Choose

It’s hard to face the fact that the time we exist on earth will not enable us to do all the things that we may want to do. For some of us, perhaps this is the case, but for most of us, there are many various things which we would like to do with our lives yet do not have time for, or we just aren’t able to do them because of the packed and full lives we already lead. This is not easy accept, yet it is a reality which must be faced. Life is not short, it is long compared to a lot of animals, and we do have time to dedicate ourselves to certain vocations. It just depends on what those things are. Recognising that we will not be able to do everything we would have hoped to will allow us to realistically and rationally decide what it is that we are going to do with our life. Decide what it is you want to do, then, if you can, do what it takes to get where you want. If we all wanted something bad enough, we could get there and attain our goal. It’s not really about the brevity of time, it’s about the use of that time. If there’s something out there which you have consciously and determinedly decided to pursue, all that’s left to do is to pursue it. If you believe that pursuit is truly worthwhile, very little will stop you. If you can’t do it because of little things such as wanting more sleep or watching more TV, then you don’t really want it. First and foremost, people get where they are because that is they wanted. It all depends on what you want, and how much you want it.

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Ludwig Feuerbach: The Essence of Religion Pt.3

Feuerbach counters the argument that the preservation of the world and of mankind is some act of God which accords with his will. He says that nature has little care for single individuals-‘thousands of them are sacrificed without hesitation or repentance in the plenty of Nature’. This argument calls upon the existence of evil, especially natural evil, to present Nature’s merciless nature. Furthermore, since Nature does not care for us, and does not provide for us as we would like, Feuerbach says that at this point people turn to God ‘whose eye shines upon me just where Nature’s light is extinguished.’ When things are not going our way and nature can provide no help, it is then that we turn to God. Feuerbach also claims that God owes his existence to two things: fear and hope. It is these two feelings that rule our imagination of the future, and so we may find ourselves believing in God because of our fear and hope of the future since it is these two that sway most of our decisions.

Feuerbach argues that the existence of God stems from man’s desire to be like God: unlimited, self-sufficient, always good, immortal. God and humanity have the same rules of life, only that God has no exceptions or limitations, which is what we desire to have, and if we worship him, then we can be like that too-‘the Deity is the destruction of the deficiencies and weaknesses in man which are the very causes of the exceptions’.

In the final part, Pt.4, the thought of Ludwig Feuerbach in The Essence of Religion will be concluded.

Ludwig Feuerbach: The Essence of Religion Pt.2

Feuerbach writes about humanity and its relation to nature, saying that what we are as humans, God is also, just not ‘fallen’ like ourselves. We are rational, therefore God must be, and we separate ourselves from nature, so God must be separate too. He writes that one should be ‘courageous and consistent enough to give up God altogether, and to appeal only to pure, naked, godless nature as to the last basis of your existence’ because God, Feuerbach argues, only exists in our mind.

Another line of argument Feuerbach goes down is the idea of teleology, and the way that the world was designed is magnificent and clearly intellectual. He combats this, saying that due to the fact that humans have an intellect, ‘the unintentional effects of Nature appear to him in the light of his intellect as intentional ones, as ends and purposes.’ Nature is full of accidents, but due to our intellect, we perceive and interpret these accidents as purposeful. Moreover, Feuerbach uses the example of a bird to argue that the flight of birds is not founded on art or intellect. He believes that the view that thinking birds must have been designed and detailed by an intellect with intention is absurd. He says that ‘a bird cannot fly otherwise than it does, nor is it at liberty not to fly; it must fly.’ From this point Feuerbach then writes that it is our intellect that causes theoretical problems, and so what appears to be deeply intellectual and defined is, for nature done without any intellect or any difficulty caused by the intellect.

In Pt.3, further arguments by Feuerbach will be put forth.

Overcoming our hindering tendencies

We don’t tend to think about death very often, and it is rarely at the front of our minds when going about our daily life. The main reason for this may be that the majority of places in society have no concern for death, and some do not want any mention of death near their businesses, since a reminder of such a reality may eventually cripple their business. Anyhow, it is not uncommon to forget that one day we will all cease to exist, on earth at least. Moreover, forgetting about or failing to acknowledge death for a great length of time may be one humanity’s hindering tendencies. Forgetting about death for a long time may lead us to subconsciously act as if we were to live forever-as if we will always be able to watch another show on Netflix, to buy another and newer phone, and to keep wasting hours on Facebook and Instagram feeds which tell us nothing other than others appear to be enjoying themselves more than oneself, even if this is to the contrary. We must, perhaps once a day, ponder and embrace the thought that our time is limited, as is the time of others. Perhaps if we thought about death a little more often, we would be able to start doing or achieving what we really desire to get out of this limited and singular life of ours.

Another great human tendency which appears to be hinder us is the tendency to laziness and the avoidance of suffering. It is easy to be lazy, not to do anything, and to be ‘easy-going’, but there is one truth which we must accept: nothing worthwhile can be achieved without hard work. If we want to achieve something we really desire and that is worthwhile, there will have to be sacrifice. Sacrifice hurts at first, but it is worth it. Again, if we resisted the temptation to laziness, the extent of creation and achievement that could be reaped in a lifetime would be multiplied many times over. Moreover, it seems that hard work brings fulfilment, whereas laziness does not. If we think more about death, we may also find ourselves becoming less and less lazy, since we know and recognise our limited lifespan. Ultimately, it is up to you. It may be, though, that death is the most helpful tool in living a more fulfilled life, until we die, of course, but by then, if we have completed what we set out to do, it won’t matter, because we will have been fulfilled.

 

The Power of Art

Art is many things. It can inspire, comfort, transform. Art enables man to transform his essence. Christian Morgenstern said that ‘in every work of art, the artist himself is present’ and I believe this to be true. In the music of Mozart we are able to gain an insight into the intense feelings, doubts and frustrations of a musical genius, in the paintings of van Gogh we are thrown into a world of madness, pain and, again, majestic skill. At times, art can satisfactorily express emotions which words cannot.

Through art, Mozart, Bach, da Vinci, Ovid, Homer, and numerous other writers, musicians, poets and painters, became immortal. Although they were all inevitably destined for death, they were able to live forever, not in body or mind, but in spirit. Each person’s art allows a glimpse of that persons life. Not only does art satisfy and gratify the spectators, but it also satisfies the creators themselves. Art, it seems, is created because of some dissatisfaction or some feeling of emptiness that can only be filled by something creative. Many writers have expressed some belief of this sort, saying that ‘art never comes from happiness’ (Chuck Palahniuk) or ‘art is to console those who are broken by life’ (van Gogh). Art can, if we allow, assume a form of catharsis. To the artist himself, art is a means to expressing the inexpressible, to the spectator, art indicates that the feelings of loneliness, doubt, fear,  inadequacy, anxiety, and depression are not exclusive to the spectator alone, and that art can be used to channel these feelings. As Thomas Merton said, ‘art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.’

We live in a society full of art. Music is available at a few clicks of a button, is played in supermarkets, restaurants, in transport, and in many other public and private spaces. Moreover, paintings are widely available to view and poetry and writings are at hand in many, many places. We have, thankfully, recognised its importance and its benefit to mankind. For art may be, at times, the only thing that keeps a man sane.

Aristotle and Friendship

In book VIII of his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle discusses friendship.

Friendship, Aristotle writes, is ‘one of the most indispensable requirements of life.’ We would not, he goes on to say, choose to live a life without friendship, even if we had everything else that was good. Friendship, then, is for Aristotle, one of the greatest, if not the greatest, resources for mankind.

Aristotle defines friendship and divides it into three separate groups: friendship of utility, friendship of pleasure, and friendship of virtue.

Friendship of utility is defined as a friendship in which the two people are involved in the friendship due to the benefits they receive from it. Friendship of pleasure is defined as a friendship in which the two people are friends because of the pleasure one accrues for oneself. Aristotle would say that these two friendships are not ideal friendships, and that they seem to be fundamentally selfish.

Friendship of virtue, however, which is for Aristotle the ‘perfect form of friendship’, is ‘that between the good, and those who resemble each other in virtue.’ This kind of friendship, in contrast to the other two, lasts longer because it is not selfish, but because the people ‘wish the good of their friends for their friends’ sake.’

There is so much that could be said about this subject, but there are perhaps some key things to take from a book worth reading:

Friendship is an act of giving, rather than an act of taking, as is also viewed today, but it appears that friendship is much more important to Aristotle than we might first think. Friendships are for Aristotle equal, and just. In an individualist society today, we tend to pursue our own interests and goals, and we allow others to chase their own interests also, even though we may at times feel that they may not be making the right choices. For Aristotle, the emphasis is community, and rather than working for oneself, we should be working for each other. This may be much easier said than done, but, if we try, with Aristotle’s view on the ‘true’ form of friendship (friendship of virtue), we may become more of a giver, rather than a taker, and may eventually find more satisfaction because not only might we form deeper, more meaningful relationships with others, we may find ourselves reaching a greater understanding of both ourselves and of others.

 

What is real?

Are we dreaming? Does the world we live in even exist? Do I exist? These are questions that have been grabbled with for thousands of years, and yet we still have no definite answers. The question ‘Do I exist?’ was best answered by Descartes when saying ‘cogito ergo sum’. However, there are still no satisfactory answers, it seems, to the question of whether anything outside of our minds is real.

There are many things which may make life seem real, especially when we compare our ‘real’ life to that of our own dreams. Our dreams tend to be disordered, random, and unpredictable. The conscious world is much more orderly and understandable than the murky depths of the unconscious. Maybe there is no world outside our minds, but even if there wasn’t, it probably wouldn’t change much. We cannot not live in this world unless we die. Of course, we don’t have to ‘die’ in the most fundamental sense. We can kill ourselves without really dying, and in today’s world this seems particularly applicable. How much of our time do we spend in the ‘real’ world? Was there once a real world which is no longer really accessible to us? We spend so much time watching other worlds, reading about other worlds, dreaming of other worlds, and creating other worlds that it is hard to decipher what is real and what is not. Is social media real? Or is it a virtual reality, a fake? We exist in this world, but are we living in it? Perhaps we have become too detached from what is real-nature and other people-that we have lost a sense of reality. Even if the world outside our minds isn’t real and other people and nature doesn’t really exist, it doesn’t matter, because they exist to us, and they are the most real thing we could ever experience.

If we want to live again, we must come back to reality, whatever that is. It may not be possible to say what reality is, only what it is not.

Addiction and human nature

Addiction is most commonly associated with the category of drugs. But what if we all had different addictions, to different drugs? I’m not saying that we’re all secretly addicted to heroin or ketamine, because although we put these kind of substances in the group of ‘drugs’ that people take, there may be more and more drugs than we think. Are we all addicts?

Is there something which you need to get you through the day? Must you have coffee in the morning, or TV late at night? Are the Facebook and Instagram feeds your form of relief to make the day bearable? Do you have to read some of a novel to help you get work done? I’m sure everyone has some form of relief they use to get them through life. I may be wrong, but then again…

Addiction may not just be something to do with illegal or legal ‘substances’. In fact, addiction may be all around. The question is whether we are all addicted to something, something which makes the day bearable. This does not mean that addiction is wrong. What it does tell us is a key insight into human nature. If we really do need certain things to pull us through life, what is our natural state? If we are addicts, in one form or another, what is the norm without such things? It is hard to think that the state of humanity is anything but a dissatisfied one. It seems that boredom is natural to man, and that ‘happiness’, or ‘satisfaction’, is not the norm. Perhaps it is, and I am wrong, but throughout life today, the widespread use of social media, the excess of consumption in the form of clothes to the form of television seems to prove my point. We fill our lives with distractions because we are not satisfied.

It was Arthur Schopenhauer who proposed that life is a pendulum swinging ‘backward and forward between pain and boredom.’ When we are in pain, we fill it with things to relieve the pain, but after a while, we become bored of this. This is, according to Schopenhauer, how life works. Even if this is true, we must not despair. In one of my previous posts, ‘why suffering can be good’, I wrote about the usefulness of pain. Although at first we may want to immediately sedate the pain, this may not be the right choice, since it is only through suffering that we can grow as people and evolve. The most worthwhile of things are the products of hard work, sacrifice and suffering. Concluding that we are addicts at nature may help us realise two things:

  1. That it is not primarily our fault for our addictive nature-it is just the world we live in.
  2. Addiction is a way of dealing with boredom and pain. There are many various ways of dealing with this dissatisfaction, some better than others.

Rather than turning to heroine, binge-watching of television or social media feeds, we can, as Alain de Botton wrote, ‘turn pain into knowledge.’