The Philosophy discussion group that I facilitate considered Confucius last week. Who would have thought that the topic would be so relevant – the 70th anniversary of Communism in China and the unrest in Hong Kong?
Some of the comments that came out of the discussion included: ‘Confucius spoke of unity but what we see in China today is uniformity’; ‘it is so difficult to examine an Eastern Philosophy when we (in the group) all grew up in Western democracies and can only try to consider Confucius’ (and China’s) ideas from a distance’ :
An article written (Why is Confucius Still Relevant Today?) for the National Geographic in 2015 interviews writer Michael Schuman, author of Confucius and the World He Created shone some recent light on where Confucianism sits with modern China. I did find him to have quite set ideas though.
Over the past week I became quite distressed at issues happening throughout the world and I know I am not alone. I have been looking hard for the positives but today I came to see I am powerless to change anything. I think I need to detach and let go … I found the quote below this evening and thought it to be relevant.
Sometimes surrender means giving up trying to understand and becoming comfortable with not knowing.
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!
Lately I keep catching myself thinking about some unpleasant things from the past (I am sure we all have them). The other day I objectively looked at it and realised that my thoughts were 40 years in the past! I keep reminding myself to look forward and not backwards. Even better if I can spend my time in the present moment.
Last Semester I ran a course for U3A called Retired:Now What? As part of that course we looked at unhelpful thinking styles by looking at and thinking about a resource I found online. Click HERE for a link to the site and for more information.
I identified that recently I am personalising anything and everything and thinking it is my fault. I sometimes joke to friends about the extremes I take this to – e.g. conflict in the Middle East!
The point is that I have identified this recent pattern and can be on the alert when these unhelpful thoughts invade my thinking and choose to think differently!
How can I recapture the enthusiasm I once had to make a difference in the world? Have I changed and become complacent with my good fortune. I remember times when I was younger when I really believed in something – I put all my energies towards making a difference. Perhaps I was idealistic.
Today I have the time and the resources to do something worthwhile but cannot seem to capture the passion I used to have. I seem to have an excuse for every idea I come up with. A lot of it has to do with my lack of trust that my effort will meet its desired outcome.
There is no less need in the world today than when I was younger. I find it hard to trust charities and fear that my contributions may evaporate in keeping the Western administration afloat.
I have a strong belief that literacy is important in achieving equality in our society. I have trained as a tutor however there hasn’t been any demand of late for my tutoring.
I am supportive of the rights of Indigenous Australians but what can I do there to make a difference? The issues are very complex and I risk being a white ‘do-gooder’.
The current refugee crisis calls out for our help. How can we be of help without just contributing financially? (and considering my lack of trust in charities …). I can sign online petitions and I do that when I can.
I also see many people in our community at, or around retirement age, with many skills and lifetime experience who would welcome the opportunity to do something constructive with their time and skills. How can we harness this resource for the better of our community?
Lots of questions but not many answers. Maybe I kid myself and just think of these issues but am really complacent in my comfortable space. If only I could reignite some passion to make a difference in our world!
It has been an interesting year in dealing with purchases and repairs.
1. Washer/dryer was four years old and stopped working properly. Fortunately I had an extended warranty and was given a full refund and then purchased a new washer and dryer.
2. Vacuum cleaner stopped working – out of warranty. I rang the interstate company for advice and they were able to tell me how to reset its computer settings (on a vacuum cleaner?) and it worked. Happy customer.
3. Ordered a bed in October. The company failed to deliver on time. They kept getting my order confused. Last week they rang to say it arrived but later rang to say it was the wrong size. New one coming tomorrow. Paid the balance today only to discover the store had totally misunderstood what I wanted.
We could go back to base and start again – no, that had no appeal. I could ask for my money back, but that didn’t appeal either. I could have argued the point – surely I am the most qualified to know what I ordered (the manager had no concept of the customer always being right!)
I agreed to take the alternative bed and it should be delivered on Wednesday. I wonder how I could have dealt with this better. Any suggestions?
Some days I worry about what might go wrong and then I remember that I cannot control everything around me. Even when I plan everything perfectly there is usually something that can throw me off course. When I remind myself of the limits on what I can control, I am able to let go, be more relaxed, and go with the flow.
Today I spoke with two people with situations way beyond their control. The first person is a man I met for the first time. He told me about his adult daughter suffering a serious illness and her need to move permanently to the other side of the country to receive specialist medical treatment. The outlook is not good. I commented that sometimes life doesn’t turn out like we expect it to.
About an hour later I was talking to a business owner and asked if she was ready for the busy tourist season nearly upon us. She told me how a critical part of equipment has broken down and is unable to be fixed in time to reap the rewards of the tourist season. It will have a major impact on the viability of her business. She was close to tears as she shared this with me. Once again I commented about life not turning out as we expect it to.
I was moved by these two people and the honest sharing of their personal experiences. It also reminded me to be grateful and not to stress when life doesn’t follow my own personal script.