Humanities’ Search for Meaning

When I was leading a University of the Third Age (U3A) group about retirement (called Retired: Now What?) I was doing some online research on the topics I wanted to cover: how we use our time; meaning; purpose; relationships etc.

The Positive Psychology ‘movement’ (Martin Seligman PhD) has developed a model called PERMA. I was pretty excited about this formula that seemed to cover many aspects of life. PERMA is an acronym for: Positive emotions; Engagement; Relationships; Meaning; and Accomplishment.

I also came across an article of an interview where Viktor Frankl was asked how he felt about the success of his book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’. His answer was very telling. He said (paraphrased by me) he was alarmed that the topic hit a nerve with so many people and it emphasised how much we DO search for meaning.

This awareness (of the search for meaning) is one of life’s universal experiences even if we are not consciously aware of it. I don’t ever envisage waking up one day and finding the answers but I will continue to enjoy the journey and keep asking the questions.

consciousness

SO, guess what my next U3A course is going to be? It is a shift from looking at psychology to studying and discussing philosophy. I have been interested in philosophy for about fifteen years and read a few books on this very large topic! One in  particular is written by Alain De Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy, and published by Penguin Books. We will be using this book as the basis for the course. Here is an excerpt from the author’s website.

The Consolations of Philosophy

In Ancient Greece or Rome, philosophers were seen as natural authorities on the most pressing questions. However, since then, the idea of finding wisdom from philosophy has come to seem bizarre. Enter a university department today and ask to study wisdom, and you will politely but firmly be shown the door. The Consolations of Philosophy sets out to refute the notion that good philosophy must be irrelevant and gathers together six great philosophers who were convinced of the power of philosophical insight to work a practical effect on our lives.

Course starts on 18 July.

 

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Spare

Have you ever loved a book so much you bought a SPARE copy, just in case you lost the original? That’s what I did when I was at the Melbourne Airport on our way back to Perth a few weeks ago :-).

IMG_2014 (Copy)

 

For more information about the Weekly Photo Challenge press HERE

Something to think about …

consciousness

I was taken by a reading in my online philosophy class. It is as follows:

I have now reigned about fifty years in victory or peace, beloved by my subjects, dreaded by my enemies, and respected by my allies. Riches and honours, power and pleasure, have waited on my call, nor does any earthly blessing appear to have been wanting for my felicity. In this situation, I have diligently numbered the days of pure and genuine happiness which have befallen to my lot. They amount to fourteen: O man! Place not thy confidence in this present world.

Abd Er-Rahman III, who ruled Cordoba in Spain in the 10th Century

Now what do you make of that?

Life and Groceries

For many months I ordered my weekly grocery shopping online and had it delivered to my kitchen benchtop. For a number of reasons I returned to shopping in store.

It was interesting to note that I stopped purchasing many of the items that were on “my usuals” list online. Going back to the store meant more options and opportunities to change habits.

It occurred to me that life is a bit like that! I can get into a groove (rut) and follow the “my usuals” list of how I live my life day to day. I can get stuck doing the same things just because I have a narrow view of my options.

It is easy to just do the same things from week to week. However getting out and seeing what else the world has to offer can add a new flavour to our days.
September 2015 garden 004

Unity in Diversity

I came across a passage of study recently in one of my online Philosophy Works sessions and it really spoke to me. I will quote it below:

“There is one mind common to all individual men. Every man is an inlet to the same and to all of the same. He that at once is admitted to the right of reason is made a freeman of the whole estate. What Plato has taught, he may think; what a saint has felt, he may feel; what at any time has befallen any man, he can understand. He who hath access to this universal mind is a party to all that is or can be done … ”

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays

I think if I was to try to add to, or explain the quote I would not do it justice, so I will leave it for you to ponder :-).

consciousness

It will pass …

In my life there are times when I experience intense emotions – sometimes good and sometimes not. I am sure we all do.  I have found that the secret to riding out these emotions is to try to remember the following:

  • My emotions are not me – they are but a tool or instrument in my experience of life
  • They will pass. Sometimes it feels like an eternity but just like the tides, my feelings ebb and flow and are forever changing – and that is OK!

This too shall pass

Some wisdom about negative feelings …

Another gem from the School of Practical Philosophy: All negative feelings are the result of our habitual response to events and people who are not the way we want them to be.

I have been testing out the above quote on some real life situations and to date it is 100% correct.

Negative Feelings

An old friend once suggested that I became unhappy when life didn’t follow the script I had in my head. So true.

I need to be aware of this tendency and just acknowledge the negative feelings but not hook into them and then the feelings will not linger.

That has to be a good thing 🙂.

A holy man and a snake with a bad attitude.

I am enjoying some lessons with the School of Practical Philosophy online. The story below was provided for study.  Enjoy and see what you make of it :-).

    Once there was a snake with a rather bad attitude. The small village near where the snake lived was very fearful of this snake because he would strike without warning and devour its prey. It was known to eat hens, dogs, and even big animals like cows. However, what was most upsetting to the villagers was that the snake had begun to eat their children. The villagers gathered at the edge of the field, and with drumming and shouting, and sticks and stones, and made up their minds to find the snake and to kill it.

A holy man came upon this loud and angry crowd and asked, “What is all this commotion?” The villagers told him of the snake’s villainy. The holy man asked, “If I make this snake stop doing these evil deeds, will you spare his life?” The villagers reluctantly agreed to give the snake – and the holy man – one chance. The holy man entered the field and commanded the snake to come to him. “What issss it?” the snake hissed. The holy man’s words were simple: “Enough! There is no need for this. There is plenty of food without eating the villager’s children or their animals.” The holy man spoke with kindness and authority and the snake knew his words to be true. He nodded in agreement and slithered away.

It was not long before the villagers discovered that the snake would not harm them. They were grateful, but some of the villagers in their anger and hurt over what had been done, began to beat the snake with sticks and stones. The abuse continued until he couldn’t take no more and hid underneath a large rock, determined not to break its word to the holy man. But he said to himself, “Why is this happening to me? I followed the holy man’s words.” Soon the fearful snake was near death from the beatings and the lack of food.

One day, he heard the footsteps of the holy man and with his last bit of strength crawled out to meet him on the path. The holy man, seeing how terribly beaten and sickly the snake looked, asked, “What has happened to you?” The snake told the story of the beatings and torment and how for days it had hidden underneath a rock to protect itself.

The holy man stood silently shaking his head. “Oh, foolish snake,” he said. I told you not to bite but I did not tell you not to hiss.”  With this the snake understood and slithered away.

Source: I believe the story can be found in In the Land of Difficult People: 24 Timeless Tales Reveal How to Tame Beasts by Terrence L. GARGIULO, Gini Graham SCOTT. I am unsure of its origins.

The importance of friendship

Friendship

I once thought that the philosophy of Epicurus was all about the good things in life – fine dining, good wine and of course, good friends to share it with. I learnt that is not whole the picture. He teaches that we reach a certain level of happiness and satisfaction and then it levels out. For example, if I was to win $1m it would bring me a degree of happiness, however if I was to win $100m, it doesn’t equate that I would be 100 times happier.

The above quote emphasizes the importance of friendship. We can have all the material possessions in the world but without a friend (or many) to share it with, it could be a lonely experience. I know many people will say they would like to try that out but I think we already experience this on an everyday basis. Having a friend adds much more to our lives than money ever can.

So, I have been thinking about friendship and wondering if I am nurturing the relationships I have or if I take them for granted. Friendship doesn’t have to mean day-to-day contact, even though that is much easier today with social media. I would hope we all have friends that we can pick up the friendship where we left off after months or years of not seeing each other and it is just like we were never apart.

Even so, I will try to be little more aware of the people I call friends and hope they stay in my life long enough to be called old friends.