Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: philosophy Page 1 of 6

Love & Friendship by Allan Bloom

Love & Friendship book cover on the top shelf almost out of my reach.

Love & Friendship by Allan Bloom called to me from the top shelf of my TBR pile. It’s just the kind of book I need right now, a long and intellectual treatise type of book on sex and relationships.

Snug in the middle of a stack of books far over my head, I didn’t have the patience to go get a step ladder to reach it. Instead, I stood on my tippy toes and pulled a few books off the stack with my fingers outstretched while my husband watched from his office chair.

I could hear his thoughts as I struggled, “Should I get up and help her? No…let’s see what happens.”

I didn’t drop them, not even a single one. So, there! I thought I would. Several times the thought of pausing a moment and getting some kind of help did cross my mind. But what can I say? I’m childish and impatient in most things, so I kept reaching and pulling books down a couple at a time until I got to the book I wanted.

This one is going to be fun. I read Allan Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind, at the beginning of our homeschool career fifteen years ago. Seeing the author’s name is what made me grab this one out of the free book pile back in December and add it to my TBR shelf to read this year.

Looking for a new book to read this week, my eye was immediately drawn to Love & Friendship because it’s a subject I’ve been agonizing a lot over the past couple of years. The past few weeks of having an empty nest have brought it even more to the forefront of my mind.

Once I had the book in my hand, I flipped it over for a bit more information. Is this the book I need to read right now?

“Allan Bloom argues that we live in a world where love and friendship are withering away. Science and moralism have reduced eros to sex. Individualism and egalitarianism have turned romantic relationships into contractual matters. Images of sexuality surround us, but we are unable to deal with the hopes and risks of intimacy.”

Yep. That sounds exactly what I need to be reading right now.

I read the introduction this morning and realize this will be a slower read than usual. My competitive spirit made me hesitate for a moment. If I read this, I may not read anything else this month. My number of books/pages will go down.

Screw statistics! This is where I need to be.

“Isolation, a sense of lack of profound contact with other human beings, seems to be the disease of our time.”

This was published in 1993, ladies and gentleman. Thirty years later, are we any closer to a solution or are we moving further from the sense of intimate community we once created to help us move out of the world of animals?

I’m looking forward to reading this in depth, but I’m also worried that it will depress me further to dwell on how far away from the ideal we have traveled. I’ve spent my adult life attempting to create a better world (in my home and personal relationships) for the people around me. I continue to try to make that circle a little larger, a little more intimate and emotionally close. Is anyone else out there making these efforts?

Have you read any of Allan Bloom’s work? Have you read Love & Friendship? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Finding Balance in the Study of Eastern and Western Philosophy

Eastern and Western philosophy quote from the book on a desert background.
The first of many gems I found in this book, even though it wasn’t what I expected.

“Underlying all Western modes of analysis is a very strong rationalistic tendency – an assumption that everything can be accounted for.”

The Art of Happiness by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M.D.

I can’t be the only one that is thinking that the study of Eastern and Western Philosophy may be a way to bring the chaos of modern civilization into balance. If each of us could spend time considering ways to live more peacefully, the mood of even social media may change for the better.

When I read the quote above, I imagined a bean-counter sitting at his desk picking apart a human consciousness. This is related to this. That is caused by that. Hmm… You can see the animation play out, can’t you?

Some would read this and think, “Yeah, those dumb Western thinkers! Always thinking they can reason their way out of everything, control the outcomes. Not everything has a rational explanation!”

And not everything can, or should be, controlled.

Modern thinking has supposedly thrown out superstitious and spiritual “woo-woo” reasons for what happens in the physical world. In my opinion, it seems we’ve simply replaced it with something far more dangerous, the worship of the state. Voting seems to give government supernatural abilities that are unlimited in scope. We need not worry, think, or reason for ourselves because every few years we vote for someone else to do that for us.

But that’s not what this book is about, or what I came to talk about. It’s just what leaked through my brain as I thought about the quote.

There’s a lot of good that has come from that bend toward rational accountability in Western thought. Christian teaching tells us that God gave us the earth to take care of.

“Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 

Matthew 6:26

Taking the reins of life on earth is a big job for humanity. It’s a huge responsibility. The forces of life on earth are great. What if we could control and guide them? What could we accomplish if we drove them instead of rode them?

Unfortunately, it’s not always possible…enter chaos, right? That’s where Eastern thought, and Buddhism specifically, is helping me personally. Could it help all of humanity, like in a balance way, two halves of a whole finally coming together in the modern era?

I think so. Reading this book has only confirmed some of my suspicions about Eastern and Western philosophy and now I want to know more. My Western culture has taught me ambition, responsibility, and reasoning. Can Eastern culture teach me acceptance and peace about the chaos outside?

I’ve been curious about Buddhism and Eastern thought for years and I think it’s about time I spent some serious study in it. I’m still looking for good sources, so if you know of any you’ve had experience with, let me know in the comments.

You can find The Art of Happiness at Thriftbooks. If you read it, let me know what you think!

I posted about this book when I started reading it back in December, New Read: The Art of Happiness

If you’re interested in my monthly reading newsletter, where I describe all my juicy immediate afterthoughts of the books I read, along with various other hilarious tidbits, subscribe by signing up for it on my Autobibliography page!

Where Did Our Words for Love Go?

words for love quote from book on a desert background

“The first step to take is to become aware that love is an art, just as living is an art; if we want to learn how to love we must proceed in the same way we have to proceed if we want to learn any other art, say music, painting, carpentry, or the art of medicine or engineering.”

The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm

Let me start by saying, as I did in my monthly “What in the World is She Reading” newsletter, that I got so much out of this little book and I’m still processing it. I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says. Some of it was a bit to “far out” for me. But, wow, there was a lot of usable material here. I know…I promised only to post a few pieces per book but this one is going to be hard to narrow down. I took so many notes!

Do you consider love something you work at doing well?

Or is it something that you “fall into” and passionately experience?

Fromm believes they are two different things and I think I agree. There is that immediate attraction to another human that is based on hormones, pheromones, and instinct. And then there is the higher cerebral order that humans are capable of, that of actively loving people. I think we confuse the two, and debase or idolize one or the other, on a regular basis.

Like Fromm, I believe we should be putting more of our energy into cultivating the art of love.

What’s crazy is that we have to define what we mean by “love” since we don’t have separate words for different kinds. Why is that? Why do we lump so many different ideas into one word and then expect everyone around us to know what we’re talking about? Doesn’t that create chaos?

I say to my children, my husband, by friend, the kid that makes my sandwich just right, “I love you!” That’s crazy. What happened? Where did our words go?

If you’d like to read more of my thoughts on the book, “The Art of Loving,” check out the following links.
We Cannot Give What We Do Not Have
Learning to Concentrate by Being Alone
How to Parent by Respecting the Individual
Can More Faith in Yourself Lead to More Faith in Others?

You can find “The Art of Loving” by Erich Fromm at Thriftbooks.com.

Have you read this book? If so, leave me a comment. I’d love to hear what you think.


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The Agony of Decisions – A Short Story

I feel like my soul is split in half! “Split in half.” That’s a joke; more like splintered into a thousand pieces.

‘Hurry up!’ she says. Yeah, right. That’s just what I need. If I lift a foot to hurry my pace, I feel like I’ll become uprooted by the wind and blow across the desert like a tumbleweed. These decisions can’t be made lightly. I need time to think.

Why does everyone have to bombard me with their advice? It’s like an invasive weed in my heart. Here I am, on my hands and knees, pulling out the weeds on one side, while they sow seeds on the other and I’m watering it all with my tears.

What can I do? Speak my mind and risk being ostracized by everyone I know, or worse? Should I remain silent and watch as the situation deteriorates? It’s better to say something now and stop the snowball before it gathers more material and crushes everything, right?

But what if it would have stopped on its own? What if the sun comes out hot and melts it all away before it ever gains momentum? What if I’m wrong and should simply keep my mouth shut?

I’m torn. “Splintered” is a good word for the feeling. There aren’t two ways to go. There are thousands of choices to consider.

Back to my principles, that’s what I should consider. What are my core principles? What is my ultimate goal? What is it that drives me?

The Stoics say to live and die by a prescribed set of principles, and that’s what I feel like I’ve been doing. It was easy until now. Live well so that death is welcomed. Be honest so that people trust you. Don’t let negative emotions overwhelm your judgement and rule your life.

But here I am, stuck with a life or death decision. Is everyone waiting for my answer? Will my choice to voice my opinion influence others? What’s next? Will there be a line of people outside my virtual door waiting to hear my advice, set their own dreams aside, and follow my brilliant assessment of the situation?

I doubt that.

It could be worse. Once I take a stand, I could be ridiculed, thrown out of society, tossed out alone into the cold to fend for myself forever.

“Screw them!” That’s what I want to say, how I wish I could feel. My opinions are mine alone. They don’t have to agree with me, but they do have to respect that I have the right to make my own judgment about things that directly affect me.

But then I start to cow. Sometimes my need to belong to the group trumps my personal convictions about what is “right.” I need friends more than I need to be right. It makes me sick.

Here she comes again. “And what will you be having for dessert tonight?”

I shift in my seat, take a deep breath and make the bold statement I’ve been agonizing over for the last ten minutes, “To hell with the calories! I’ll have the chocolate cake.”

Sunday Thought

Something I’m working on.

Struggling Thru Pain

Photo by Almos Bechtold on Unsplash

You know what?

There is no lifestyle or choice you can make that will bring you a life with no pain or struggle.

Life is pain and struggle.

We all work through it our own way. Cry. Scream. Rage. Isolate yourself. Do whatever you need to do to ease it as it passes through.

And then get up and keep going.

Watch for the sparks of joy and happiness along the way. Blow them into tinder and watch them dance in the flames for a bit.

The pain will come back again, but so will the joy.

You’re Making It So Hard

I’m struggling today. I’m not sure if it’s the crushing feeling of (virtual) bullshit all around me or that I’m simply not feeling well. My head hurts and I feel a little dizzy. I just want to eat something tasty.

I’ve decided to rest today and not go through my regular housework routine. Maybe I’ll read more, take a nap, and write something. At the moment all I can think to write is that I disagree. With what? Just about everyone it seems.

Wandering through the house, from the livingroom where my son is studying, to the bedroom office where my husband is working, I stopped in front of my TBR shelf. Maybe I’ll start a new book. I pick one up and thumb through the pages only to have my eyes stop on and read:

“Suppose we find that despite our attempts to prevent anger, the behavior of other people succeeds in angering us. It will help us to overcome our anger, says Seneca, if we remind ourselves that our behavior also angers other people: ‘We are bad men living among bad men, and only one thing can calm us – we must agree to go easy on one another.’”

Some would say God left that message, the universe intervened, or the spirits moved to direct my hands. But me? Coincidence. I buy books I know will help my thinking. I reached for the Stoics because I needed peace. I wanted grounding and looked to my thinkers for help.

I’m trying to be patient. I’m trying to understand and have compassion. But everyone is making it so hard.

Speak. Because You Have Something to Add.

You guys!

It’s so important to live out loud and honestly.

Speak.

Tell your stories. Show your pictures.

Share your ideas, your thinking, and your passions.

You may never get positive feedback. You may never gain followers or an income. It may feel like no one is ever listening or learning from you.

But they are.

Someone is out there and they need to hear you, whether they know it or not.

Complete Out of the Box – No Accessories Needed to Play

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Photo by Robbin Wong on Unsplash

You know how some toys are kind of boring if you just buy one part and so you have to keep buying accessories? The car, the clothes, the house, the spouse, the kids, the career. It just goes on and on.

There are video games like that too. Sure, you can download it and play for free, but you only get two levels and then you have to pay to upgrade. You play more but now you see that you have to buy a couple extras, charms that help you rack up the points and levels faster.

Humans aren’t like that at all. We’re a whole, functioning human being right from birth. We do need a bit of extra care at first, but we learn and grow quickly with good support and before you know it, we’re out in the world on our own, doing our thing whatever that is.

But lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of people that look like they are searching for their missing piece. They wander from job to job, adventure to adventure, and relationship to relationship, never really getting anything from the experience and lamenting that the whole thing even happened while they transition to the next. They proclaim loudly that they won’t give up, they’ll find that career, place, or person that will complete them and make their lives better. That job wasn’t right for me. This place doesn’t have what I need. This person didn’t give me their all and left, so they suck.

I don’t think you need any of that to be complete. You do have the power inside you to live on your own terms, for your own ends.

Every time we start a new job, try out a new location, or enter into a new relationship, we could be learning more about ourselves and the world around us. We could be using that information to make our lives more interesting and more comfortable for ourselves and for those around us. It doesn’t matter what the job is or how long the relationship lasts. It doesn’t matter what kind of a relationship you have: long or short term, purely sexual or platonic. It doesn’t matter if you buy a house and live there for ten years or rent out a basement and live there for three months. It doesn’t matter if you go to college right out of high school, wait until you’re 45, or ever go at all.

What does matter?

It matters that we learn something about ourselves and that we connect with other humans in as many ways as possible, that we live every day no matter what’s going on.

The Stoics have a decent idea, “Memento Mori.” Remember, we die. We don’t live forever and (as far as we know) we only have one life. We need to stop wasting time.

Nothing is a waste of time if you learn something from the experience. That one night stand you had with that hot babe you met? Not a waste of time if you enjoyed it and look back on the moment fondly. That two years you spent at an expensive university, only to drop out and work at an amusement park? Not a waste of time or money. You gained experience, you met people, and you had fun in ways you never knew existed. And money? You can always make more. Money was created to spend. And what about that “failed” marriage? Did it “fail?” Or did it just serve its purpose and now you’re both moving on to something else? That job you spent five years at and then switched careers gave you fresh insight about your abilities and a set of skills that you can use anywhere.

What exactly do we think we’re working toward? What are we stockpiling for the future? What will we do with all of this shit we’ve accumulated? We’ll die. That’s it. And all your stuff will be redistributed.

So why not stop working toward anything and just enjoy what you have? If you don’t like the job you are in, find another one. If you don’t like the area you live in, move. If you don’t like the relationship you’re in, move on. Stop collecting things and start experiencing things. If you have no friends or family to experience it with, do it alone! Maybe you’d find it more fun or fulfilling if you had someone to share it with? Then blog about it and post pictures on Instagram! Or start dating…anyone, right off OKCupid! Or join a club online or in person!

You are a complete package all by yourself. You don’t need anything to start living and experiencing the world around you. Just live, damn it! Why not?

Bloom Where You’re…Tossed?

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This plant was unceremoniously dug up and tossed in a pile this past winter. I’m planning on replanting the porch area with several different kinds of agaves. After the old plants were torn up and tossed aside, I gathered them up and took them out to the back garden dump hole I have going. That was back in early February.

Today, while continuing the ongoing saga of backyard weed control, I found those dumped aloe plants… blooming! Some plants just don’t know when to give up.

Some plants are hardier than others. Most, if uprooted in the dead of winter, would just die right away, but these have evolved to store up lots of energy for use when things get bad.

Some humans are hardier than others too. Unlike plants, we aren’t necessarily at the mercy of our genes. We can learn coping mechanisms and strategies to buck up and be stronger, to grow anyway despite our current circumstances.

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