People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul.~ Carl Jung
People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
You didn’t come into this world. You came out of it, like a wave from the ocean.~ Alan Watts
Only those who do not seek power are qualified to hold it.~ Plato
Clear communication is a sign of understanding. Understanding the idea to be communicated is necessary, but not sufficient, for clear communication. I think in language (I point this out because I wonder if some people don’t think in language) and that leads me to word-smithing. I’m often searching for just the right word or phrase, and then delighted with myself if I find it. Having such labels for larger ideas is a check-point for myself, internally, that I actually have understanding.
Gregory Hays, one of Marcus Aurelius’s best translators, writes in his introduction to Meditations, “If he had to be identified with a particular school, [Stoicism] is surely the one he would have chosen. Yet I suspect that if asked what it was that he studied, his answer would not have been ‘Stoicism’ but simply ‘philosophy.’”
He then notes that in the ancient world, “philosophy” was not perceived the way it is today. It played a much different role. “It was not merely a subject to write or argue about,” Hays writes, “but one that was expected to provide a ‘design for living’—a set of rules to live one’s life by.”~ Ryan Holiday from, https://ryanholiday.net/19-rules-for-a-better-life-from-marcus-aurelius/
Just because I have a label for something—Stoicism in this case—doesn’t mean I label myself as that. The obvious reason is that my label has a lot of other context attached (in my mind) and chances are little to none that any of that context is present for another person. Labels are useful as shorthand, but only if we have the shared understanding.
Life is short. There are ends—things I have done which others can observe. There are the means I’ve chosen to those ends. And then there’s justification. I don’t have the time (nor the inclination) to explain everything—and frankly no one wants to hear that much from me (or from anyone.) I just find it interesting when I discover something I do (or say or think) for which I’ve not really thought through the labels… thought through the justification.
It seems obvious that finding a right someone for a healthy relationship is all of subtle, difficult and random; it involves some amount of activity and passivity. Things are made more difficult by my not knowing who I am, and who would be “good” for me.
The best thing for your nervous system is another person. Unfortunately, the worst thing for your nervous system is also another person. An unhealthy relationship can screw up your body budget and, with it, your health and your life. So what makes for a healthy or unhealthy relationship, and how do you maintain one?~ Lisa Feldman Barrett from, https://aeon.co/essays/does-buddhist-detachment-allow-for-a-healthier-togetherness
In the beginning of a relationship, everything is immediate. There’s a seemingly endless stream of, “what shall we do tomorrow?” and “do this because I like it, and stop that because I dislike it.” In surprisingly little time it becomes clear that the two (or more!) people in a relationship are changing. If I’ve found the perfect someone for the me today, who will they be in a decade? …who will I be then? 20, 30, 40 years later? It’s all the complexity of two people, where both people are continuously changing. It strikes me this is much more like surfing than trying to reach the pinnacle of a mountain.
You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.~ Buckminster Fuller
What if I don’t know how to take something apart? One option is to apply excessive force and break the thing open. That works, but obviously sacrifices the thing; this is particularly useless if I wanted to take something apart because I need to fix it, or understand it. Generally, the smash method always works, but is almost never useful.
Yet thought also goes wrong somehow, and produces destruction. This arises from a certain way of thinking, i.e., fragmentation. This is to break things up into bits, as if they were independent. It’s not merely making divisions, but it is breaking things up which are not really spearate. It’s like taking a watch and smashing it into fragments, rather than taking it apart and finding its parts. The parts are parts of a whole, but the fragments are just arbitrarily broken off from each other. Things which really fit, and belong together, are treated as if they do not. That’s one of the features of thought that’s going wrong.~ David Bohm from, On Dialogue p56
I’m perpetually on a journey of self-awareness. I’m quite often applying my mind to understand things. This idea from Bohm about fragmentation, and in particular fragmentation being bad because it misses out on the relationships and inherent properties of the natural parts (in the sense of disassembled-watch parts versus smashed-watch bits). This idea of fragmentation is a warning against my running with the first way I manage to understand something; just because I’ve found one way to understand (smash) something into understandable pieces, doesn’t mean that’s the best way.
One of the basic elements of the relationship between oppressor and oppressed is prescription. Every prescription represents that imposition of one individual’s choice upon another, transforming the consciousness of the person prescribed into one that conforms with the prescriber’s consciousness.~ Paolo Freire
Gnosce teipsum—know yourself. Know yourself in relation to your overt intentions and your hidden motives, in relation to your thinking, your physical functioning and to those greater not-selves, who see to it that, despite all the ego’s attempts at sabotage, the thinking shall be tolerably relevant and the functioning not too abnormal.~ Aldous Huxley
Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will rule your life and you will call it fate.~ Carl Jung
Back at the start of January I mentioned, “Indeed. If it is to my advantage tomorrow, it is much more so today.” My touch phrase, “choose today” for 2023 continues to be a poignant reminder. I’ve now written it at the bottom of every journal entry this year, it often comes to mind in moments when I most need it, and it always reminds me of this:
Stick to what’s in front of you—idea, action, utterance. This is what you deserve. You could be good today. But instead you choose tomorrow.~ Marcus Aurelius
“If it is to my advantage tomorrow, it is much more so today.” is a direct quote of Epictetus. Aurelius was born shortly after Epictetus’s death. But Aurelius makes a point of thanking one of his teachers, Rusticus saying in part, “[…] And for introducing me to Epictetus’s lectures–and loaning me his own copy.”
Which leads me to the first thing “choose today” reminds me of each day: Knowledge, and in particular wisdom, are gained through others by seeking out those who have something you wish to learn. These people which I’m mentioning lived thousands of years ago. Others (in other traditions from other regions of the world in other centuries) have separately discovered these same ideas, which makes it clear to me that these ideas are worth considering.
The second thing “choose today” reminds me of is to be forward-looking. Certainly I want to observe and consider my past (and the past of others!) but I should be looking towards the future. If something feels urgent, then where exactly is that sense of urgency coming from, and is the urgency real? If something feels important— same questions. If something feels _insert_whatever_here_— same questions. And then, what can I choose today?
One reason I write here, is because I think it’s healthy for me to work with the garage door up. My choice of the guideline that herein I write about myself and things I find lying about reminds me to stick with sharing my subjective experience. Long ago I began suppressing my urge to share my opinions, and gosh, that turns out to be liberating.
This is the birth of “epistemic humility” in Western philosophy: the acknowledgment that one’s blind spots and shortcomings are an invitation for ongoing intellectual investigation and growth.
The confetti gun of opinions seems always to be spewing. For a while I was concerned that my expanding humility would create a sort of power vacuum into which even more opinions of others would drift and settle. But, nope. Removing my contribution has made no difference in the fluttering mess. None the less, it’s simply nice not to feel urgency to contribute to the mess.
There are two types of ignorance, the pure, natural ignorance into which all people are born, and the ignorance of the so-called wise. You will see that many among those who call themselves scholars do not know real life, and they despise simple people and simple things.
Many stupid things are uttered by people whose only motivation is to say something original.
“The problem is…”, is such a great phrase. When I hear it, I begin to smile. Unless I just said it, in which case I twitch and remind myself that the really hard part [of anything you want to discuss] is defining exactly what the problem is. A well-defined problem is such a difficult and rare thing. And here’s a fun article from “Dynomight” that plays with just how hard it is to figure out what the problem actually is, Candidate Final Bosses.
Just to be clear: We’re talking about “final boss”, as in the video game context meaning of the phrase. In the classic, journey-of-adventure towards some goal, video game, things get harder and harder and harder until… you have to face the final boss, in the final battle.
In truth, there is no divorce between philosophy and life.
But it’s also just fun. For me, at least. I enjoy seeing how humans from thousands of years ago tried to get their bearings in the world compared to humans living today. When you read, study, and talk about philosophy, you’re taking part in a conversation that’s been going on for millennia. And conversation is fun. I love a good conversation.
It’s been a minute since I’ve purchased a textbook. It’s nice to see that they’re no longer stupidly over-priced— oh wait, no sorry. They’re insanely priced. Fortunately, I was able to bop on over to abebooks.com and find a copy of The Great Conversation for about $5 depending on what condition you want; There’s like a hundred copies of that book available.
Some people live and act according to their own thoughts, and some according to the thoughts of others; this is a crucial distinction between people.