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Posts Tagged ‘Philosophy’



“They are all in the same category, both those who are afflicted with fickleness, boredom and a ceaseless change of purpose, and who always yearn for what they left behind, and those who just yawn from apathy. There are those too who toss around like insomniacs, and keep changing their position until they find rest through sheer weariness. They keep altering the condition of their lives, and eventually stick to that one in which they are trapped not by weariness with further change but by old age which is too sluggish for novelty. There are those too who suffer not from moral steadfastness but from inertia, and so lack the fickleness to live as they wish, and just live as they have begun. In fact there are innumerable characteristics of the malady, but one effect – dissatisfaction with oneself. This arises from mental instability and from fearful and unfulfilled desires, when men do not dare or do not achieve all they long for, and all they grasp at is hope: they are always unbalanced and fickle, an inevitable consequence of living in suspense. They struggle to gain their prayers by every path, and they teach and force themselves to do dishonourable and difficult things; and when their efforts are unrewarded the fruitless disgrace tortures them, and they regret not the wickedness but the frustration of their desires. Then they are gripped by repentance for their attempt and fear of trying again, and they are undermined by the restlessness of a mind that can discover no outlet, because they can neither control nor obey their desires, by the dithering of life that cannot see its way ahead, and by the lethargy of a soul stagnating amid its abandoned hopes.”

― Seneca, On the Shortness of Life



I was reading an article that referenced the essay De Brevitate Vitae ( On the Shortness of Life) from the Stoic philosopher Seneca that written sometime around 49 AD. The passage above really struck me because it seemed to describe the dissatisfaction so many people have with their lives and the actions that result from this.

I can’t quite put my finger on it but it feels like the underlying current of what we’re seeing take place these days in this country. I have tried to discern what the desired outcome for the insurrectionists is or what drove them to act as a violent mob and I keep coming up with blanks.

What do they want?

They are not the downtrodden nor poor. They are not voiceless or without political power. There’s a high probability that most of them have livelihoods and assets that place them well above that of the average American. They are not trying to gain rights for themselves or others that have been denied. They are not fighting injustice.

And if they succeed, they have no plans for a future. Certainly not a future that will be in any way better.

All they have is anger and dissatisfaction with their lot in life. As entitled and privileged as they are, their lives lack purpose, lack meaning. It is a spoiled and bored existence, devoid of real consequences for bad behavior and fortified by the highs and unreality of video games and action flicks combined with conspiratorial bravado and cosplay costuming.

And that’s a recipe for disaster. 

This is just an observation this morning. Like I said, I am not sure I have a finger on what really is behind it. I am just trying to understand it so that I can begin to make sense of what I am seeing.

Still not there.

Here’s a topical song, Unsatisfied, a favorite of mine from The Replacements and their great 1984 album Let It Be.

Be careful out there and have a good day.



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“To those human beings who are of any concern to me I wish suffering, desolation, sickness, ill-treatment, indignities—I wish that they should not remain unfamiliar with profound self-contempt, the torture of self-mistrust, the wretchedness of the vanquished: I have no pity for them, because I wish them the only thing that can prove today whether one is worth anything or not—that one endures.”

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power


I paused a little bit before using this quote from Nietzsche this morning. The use of anything from a philosopher whose work, and the book from which this excerpt has been taken, had been appropriated and distorted to justify their own ends , by the Nazis is a little risky, especially in this time of rising authoritarianism here and around the world. For many of us, just the title, The Will to Power, immediately conjures up imagery of invading Nazis goose-stepping through conquered cities in their quest for more and more power.

People naturally assume that that the power to which he is referring is ultimate power, ruling power to be  exercised over others. That is how the Hitler and his ilk interpreted it. But Nietzsche was talking about two separate forms of power which are expressed in German as the words Kraft and Macht. Kraft refers to brute force, both physical and mental, while Macht refers to true power. Kraft is the animal force, that primal element that is possessed in all of us. Macht, on the other hand, is the power to control one’s own kraft and use it in positive ways.

Macht is the overcoming and controlling of the kraft within us.

And that’s where we are now. We have two elements within this nation, one who see the power of this nation as pure animal power, and another who recognizes our power– our kraft— but understands that it cannot solely guide our actions and future. It is unsustainable. History shows that clearly. 

So, the question is how do we emerge from this? Do we have the fortitude to endure this tug of war between these two concepts?

Though I have my doubts on some days, in the long run I think we do have the ability to endure, actually.

And as Nietzsche expresses above, perhaps this struggle is just what we need to really move forward. Maybe we need some real hardship and suffering to understand the responsibility of our power. Maybe we need it to finally recognize that we must at some point sacrifice something of ourselves to a greater good, that our bounty does not come without a price.

Many of us have never had real hardship. I am not talking about normal loss and suffering that comes with being a human being. I am talking about widespread hurt that runs through the nation and touches most every citizen. Most of us have never had to sacrifice much for anyone.

Maybe we need the hurt and the humbling. While nobody wants to willingly take on great suffering, there are lessons to be learned from it. Perhaps that one can overcome and endure great hardship is the greatest of these. That and allowing more of us to develop a greater sense of empathy with those who continue to suffer around us.

Maybe we need to simply learn that we can endure.

Maybe then we can cross the divide between us and work together for some greater good.

Let’s hope, okay? 

Hey, here’s some old Canned Heat from about 50 years back with a fitting message for any time. It’s Let’s Work Together. Now, have a good day.


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GC Myers--Phronesis Phronesis… involves not only the ability to decide how to achieve a certain end, but also the ability to reflect upon and determine good ends consistent with the aim of living well overall.

— Aristotle

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This is a new painting, 8″ by 14″ on paper, that I am calling Phronesis.   It’s a Greek word that the philosopher Aristotle used to differentiate practical wisdom from theoretical philosophy.  Phronesis involves putting gained wisdom into rational, measured action, not merely reflecting upon it.  It is the ability to determine where one wants to be– physically, mentally and spiritually– at a future point and how to achieve that goal.  Phronesis employs  theoretical wisdom  and puts it into rational action.

That’s the five cent version of the concept.  And that’s what I see here.   In a calm fashion, the Red Tree has determined its course, which is to be in unity with a greater universal power or spirit, represented here by the breaking sun and the layers of color in the sky.  It has already recognized the universal truths and is now trying to enact them, trying to become closer to the central truth.

It sounds much more complicated than it might really be. ‘Live lightly’ might just as easily get across what I struggle to say here.  That would probably fit the simple composition of this painting, that  spare elegance which draws me to this piece.  In itself, there is a sort of phronesis taking place, as its painting is an action that takes what little wisdom I have gained and allows me to move a step closer to that same goal shown in it.  Peace and light, really.

Well, enough said.

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