I sometimes find that depression sneaks up on me. I have lots of strategies for working around it (diet, exercise, pills, positive psychology etc) but sometimes it wins. Today was one of those days.
I caught myself being grumpy when reaching for my ‘after-dinner’ orange that I have everyday that we have oranges in the house. I looked at the orange and thought how nice it looked. I remembered living in a remote community in the Northern Territory of Australia and we had no access to fresh fruit at the time. That was when I realised that oranges are my favourite fruit. We had to order food about six weeks in advance and the grocery order came by barge from Northern Queensland (quite a distance away).
I held the orange in my hand, smelled it, felt the texture and felt very grateful for it. I then proceeded to eat it while savouring the taste! It didn’t cure my depression but it was a circuit breaker letting some light in!
Recently I have been exploring many avenues seeking wisdom.
I have studied (with a small group of other interested folks) Socrates, Epicurus, Seneca, Montaigne, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche (not in any great depth, I might add!)
From there I spent some time in October studying the Stoics – Seneca again, Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus. Following on from there we leapt a few centuries to consider Karl Marx and Mary Wollstonecraft. We finished up with a quick look at Bertrand Russell and Australian philosopher, Peter Singer.
Now it would probably be useful for me to tell you all about them but I am probably too lazy to do that, to be honest. Anyway, if you are interested they are only a google search away.
While doing the above I also joined an online course with The School of Practical Philosophy. A small group of us met online on Monday evenings for an hour and considered a range of texts and some thoughtful discussion.
The thing that impacted me the most was the well known words used in the the song below. It was one of those ‘aha’ moments! Realising that the cycles of life keep turning and sometimes we are observers and sometimes participants. Sometimes things go the way that is pleasing to us sometimes they don’t!
Where does this leave me? Not sure! The journey continues …
I was cooking dinner this evening – Tuna Mornay – an old favourite. Now, over time I have been careful about particular food items and sensitivities. The mornay starts with cooking the onion in butter. Next is to add flour to make a roux (butter and flour mixed together to make a paste). I used gluten-free flour. All good so far.
Next item to add was the milk – soy milk of course. Then I added the tuna, cheese, spices, corn and peas.
An then I laughed at myself. Why did I bother with the gluten-free flour and the soy milk when I had already included a whole onion?
Then I got philosophical. We take so much care in looking after very specific aspects of our lives while we cannot see the bit that really needs attention (the equivalent of the onion) in our lives.
I guess this is how most of us manage day-to-day life. We are not always attentive to the bigger picture – especially if our thoughts are busy with a million distractions. We keep hearing about the importance of being mindful of the present moment but it often alludes me still.
I loved the Story of the Week so thought I would share it with you. The author is unknown.
One day Arnav and his friend Bhima were having a friendly chat while walking just outside the marketplace in Dhubri. A beggar asked for some help from Arnav, who told him to ask him tomorrow. The beggar went away. Looking around Bhima saw a big drum at a stall just inside the market took the big drum and started walking through the market beating the drum furiously. Arnav was surprised, ran after his friend and asked why he was doing this.
Bhima said, “I want to declare that our revered Arnav has won the battle against time! You told that beggar to come tomorrow. How do you know that you will be there tomorrow? How do you know that beggar would still be alive tomorrow? Even if, you both are alive, you might not be in a position to give anything. Or, the beggar might not even need anything tomorrow. How did you know that you could both even meet tomorrow? You are the first person in this world that has overcome time. I want to tell people of Dhubri about this.”
Arnav got the message from Bhima, recalling that actions can only occur in the present moment. Arnav called that beggar right away and gave him the necessary help.
While recently reading Women in Love by DH Lawrence I was reminded of a quote by French philosopher Michel de Montaigne:
“I am not prepared to bash my brains for anything, not even for learning’s sake however precious it may be. From books all I seek is to give myself pleasure by an honourable pastime… If I come across difficult passages in my reading I never bite my nails over them: after making a charge or two I let them be… If one book wearies me I take up another.”
But I had a problem as a literary essay by Norman Loftis claims it to be a masterpiece and DH Lawrence’s best book. I read Lady Chatterley’s Lover and had no such difficulty with it so it must be me, right?
Anyway, I was determined to make it to the end and I also re-read the essay to see if it made more sense and perhaps I could understand what he was getting at – the need for men and women to find a new way of loving and living that was more equal and freer. It was written over 100 years ago at a time when women were seeking emancipation and turning away from subservience.
Anyway, I found it to be pretty tough going. Have you read it and, if so, what did you think of it?
This time last week we arrived in Perth after our week’s holiday in Darwin. We had a really good and relaxing time. Great to see my son and grandsons as well. The weather was fabulous – around 30-35 degrees. It was so good to be warm! Below are some photos from Darwin Museum and Art Gallery, The Botanic Gardens and Darwin Wharf. We also went to Bachelor (about 105km south of Darwin). In the 1950’s it was the town-site for mine workers at the nearby uranium mine called Rum Jungle.
The crocodile in the above photo was called Sweetheart!
We are back home again now and being optimistic that Spring is on its way.
My six-week philosophy course finished in August. I am missing the interesting weekly discussions we had. In the interim I have signed up for a ten week (1 hr per week) course titled Presence of Mind with the School of Practical Philosophy. The course is online and made up with people from different states of Australia and three people overseas. Fascinating!
Life experience has taught me that nothing of value comes easily. So I agree with Nietzsche on that one. He is a complex philosopher with many strands to his philosophy. In our U3A groups yesterday the majority felt their opinion of him has improved after considering Alain de Botton’s description of him and his life work. I wasn’t so sure!
The three things that stood out for me were:
His thorough advice on how to write a novel (over the top!)
His views on Christianity – he was strong (ruthless) in his opposition – I wondered how his views would be received today
His ‘Slave Morality’ and ‘Master Morality’
On the third point we read an article written for Psychology Today that considered those views from the point of view of US politics (Democrats and Republicans) but I could see how they could reflect most left and right views of politics today. Here is a LINK for that article. It made for good and lively discussion.
Friedrich Nietzsche was born in October 1844 in Rocken, located near Leipzig in Germany. He is the subject for next week’s two discussion groups in my local U3A Group. In preparing my research I came across the following advice from Nietzsche on how to write a novel! Was he serious? I will fill you in on our discussions after the classes next Wednesday!
This is how hard one should try to write a novel: The recipe for becoming a good novelist … is easy to give, but to carry it out presupposes qualities one is accustomed to overlook when one says ‘I do not have enough talent.’ One has only to make a hundred or so sketches for novels, none longer than two pages but of such distinctness that every word in them is necessary; one should write down anecdotes every day until one has learnt how to give them the most pregnant and effective form; one should be tireless in collecting and describing human types and characters; one should above all relate things to others and listen to others relate, keeping one’s eyes and ears open for the effect produced on those present, one should travel like a landscape painter or costume designer … one should, finally, reflect on the motives of human actions, disdain no signpost for instruction about them and be a collector of these things by day and night. One should continue in this many-sided exercise for some ten years; what is then created in the workshop … will be fit to go out into the world.
de Botton, Alain. The Consolations of Philosophy (pp. 216-217). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.
Arthur Schopenhauer was born in 1788 in Danzig, Germany. He was the topic of two philosophy discussion groups that met today. We have been reading a book called The Consolations of Philosophy, written by Alain de Botton and published by Penguin.
Group members were on the whole of the view that he was a miserable man who had nothing to offer for us in consolation of any kind. A few of us (me included) disagreed. It is difficult to get to the core of the man in a two hour session. His thesis, The World as Will and Representation was hailed as a masterpiece (not at first but later in his lifetime).
He certainly paints a dark view of life full of pessimism however I felt a sense of fellowship with him. I have known some dark times in my life and it is as though he could put my experience into words. He also emphasised the strength of our will to live in that the survival of our species depends upon it.
I can’t do justice to the complexity of the man but I do know that he certainly got our group members fired up about some of the things he said and his attitude toward women (not good)!
One of the female members of the group suggested he may have had more success with women if he had a better hair cut.
The two discussions on philosophy on Wednesday were very interesting and enjoyable.
The quote below provoked a lot of debate. It wasn’t difficult to see that the impact of humans on nature has often been detrimental. But then nature can be fierce and destructive too. We agreed that the advances in knowledge and application of science can enable us to have a more positive impact on our environment.
A lot of our discussion was about how ‘down to earth’ Montaigne seemed and that made him likeable. Even though he was rich, educated and talented (and wise) he wrote about life in a way that anyone can relate to what he said. His references to bodily functions surprised and amused us – we still sometimes feel uncomfortable with subjects such as flatulence and sexual anxieties today but he didn’t hold back!
Montaigne had travelled quite a bit and put a good case about withholding judgement on the differences we encounter in different countries and their customs. That had us talking about ‘culture shock’ and the fear that can arise when suddenly faced with a culture we don’t understand. He made us realise that what is normal for us may be very strange to someone in another setting.
Tomorrow our two U3A Philosophy Groups will be exploring Montaigne. I must say it has been challenging trying to pin him down as to what he is about. A little more reading led me to see that he is a Sceptic (Skeptic) and so that explains things a little.
Another interesting aspect about him is that even though he is rich and of noble birth he speaks plainly about everyday things. One can almost feel like he is a friend.
In one of the articles I read they suggested that he could be the world’s first blogger! Now that got my attention! I can understand why though. He, in his Essays, writes about whatever is on his mind in an interesting and entertaining style. Incidentally, I checked on Amazon and was able to purchase The Complete Essays on Kindle for $1.03!
Anyway, I will write some more about Montaigne after our two classes tomorrow!
Today our U3A Group looked at Lucius Annaeus Seneca. He was born in 4BC and died in 65AD. He was a Roman Philosopher known for his Stoic philosophy. He was also a Statesman and Magistrate. Stoics get their name from Stoa (below) where they met and discussed their ideas. The dictionary definition of Stoicism is ‘An Ancient Greek School of Philosophy which taught that it is wise to remain indifferent to changes of fortune and to pleasure and pain.’ Seneca wrote his philosophy in Latin and therefore it was more accessible to the Romans as up to that point it was all recorded in Greek.
Seneca suggests that we best endure those frustrations we can anticipate and also for the frustrations in life that we weren’t expecting and cannot understand. We noted that much of his philosophy is similar to what we know of as the Serenity Prayer (God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference).
We looked at some of his quotes and discussed what we thought he meant. We speculated about the last part of the quote below as perhaps an early reference to euthanasia. We didn’t come to any great conclusions but we enjoyed the mental stimulation and each others’ company!
Surely peace of mind and a clear conscience are well worth pursuing. After all, our level of happiness is only increased for a little while with the acquisition of new purchases and possessions. It is only a matter of time when our happiness level returns to where it was in the first place.
Epicurus was a Greek philosopher born in February 341 BC. A great deal of what he wrote has not survived. His philosophy was to acquire a happy and tranquil life, free from worry and absence of pain.
His School, named The Garden has the distinction of being the first philosophical Greek school to admit women.
The basis of his beliefs can be summed as:
Don’t fear god
Don’t worry about death
What is good is easy to get, and
What is terrible is easy to endure.
Our group found lots to discuss about the above four points – particularly the last two. For example, what does he mean by “good” and how “easy” is it really? We found it hard to get our heads around the suggestion that terrible things/circumstances etc. are EASY to endure.
One of my personal favourite quotes from Epicurus is about the importance of friendship as seen in the quote below.
Of all the things which wisdom acquires to produce the blessedness of the complete life, for the greatest is the possession of friendship.
As part of our group last week we looked at some of Socrates quotes and discussed what we thought they meant.
I had no difficulty with the above quote. It immediately brought to mind relationships in crisis.The sense of devastation if you have been rejected and deprived of the object of your desire. Someone suggested that love and hate are two sides of the one coin and how easy it can be to flip from one to the other.
I was surprised that many members of our group had difficulty relating to these words. The other interesting aspect was how much difficulty people had with the word ‘hate’.
We might say we hate the summer or the cold etc. but to express and acknowledge hate towards another person is a different matter. I cannot think of anyone I hate. There are some politicians that would come close!
Another thought is that while we experience these emotions, with restraint, as long as they are not acted upon the damage caused will mostly be to ourselves.
Please feel free to disagree with me! One more Socrates quote tomorrow and then we move on to Epicurus!
Last Wednesday I held two classes (morning and afternoon) where we are studying six philosophers and guided by a book called Consolations of Philosophy by Alain De Botton (published by Penguin).
It was Socrates turn.
We talked about the importance of being aware of what is happening in our lives and the world around us. We could really relate to the idea of getting in a rut and working, eating and sleeping as is so often the case when you are in the workforce and paying a mortgage etc.
When we live like that we sometimes do things we don’t want to do; don’t find time for the things we do enjoy; take on board others’ demands on our time and energy; become distant to what is really important in our lives and find little satisfaction in life.
We saw that Socrates believed so strongly in his philosophy that he was prepared to die for it. It was interesting that some members of our group saw Socrates as a trouble maker in how he kept asking/testing the young men in Athens to show them how little they really knew.
He said he was the only wise person as he KNEW that he knew NOTHING!
We also talked about what wisdom really is and tried to think of someone wise. We struggled with that. We had lots of suggestions for the opposite!
I am not sure how long I have been blogging but it goes back a few years. I am at a turning point with it and not sure which way to turn.
I still enjoy being part of the blogging ‘family’ but feel like I would like to tear mine up and start afresh. When I first started my blog I used to wear my heart on my sleeve and share my deepest thoughts. Even though I am doing that just now, I have grown less comfortable with it.
I have stopped taking new photos to add to my archives and find I am using the old ones over and over again when I do post a blog. It gets a bit boring!
Perhaps it reflects the major changes in my life since I started the blog. At the time I was working full-time in a fairly stressful job and had a busy life. I have been retired for eight years now and once again have a busy life but doing things that I love to do.
My involvement with the University of the Third Age has added a new dimension to my life. Tomorrow my ‘Let’s Talk Philosophy’ group starts. I thought there may be half a dozen people interested but I have twenty-five people enrolled and I am nervous but excited about getting started.
Getting back to the blogging ‘rock bottom’ – I am happy to hear ideas as to how to reignite my enthusiasm or change direction. I am sure I am not the first person to reach this point in my blogging journey. All ideas are welcome!
Well I have had something to smile about this week. It is the first time in six years I have been able to have my three sons together in the one place at the one time! And yes, I was definitely smiling!
I have decided that “fanticipation” equals fear and anticipation. It is a little like when you are a child waiting for Santa to come. You are hopeful he will bring you what you desire however you are holding back a little just in case he gets it wrong.
I am not writing about Christmas here! I have been working on a project for over six months (as a volunteer for my local University of the Third Age, otherwise known as U3A).
We have purchased some new software to manage membership and enrolments and I have been on quite a learning curve. The “fanticipation” is occurring because we are due to go live online on Tuesday.
This week I found myself pondering when I can retire only to remember I already have! Voluntary work is great as an interest and also to keep the brain sharp. I have learned so much about project planning and data bases but I don’t think I have found my passion in this area.
However, given that I.T. is such a big issue for many (not all) mature age people, I am hoping I may be able to do a little to help bridge the gap in getting people to feel more confident about using computers online. I can get passionate about that! Once we have done this foundation year I am optimistic that next year will be easier going. I hope so!
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I find much more serenity in an isolated location. I love the feeling of being one of a few people – away from crowds and all that comes with them. These photos are from North Western Australia. I just love the red dirt and the contrasting colours of buildings and vehicles.
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A couple of days ago I noticed a flower on my new fuchsia plant (a gift from a friend) was about to unfold its petals. I decided to capture that moment. The next day it had transformed into a beautiful flower! Isn’t nature wonderful?
Today I was looking for a recipe for some savoury snacks and I pulled out an old folder of recipes handed to me by Mrs Marjorie Cronin. We had just bought her house in Belgrave Heights in 1980. I have kept them over the years but rarely looked at them until today. Most of the magazines were printed before World War 2 – in the 1930’s. I really loved the fashions as shown below! A window into a time long gone!
C’mon. Who are you kidding? “Young” is a lexical error, desperate denial, and a sign of ageism.
Say these two lovers are eighty-two.
They may have many qualities of youth
they may be elastic, enthusiastic
they may be childlike, childish, curious, wildish
trusty, busty, lusty, gusty
brainy, zany, frantic, romantic
yearning, burning, learning, earning
they may be healthy and flexible and fit
they may be monarchs of the internet
they may be smart, they may be fun
they may leave you for dead when they go for a run
bouncy, flouncy, insecure
they may have charisma, they may have allure
they may be beautiful beyond all norms
gorgeous and cuddly and bubbly with dreams
they may be cute
but here’s the truth
one thing they do not have
it’s gone, it’s done, it’s been replaced
and that is youth.
Billboard in Seoul that is intended (I presume) to combat ageism……