trying to accomplish in your life?

  • Can you readily identify the many lapses in judgment that you commit each day?
  • Can You observe yourself making the same set of poor life choices, again, and again, and again?
  • What about envisioning the long chain of poor decisions, which ultimately cause you to abandon one of your pursuits? 

It’s essential that you become aware and mindful about how and why these little violations occur when you start developing your goal accomplishment skill sets. Your practiced ability in achieving a deeper level of self-awareness about your past transgressions is called Hansei … which we will be talking about in part two.

But first the seven deadly sins. Throughout man’s existence there have been all sorts of efforts that have been made to codify the moral failings of man. And one of the oldest such doctrines is the seven deadly sins. Now contrary to popular belief, this list does not appear in the bible. Instead the origin is primarily attributed to the work of Evagrius ponticus.

Immoculos the solitary as he was known was a highly educated Christian aesthetic who produced most of his work in Egypt from the year 385 ad until his death and 399 ad. Since he was a classical scholar he was able to catalog and systematize some of the existing oral teachings of the desert fathers who were Christian Hermits and monks who lived in the Scetes desert.

These seven deadly sins represented by Evagrius is attempt to cite the seven most pernicious afflictions which he believed all good men ought to continuously struggle to restrain they are:* READ MORE
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The Seven Deadly Sins

  1. Lust-  which is unbridled sexual desire
  2. Gluttony – the overindulgence or overcome assumption of anything food sex power too much
  3. Greed – rapacious and plunderous pursuit of material possessions
  4. Sloth-  the general reluctance to work, or an apathetic approach to daily life activities.
  5. Wrath – uncontrolled feelings of rage, anger and hatred.
  6. Envy-  the resentment about the traits or possessions of others.
  7. Pride – the excessive hubris or misplaced self-confidence

You don’t necessarily have to be a religious or spiritual type of person to see the value in life that is free of all of these problems and personally I’m not all that religious myself.

Whether you think that God will strike you down after you commit any of these offenses is irrelevant to our conversation. What’s really relevant is that you recognize that the seven deadly sins are really just a warning against allowing one’s natural faculties to be expressed in excess. Because when appropriately enacted each one of these behaviors has utility right?

  1. Lustful sexual desire makes humans existence and mating possible.
  2. Gluttonous hunger process to seek our sustenance.
  3. Greed for the pursuit of material Goods is essential and that we must own some possessions just to survive
  4. Sloth can prevent us from devoting energy to activities that may not result in a net benefit.
  5. Wrath can be justified in times when self defense is . 
  6. necessary.
  7. Envy can inspire us to action and drive us to improve our position in life.
  8. And pride improperly be displayed in the form of a spirited and self-confident persona.

So really none of these behaviors are evil in of themselves. It’s only when they’re taken to extremes and overdone that these actions become sins.

As you think back to the times in your life when you’ve been susceptible to these Temptations you’re likely to know that most of your misdeeds did not result in humongous giant problems.

  • I’m sure you never destroyed a marriage because of lust
  • You probably never ballooned up to over 400 lb because of gluttony or sloth right?
  • And I’m pretty sure you’ve probably never been wrathful or envious enough to murder someone.

See… for most of us, when it comes to day-to-day life, these vices usually manifest in the form of a thousand inconspicuous offenses IE a thousand tiny cuts.

A good example would be a life in a college student, such as sins that often arise in the form of productivity destroying behaviors like:

  1. Lust -watching porn videos when you should be studying
  2. Gluttony- spending the evening consuming pepperoni pizza buffalo wings and beer
  3. Greed-  online shopping for things desired but not needed and more than likely not afforded
  4. Sloth- playing video games for hours on end
  5. Crappy thinking – about past girlfriends or current class rivals people you don’t like at work …whatever
  6. Envy – are you harboring jealousy over a roommate’s new sports car?
  7. Pride-  are you making proclamations that you’re too smart or sophisticated for schooling and homework is only for stupid people

No, we should pay attention to how the little inconsequential things that we listed above as in fractions don’t really wreck you if you’re just doing that once in a while. If you spend an evening eat a pizza and drinking beer or watching p*** and playing video games or even shopping on eBay and gawking at your roommate’s new Mustang convertible then it’s probable that no harm shall be for you. 

In fact, you’ll probably have a great night. But remember that Ling Chi concept is defined as Death By A Thousand Cuts not just one so a single night of mildly decadent behavior never hurt anyone right? However we all know what really happens… it starts to tragically turn into night after night and then following the accumulation of a thousand such evenings it eventually amounts to a severe attack upon your life goals and your psyche.

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