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The Terrain of Discipline

Updated: Dec 22, 2023

The meaning of the word discipline has transitioned from its original etymology. Starting with the Greek word paideia, meaning education by cultivating mind and morals, to the Latin word discipulus meaning student, finally getting distorted in Old English to mean correcting by punishment.

I propose returning to the wisdom of Greek etymology and applying modern biocognitive science to explore the perceptual implications of embodying paideia as a terrain to cultivate mind and morals. The experience of what I call emotional elegance, can liberate us from the punitive legacy of the Old English conception of discipline as corrective punishment.

Rather than educating through pain, mind and morals are cultivated with the constituents of elegance as the most sustainable mode of teaching. But first, let me define what I mean by terrain in my theory of biocognition. Our focus is on what generates and sustains behavior rather than behavior. A terrain is then the operational meaning that gives existence to a behavior. So then, what sustains and generates discipline?

If we transition from modifying behavior through punishment toward determining what activates mind and morals to sustain and generate discipline, we can enter the realm of elegance. Elegance is the foundation of discipline because it contextualizes the exalted emotions and higher cognitions necessary to battle the demon and sirens that challenge discipline. Demons admonish us to devalue our existence and sirens allure us to enter self-sabotage. But emotional elegance offers the antidote to our own Odyssey by engaging laudable behavior that can be emulated by those who chose freedom from the world of vulgar eyes.

To discipline, is to enter our power, to honor our commitments, and to experience gratitude under adversity. Most important, is to identify the demons we have given power to derail our destiny and sirens we have chosen to ignore their betrayals. Be aware that we are wounded heroes rather than victims. We are Hercules or Athena more powerful than any darkness that confronts our path when we approach discipline through elegance. Such is the way of the Drift…

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