Nothing is straightforward,
Everything is a messy mix
blended in swirling clouds—
Those who can redraw the world
with sharp, angular boundaries
are the masters of self-deception:
for all deception is self-deception.
What's a Self? ...a soul? ...a set of neuronal activity? ...an illusion? ...a ghost in a machine? ...the body, the brain, & the whole enchilada? Memories can be false, and some always are. Thoughts can be illusory, and some always are. Feelings can be flighty & fickle, and some always are. If one loses a little toe, is one a diminished self, or still whole? What about if one loses a pinky toe-sized mass of brain? So many possibilities: ...death, ...changed personality, ...emotionlessness, ...speech pathologies, ...blindness, ...memory loss, ...coma, ...no discernable change, and so on. What's a Self? ...a dog? ...an embryo? ...an AI? ...an extraterrestrial? What is a self? Am I a self?
To survive in this world you have to be many times a coward but at least once a hero.Adam Johnson, The Orphan Master’s son
The metaphysical assumptions upon which you want to build your life cannot be an inherited duty.Patrick levy, Sadhus
It is true that if there were no phenomena which were independent of all but a manageably small set of conditions, Physics would be impossible.Eugene wigner, the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences
I feel about literature what Grant did about war. He hated it. I hate literature. I’m not a literary West Pointer; I do not love a literary man as a literary man, as a minister of the pulpit loves other ministers because they are ministers: it is a means to an end, that is all there is to it.Walt whitman, as quoted in Yone Noguchi’s the spirit of japanese poetry
Know that all the sects in existence are a way to Hell.Nichiren, as quoted by yone Noguchi in the spirit of japanese poetry
It is so easy to convert others. It is so difficult to convert oneself.oscar wilde, the critic as artist
If you meet at a dinner a man who has spent his life in educating himself — a rare type in our time, I admit, but still one occasionally to be met with — you rise from the table richer, and conscious that a high ideal has for a moment touched and sanctified your days. But Oh! my dear Ernest, to sit next to a man who has spent his life trying to educate others! What a dreadful experience it is!Oscar wilde, tHE CRITIC AS ARTIST
skyscrapers rise & fall storms hit & wither waves crash & recede nature neither blesses nor curses, despite the constant counting of its boons & banes; its bonanzas & broken bones one who can feel grateful in the face of ignorance & imperfection is free one who feels suffering in the absence of perfect comfort will never know freedom such a one as that imprisons himself in a cycle of imagining & coveting a perfection that has never existed
Diamondless Diamonds? Sounds like Daoist doublespeak or a crazy Zen koan. But, it's that which has imaginary value, but not real value. Much of what human hands reach for or produce (& which human minds obsess upon) are diamondless diamonds. People stare at them with covetous eyes, but when those eyes saccade away there's no reason to believe the diamondless diamond still exists. Eyes covet what the mind knows to have no particular worth. Diamondless Diamonds may change the world for moments at a time, but then are gone - and instantly forgotten.
A timeless time will come to be, when all is uniform. And nothing 's hot & nothing 's cold, but all is just lukewarm. So thank your lucky stars you've lived in this age of bedlam: when stars can shine and buildings rise and we've cerebellums.
If you’re looking to attain Enlightenment, you may have turned to someone like the Buddha or Epictetus for inspiration. But I’m here to tell you, if you can put these four pieces of Shakespearean wisdom into practice, you’ll have all you need to uplift your mind.
There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.william Shakespeare, Hamlet
Through Yoga, practitioners learn to cultivate their inner “dispassionate witness.” In our daily lives, we’re constantly attaching value judgements and labels to everything with which we come into contact (not to mention the things that we merely imagine.) As a result, we tend to see the world not as it is, but in an illusory form.
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.William shakespeare, julius caesar
In Psychology class, you may remember learning about the self-serving bias, a warped way of seeing the world in which one attributes difficulties and failures to external factors, while attributing successes and other positive outcomes to one’s own winning characteristics. Like Brutus, we need to learn to stop thinking of our experience of life as the sum of external events foisted upon us, and to realize that our experience is rooted in our minds and how we perceive and react to events.
The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.william shakespeare, as you like it
A quote from Hamlet also conveys the idea, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” If you grasp this idea, you may become both humbler and more readily capable of discarding bad ideas in favor of good. It’s common to want to think of yourself as a master, but this leads only to arrogance and to being overly attached to ineffective ideas. Be like Socrates.
Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once.william shakespeare, julius caesar
Fears and anxieties lead people into lopsided calculations in which a risky decision is rated all downside. Those who see the world this way may end up living a milquetoast existence that’s loaded with regrets. No one is saying one should ignore all risks and always throw caution to the wind, but our emotions make better servants than masters. One needs to realize that giving into one’s anxieties has a cost, and that that cost should be weighed against what one will get out of an experience.
There it is: Enlightenment in four bits of Shakespearean wisdom.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
In this book length essay, Syfret proposes that the reader reconsider the much-maligned philosophy of Nietzsche, arguing not only that it needn’t lead one into a dreary morass of gloomy thinking, but that it might just help one live more in the now while escaping brutal cycles of self-punishment. She has her work cut out for her, but she doesn’t shy from the challenge. Much of what she discusses could just as easily be presented under the guise of the less melancholious brother school called Existentialism, but Syfret embraces the vilified term, at least it’s cheerier side, under the moniker “Sunny Nihilism.”
Nihilism proposes that there is no inherent “god-given” meaning to, or purpose of, life. There’s no god to create such meaning and purpose. This notion is accepted as a given by most scientifically-minded people today, but it still results in the occasional visceral dread. For cravers of meaning, the argument goes like this: at least some of life is suffering, why should I subject myself to suffering if there isn’t some grand purpose and plan.
The retort of many nihilists and existentialists goes, “You only feel that way because you’ve made mountains out of molehills through your obsession with meaning, purpose, and divine plans. The experience of being able to experience life is awesome, but you make the whole of life such a daunting prospect that anything that doesn’t turn out perfectly makes you angst-ridden. You worry far too much, and – what’s worse – you’re usually worried about the wrong things. You’re missing the freedom that comes from being able to choose for yourself what you value and to put your setbacks in perspective.”
The book also explores such related issues as: coping with the pandemic, millennial malaise, celebrity deification, and how technology and social media influence the light and the dark sides of nihilism.
I found the book to be thought-provoking, and I’d recommend it for anyone looking for a philosophy to help them live through the trials of our age.
View all my reviews
The other day I read that a man had pushed a person onto the tracks in front of an oncoming train. The week before that, I'd read in a book by Robin Ince that a person who -- having had a baby thrust into his hands -- has intrusive thoughts of throwing said baby out of the nearest window is [believe it, or not] the best person to ask to hold one's baby. The argument goes like this, the person having these intrusive thoughts is being intensely reminded by his or her unconscious mind that under no circumstances -- no matter what unexpected or unusual events should transpire -- is he to throw the baby out the window (or otherwise do anything injurious.) I've heard that, at some point, virtually everyone has some type of awkward intrusive thought such as the thought of pushing a stranger in front of a train. Most never do it, nor truly want to do it. Then this one time... someone did.
I saw something sad in the park this morning. A boy was trying to learn to ride a bicycle, but I could see that he never would — not with his present approach. Why? He had one training wheel, and the bike was leaning about 15-degrees off vertical as he struggled to use the bicycle as a tricycle. I could see that the metal arm that supported the training wheel was starting to bend from the strain — thus making the lean ever more pronounced. [Incidentally, with two training wheels, I think he might rapidly learn to ride because he’d experience tipping from one side to the other, through the balance point.]
I’ve told yoga students before that there are three timelines for learning inversions (upside-down postures, which all require one’s body to learn to balance 180-degrees out of phase with the balance we all mastered as toddlers.) The first timeline is if you are willing to learn break-falls (i.e. how to safely land when — not if, it will happen — one loses balance.) If so, one can learn any inversion (that one is otherwise physically capable of performing) in an afternoon. Second, if one gets near (but not up against) a wall, and only uses the wall when one is falling towards over-rotation, then one can learn the inversion in a month — give or take. Finally, one can lean up against the wall for a million years and one will not spontaneously develop the capacity to independently do the posture. Why? Because one’s center of gravity is outside one’s body, which means one is in a perpetually unstable state, and one cannot stabilize into a balanced position from a state of falling (and leaning is just falling with a barrier in the way.)
Finding balance requires that the body be able to adjust toward any available direction to counteract the beginning of a fall in the opposite direction. I was fortunate to have studied a martial art that required learning break-falls from the outset, this made learning balances (not just inversions, but also arm balances, standing balances, etc.) much easier because there was no great concern about falling. I knew my body could fall without being injured.
Without falling there’s no learning balance, and if you only fall into the under-rotated position, you are still not learning to achieve stable balance. At some point, you will need to experience the dread fall towards over-rotation.
Time to ditch the training wheels.