#ThoughtExperiment – ‘Intellectual Consumerism’ OR how being ‘well read’ doesn’t necessarily count for anything

Disclaimer: you are more than enough

One for my fellow bookworms and knowledge junkies…

Considering the times you live in
You’ve been able to take in far more, and far ‘better’ information than the likes of Marcus Aurelius, Jesus, Buddha, Pythagoras, Einstein (etc.)
You’ve been able to read more ‘great’ books
(…and maybe more ‘not great’ books)
You’ve been able to access nearly unlimited culture and art through the wonders of the information superhighway
Learn about almost anything you want
Look up more information than you could ever consume for your entire life.

Yet,
On an intellectual or philosophical level
You have not necessarily made ‘better use’ of this information than these people.
(…though I probably don’t know you and even if I did, this would *not* be a judgement on how you have chosen to spend your entirely unique existence).

Anyway
What I am getting at here is this:
Perhaps reading more is not the solution,
Nor reading better
(…both of which can be seen as a type of intellectual consumerism also predicated on the idea of you not being enough).

Perhaps the solution is what you make of this information
These books you read
Conversations you have
Artworks you scrutinise.

black and white art photo
Photo by BarbaraALane (Pixabay)

After all, what you think about
Will determine what you do
And thus the trajectory of your life.

So,
Could you find alleviation for the human condition
Standing in a check out line?
Or utter profundity in an episode of Jersey Shaw?
Maybe – I’m sure some people have
Was it Bodhidharma who found enlightenment staring at a wall?
(…no sacred books, 7 day meditation retreats, dogma, gurus or online bootcamps required).

Ensuring that you expose yourself to the ‘right’ stuff is relatively easy
So, I suppose the question is how do you make ‘more’ of what you are exposed to?
That I don’t know.
This is the big mystery.

Of course, it doesn’t matter anyway, unless you want it to.

#Idea – Memento Iuvenalis / Remember Your Youth / 12.01.17

When you see an elderly person
Or anyone struggling with (…or against?) the inevitable march of time
You could see an opportunity to remember your common humanity
And to share the burden of the human condition.

You could see as a chance to remember that,
As carbon based life – we were given these amazing but fragile bodies
Prone to errors in repair and replication
And quickly breaking down

This is neither good, nor bad – it just is.

And so, this person in front of you is an opportunity
To remember that we are all dying together
…although this particular person is probably closer to the end point than you are
And probably feeling the pull more than you are.

And, no matter how well he’s taking it
(…we do hope he’s taking it well)
Maybe he can teach you something by his example
Perhaps to treasure your youth whilst you have it
No matter how old you are.

elderly black and white photo
Photo by Anne Worner

When I look at an ‘old person’
Dealing with what appears to be this slow catastrophe
This thing we call ageing
I can’t help but feel some admiration.

I watch him weathering the storm;
Unwinding telomeres
Failing strength
Fading memory.
But there he is
Still going
And I can’t help thinking;
That’ll be me one day, if something else doesn’t get me first
Maybe I can learn something through his example

‘Youth’ as an idea is slippery slope
Such a relative concept
I remember some acquaintances from when I was 11
(…those a little too old to be properly called my friends)
Men, I suppose, in their early 20s who seemed so old, strong, distinguished, unknowable
Now I am 29, these fresh faced 22 year olds
Worry me with their youth and their inexperience
They affect me with the things they have already done with their short lives
What they might yet do.

I look at them with a sense of loss that I can’t help but feel
I lament the hours I feel that I wasted when I was their age
They too, in their own and very unintentional way, are a memento:
I’m 29 – not old exactly ‘old’,
But there they are all the same
Being many years my junior

And with them is a sense of the abrasive nature of time
Wearing away at my body and my psyche
A little voice in my head
Telling me that I need to ‘get on with it’.

young people black and white photo

Problem is, I don’t really know what ‘it’ is
And so I suppose this age gap
Reminds me to examine the trajectory my life is taking
By looking at back at how I got here
What I was doing then.

It’s more than a little neurotic, no doubt about it.

Hell,
Maybe when I’m 80,
I’ll be looking back on those spry 60 year olds in much the same way
Or maybe I’ll be dead
Who knows.

‘Age’, is almost a synonym for ‘youth’
And just prone to the same amount of relativity
Someone once proclaimed that ‘you are as old as you feel’
That person was probably not a decade older than 70
(…though I may be wrong).

So,
What is age but a reminder?
Whether you look forward or backwards
In this way everybody; older or younger, could be seen as a memento mori
A memento of life;
What you had
Or
What’s left of it
No matter how much is left of it.

elderly laughing black and white photo
Photo by .through my eyes.

We should cherish the elderly
Frail;
Living, breathing
(…sometimes barely breathing at that )
Reminders:

“Memento Iuvenalis”:
Remember your youth
No matter how old you are

Cover image credit: KasunChamara

#Idea – The Epiphany Usually Comes Later / 03.03.17

Whatever you are currently experiencing
(…no matter how good, or how bad)
May be the basis of a future epiphany.
(…or it may not).

Put another way, everything is valuable because when you later reflect upon it, it could change your life.
You only get to find out later.

As in everything; your future is unknowable.
And this too will pass.

#Idea – The Signal To Noise Ratio Is Getting Worse / 01.03.17

The amount of information we are exposed to continues to increase
But the amount of meaning we can make from this information
Hasn’t necessarily increased along with it.

And so
You could say that
As time goes on
When it comes to The Human Condition
(…or ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’)
That the signal to noise ratio is in decline.

#Idea – On people who try to convert others

Religious proselytism may come from a good place
In the sense that you believe you can help/save people by signing them up to your belief system
But at its core – it is fundamentally arrogant
To think that you have the answer to what is arguably the most important question
And that everybody else is wrong
That everybody needs your help

And, get this
Even if you don’t make a conscious effort to convert people
And you still hold this belief inside you
Well
This belief takes up space where some spiritual humility could be
Because, as with everything
You could be right, and you could be wrong…

 

Photo by zbigphotography (1M+ views)

#Idea – Remember this when you are truly and hopelessly depressed 

Do you get really, really unhappy sometimes?

I do. And I’m not afraid to talk about it

Because not talking about it is a problem. Don’t be afraid to talk about it, OK? People are there to listen. People are there for you. You don’t have to go through it alone.
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Anyway – when deeply unhappy, there is at least one thing that you can take comfort in.
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Remember that, when you come out of the other side (and you will), you will be better able to help those who will, one day, endure their own version of what you’re now going through.
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You can use even the worst of your depression as a way to deepen your empathy and your compassion for others.
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It doesn’t necessarily make it easier to deal with, but it often imparts some meaning into what can feel like a needlessly painful experience.
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I like to remind myself that I am going to take this stupid anguish, or pain, or suffering – or whatever – and I am going to use it to build real meaningful bridges with other human beings.
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Put another way: I don’t know what your hell is like, but from the perspective of my hell I can be there for you.
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And that, in a manner of speaking, can make it all worthwhile.
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“When you are going through Hell, keep going…”Winston Churchill

Photo by onur hurgel