Posts Tagged ‘philosophy’

Transitioning from a grab for knowledge to reflecting on knowledge

July 25, 2016

For many years a was in a sort of land grab. But it wasn’t land that I was gobbling up, it was knowledge. I wanted to have as many check-marks on my resume as possible: I’ve mastered this, this, and this.

Recently there has been a shift. I no longer feel the need to gobble up knowledge. Time to slow down and smell the flowers. It’s time to reflect on what I’ve learned. I want to sit in awe of the big ideas, I want to be immersed in their profundity. I want to see how it all fits together.

I am transitioning from technology to philosophy. I think it’s a good progression.

The power of a beautiful question

April 10, 2016

The thing about the past is it’s not the past. It’s right in this room, in this conversation.

As a child, I had powerful experiences with poetry, where I felt literally abducted (taken away) by poetry; just like a hawk had come down and taken me away in its claws and carried me off.

I remember reading poetry as a child and thinking: this is language written by adults who have not forgotten the primary visions and insights of childhood.

I left science (as a Naturalist in the Galapagos Islands) and went back into poetry because I felt like scientific language wasn’t precise enough to describe the experiences I had in Galapagos. Science rightly is always trying to remove the “I” but I was really interested in the way the “I” deepened the more you paid attention. In Galapagos I was in deeply attentive states, hour after hour watching animals and birds and landscapes. I began to realize that my identity depended not upon any beliefs I had – inherited beliefs or manufactured beliefs – but rather my identity actually depended on how much attention I paid to things other than myself. As my attention deepened, it broadened my own sense of presence. I began to realize that the only things that are real are at this frontier between what you think is you and what you think is not you. Whatever you desire of the world will not come to pass exactly as you like it. But at the same time, whatever the world desires of you will also not come to pass. What actually occurs is at this meeting, this frontier.

David Whyte (poet, philosopher)


I will strive to live the life of an artist

February 11, 2016

From this day forward I am an artist. At least, I will strive to live the life of an artist.

My interests revolve around reading, writing, working with data, and programming. Thus, my “canvas” will be my books, my words, data, and programs.

If I am not expressing and seeking beauty in my interests, then I am not living properly. The purpose of my life is to express and seek beauty …….. This is an astonishing insight for me.

I feel a great sense of relief and peace. Till this day I have approached life like a person swimming upstream: always striving to achieve something important, always fighting to rise the ladder, compete, excel. Approaching life from the perspective of an artist focused on expressing and seeking beauty … well, that makes a huge difference to me, in my mind and in my emotions.

The ability to profoundly impact a person’s life with a single handshake

January 24, 2016

Long ago, when I was in college I asked my Philosophy teacher, “Who is the most remarkable person you have ever met?” He responded, saying that it was a monk from a Christian monastic order. The monk spends eleven months each year in isolation, meditating and praying. One month of each year he goes out into the world, giving talks and meeting people. My Philosophy teacher said that when he shook the monk’s hand it was magical. “The monk shook my hand warmly, unhurriedly, and his gentle eyes focused on me as if to say that I was the most important person in the world. It moved me profoundly.” So profoundly, in fact, that my Philosophy teacher still remembered and treasured that single handshake ten years later.

Last Friday a friend relayed to me an encounter that similarly profoundly affected him. A few weeks ago my friend was at the airport, waiting for his flight when a person walked by. My friend turned to his son and asked, “Isn’t that Bernie Sanders?” His son looked and said “No” but then looked again and said, “Yes, I think it is.” They were both still unsure if it was Sanders; after all, there wasn’t a large throng of reporters and security people surrounding him, as is characteristic of so many politicians. There were only two people accompanying him. My friend walked up to one of the accompanying people and asked, “Is that Bernie Sanders?” The fellow responded “Yes” so my friend walked up to Sanders and shook his hand. My friend said that when he shook Sander’s hand, it had the same impact that my Philosophy teacher described in his encounter with the monk. My friend told me, “There was something unique about how Sanders shook my hand and warmly, unhurriedly, greeted me. I immediately sensed that this is someone special. It was an experience that deeply touched me.”

In 2016 a billion hours will be wasted watching a screen

January 3, 2016

A friend of mine recently informed me that he doesn’t watch much TV. And when he does, it is only if there is something on TV that he specifically wants to watch. He never turns on the TV, roaming the channels, looking for something to entertain him.

I thought about that and I agree with my friend’s philosophy. I don’t want to waste my life sitting mindlessly in front of a screen, seeking to be entertained.

Seth Godin wrote that in 2016: We’ll waste more than a billion hours staring at screens. (That’s in total, but for some people, it might feel like an individual number). I don’t want to contribute to that billion hours. My 2016 goal: I will only turn on TV when there is something that I specifically want to watch.

A sad commentary on today’s culture by philosopher Alan Watts

January 11, 2015

A sad commentary on our culture by philosopher Alan Watts (read the following words as you watch this fabulous video Human Culture – Alan Watts):

We want to get everything done as fast as possible.

We want to convert the rhythms and skills of work into cash, which indeed you can buy something with it but you can’t eat it.

We rush home to get away from work and begin the real business of life, to enjoy ourselves.

For the vast majority of American families, what seems to be the real point of life – what you rush home to get to – is to watch an electronic reproduction of life (TV). You can’t touch it, it doesn’t smell, and it has no taste.

You might think that people getting home to the real point of life in a robust, material culture would go home to a colossal banquet or a riot of music and dancing. But nothing of the kind.

It turns out to be this purely passive contemplation of a twittering screen.

You see mile after mile of darkened houses, with that little electronic screen flickering in the room. Everybody isolated, watching this thing. And thus in no real communion with each other, at all.

This isolation of people into a private world of their own is really the creation of a mindless crowd.

And so we don’t get with each other, except for public expressions of getting rid of our hostility like football or prize fighting.

Even in the spectacles on sees on this television, it’s preferable and proper to exhibit people slugging and slaying each other. But not people loving each other.

One can only draw the conclusion, the assumption underlying this is that expressions involving physical love are far more dangerous than expressions of physical hatred.

It seems to me that a culture that has this sort of assumption is basically crazy and is devoted, unintentionally, not to survival but to the actual destruction of life.

Common sense is not common

June 29, 2014

. . . common sense is, as a matter of fact, nothing more than layers of preconceived notions stored in our memories and emotions for the most part before age eighteen. –Albert Einstein

Our common sense, or world view, is not “common” to all people. It is shaped by the culture we inhabit. It is like a pair of glasses few of us ever manage to take off, so of course we see confirmation everywhere we look.

Much of Western intellectual tradition has been inherited from the Greeks. Our science and philosophy in particular are shot through with beliefs and opinions and forms of speech that were once explicit doctrines of Plato, Aristotle, and the like, but have come to be embedded anonymously in the fabric of our thought. Of this embedded material perhaps the most fundamental is logic, the standard by which we judge reasoning to be “correct”.

Is logic itself “correct”? Some Eastern philosophers would call it “ignorance”. I use logic all the time in mathematics, and it seems to yield “correct” results, but in mathematics “correct” by and large means “logical”, so I’m back where I started. I can’t defend logic because I can’t remove my glasses.

Richard J. Trudeau, Introduction to Graph Theory


By sheer will power I will survive

May 4, 2014

The below picture shows a person making a herculean effort. For me, the picture symbolizes a great deal. It symbolizes indomitable willpower. It symbolizes passion. It symbolizes that no matter what obstables life may throw at me, I will, by sheer willpower, survive. When an obstacle confronts me, I will grit my teeth, summon all my strength and passion, and I will overcome. So it is more than merely a picture of a person exercising; it is a symbol for life itself.