“Some kind of philosophy is a necessity to all but the most thoughtless, and in the absence of knowledge it is almost sure to be a silly philosophy. The result of this is that the human race becomes divided into rival groups of fanatics, each group firmly persuaded that its own brand of nonsense is sacred truth, while the other side’s is damnable heresy. (…)
Dogmatism is an enemy to peace, and an insuperable barrier to democracy. In the present age, at least as much as in former times, it is the greatest of the mental obstacles to human happiness. The demand for certainty is one which is natural to man, but it is nevertheless an intellectual vice. (…)
But so long as men are not trained to withhold judgement in the absence of evidence, they will be led astray by cocksure prophets, and it is likely that their leaders will be either ignorant fanatics or dishonest charlatans.”
Bertrand Russel – “Philosophy for Laymen” in Unpopular Essays (English Edition)
“We are now again in an epoch of wars of religion, but a religion is now called an ‘ideology’. At the moment, the Liberal philosophy is felt by many to be too tame and middle-aged: the idealistic young look for something with more bite in it, something which has a definite answer to all their questions, which calls for missionary activity and gives hope of a millennium brought about by conquest. (…)
Our confused and difficult world needs various things if it is to escape disaster, and among these one of the most necessary is that, in the nations which still uphold Liberal beliefs, these beliefs should be wholehearted and profound, not apologetic towards dogmatisms of the Right and of the Left, but deeply persuaded of the value of liberty, scientific freedom, and mutual forbearance.”
Bertrand Russel – “Philosophy and Politics” in Unpopular Essays (English Edition). First published in 1950.
So many of us feel depleted, drained, stressed out. Our beings flogged from within, our lives – our biggest gift – turned into empty chases. Pursuing a zillion things that we can grab and touch and display, but which aren’t real. We live in societies that prioritize task efficiency, competition, action, and the accumulation of stuff over family, over time with friends, music, celebration, inner peace, or the contemplation of beauty.
The spiritual, once a central component of daily life – that umbilical cord to the divine – has been all but banished, relegated to the periphery, exiled to the realm of the exotic, the archaic, and the ‘oppressive’. The daily recalibration of prayer has fallen from grace and with it we have fallen – literally – from grace. From the grace of communing with the universe and with each other, the grace of transcending and accessing our higher purpose. From peace and vitality.
We bet everything on the card of desire, sleepwalking through life in a state of sterile and destructive arousal, as if remote-controlled via our most basic reflexes and deprived of the light of transfiguration. Do not be fooled that we no longer worship. We do. We worship the idol of self – the crumbling ‘natural man’ – while cutting ourselves off from our spiritual potential – the human person inhabited by holiness, true love, generosity, and joy.
The unhappiness that brings.
And how freely available the healing can be.
P.S. For more (and better!) on our aimless restlessness, our addiction to illusion and distraction, and our loathing of Eden – take a listen here: https://entitledopinions.stanford.edu/fatidic-power-literature. An episode I stumbled upon today – no kidding – after writing this blog. There are very few coincidences in life.
When the road to change seems full of roadblocks, adopt a different perspective.
Just like a photographer circling his subject to find her best side, just like a writer looking for the revelation of something strikingly original and true, to reach awareness, look at things from a different angle. Ask the right questions.
Sometimes we are so wrapped up in what we want to become, that we forget who we want to become – or even who we are and why we are here.
I think the who is much more important than the what. Who is the subject, what is the object. Do we really want to be objects? (And yes, you see, grammar does help later in life…)
What you are is a label glued on your exterior, a tag on a product up for sale, a business card, a title that is yours today and might become somebody else’s tomorrow. Who you are is personal and true, it is in-depth and unique. It is that distinctive, non-interchangeable combination of traits and values which gives you authenticity, direction, a purpose on the planet, and which nobody can take away from you.
Too obsessed with the what you no longer have time for the who-s around you. Drowning in your self-centered or job-related cognitive processes, you no longer have resources for empathy and giving.
To find meaning, sometimes all it takes is to change the angle and ask the right questions.