Category Archives: Philosophy

Another inconvenient truth

Philosophers typically don’t talk much about Love.

And yet I feel it’s a topic we need a much more dedicated philosophical discourse about, because without it we are missing much of its power and potential.

Whether you think of Love as an emergent emotion, triggered by a particular set of physical/chemical/hormonal circumstances; or whether you consider Love to be the ground of all being, the commonest transcendent human value – it all bears some scrutiny and discussion.

It is clear that the overarching interpretation of Love in our culture is emotional. When we think of Love we are most likely thinking of EROS – romantic and sexual Love.

As a consequence, people talk about Love as only one part of our human experience. Some people pursue the notion that Love is an optional ingredient in a fulfilled life. Others cannot help but put Love right at the heart of every aspect of their experience, wanting to possess it and be validated by it and in it.  They might even become dependent upon it and addicted to it. Like a drug, it is viewed as an external temptation, an inconvenience, running counter to rational logic. It’s something that’s at best avoided, at worst sampled in moderation.

I have come to believe that having this limited, take-rather-than-give view of Love is driving us mad. And yet philosophy stays quiet on the subject. It doesn’t really help us out. And we need it to.

When we get emotional about Love, when we consider it as a personal condition or affliction, we also evoke other personal emotions that are akin to the fear of losing it or spoiling it. Jealousy, grief and anger rear their heads; closely followed by shame and guilt.

I intuitively feel that these are emotions generated by our egos, our personal thinking, that serves to keep us separate from danger and discomfort, but in actual fact over-actively menaces us with separation from our true selves.

Typically, the more we love, the more insecure we feel, as our egos plague us with all the scenarios where what we feel is wrong or might go wrong.

No wonder the philosophers don’t want to touch this state of mind with a barge pole. It is a muddled minefield of irrational passions.

So why can’t we admit that Love, as our ingenious language suggests, is something altogether more broad and less specific? Why do we resist the notion of Love as a value? Or at least as the most humane and human mode of treating ourselves and others?

The answer to these questions lie, I feel, in the fact that we’re too ready to let our egos run the show, and not well enough equipped to calm down our minds and allow ourselves to perceive our deeper truths. So to a logical mind it might seem sensible to allow a distressed baby to ‘cry it out’, whereas to the deep love of a mother this would be cruel and impossible: she could not stop herself from attempting to comfort the infant.

Our ego thinks it knows better. It tells us it knows better. It bombards us with Logic. But it doesn’t know Love. It holds itself separate from Love. It goads us with the dark side of Love, and tries to hold us separate from it too.

Meditative embodied practices help us to calm this part of our Mind. Journaling helps us bear witness to it, and provides us with the capacities to appreciate our underlying sense of Self.

The real inconvenient truth I suppose is that Love cannot be categorised. It is both an emotion and a deeper, broader truth and value.  And maybe this is the thing the philosophers struggle to wrap their ego around.

How do these manifestations of Love play out in your experience?

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Photo by Hope Blamire Artist

 

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October 25, 2018 · 12:50 pm

Time for self-authoring

My son has been helping me format The Journal Writer’s Handbook for publication on Amazon. Flicking through some of the exercises included in the book he remarked particularly on the ones called “Playing with Metaphor”; “Taking Responsibility”; “Hidden Voices”, and “Absolute Truths”.

These are themes and explorations he has been enjoying through the work of Dr Jordan Peterson, the guy who is taking the young male adult world by storm with his relentless intellectual honesty and dedication to individual self-improvement, through self-authoring, the study of mythological archetypes, and his tirade against the identity politics of post-modern neo-Marxism (Guardian readers look away now).

His recent interview by Cathy Newman on Channel 4 news may be the only thing you’ve seen by him. If so you’re missing a treasure trove of mind-boggling polymathic research and psychological commentary by Dr Peterson on youtube and his own website.

Personally I celebrate Jordan Peterson’s ability to engage such an impenetrable audience as 20 year old men. Even more I applaud his recommendations to use reflective writing as a great tool for self-improvement, and for setting oneself up with integrity and discipline.

When I first wrote The Journal Writer’s Handbook five years ago I had no idea who Professor Peterson was. Now I’m delighted to listen to him. More so because it’s my son that introduced me.

 

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Filed under Current Affairs, Philosophy, Psychology, Uncategorized

Deepening conversations

Yesterday I had the privilege to attend a lecture given by poet-philosopher David Whyte at the Ashmolean Museum. I’ve been dimly aware of Whyte’s work for a number of years, but my interest intensified last April during a poetry retreat on Iona in the Scottish Hebrides.

Sure enough, and true to the Law of Attraction, having ignited my awareness, I then began ‘seeing’ David everywhere. When the ad popped up on my Facebook feed about the talk he was giving in Oxford I made my reservation immediately.

For three whole hours yesterday afternoon I was caught in a spell of contemplation and appreciation. Conversations are fundamentally the way we engage in the world, and with ourselves, so learning how to deepen them, and how to interrupt the same old narratives of our lives which don’t always serve us, was the most wonderful gift for a chilly Friday in January.

David’s new book is titled “A Timeless Way: The Art and Practice of Deepening Conversations”. Although not yet ready for publication he explained that it sets out six steps to effect change in our existing conversations – and hence in our experience.

Three hours was not enough to go through every step. But we were able to explore the power of just a couple of them – interspersed with and enhanced by David’s resonant, insistent poetry recitals and profound, amusing stories. It was a wonderful and nourishing experience.

The practice of conversing with ourselves is of course one which we undertake in our journals. However, the quality of the conversation we maintain may not always be of service to us. We all fall into the trap of repeating thoughts and beliefs which persuade us that we, and the world, are a certain way, denying ourselves the creative certainty of living a different kind of life.

David’s work gives us a template to shift and deepen our perceptions and our understanding, gently challenging us to consider what are the conversations we need to stop having, and what is our relationship to the unknown.

As I learned yesterday, turning our sincere attention to these questions for even a short time initiates a collective easing open of hearts and minds. The effect was both palpable and magical.

David Whyte’s Timeless Way

Sincere thanks to Paul and Marie of The Beyond Partnership for facilitating the event.

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Filed under Philosophy, Poetry, Reflection, review, Uncategorized