The Conquest of Happiness by Bertrand Russell (Part 3)

Affection. The feeling that you are loved helps to promote zest. A man could consider himself dreadful and that no one would love him. Or he just might be someone who nobody loves. A man could act friendly or kind in order to win friends. However, others might see through his motives. A man could seek revenge on the world if he is unloved. Such occurrences are rare as men would usually sink into timid despair. The fearless man will find life’s obstacles easier to navigate. Self-confidence is also closely linked to affection. This habit of mind is a source of zest. The affection you receive is the thing that provides a sense of security in life. A child who does not receive parental affection is likely to become timid. Not all affection encourages adventurousness. However, the care that parents give needs to support child growth and courage too. There is no need to be unduly possessive. Some men like timid women, because they can protect them. Affection and security are closed linked. If you are unable to enjoy sex love, it might deprive you of the joys that life has to offer. Men love women for their appearance, while women love men for their character. One can give two types of affection, one is a zest for life, the other is an expression of fear. You can give better love to others if you feel safe. There is also a form of insecure love. Insecure love means you tend to love someone for their services rendered, not for their intrinsic qualities. This is never wise to be in a one-way relationship. These are selfish people who tend to be very ambitious. Ambition which excludes affection does not lead to true happiness. Some people are scared to love for fear they might be made use of or hurt.

Those who face life with a feeling of security are much happier than those who face it with a feeling of insecurity, at any rate so long as their sense of security does not lead them to disaster. – Betrand Russell

Many people when they fall in love look for a little haven of refuge from the world, where they can be sure of being admired when they are not admirable, and praised when they are not praiseworthy. – Betrand Russell

To be unable to inspire sex love is a grave misfortune to any man or woman, since it deprives him or her of the greatest joys that life has to offer. – Betrand Russell

The best type of affection is reciprocally life-giving; each receives affection with joy and gives it without effort, and each finds the whole world more interesting in consequence of the existence of this reciprocal happiness. – Betrand Russell

Another form of affection is in which one person sucks the vitality of the other, one receives what the other gives, but gives almost nothing in return. – Betrand Russell

A too powerful ego is a prison from which a man must escape if he is to enjoy the world to the full. A capacity for genuine affection is one of the marks of the man who has escaped from this prison of self. – Betrand Russell

Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness. – Betrand Russell

The Family. The family is very disorganized. Interactions between parents and children tend to lead to unhappiness. Causes of family unhappiness are very diverse in nature. Women are now more career driven and there has been a decay of domestic service. In the past, it was frowned upon to be a spinster. Now, a spinster can live comfortably if she has a good education. There is a conflict between a good career and having kids. Some women hesitate on having kids as she might have to take a backseat in her career. The quality of domestic help may not be good too. Sometimes, it is not wise to entrust maids to take care of young children. There is a greater urban population in England now as compared to the rural population. Those who live in the city have to be content with a smaller house. If you raise a family, a small house is no good. If a man lives in the countryside, he will have to travel up and down to the city, which is tiring. In the past, even if the slaves hated their masters, the masters were still relatively happy. Parenthood becomes a lot more timid in modern society. If not done properly, the children’s affections can be over or under-stimulated. It is no wonder that birth rates have declined. The divines believed in having a lot of children. Very few people want to have children because they see it as a public duty. Parenthood is certainly capable of providing the greatest and most enduring happiness that life has to offer. I have found parenthood to be very rewarding and it has been able to provide one of the best forms of happiness. For those without kids, death ends all. With kids, you can have a legacy. We feel very safe when our parents love us. The parent should be pure at heart and should never desire power or control over a child. A parent must always respect a child’s personality. A parent’s respect for a child is absolutely crucial. If a woman feels she is not capable to take care of her children, she should outsource it to a domestic helper.

The change in the relation between parent and children is a particular example of the general spread of democracy. Parents are no longer sure of their rights as against their children; children no longer feel that they owe respect to their parents. – Betrand Russell

The most civilized are the most sterile; the least civilized are the most fertile; and between the two there is a continual gradation. – Betrand Russell

It is clear that a civilization which has this characteristic (of declining birth rates) is unstable; unless it can be induced to reproduce its numbers, it must sooner or later die out and give place to some other civilization in which the urge towards parenthood has retained enough strength to prevent the population from declining. – Betrand Russell

It is clear that the urge for the professional woman to have children must be very powerful, for otherwise none of them would make the sacrifices required in order to satisfy it. – Betrand Russell

To be happy in this world, especially when youth is past, it is necessary to feel oneself not merely an isolated individual whose day will soon be over, but part of the stream of life flowing on from the first germ to the remote and unknown future. – Betrand Russell

A man who is capable of some great and remarkable achievement which sets its stamp upon future ages may gratify this feeling through his work, but for men and women who have no exceptional gifts, the only way to do so is through children. – Betrand Russell

The broad fact remains that parental affection is a special kind of feeling which the normal human being experiences towards his or her own children, but not towards any other human being. – Betrand Russell

The value of parental affection to children lies largely in the fact that it is more reliable than any other affection. One’s friends like one for one’s merits, one’s lovers for one’s charms; if the merits or the charms diminish, friends and lovers may vanish. – Betrand Russell

In all human relations it is fairly easy to secure happiness for one party, but much more difficult to secure it for both. – Betrand Russell

But universal as is the need for this kind of gentleness, the respect for a child’s personality is needed most of all where children are concerned, because of their helplessness, and because their small size and feeble strength cause vulgar souls to despise them. – Betrand Russell

A woman who has acquired any kind of professional skill ought, both for her own sake and for that of the community, to be free to continue to exercise this skill in spite of motherhood. – Betrand Russell

The mother who is conventionally called self-sacrificing is, in a great majority of cases, exceptionally selfish towards her children, for, important as parenthood is as an element in life, it is not satisfying if it treated as the whole of life. – Betrand Russell

Work. Work can be irksome and painful. Whether you enjoy work, it depends on the nature of the work and the abilities of the worker. Very few people know how to use their time. People are okay with obeying, provided the orders are not too unpleasant. One could travel, but youth is past, it is harder to enjoy as much. Work helps to prevent boredom. Work makes holiday more delicious when they come. Thus, the working man is likely to find more zest in his free time. Work also gives Man a chance for success and opportunities for ambition. Higher income can also provide more security in future. People can tolerate some degree of hardships through their work. Thus, a housewife is a disadvantage because she does not work and her husband might not appreciate what she is doing at home. In general, people who work are happier than those who don’t. It is even better if a man is able to find interesting work. There are two elements to what makes work interesting: 1) the exercise of skill; 2) construction. People enjoy acquiring skill until they can no longer improve themselves. Surgeons enjoy performing surgeries on others. For politicians, they tend to get better with age. The creation of something also is important, although it may not be physical. There are both works of destruction and construction. However, construction brings more joy whereas destruction of the enemies brings less. Man can certainly be proud is his achievements at work, however small it may be. However, some artists who had produced great works can be unhappy too. Men of science tend to less unhappy than men of art. Those with literary skills often find themselves with limited opportunities to express their talents. A man needs to respect his work and see value in it. Some men have no direction in life and get blown from side to side. These men are unlikely to be able to find long term happiness.

I think, however, that, provided work is not excessive in amount, even the dullest work is to most people less painful than idleness. – Betrand Russell

To begin with, work fills a good many hours of the day without the need of deciding what one shall do. Most people, when they are left free to fill their own time according to their own choice, are at a loss to think of anything sufficiently pleasant to be worth doing. – Betrand Russell

Work, therefore, is desirable, first and foremost, as a preventive of boredom, for the boredom that a man feels when he is doing necessary though uninteresting work is as nothing in comparison with the boredom that he feels when he has nothing to do with his days. – Betrand Russell

Continuity of purpose is one of the most essential ingredients of happiness in the long run, and for most men this comes chiefly through their work. – Betrand Russell

All skilled work can be pleasurable, provided the skill required is either variable or capable of indefinite improvement. If these conditions are absent, it will cease to be interesting when a man has acquired his maximum skill. – Betrand Russell

Without self-respect, genuine happiness is scarcely possible. And the man who is ashamed of his work can hardly achieve self-respect. – Betrand Russell

Consistent purpose is not enough to make life happy, but it is an almost indispensable condition of a happy life. And consistent purpose embodies itself mainly in work. – Betrand Russell

Impersonal Interests. This chapter is about people’s hobbies. When you read something not connected to your work, you read less critically and more disinterestedly. This chapter is precisely about activities outside man’s main line of work. External interests do not have a strong call for any action. The actions you take are voluntary. External hobbies also help to prevent someone from worrying about it too much. However, a man should not pick up hobbies like gambling or those hobbies which can produce emotional fatigue. For women, most of them do not seem absorbed in any wholly irresponsible interest. Relaxation helps to give a man a sense of proportion. Sometimes, we get unduly excited or impressed over something. Understand that what we do does not matter much in the long term. Modern education does not provide much enlargement of the heart and mind. Our life on this planet is temporal. Hobbies can greatly help to boost happiness. This is because it is outside your realm of work and causes you to be less stressed. When you are anxious but realize you can do nothing about it, engage in your hobby. Man should seek distraction when he experiences sorrow. One should turn thought into new channels. We should not pin all hopes on our loved ones as they will pass on someday eventually.

One of the sources of unhappiness, fatigue, and nervous strain is inability to be interested in anything that is not of practical importance in one’s own life. – Betrand Russell

And it is very much easier to forget work at the times when it ought to be forgotten if a man has many interests other than his work than it is if he has not. – Betrand Russell

A man who has once perceived, however temporarily and however briefly, what makes greatness of soul, can no longer be happy if he allows himself to be petty, self-seeking, troubled by trivial misfortunes, dreading what fate may have in store for him. – Betrand Russell

Effort and Resignation. There is a need to find a balance between effort and resignation. Happiness requires work, which is why it is the Conquest of Happiness. Men must learn to cope with the challenges of life. If you are lucky, you may live a blissful life. However, for most people, happiness is an achievement rather than a given. We all have to work for a living and this requires effort. Resignation definitely might not lead to happiness. In modern society, income has become the measure of success. Effort is required for happiness, but resignation does have its part to play too. It is unwise to spend time and emotions on things if they interfere with the pursuit of something more important. It is not wise to be overly obsessive over anything. To resign by being defeated by unconquerable hope is alright. Some people are upset by the smallest things in life and cannot see the big picture. These people tend to sweat the small things. Worry over such trivial matters do not make sense. Learn to believe in the future of mankind and those who will carry on your trade after you’re gone.

Happiness is not something that drops into the mouth, like a ripe fruit, by the mere operation of fortunate circumstances. – Betrand Russell

The man of science who desires to make great discoveries himself may fail to do so, or may have to abandon his work owing to a blow on the head, but if he desires profoundly the progress of science and not merely his personal contribution to this object, he will not feel the same despair as would be felt by a man whose research had purely egoistic motives. – Betrand Russell

The Happy Man. Happiness is certainly possible without having a religion. One should avoid fear, envy, the sense of sin, self-pity and self-admiration. Self-centred passions afford little variety in life. Affection cannot be calculated and it would be foolish to try and do so. Admit painful truths to yourself every day. Only act on your genuine interests and do not force yourself to do things. There might be a slight conflict between this book and what traditional moralists think.

Certain things are indispensable to the happiness of most men, but these are simple things: food and shelter, health, love, successful work and the respect of one’s own herd. To some people parenthood also is essential. – Betrand Russell

Where outward circumstances are not definitely unfortunate, a man should be able to achieve happiness, provided that his passions and interests are directed outward, not inward. – Betrand Russell

The happy man is the man who lives objectively, who has free affections and wide interests, who secures his happiness through these interests and affections and through the fact that they, in turn, make him an object of interest and affection to many others. – Betrand Russell

To be the recipient of affection is a potent cause of happiness, but the man who demands affection is not the man upon whom it is bestowed. The man who receives affection is, speaking broadly, the man who gives it. – Betrand Russell

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The Conquest of Happiness by Bertrand Russell (Part 2)

Envy. Envy is very deep-seated and universal. Humans value distributive justice quite a bit. Adults also feel the same. Envy is the basis of democracy. Jealousy can happen among women too, especially when they get jealous over what each other wears. Women usually regard all other women as competitors. Men view other men in their profession as competitors. He wants to derive others of their advantages and feels good over it. Rather, one should admire rather than simply become jealous. What is the cure of envy? Envy is definitely an obstacle of happiness and largely stems from childhood. Parents who neglect their kids might be one cause of envy. Try to avoid comparing excessively. Envy is like a moral vice. If you compare your salary with someone else who is your equivalent but earning twice as much, that might make you jealous. To solve this, we should exercise mental discipline and not think profitless thoughts. There will always be someone who is smarter than you and earns more than you. If you are too modest, you might be more prone to envious feelings. It is good to be self-confident. Envy is closely connected with competition. Democracy has increased the range of envy. All bad things are interconnected. Fatigue is a frequent cause of envy. One way to diminish envy is to diminish fatigue. If you feel you have enough to bring up your kids the right way, you will be unlikely to feel jealous of others. Instinctive happiness is important. In modern society, the human heart is more prone to hatred as compared to friendship. To find the right road, Man must enlarge his heart as well as his mind.

Of all the characteristics of ordinary human nature envy is the most unfortunate; not only does the envious person wish to inflict misfortune and do so whenever he can with impunity, but he is also himself rendered unhappy by envy. – Betrand Russell

The habit of thinking in terms of comparisons is a fatal one. When anything pleasant occurs it should be enjoyed to the full, without stopping to think that it is not so pleasant as something else that may possibly be happening to someone else. – Betrand Russell

You can get away from envy by enjoying the pleasures that come your way, by doing the work that you have to do, and by avoiding comparisons with those whom you imagine, perhaps quite falsely, to be more fortunate than yourself. – Betrand Russell

When a man feels inadequate to the work he has to do, he feels a general discontent which is exceedingly liable to take the form of envy towards those whose work is less exacting. – Betrand Russell

But by far the most important thing is to secure a life which is satisfying to instinct. – Betrand Russell

The positive sum of pleasures in a modern man’s life is undoubtedly greater than was to be found in more primitive communities, but the consciousness of what might be has increased even more. – Betrand Russell

Man knows there is something better than himself almost within his grasp, yet he does not know where to seek it or how to find it. In despair he rages against his fellow man, who is equally lost and equally unhappy. – Betrand Russell

The Sense of Sin. Sin is one of the main causes in adulthood. Some do not believe that if you sin, your conscience will prick you. Conscience could also mean the fear of being found out. People avoiding sinning because of the risk that they would be discovered. Also, it would be difficult to explain to your friends why you committed a crime. Sin also has its roots in the unconscious. However, one should wallow in self-pity even though you have sinned. Saints would not simply do something because it gave them pleasure. Rationally, drinking would be okay if it gave you pleasure but no counter-balancing pain to oneself or to others. Hence, the logic that saints cannot drink or smoke might be a bit flawed. Sometimes, lying is justified too. The concern are that some adults teach something unwise and the kid develops an irrational sense of sin. Man must not be swayed by their moods. Moments of weakness give less insight than moments of strength. One should examine their reasons for actions and what caused the remorse. Your conscious beliefs should be firm enough to over-write your unconscious decisions. Do not let irrationality dominate you. Do not be partially swayed by reason and partially by infantile folly. A modern man can be tempted to commit harmful acts. Our nominal morality may have been shaped by priests etc and it was not derived from a study of an individual’s duty to the community. Learn to rebel against age-old traditions. A man should question superstitious morality. Sin makes man unhappy and jealous of others having a good time. Different parts of personality should be in sync so that you can be happy. A certain amount of self-reflection a day is useful. Some people think can rationally can kill all deeper emotions. I disagree. Being rational will not make your life dull as you can still pursue things like love, passion in work etc. The less inward conflicts you have, the more you can channel your energies towards the contemplation of the world. Reason is necessary in effecting a cure. The modern man is simply loving strong distractions and because they will prevent painful thought for that reason. Intoxication is his relief from pain. The greater your possession of faculties, the better.

An expansive and generous attitude towards other people not only gives happiness to others, but is an immense source of happiness to its possessor, since it causes him to be generally liked. – Betrand Russell

What I suggest is that a man should make up his mind with emphasis as to what he rationally believes, and should never allow contrary irrational beliefs to pass unchallenged or obtain a hold over him, however brief. – Betrand Russell

Nothing is so dull as to be encased in self, nothing so exhilarating as to have attention and energy directed outwards. – Betrand Russell

The greatest happiness comes with the most complete possession of one’s faculties. It is in the moments when the mind is most active and the fewest things are forgotten that the most intense joys are experienced. The happiness that requires intoxication of no matter what sort is a spurious and unsatisfying kind. – Betrand Russell

Persecution Mania. Persecution mania is a form of insanity. People feel like others will want to cause injury on them. Sometimes, they may commit acts of violence. If someone is victimized, it is likely the cause lies in himself. He might just be seeking attention. Such a patient must be able to understand. You are unlikely to feel happy if you feel you are mistreated by everybody. Almost everyone says malicious things about others. However, when others say malicious things of them, they are filled with indignant amazement. Gossip can lead to persecution mania. We should have to hide our feelings towards our friends. Never think that your misfortunes affords the key to the Universe. Do not be horrified if you do good to others but receive no gratitude. Remember that your motives are not always as altruistic as they seem to yourself. Don’t over-estimate your own merits. Don’t expect others to take as much interest in you as you do yourself. Don’t imagine that most people give enough thought to you to have any special desire to persecute you. The above are very valuable lessons that one should remember. Understand that not everyone else will have the same world-view as you. If nobody likes your work, perhaps it is the quality of work that is no good and one might have to accept this fact. If you want to produce quality work because of fame, it is unlikely that you will pursue the goal with much persistence. People see things from their point of view, which you may not agree. If you are a common man and think that everyone is against you, you are on the road to insanity. Never build your life based on self-deception.

It does not occur to us that we cannot expect others to think better of us than we think of them, and the reason this does not occur to us is that our own merits are great and obvious, whereas those of others, if they exist at all, are only visible to a very charitable eye. – Betrand Russell

Whatever is to be done can only be done adequately by the help of a certain zest, and zest is difficult without some self-regarding motive. – Betrand Russell

The test is this: do you produce because you feel an urgent compulsion to express certain ideas or feelings, or are you actuated by the desire for applause? – Betrand Russell

Whatever your line in life may be, if you find that others do not rate your abilities as highly as you do yourself, do not be too sure that it is they who are mistaken. – Betrand Russell

Fear of Public Opinion. Catholics do not believe in divorce. Even if your set of values differ from another person, you may be an outcast. Sometimes, if society doesn’t accept your values, you might feel like you have not been treated well. Not many are strong enough to have a brave inner life and ignore public opinion. It can be difficult to go against the social construct. Sometimes, it might be necessary to conceal your real tastes and convictions from most people in order to gain social acceptance. Hence, you mustn’t be afraid of public criticism. Sometimes, it might be good to enter a career which would give you a chance of congenial companionship, even if it means a considerable loss of income. It is okay sometimes to be out of sync with your environment and not be in harmony with it. Never let public criticism embitter you and impair your energy. The old should not simply be allowed to regulate the lives of the young. Do not simply give up because your parents tell you to. However, if professional opinion is against you, you should pay attention to it. One should not voluntarily submit to public tyranny and opinion. A society where everyone is alike can be boring too. People should be allowed to follow their spontaneous tastes. In modern society, it should be much easier to find a congenial soul. Fear of public opinion stuns growth and is oppressive. One should be themselves and have freedom of expression.

Public opinion is always more tyrannical towards those who obviously fear it than towards those who feel indifferent to it. – Betrand Russell

As a matter of fact, any man who can obviously afford a car but genuinely prefers travel or a good library will in the end be much more respected than if he behaved exactly like everyone else. – Betrand Russell

It is essential to happiness that our way of living should spring from our own deep impulses and not from the accidental tastes and desires of those who happen to be our neighbours, or even our relations. – Betrand Russell

Part 2: Causes of Happiness

Causes of Happiness. Happy comes in two forms, one that is plain and fancy or animal and spiritual. I will now describe the 2 forms of happiness. One type is only available to those who can read and write. You can be happy simply from the sufficiency of work and overcoming challenges. An example is that of my gardener. He is interested in slaying rabbits in the course of his work. However, superior people will not unlikely to find joy in this. If you are educated, you would want different activities to achieve the pleasures in life. Don’t be too sure of your abilities in life. There is no need for complex emotions. In general, society respects scientists more than artists. Artists could very well be less happy than men of science. Young people tend to be unhappy that they have no adequate employment for their best talents. Political circumstances in the West are stable and they should affect a young man’s happiness. If you feel powerless, you will not tend to be happy. A powerless guy becomes a reformer/ revolutionary. In life, not only scientists are happy. In fact, it is possible for almost everyone to derive pleasure from their work. The study of shells brings contentment to those who engage in it. There might be less handicraft work in the modern age. The ultimate aim is for machines to perform uninteresting work and humans are reserved for the work involving variety and initiative. Companionship and co-operation also make man happy. Belief in a cause can lead to happiness too. It is useful to find a cause to believe in. One can be absorbed in a hobby, for example, like stamp-collecting. The joy in your hobby can provide consolation to you if you are not making progress at work. We should not think ourselves ‘too superior’ for simple pleasures in life. Hobbies are perhaps not the fundamental source of happiness. A friendly interest in persons and things are more important. Learn to observe people and find pleasure in individual traits. Never try to exert power of others or to make them envy you. One needs to be genuinely happy in himself and not from an idea of self-sacrifice. One can also like things, like how a geologist takes an interest in rocks. Although not as important as being friendly towards others, taking an interest towards things matters too. When you take interest in something, you might be able to acquire a poise and calm which will help you deal with your troubles.

Many of the most eminent of men of science are emotionally simple, and obtain from their work a satisfaction so profound that they can derive pleasure from eating and even marrying. – Betrand Russell

All the conditions of happiness are realized in the life of the man of science. He has an activity which utilizes his abilities to the full. – Betrand Russell

Very few men can be genuinely happy in a life involving continual self-assertion against the skepticism of the mass of mankind, unless they can shut themselves up in a coterie and forget the cold outer world. – Betrand Russell

The pleasure of work is open to anyone who can develop some specialized skill, provided that he can get satisfaction from the exercise of his skill without demanding universal applause. – Betrand Russell

It is easy to find some cause which is in no degree fantastic, and those whose interest in any such cause is genuine are provided with an occupation for their leisure hours and a complete antidote to the feeling that life is empty. – Betrand Russell

We have all experienced collecting small items in boyhood, but have thought them, for some reason, unworthy of a grown man. This a complete mistake; any pleasure that does no harm to other people is to be valued. – Betrand Russell

Being happy in himself, he will be a pleasant companion, and this in turn will increase his happiness. – Betrand Russell

To like many people spontaneously and without effort is perhaps the greatest of all sources of personal happiness. – Betrand Russell

The secret of happiness is this: let your interests be as wide as possible, and let your reactions to the things and persons that interest you be as far as possible friendly rather than hostile. – Betrand Russell

Zest. Zest is the common mark of happy men. There are those who thinking eating is a bore or uninteresting. They regard meals as common occurrences. There are those who eat from a sense of duty. There are those who eat too much as well. It is not vulgar to be able to enjoy your food. The mind needs materials from the external world, or it will remain powerless. Events only become experiences if we take interest in them. Learn to turn your attention outwards. Life is never boring to someone who can pay attention to casual objects. The more things you are interested in, the more you can adapt to the world. You can analyze passer-bys that you see. Some men who not keep an open mind and do not enjoy holidays as much. Some men choose to learn about the place, the culture etc and can better appreciate the place more. The man who has the zest for life has an advantage. Experiencing new things are good, provided they do not harm your health. Zest can be very specialized in nature. It is more important to have a general zest for life. We were not ready to praise the gormandizer. In life, there must be a balance between different activities. Do not do things in excess. Our tastes need to fit in the general framework of life. You must still be able to earn an income to buy necessaries etc. If you like chess, it is okay to look forward to playing after working hours but there is no need to give up your work to play. If you need to make sacrifices in life, ensure that you will succeed. Some men like to drink in order to forget things. Habits are regular whereas impulses are irregular. Most people do not have impulse towards the activity, but towards the rewards of the activity. Hence, people’s zest are somewhat restrained. Spontaneous impulse will not produce the necessary results too. Zest requires high energy levels and is very important. In the past, women learnt not to care about anything. This is rather unfortunate and zest is both important for men and women in life.

The man who enjoys watching football is to that extent superior to the man who does not. The man who enjoys reading is still more superior to the man who does not, since opportunities for reading are more frequent than opportunities for watching football. – Betrand Russell

The more things a man is interested in, the more opportunities of happiness he has, and the less he is at the mercy of fate, since if he loses one thing he can fall back upon another. – Betrand Russell

Life is too short to be interested in everything, but it is good to be interested in as many things as are necessary to fill our days. – Betrand Russell

It is quite impossible to guess in advance what will interest a man, but most men are capable of a keen interest in something or other, and when once such an interest has been aroused their life becomes free from tedium. – Betrand Russell

The man, let us say, who loves chess, if he happens to be a bachelor with independent means, need not restrict his passion in any degree, whereas if he has a wife and children and no independent means, he will have to restrict it very severely. – Betrand Russell

The man who has never been fundamentally thwarted will retain his natural interest in the external world, and so long as he retains it he will find life pleasant unless his liberty is unduly curtailed. – Betrand Russell

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The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

A tree loved a little boy. The boy would come every day and gather the leaves from the tree. He would use them to form crowns and play king of the forest. He would climb her and swing her from side to side. Sometimes, he would eat the apples on the tree. When he was tired, he would sleep in her shade. He really loved the tree and the tree was happy. The boy grew up as time went on and the tree was alone most of the time. The tree encouraged the grown-up boy to play with her but the boy mentioned that he wanted to buy things and earn money. The tree suggested that the boy sell her apples in the market for money. The boy climbed the tree and plucked all the apples. The tree was happy. It was a long time before the boy (now an adult) came back and the tree was alone. Now, the boy didn’t want to play but wanted to build a house. The tree offered her branches to help build his house. The tree was happy when the boy cut away its branches. The tree was alone for long periods of time. Now, the boy (now an elderly man) wanted to build a boat so that he could sail away. The tree offered her trunk so that he could build his boat. The boy cut down her trunk and the tree was happy. Now that the tree was just a stump, she apologized for not being of any use to the boy anymore. She allowed the boy (now a sickly old man) to rest by sitting on her stump, and the tree was happy.

‘I am sorry. I wish that I could give you something…but I have nothing left. I am just an old stump. I am sorry…Well, an old stump is good for sitting and resting. Come, Boy, sit down. Sit down and rest.’ The Giving Tree

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Great Thinkers by the School of Life (Part 3)

Art and Architecture

Andrea Palladio. A lot of people spend time indoors. We admire great buildings. Venice has one of the best architecture. Andrea designed buildings when he was 30. He designed many villas. Finally, he emerged as top architect of Venice. To me, architecture has to have a clear purpose. There are rules for great buildings too. We should build in order to encourage good states of mind in ourselves. It helps us with calm, harmony and dignity. Symmetrical shapes help bring calm. Buildings should be well fitted and aligned well. These are powerful coherent buildings. Buildings should gave dignity to aspects of life which are seen as unworthy. Buildings should compensate us for our weaknesses. We need serene, harmonious and confident buildings. They are rules for architecture as well. One could follow mathematical ratios. Buildings should be made symmetrical.

Johannes Vermeer (1632 to 1675). Many things are glamorous. Artists can capture scenes of beauty which are commonly overlooked by many. These are deep moments of contemplation. Even bread and butter can be satisfying. Simple homely pleasures are important as well. He did a lot of painting in his free time. His famous work was ‘The Girl with the Pearl Earring’. Thoughts for the non-renowned are important and should be considered too. Artists have the power to make the ordinary look special. Sometimes, in life, doing modest things are sufficient.

Most of life is taken up dealing with things which are routine, ordinary, humble, modest and (to be honest) a touch dull. Our culture should focus on getting us to appreciate the average, the everyday and the ordinary. – Johannes Vermeer

Caspar David Friedrich. Art can teach us how to suffer. His distinctive style emerged slowly. He depicted sufferings in his paintings. Tragedy and grief could also express emotions and solemn moods around. Solitude brings with it our deepest possibilities. His works make us aware of our insignificance. We appreciate how small we are and that some things don’t matter. Learn to be conscious of our space and time in the grand scheme of things. Now, his works are deeply admired.

Henri Matisse. Sometimes, we need to remind ourselves of the bad things that happen in life. We are aware of the problems and injustice in the world. We feel small in the face of problems. Hope is to be celebrated and is a necessary part for success. The problem with the world was that there was too much darkness and misery, hence, we need to remind ourselves of happy things in life.

Edward Hopper. He is a painter of gloomy-looking paintings. The paintings help to accept loneliness. His paintings are gloomy, however can seem charming too. His works didn’t sell well. Even those he loved his wife, some part of him realized that he was still alone. Art can be therapeutic when addressing loneliness. When travelling, Hopper loved the introspective mood.

Oscar Niemeyer. Buildings looks the same everywhere. His buildings had motifs from the floor to ceiling. He practised Brazilian-infused modernism. One should use techniques like reinforced concrete in creative ways. He liked sensual curves of rivers, of a female body etc. The church he built had tiles across it. He created a building where you could work and relax and have a conversation that expands your mind. You could be sexually adventurous in your house as well. His architecture was also a future dream for Brazil. He created new buildings to reflect nationalism. To him, it was important for buildings to be culturally specific.

Louis Kahn. Kahn got inspired by the buildings in Rome due to their ancient designs. Yet, he managed to marry that concept with innovation and clarity. Kahn used symmetry, which was an old idea. Symmetry helps to provide a sense of balance and focus. He often used new materials for his office, like ceramic, copper etc. Wood can give warmth while concrete gives strength and stability. He was also a monumental architect. He could combine the old and the new and thus was very famous.

Coco Chanel. Fashion is a part of life. However, fashion nowadays is eccentric and foolish in nature. She started off as a designer of hats. In the past, clothes are complicated and very expensive. However, her clothes were inspiring in their design. She invented a better destination. She introduced a little black dress. The wearer looked energetic etc. The dress was designed to be long-lasting. She re-invented the black dress. The fashion sense would also be appropriate for 10 years later. She limited colour options to those that were essential and elegant. Elegance and grace was the big focus of her dresses and that was very important. She also designed jewellery and handbags. Her clothes are revolutionary because they were embodiments of good ideas.

Jane Jacobs. There is something compelling about cities. They are full of possibilities. Cities can be really complex on their own. She loved to explore the own city she lived in. She worked as a writer for a magazine. She married an architect later on in life. The problem with modern architecture was that it wasn’t want real people wanted. Architects should learn to respect urban order. These were usually the result of bad thinking. She realized that to know what people wanted, you have to walk around and explore the city. To her, diversity was very important. Cities should be like eco-systems. There needs to be a diversity of businesses. City blocks should be small so as to encourage more interactions between people. There should be a mix of old and new buildings. Cities should be dense in population. Cities should be compact.

Cy Twombly. Abstract art can seem meaningless to us. The key to abstract art is to appeal to people’s emotions. It represents inner rather than the outer world. What does the work feel like? Cy was an abstract artist. His work suggests a reflective life and ambition and confusion. He loved figurative and representational art. We should really think more about the slogans that we are exposed to in everyday life.

Andy Warhol. He was a glamorous figure of 20th century art. He was famous for making brightly coloured prints. Andy was largely an eccentric character. He was a celebrity, but also concentrated on his business. Throughout his lesson, he thought us the 4 important life lessons. They are 1) Appreciating everyday life. For instance, he loved the soup can. However, humans need to take a step back to appreciate them. Everything we do in life is interesting and note-worthy. The things we do all the time have their own merits. He groomed some countercultural eccentrics as ‘Superstars’. To him, people worked because they wanted a glamorous outlook in life. The choice of the right celebrities were important. He was good at both business and art and felt that they could go well together. To him, art should be accessible and not just restricted to a select rich few. We need the branding power of business to drive the power of art. Andy Warhol mastered many different genres of art. He died at the age of 58.

Dieter Rams. He was a great designer of everyday objects. He made the company ‘Braun’ famous. Design and functionality are closely linked. Dieter saw the beauty of simplicity. The radios he designed were simplistic and even the modern iPod took inspiration from it. The fact is that our lives are too cluttered and having simplicity is very beautiful indeed. Being simple is truly an achievement to be celebrated. There is value in modesty. The products had to improve other people’s lives. One needs to build empathy with the customer. An object should be easy to live with. Rams was classic too. His goal was to make enduring products, those which we didn’t need to throw away. Art and product design is very important.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude. They didn’t like producing art on a small scale and produced large-scale art. They wanted their art to fill up public spaces. Their art was produced on a massive scale. Their aim is just to make things beautiful and inspiring for all. The job of an artist is not just to dream of a better world, but to make it happen. To create large work, they needed the support of the government, of many users etc. Profit certainly wasn’t their main goal. This is the central plank of good commerce.

Literature

Jane Austen. She was an ambitious moralist and wanted to make people nicer in terms of their characters. She was elegant, a good dancer etc. However, she didn’t marry. She believed that the lover should educate you. The purpose of marriage is to educate and improve the other. It should be the union of both. Your spouse has to be able to make you feel relaxed and comfortable and overcome our failings. We have to judge more carefully. She doesn’t care as much of outer appearance as compared to integrity and other values. Learn to treat money seriously. One will need sufficient money before one can get married. Do not be overimpressed by what money can do. It is not wise to get married without enough money. Wealth is important to happiness, but not in terms of living in luxury. We mustn’t learn to be snobbish. Do not be all high handed in dealing with your hierarchy. Few people are snobbish. Secretly, Austen wants the world to be of a certain way which is appealing. This is why she is much loved as a writer.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. He was one of the big cultural heroes and excelled in many areas of his life. Many people were impressed by how he led his life. He learnt theatre in school. We can learn a lot of lessons from him. The first is ‘From Romanticism to Classicism in love’. Although romantic love is attractive and wonderful, it does have its deep problems when there is breakup etc. The movies paint romance to be fairy-tale like, but in reality, it is not very pretty. He believed more in Classicism, which is marked by pessimism. However, Romanticism felt more exciting. Later, Goethe worked for the government. There is dignity in administration and working for the government. He often sat in meetings and listened to others. He eventually created a model urban park. Travel was a form of therapy. He was inspired by Rome etc. However, when he reached Rome, he was a little disappointed. He realized he needed a guide. To him, travelling was not about relaxing, but about finding the missing ingredient of our own maturity. Later, he got back to his political and creative work. One should live life to the full: the Faustian hero. His most famous work was Faust. Faust was downtrodden until he was visited by Mephisto, a devil. The devil will offer him the ability to do whatever he wants. Faust realizes that want is wants is beauty and love, and not being a pure hedonist. You can use power and put in for noble use. To fully achieve, we have to flirt with things, but also hold on to a higher purpose. Science is for artsy people. He was known for his achievements in botany. He a hero for those with artistic and literary sense. He studied animals closely and how they interacted with one another. He was an awesome guy.

Leo Tolstoy. The novel was a form of psychological education and reform. He was born in 1828. He was not a good student in school. His marriage was difficult. He wrote War and Peace, Anna Karenina etc. The key lesson from his books are that if you put yourself in someone else’s shoes, they would seem kinder and more forgiving. We need to understand the ‘dislikeable’ characters. People are not as what they seem all the time. The thought of mortality should inspire continual kindness and sympathy in us. Tolstoy was a man of outstanding moral courage and generosity. He wrote an important essay. It was titled ‘What is Art?’ Art has the purpose of making the world kinder for all. We have to aspire to be something else.

Marcel Proust. He was a French writer who wrote the longest novel in the world. There were 7 volumes. It was deemed to be the greatest novel of all time. The title was ‘In Search of Lost Time’. It was about a guy seeking to find meaning and purpose in life. He wanted to stop wasting time and start living. There are potentially 3 sources for the meaning of life. The first is social success. The narrator worked his way up the social hierarchy. However, once you are there, you will realize that people are not extraordinary. Vices can be found throughout the population. It is normal for one to try and scale the social ladder. Love provides meaning to life. However, it is not possible to truly understand someone and conflict might arise. Loneliness is endemic. Hence, both the first 2 fail to provide meaning in life. The last is art. Human adults are too stuck in their routine and cannot get out of it. Children do not suffer this and find beauty in the world. We need to look at life with greater sensitivity. It is possible to find natural beauty everywhere, and not just in museums. There is a nice charm to everyday life. The work of artists are like long Proustian moments and they remind us that life is fascinating and lovely.

The reason why life may be judged to be trivial although at certain moments it seems to us so beautiful is that we form our judgement, ordinarily, not on the evidence of life itself but of those quite different images which preserve nothing of life – and therefore we judge it disparagingly. – Marcel Proust

Virginia Woolf. She captured a lot of emotions which she saw. She had famous parents but did not want to live a life of luxury. Later, she suffered a mental breakdown. She was a journalist and a novelist. She married Leonard. ‘To the Lighthouse’ is one of her most famous works. She committed suicide in 1941. Learn to notice everything. There was no minor situation, in her opinion. She was very aware of her surroundings. She was not ashamed of describing her illnesses. We should learn to accept the everyday. We should be a feminist. She liked to explore her sexuality. She also wanted to raise the status of women in society. Women also had the rights to education, intellectual freedom etc.

It is fatal to be a man or woman pure and simple; one must be woman-manly or man-womanly. – Virginia Woolf

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Great Thinkers by the School of Life (Part 2)

Political Theory

Karl Marx. We often dismiss Marxism. His ideas led to disastrous planned economies. He wanted private property to be abolished. Despite this, we should not dismiss him so easily. He joined the Communist Party, a bunch of intellectuals at that time. He wrote many books in his life. Marx realized that modern work was ‘alienated’. To love your job, you need ‘to see yourself in the object that you have created’. It should also allow us to improve. In the modern world, this doesn’t happen very often though. Modern work is too specialized. To him, humans are all born as generalists. We all have many desires as humans, not just to specialize in our work. If you feel your work is meaningless, you suffer. Our work has to address genuine needs or to help people. Some people’s jobs don’t have a long term effect to which to accumulate towards. Modern work is insecure because of advances in technology. However, most of us want stability. Communism guarantees that everyone has a job. Workers get paid little while capitalists get rich. The bosses get all the profit. Labourers will find it hard to change their circumstances. Workers, or the proletariat, could be easily exploited. Capitalism is very unstable. People are over-producing. Productivity has improved over the years. Marx thought that because of this, people should be happily unemployed. However, unemployment is frowned upon in society. Capitalism is bad for capitalists. Marriage was an extension of business. Because people cared too much about money, they could not put their hearts into their relationships. This is known was Warenfetischismus or commodity fetishism. Capitalism leads people to believe that with more money and belongings, people will be happier. It teaches us to be anxious, competitive, conformist etc. After he passed on, his writings were used for the ideological movements for the 20th century. We do need a more authentic relationship to money and consumption. We have to change the world.

John Ruskin. He cared a lot about beauty and wanted to remake the world into a beautiful place. He was a remarkable man. Ruskin had natural talent for art. Often, he would draw architectural buildings as well. Venice was the paradise to him. However, he was not so impressed with British urban life. He compared Venice with Britain and wondered how could Britain improve? He started his career as an art critic. As a career, he later attacked the principles of capitalism. This was done via speeches. After his dad passed away, he used the money to set up farms to create sustainable good sources. He created industry, schools, and museums. He started the Guild project, which was successful. He encouraged the rich to donate wealth to the Guild. Ruskin was a professor at the University and once got students to mend the road so that children could pay on them. It took a long time, but progress was made. Do not leave it to market forces. He was a man of his word and acted a lot. Be inspired by nature and look and appreciate it. We are part of nature and should use nature to energize us. Often, we dismiss thoughts as of having no significance. We should analyse such thoughts and understand them. Learn to see the good in society.

But the underlying point is crucial. Out of fear of seeming ridiculous, we often end up not tackling the challenges around us. The road mending was a small instance of a larger idea that animated Ruskin’s life: that it is the duty of creative, privileged people to direct their efforts towards making the world more pleasing and tidy, more convenient and beautiful, not just for themselves, but for the greatest good of the greatest number. – John Ruskin

Henry David Thoreau. He was an unemployed writer who lived in the woods. It is important to be simplistic and be authentic. He learnt about transcendentalism from Ralph Waldo Emerson and adopted it. He built a small cabin in the woods. The plan was to go there to write a book. He lived them and sucked out the marrow of life. In the woods, he discovered himself. Mankind doesn’t need a lot of things. Money doesn’t help us develop our soul and to him, work was unnecessary. He worked for only 1 day a week. He worked just long enough to fund his lifestyle. To him, sometimes we use other people to fill gaps in our inner life. One should aim to change oneself first. Technology was a distraction for him and encouraged others to remove it from their lives. Time was what was necessary to make people happy. He also found great beauty in nature. It also encourages introspection and self-discovery. To him, we needed to clear distractions from our minds. He encouraged civil disobedience in protest against immoral laws. He was the founder of the non-violent civil movement. One should be actively engaged with the world.

Matthew Arnold. Matthew was an educational reformer. Education would be a good tool. He was fond of higher ideals and fond of sweetness and light. Eventually, he became Professor of Poetry at Oxford. His famous work was ‘Culture and Anarchy’. There was very little love and care in the world, he noted. This was meant by anarchy. Money politics was growing and everyone was fond of riches. He predicted that culture would overcome anarchy. He wanted culture to be taught in schools and wanted art to govern societies. Art had the power to enable us to understand and clear confusion. The arts were only useful if everyone could understand it. Hence, there was a need to popularize it. He wanted a world where people were kind and exhibited sympathy towards one another.

William Morris. He understood the role of pleasure in work. Consumer demand has also played a huge role in modern society. Early on, he realized that money could not solve everything. He started off as an architect, but later wanted to be an artist and poet. He was keen of the medieval idea of craft to boost the economy. Workers could have to build a skill. Craft work is good because you are building something tangible. If people like their jobs, the issue of pay is less critical. You are no longer working just for the money. Labour was dignified. He started an arts business later in life. Industrialization brought about massive change and allowed for mass production. Would customers still be willing to pay for craft work? Consumers need to be educated. Everything in your house that you own should be beautiful. Items purchased should be seen as a form of investment. You can also pass it down to your future generations. He was conscious of the beauty of life. The economy is related to our preferences and choices.

John Rawls. What is truly unfair? He published ‘A Theory of Justice’ in 1971. He was a humble man who did a lot of social work and carried himself well. Life was not always fair and rag to riches stories are simply too rare. Imagine if you were not you. Those who are privileged seldom think of those who have suffered prejudice and suffering. Thus, there was a need to convince this group of people. He conducted ‘the veil of ignorance’ test. You wouldn’t know exactly what your life circumstances are. Your birth place is like a lottery. People need to know what needs to be fixed. His question allows people to think what a fair society is like. There is still a lot to be done to maintain this fairness.

As Rawls forcibly reminds us, in the modern United States, and many parts of Europe too, if you are born poor, the chances of you remaining poor (and dying young) are simply overwhelming and incontestable. – John Rawls

If we knew nothing about where we’d end up, what sort of a society would it feel safe to enter? In what kind of political system would it be rational and sane for us to take root – and accept the challenge laid down by the veil of ignorance? – John Rawls

Eastern Philosophy

He confronted suffering. He was known as Siddhartha Gautama. He was in a palace filled with luxury. When he was 30, he met the real world and saw ordinary people. He was touched by their plight. Finally he left the palace for good. He avoided all physical comforts and pleasures. Now, he developed a sense of compassion and peace. He reached ‘Nirvana’ or the ‘Awakening’. All of creation is united in its suffering. One shouldn’t bathe in luxury. It is best to live in moderation. There is constant suffering and dissatisfaction in the world. Suffering is caused by attachment due to our desires. Attachment is the root of suffering. We must change our outlook to life. Humans are not happy because we are greedy, vain, insecure. He suggested an eightfold path for humans to follow. Right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. Learn to develop a mindful attitude. The state of living was the most sacred issue. Do your best to liberate yourself from tyrannous desires.

Lao Tzu. He is a guiding figure in Daoism. He is rumoured to have wrote Tao Te Ching. The teachings are interwined with Confucianism and Buddhism. People are guided by the ‘Dao’. It opens life to multiple interpretations. It is the path to virtue, happiness and harmony. We resist the very simple path that will make us content. We must learn flow and the harmony of it. We need more time for stillness and to appreciate the world. Let your mind be still. Be in touch with your real self. We should pay more attention to the wonders of nature. He compares different parts of nature to different virtues. Trees are resilient and should be admired. Water is soft and gentle, but yet can be powerful when given time. Nature does not hurry yet everything is accomplished. Life is a series of small changes. Be content with what you want. Rejoice in the way things are. Learning the way of the Dao reminds you of stillness, openness and natural forces.

The idea that the contemplation of nature is a source of perspective and tranquillity is well known in theory, but so easy to overlook because we take it from granted and never give it the time and focus required. – Lao Tzu

Confucius. Confucius claims that he invented nothing. He led a virtuous life. He coined the golden rule. He understood the importance of ceremony. Rituals were powerful. Rituals teach people how to behave. Treat your parents with reverence. We should practise filial piety. Moral life begins in the family. Be obedient to honourable people. Be respectful to all around you. Cultivate knowledge more than creativity. Spend time to slowly change your habits.

Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself – Confucius

We should obey our parents when we are young, care for them when they are old, mourn at length when they die and make sacrifices in their memory thereafter. – Confucius

Sen no Rikyu. He is one the greatest Zen thinkers. He stayed in the countryside and appreciate the Japanese tea ceremony. He believed in rituals too. Wabi-sabi means the appreciation of the imperfect. He made people realize the value of the authentic, for the un-decorated and the humble. The tea-house should be strong. The tea-house was meant to promote harmony. After the ceremony, one would be tranquil and peaceful. Make the spiritual life more tangible. There are co-relations between the big ideas and the small ideas.

Matsuo Basho. Poetry is good for our souls. Poetry was meant to guide us and bring wisdom and calm. He wrote in Haiku style. Old pond…A frog leaps in. Water’s sound. He was an exceptional poet. We should really appreciate life for what it is and be contented with our own company. Use natural scenes to remind his reader of flowers, weather etc. The transience of life makes every moment valuable. The lightness allows readers to escape the burdens of self.

St Benedict. We feel like we need to reinvent our lives. We are not involved in our community. Monasticism is where people are fruitful and they group together as friends towards a few big goals. One day, St Benedict went to the mountains. He had rules for everyone. There were rules for eating. One should avoid red meat and long chatter at dinner tables should be avoided. Silence was golden and was the key to concentration. Fashion was a huge source of interest to Benedict. Everyone should wear the same clothes and wear the same hair. Incorporate some physical activity in your life. Have early nights and sleep early. Do not have porn addiction. Learn to dress in a demure way. Admire beautiful art and architecture. Create a home which is uplifting and calming. He is showing us the potential for rules to help us live well. There is a lot of importance in having a strong community. One should live in such a way so as to avoid distractions. Communal life can be fun and we are better off joining a team.

Alexis de Tocqueville. We support democracy, although we can be disappointed by it. Alexis de Tocqueville studied the United States model. He believed in the power of democracy. He went there to see what the future would be like. During his trip, he talked to many people. There was an attitude of selfishness by the Native Americans. The Natives looked different from normal Americans. There were things to admire about America. To him, the wilderness was impressive. What were the social consequences of democracy? Democracy breeds materialism. This is because people believed that through hard work, you could amass a fortune. That is why people respect money. The test of a business is whether it can make money and be admirable. Capitalism led to people judging one another. Democracy breeds envy and shame. Poor people were looked down. Everyone believes that they have a good shot at life. People in the past, before democracy, were calmer. Democracy dismantled barriers to expectation. It was true that some of the poor might one day become rich. In aristocracies, servants accepted their fates with good grace. However, in democracies, they were ambitious. But the problem was that not all of them could achieve their goals, and if they couldn’t, they became bitter towards their masters and hated themselves for their inadequacies. Another issue of democracy was the tyranny of the majority. Majority could dominate the minority. Good ideas proposed by the minority could be shut down. Another problem was that democracy turns us against authority. Democracy was all for favour for equality, which was harmful in some ways. The issue was that people with no education could not understand why they were not on par with a doctor and disrespected authority. It was biased towards mediocrity. Democracy undermined the freedom of the mind. They did not speak up for their convictions, for fear of backlash. He showed us the pros and cons of democracy. He tried to get people strategically pessimistic.

I never met a citizen too poor to cast a glance of hope and envy toward the pleasures of the rich. – Tocqueville

Max Weber. He grew up seeing the Industrial Revolution. He was a young academic. Capitalism was possible because of a set of religious ideas. It was created by Protestantism. Protestantism makes you feel guilty all the time. God likes hard work. All work is holy. Work was also part of a religious vocation. It’s the community, not the family, that counts. There aren’t miracles. One needed to think methodically, act honestly and work industriously. The world bank should be giving Africa ideas instead of money. The economy requires cultural assistance. We need to look to changing mentalities, like Calvinism. How can we change the world? Bureaucracy is a major implication to change a nation. Removing the leader might only have a small impact. One cannot bring social change just by charisma. One way to overcome bureaucracy is through knowledge and systematic organization. Ideas might be important than tools to change nations. One can always change the thoughts in their heads.

Emile Durkheim (1858 to 1917). Capitalism makes us richer, but more suicidal too. He was fascinated by religion. Also, suicide rates were increasing among the educated people. Why were people becoming more unhappy? Individualism played a bigger role than community. Hence, it forces us to be masters of our destinies. When things go wrong, you only have to blame yourself. This is the burden of capitalism. It raises our hopes. Everyone thinks they can become the boss. Envy grows rife. Life is often quite simply painful and sad. Humans have too much freedom and that is not a good thing. There is nowhere to hide if you are not capable. Atheism was more common. Religion created bonds between groups of people. Capitalism weakens the nation and the family. Modern economies do not provide sufficient support and guidance for individuals.

Margaret Mead. She was a famous anthropologist. She eventually chose Christianity. The world was teeming with separate cultures. She travelled to Samoa for her field-work. She wanted to see that primitive cultures had their insights too. Naturally, she picked up the native languages and became popular. She led an unconventional life. The natives were comfortable with sex. There was less social expectations for them as to whether they could have sex etc. Modern Americans are forced to conform with societal norms. Our modern life does not allow us to be free. In different native cultures, women could be the more aggressive as compared to men. Culture has been big part to play in shaping personalities. Therefore, because of modern society, we have left some things behind. Humans are definitely moulded by society. We miss out on the greater opportunities in life. It is important to consider cultural norms and use them as guides for your emotional lives. Learn to study complex cultures. She was a supporter and fighter of many cause. We need to unleash and uncover human potential in our rush to modernity.

Theodor Adorno. He was a German. Eventually, he focused on philosophy. He wanted intellectuals to band together and change society. To him, capitalism was bad because leisure time was seen as being toxic. Leisure time should be used for expanding and developing ourselves. Hopefully, these cultural activities might have some impact on our lives. Modern entertainment keeps us distracted, and do not have the ability to alter political reality. It was like opium for the masses. The culture activities like to keep us distracted. Pop music focus on love. He thought that Walt Disney was the most dangerous man in America. To him, capitalism doesn’t sell us the things we need. We actually don’t get what we need but settle for less. We need calm, insight and tenderness etc. Advertising is mass manipulation. Politics needs to be changed via psychology too.

Adorno argued that leisure had a great purpose to serve: free time – and the cultural activities we might pursue in it – was our prime opportunity to expand and develop ourselves, to reach after our own better nature, and to acquire the tools with which to change society. – The School of Life

Rachel Carson. We have damaging the planet. She really cared for the environment and wanted to conserve it. She wrote books on sea life etc. She promoted identification with the world earth. We are all part of this beautiful Earth. DDT was controversial as it harmed wildlife. We should really try to leave nature alone. We should think more creatively about how to prevent insect damage. Good stewardship of the Earth is a must. Love is the key to transforming humanity’s relationship to nature.

Sigmund Freud. He was a vulnerable man inside. He invented psychoanalysis in 1900. However, he remained an unhappy man. He was jealous of Carl Jung. Humans are largely governed by the pleasure principle. Education teaches us to forgo short term pleasure but seek long term rewards. Life was full of neuroses. Childhood is the time when we adapt to reality. Later, children have to experience the ‘anal phase’, where they face the challenges of defecation. The next phase of a kid is when he has new sexual wishes. This nature of the child is repressed. Freud thinks that humans experience the Oedipus complex, where children direct their sexual impulses towards their parents. A child will tend to love her mother, but someone else will take away her attention. As a result, the child will hate the dad. To him, incestuous thoughts are at the back of the child’s mind. Humans have a difficulty associating sex with love. Freud thought that the cure for neurosis was psychoanalysis. Humans experience dreams which are exciting, but these are usually not practical in reality. Humor was a psychological survival mechanism.

Anna Freud. She was Sigmund’s daughter. She became a psychoanalyst when she grew up. Naturally, humans try to protect their egos. There are 10 key types of defence mechanisms. One is denial. This gets in the way of long-term coping. Projection is the next. We often project our own negative feelings to someone else. You can also turn against the self. Humans tend to regress and avoid commitment on big decisions to be made. A tantrum is a regressive defence mechanism. Humans often rationalize that we are innocent and nice and worthy. If one gets rejection for a job offer, one way to rationalize is that ‘it was a boring company’. This is the way to protect one’s self-esteem. Humans tend to use displacement, where people are angry with their bosses at work but do not express it and end up shouting at their wife at home. Fantasy is another escapist mechanism. These help you to escape from reality. Defences are not voluntary. Defence mechanisms play a big part in our lives.

Melanie Klein. She was also a psychoanalyst. Our desires are in a raw form. Deep down, we are governed by the pleasure principle. Sometimes, we fall prey to neuroses and inhibitions. We end up being uncreative in daily life. We might also end up failing. Klein analyzed children and how they played with toys. Children, when they grow up, start to realize what ambivalence is. As humans, we also learn to understand the ambivalent nature of all relationships.

Donald Winnicott. How do you build a better world? The way parents bring up children has a big impact on this. The right upbringing is absolutely key. He started off as a pediatrician. First, parents should remember that children are vulnerable. The early few months are immense work. Learn to let a child be angry. Make sure your child isn’t too compliant. This would lead to the child emerging to a ‘False Self’. These kids are not a proper good, but acting good only. Let your child be. Realize the gravity of the job you’ve taken on. Love is about the surrender of the ego, and putting aside one’s own needs and assumptions.

The foundation of the health of the human being is laid by you in the baby’s first weeks and months. Perhaps this thought can help a little when you feel strange at the temporary loss of your interest in world affairs… It is not surprising. You are engaged in founding the mental health of the next generation. – Donald Winnicott

John Bowlby. We all want to form stable relationships. Why is it so hard to establish such relationships? Relationship building is important as a child already. Children suffer when their parents are not good role models. Children need cuddling and playing too. Then, they will love their mother’s body. The ideal parent must be there. Most people do not get the required maternal care. Our parents behaviour might not be consistent. Those kids without good care entered 3 phrases: protest, despair and detachment. These are patterns of ‘anxious attachment’. Some kids are worse and they are ‘attachment avoidant’ and avoid warmth and even a hug because it seems dangerous. There are 3 kinds of attachments to other adults. They are 1) secure attachment. This is the best. This means that ‘you are slow to anger, quick to forgive and forget’. The next is anxious attachment. This is marked by clinginess and close checking on the other person.A small act can be seen as a huge threat. These type of relationships quickly become coercive and demanding. Some are avoidant attachments. This means you would rather walk away then get angry with the other person. People tend to a combination of a few traits. It is important to establish an early bond between mother and child. According to research, 56% are securely attached, 24% are avoidantly attached and 20% are anxiously attached.

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Great Thinkers by The School of Life (Part 1)

This book draws ideas from various cultures and professions. This book brings to you the most important ideas of our times.

Introduction. This is a ‘canon’ of thought from modern thinkers. The list is ‘biased’ of course, but it is ‘good’ bias as it favours valuable and important ideas. The team has tried to select as well as possible. The book will help you remember key thoughts by renowned thinkers. The ideas can also be applied in everyday life. Most of the ideas are not too technical for the layman to comprehend. What can great thinkers do for you?

Philosophy

Plato. It is 2400 years ago, in Athens. Plato is probably one of the first and greatest philosopher. He wanted people to reach Eudaimonia – happiness/fulfilment. He has 4 big ideas. The first is to ‘think harder’. We needed to have greater clarity in our minds. Most people often jumped into decisions without analyzing much, this was disastrous. The key was to know yourself. He encouraged people to love more wisely. To him, people love because they see in the other party some good quality that they haven’t got. Love is about helping each other grow. Learn to commit to help them and navigate through stormy passages in life. To him, ‘beautiful’ things are good. Beauty objects can educate us. Art was therapeutic to Plato. Art was to be for the good of society. Plato had many ideas to change our society and wrote ‘The Republic’. Our society needed more new heroes. Secondly, censorship was important. Next, he emphasized on the important of education and learn about how to be calm, how to exercise self-control etc. People need to lead better childhoods too.

Aristotle. He was born in 384BC. He also tutored Alexander the Great. Aristotle was always fascinated with how things work and tried to answer life’s big questions. The first was what made people happy. In ‘Nicomachean Ethics’, he suggested that good people have certain virtues. To him, the ability to have a good conversation was the key to a good life. One should have an excessive sense of humor. The guy in the middle is the best, he is simply witty. Moral goodness can be formed through habit. To him, art was a form of catharsis, which is a form of cleaning and allowing you to get rid of the bad stuff. Art also reminds us that tragedy can strike anyone. Art is to make profound truths stick in our minds. He identified the true friend concept, which we care for one another. Aristotle offered suggestions on how to soothe people’s fears in order for to convince them with your ideas.

The Stoics. This was a brand of philosophy in ancient Greece and Rome. It is useful in troubled times. Seneca used it, and so did Marcus Aurelius. It can address our anxiety issues. One should imagine the worst case scenario and be used to it. This is facing your fears head on. Life will go on whether you are rich or poor. One should learn to practice worst-case scenarios so that you will not be surprised. To Stoics, anger is stupidity. It is because we expect too much from the other person. One should expect less from life. In an ideal state, nothing should be able to disturb your peace. They believe that most of life is fate and sometimes, fate can deal you a cruel hand. The fact is that whatever we do matters. Looking up at the sky also provides a calming effect. Although their teachings are dark, the Stoics are important.

The task of the wise person is therefore never to believe in the gifts of fortune: fame, money, power, love, health – these are never our own. – The Stoics Philosophy

Epicurus. He was born in 341 BC. His central topic of study was happiness. He led a remarkably simple life for a happy person. One of the misconceptions is that we need romantic relationships. To him, love and happiness never go together. We often neglect our friends. Secondly, people think they need a lot of money. He believed in the need for meaningful work. Humans put too much faith in luxury. He believed what made people was calm. Epicurus lived with his friends. People took pay cuts in exchange for fulfilling work. His friends found calm via rational analysis and insight. This style of living caught on with others. To sum up, the 3 false lures of happiness were: romantic love, professional status and luxury.

What made work really satisfying, Epicurus believed, is when we’re able to work either alone or in very small groups, and when it feels meaningful, when we sense that we’re helping others in some way or making things that improve the world. – Epicurus

Augustine. He was a Christian philosopher. He criticized the Romans. The Romans believed in earthly happiness and just social order. Augustine believed that humans were all lustful, mad, erratic, deluded deviants with no earthly chance of happiness. This was the idea of original sin. Humans had the idea to dominate others. Everything we do is pretty much imperfect. This is simply the human condition. To him, all hierarchies were unfair as there is no social justice. We should not expect fair distribution on earth. He warns us about those who try to make life perfect or say that poverty is an indicator of vice.

Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas tried to reconcile religion with science and faith. He was a philosopher and a holy saint. He found that non-Christians could also have wisdom. He wanted to know how people could discern right from wrong. Were religion and rational thought compatible? The world operated via ‘natural law’ and ‘eternal law’. For eternal laws, no form of reasoning was possible. Everything that is important has to come from God was a wrong idea. Aquinas believed that natural laws and observation of everyday things in life was important. Arts, philosophy are examples of natural law. Natural law can be discovered via independent reasoning. Aquinas believed that wisdom can come from multiple sources. We are often too dismissive of ideas which come from seemingly ‘wrong’ sources.

Michel de Montaigne. He was born in 1533 and often criticized the arrogance of intellectuals. He was a funny guy too. Reason allows us to control our passions and our bodies. To him, reasoning was possible, but our brains were full of madness. He was obsessed with the fragilities of the human body. We do not have full control over our bodies. Michel didn’t believe in modelling your life after someone who you aspire to be. He attacked academia for being out of touch. He wanted to read simple things which were fun. To him, most people studied books, but not their own minds. Philosophy or grand ideas can also be applied to ordinary lives. To him, a virtuous and ordinary life which strives for wisdom is an achievement already. He continues to be an inspiration for us all.

La Rochefoucauld. He wrote a masterpiece of a book that is only 60 pages long. It was all about observations of the human condition. He had a miserable life and was exiled. After much struggle, he decided to enter the contemplative life. He and his friends often talked about the great themes of existence. He was known for the maxim, or an insight into the human soul. He honed 504 aphorisms. The most famous one of all is ‘We all have strength enough to bear the misfortunes of others.’ His aphorisms give deep psychological reflection and precision and cynicism. He was also suspicious of romantic love. His book was short and could influence people who were not into philosophy too

A few men have sighed because their women were abducted; most because no one wanted to abduct them. – La Rochefoucauld

There are some people who would never have fallen in love, if they had not heard there was such a thing. – La Rochefoucauld

He that refuses praise the first time it is offered does it because he would like to hear it a second. – La Rochefoucauld

The reason lovers never tire of one another’s company is because they never talk of anything but themselves. – La Rochefoucauld

If one were to judge of love according to the greatest part of the effects it produces, it might very justly pass for hatred rather than kindness. – La Rochefoucauld

Baruch Spinoza. He tried to reinvent religion into something more consoling. He was born in Amsterdam in 1632. One of his famous books was ‘Ethics’. He challenged the tenets of Judaism. To him, God was a projection of our imagination. God was the universe and reason and truth. He is the eternal cause. It is important how and why things seem the way they are. Only narcissism to cause one to believe that God will take an interest to improve his or her life. One should continuously try to understand the world and bow down peacefully when necessary. To him, one needed to understand how life and the universe works, natural sciences etc so as to understand God better. We need to align our will with the Universe. Ultimately, he warns us of the failures of philosophy. It is not only reason which leads people to religion, but also emotion, belief etc. Religion is helped along by rituals, art etc. There are other perks to religion.

Arthur Schopenhauer. He was a German philosopher and his famous works was ‘The World as Will and Representation’. He was also interested in Buddhism. To him, God was not almighty as there was so much suffering in the world. The Will-to-life is a force which makes us focus on sex and fall in love. Love was connected to the idea of having children. Someone of intellect might not want a child as it so difficult to raise one and also lead to your loss of freedom. The Will-to-life is to be blamed. Lovers overlook everything and misjudge everything. He felt sorry for humans as we were behaving like animals. We do all we can to perpetuate ourselves. In general, Schopenhauer was gloomy over human nature. For sages, they can rise above the will-to-life and override them. These are the monks. The next solution is to spend as long as we can with art and philosophy. We can step back from day to day life and take part in activities. He had a pessimistic view of life. He believed strongly in Buddhism.

Life has no intrinsic worth, but is kept in motion merely by want and illusion. – Arthur Schopenhauer

There is only one inborn error, and that is the notion that we exist in order to be happy… so long as we persist in this inborn error … the world seems to us full of contradictions. For at every step, in great things and small, we are bound to experience that the world and life are certainly not arranged for the purpose of being content. That’s why the faces of almost all elderly people are etched with such disappointment. – Arthur Schopenhauer

Georg Hegel. He wrote horribly and had poor communication skills. He took history seriously and mentioned that important parts of ourselves can be found in history. To him, studying history was a form of wisdom. There are things to be learnt from every era. Progress is never linear. To him, every era contained important insights mired in a set of errors. One should learn from ideas that one dislikes. To him, progress is messy. The world makes you progress by lurching you from one extreme to another. People tend to overcompensate. It took many mistakes before the balanced constitution was formed. Progress, in history, has been slow and troubled. We will learn but with massive overcorrections. One cannot avoid stepping and making mistakes. To him, art had a great purpose. Art provides insights into our lives. We should be more forgiving to our partners. He believed that we needed new institutions. Even with right ideas, you need the right infrastructure and structures to support it.

World history is the record of the mind’s efforts to understand itself. – Georg Hagel

Friedrich Nietzsche. He often lived alone and didn’t get along with girls and his family. He wanted people to discover and be loyal to their highest potential. Envy is a part of life. Everyone compared themselves with others. To him, there was nothing wrong with envy. He wanted people to study about their envy in order to create a better self. Be conscious of your potential and fight to get there. He didn’t believe in Christianity. It was a curse to him. The problem was that Christianity protected people from their envy. They used religion to criticize what they wanted but couldn’t get and praise what they did not want but happened to have. Thus, the religion drains life of its potential. Nietzsche never drank alcohol. It was because it numbed pain, and tries to reassure us that things are fine. He also proclaimed that God was dead. He wanted culture to replace religion.

If we are finding things difficult, it is not necessarily a sign of failure, it may just be evidence of the nobility and arduousness of the tasks we’ve undertaken. – Friedrich Nietzsche

Martin Heidegger. He wrote using many complex German words. There is meaning to our lives. ‘Being and Time’ was his most famous work. He sought to help humans live more wisely. To him, modern humanity was suffering from some diseases. We have forgotten to notice we’re alive. Most of us live day-to-day. We should appreciate the ‘Mystery of Being’ and be marveled at how things are. We keep the difficult questions at bay. To him, humans need to analyze ‘The Nothing’. All Being is connected. We need to take a generous view of existence. Everything that exists are united by the basic tenets of Being. People tend to forget to be free and to live for ourselves. It is important to start living for yourself. One way to do so is to start focusing on your impending death. One should stop worrying about what others think. One shouldn’t spend so much time trying to impress others. Humans tend to treat others as objects. He believed in the use of great art and exposure.

Jean-Paul Sartre. He was born in 1905. He was known for the philosophical movement known as existentialism. His famous book is ‘Being and Nothingness’. Things are weirder than we think. Things seem absurd and frightening. One should view the world and strip it off any prejudices and assumptions. Humans are free. You can certainly take many liberating decisions and daydream etc. You can free your life of commitments and obligations. We do not have any God-given sense of purpose. We are not being shackled and the idea of ‘work’ and ‘job’ can be removed. Anguish is a mark of maturity. Humans shouldn’t live in bad faith. Things do not have to be a certain way only. One should open up their lives to other options and possibilities. We are free to dismantle capitalism. Too many people worry about money and as a result, do not make certain decisions in life. Capitalism leads to a denial in freedom.

Dinner really means that when your part of the planet has spun away from the energy of a distant hydrogen and helium explosion, you slide your knees under strips of a chopped-up tree and put sections of dead animals and plants in your mouth and chew. – Jean-Paul Sartre

Albert Camus. He was a French-Algerian philosopher. He was killed in a car crash. His famous work was ‘The Outsider’. The main character recognizes the indifference of the universe towards humankind. We all have moments when we feel that no one understands us. Life has no inherent meaning. Like other philosophers, he realized that life has no preordained meaning. He was an existentialist. However, he resisted hopelessness or nihilism. We are like Sisyphus in a way. Humans need to cope with daily life. Life is enduring. Camus was a good looking fellow who had many women. Camus understood the pleasures of ordinary life. He was a champion of the ordinary. He also stuck firmly to his principles.

Camus argues that we have to live with the knowledge that our efforts will be largely futile, our lives soon forgotten and our species irredeemably corrupt and violent – and yet should endure nevertheless. – The School of Life

Political Theory

Niccolo Machiavelli. We want to see the ideal side of politics, but we know it can be dirty. He feels that the good politician must know how to defend and be sly, when necessary. His father was a wealthy man. He wanted to both be a good person and a good politician. That seemed to be at odds with one another. His most famous book is ‘The Prince’. He should err on the side of terror. He rejected Christianity as a guide for leaders. The Christian ethics and governance were at odds. One can do wrong if it is for the security of the state. Sometimes, we can’t be good at everything. Once in a while, we need to sacrifice our ideal visions of kindness for practical effectiveness.

Thomas Hobbes. To what extent should we obey leaders who are not good? Should we start a revolution/ depose governments? He hated violence. His book ‘Leviathan’ argues that we should support government and obey them in order to avoid chaos and bloodshed. Hobbes felt that the social contract theory of government meant that people could depose rulers once they felt unhappy. Life without government would lead to massive infighting. This led to people forming governments. People had a right to protest only if the leader tried to kill them. However, if government policies were bad, there was no need for people to take to the streets to protest. He generally wanted men to obey.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Life is founded on the idea of progress. There was a guy who questioned the idea of progress into larger economies. His life was marked by isolation. He went to Paris to see the opulent life. To him, he felt like civilization destroyed morals of humans. In modern society, men are plagued by vice. In the past, people understood life to be more simple and could understand their minds. Modern society leaves us envious and suffering. Men now swelled with pride, jealousy and vanity. We end up trapped in capitalism and materialism. To him, simple people were more contented in life. Although technology was present, Indians weren’t happier. One should look to others for self-worth. We have to look at ourselves to revive human goodness.

Adam Smith. How can you make a capitalist economy more meaningful? He felt philosophers should care more about the economy. He created specialization. People started to specialize in only certain areas. Society got richer because of specialization. However, there was a lack of meaning to work. We feel like a cog in the machine. People feel that their work does not fit in well with society. Hence, employers need to remind people of their purpose, role and responsibility. This is the era of consumer capitalism. Smith felt that luxury goods were good because they stimulated the economy and created trade and jobs. Humans also have needs for education etc. To him, the rich didn’t care about money. They cared about honour and respect because they need external validation. Consumers opt for a certain type of products. We need to pay a better price for products. Adam Smith wanted to create ideas about how humans lived and how this view should be reconciled with the needs for businesses.

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The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker (Part 2)

The Failures of Heroism

The Spell Cast by Persons – The Nexus of Unfreedom. Men must hide from the truth. Men have followed leaders who seemed larger than life. Men worship power. There seems to be some fascination over those who have power. Do famous people have a halo around them? Some men respect their doctors so much that they think they are larger than life. Hypnosis is certainly possible. We all fear not being in full control of ourselves. Ferenczi admitted that we in our innermost soul, we are still children and we remain so throughout life. We all still feel the need to be subject to someone, just like how we were subject to our parents when we were younger. Freud performed a lot of research on group psychology. He tried to understand why men were so sheeplike when they functioned in groups. They fell under the sheep of their leader. He has an extreme passion for authority and wants to govern by unrestricted force. People like being in groups because it makes them feel safe. They feel safe in the group, but all this is an illusion. Every man feels like an omnipotent hero. Erich Fromm believed in narcissism. There were problems with Freud’s theory too. The leader had some traits which enabled him to hold the group together. He allowed the followers to express forbidden impulses and secret wishes. He wipes out fear in people. People think they engage in illegal activities as a group. Men likes to crave illusion. People use the leader to fulfil their own needs and urges. People use the leaders as almost as an excuse. Being in a group helps man take on individual responsibility. The leader takes the responsibility for all evil acts committed. To Freud, humans have a sexual instinct. Transference is a problem of courage. Transference could be seen as a fetish control. It literally means the need for man to exert complete control over external circumstances. Man will project all of his human qualities on an object. However, if he loses the object, he fears that he might lose himself. You can even make your own body that object. Transference is a form of narrow control that anchors our own problems. Some see transference as a fear of life. The Universe has overwhelming power but we can endow certain persons with it. The transference object becomes an obsession for the person. The more you fear death, the more you see the need for transference objects. Some people see transference as the fear of death. Now, you need the transference figure to assure your immortality and carry on you causa-sui project. It will provide shelter on your life. People want heroes for their own immortalization. When the object dies, people start to panic. Men always strives to be good. All organisms strive to feel good about themselves. The feeling is even stronger in Man. However, what is ‘right’ is not straightforward. Man feels tremblingly small and impotent in the face of transcendent nature. Rank understood the human condition really well. Transference is almost a universal passion. To Rank, Man worshipped God because of an outgrowth of life-longing and the need for meaning. This is the duality of man. Men want to be associated with values that endure. There is a school of thought where people use transference as an urge to higher heroism.

Man is a trembling animal who pulls the world down around his shoulders as he clutches for protection and support and tries to affirm in a cowardly way his feeble powers. – Ernest Becker

Transference heroics gives man precisely what he needs: a certain degree of sharply defined individuality, a definite point of reference for his practice of goodness, and all within a certain secure level of safety and control. – Ernest Becker

If all people are more or less alike, why do we burn with such all-consuming passions for some of them? – Ernest Becker

If Man gives in to his natural feeling of cosmic dependence, the desire to be part of something bigger, it puts him at peace and at oneness, gives him a sense of self-expansion in a larger beyond, and so heightens his being, giving him truly a feeling of transcendent value. – Ernest Becker

How do I realize my distinctive gifts, make my own contribution to the world through my own self-expansion? – Ernest Becker

Individuation means that the human creature has to oppose itself to the rest of nature. It crates precisely the isolation that one can’t stand – and yet needs in order to develop distinctively. It creates the difference that becomes such a burden; it accents the smallness of oneself and the sticking-outness at the same time. – Ernest Becker

Otto Rank and the Closure of Psychoanalysis on Kierkegaard. Creature consciousness is absorbed in culture. Back in the day, men was happy to serve God. Christianity made heroes of everyone. Christianity took creature consciousness and made it the condition for his cosmic heroism. For men without religion, they had to find a love object. Salvation is transference beatification. Love is the highest form of striving. Modern man is dependent on the love partner. In a relationship, we accept the other person’s body and things can joined in unity. Death is seen as the twin brother of sex. Sex ensures that the creature created will eventually die. Resistance to sex seems like a resistance to fatality. A child, will reach a stage where he will be curious about how he got his body. The body is something to triumph over. Personality is ultimately destroyed by sex. Is it good to lose yourself in another person? How can a human be a god-like thing to everything else? We expect perfection from our loved ones, but sometimes they disappoint. We feel diminished by their weaknesses. We elevate our love partner to God status because we want redemption. We need to admit our creatureliness and helplessness. Having guilt free sex might not be good too. It is defeating to want too little from your partner. Cosmic heroism must transcend human relationships. However, doing so might affect one’s quality of life and one’s individuality. Most people live based on societal norms. Women often get married, but are not happy because she sacrifices her individual personality. However, there is an aspect of self-surrender in it too. The problem with individuation is that one separates from the herd. This is the creative guy. The creative person must fashion his own idea of existence. His work is his form of ‘heroism’. However, how can one justify his own heroism? No one has a right to play God. However, the artist knows that how he is judged by others still matters and still needs to obtain meaning from outside. No matter how great his work is, he knows he pales in comparison to the transcending majesty of nature. The only way out of this is that one has to give one’s life as a gift to the powers out there. Your creative work on its own cannot provide a source of salvation. Rank wanted man to live beyond the limits set for himself. One should reach for religion. Rank thought that Man needed a religious ideology.

The idea of himself as a special cosmic hero with special gifts for the Universe. He doesn’t want to be a mere fornicating animal like any other – this is not a truly human meaning, a truly distinctive contribution to world life. – Ernest Becker

The Present Outcome of Psychoanalysis. Rank wrote about neurosis. It sums out the problems of human life. Freud could reduce insights to a few fundamental theories. The first aspect of neurosis is the trouble of the truth of existence. Everyone has their own stylistic reaction to life. It is also historical in nature. As a human, to protect ourselves, we have to shut off outside experience. This is known was ‘partialization’. Men are built more like creatures than Gods. Men thinks about the small problems instead of the big ones like life and death. Hence, men sort of refuses reality, or the ‘refusal of reality’. When the world is too much for people, neurosis sets in. Neurosis is universal in nature. Some people make their loved one their all. His ‘safe’ environment has failed him. Guilt often results due to an unused life. This is when we have potential, but failed to live according to our potential. Do not narrow-down the world too much. Some people get stuck in the narrowness. If you feel vulnerable, it is because you are not big enough to face the fears of the Universe. Some people’s fears are hysterical and have no explanation. However, they don’t know what the problem is. In order to avoid death, the person narrows down on his world. This results in isolation. Another type of neurosis, is when a person has too vivid imagination. This is a total problem. If you cannot narrow down the world, the world might seem too confusing. Some individuals cannot separate and some cannot unite. One needs to find a balance between the two. One reason for such behaviour is when one has poor social skills. When this happens, you will feel your life is a total problem. This person withdraws from the world and becomes a narcissist. A neurotic lives symbolically, not biologically. The artist is the most neurotic of all. Everyone is neurotic to some extent. The artist is better than the neurotic because he can produce works that represent his symbolic view of the world. Some level of objective creativity is a must. The neurotic tends to criticize himself too much. The artist glorifies himself because he has the talent to do so. Talent is circumstantial. The author can understand why people like to work hard at their jobs as the alternative to that is natural desperation and madness. What can keep Man from going mad? In reality, people have all sorts of personalities. Is the average man one to be emulated? It seems like our Creator has no grand plans for Mankind. People are living an illusion. On what level of illusion does one live? Man needs a new reality. Cultural heroism is important for men. Cultural play tends to vary with society and history. Men needs other acts to find heroism and not just simply raising kids. He needs revolutions and wars. Modern man is left to his own resources. He has to justify himself. Science still can’t explain the soul. To Rank, psychology was a negative sort of ideology. Psychology tries to identify what’s wrong with a person when he is unhappy. However, sometimes the cause of happiness is because of one’s relationship with the world. Hence, psychology has limited understanding of humans. Psychology tends to focus on circumstantial guilt. Psychologists in the modern age now represent the new God. The Merger of Sin and Neurosis. Both Kierkegaard and Rank reached similar conclusions on psychoanalysis. They both had the ‘theology’ world-view. Man must translate his meaningfulness on a larger level. However, justifying your own heroism is bound to fail. Neurosis is a strive for self-achieved immortality. The cure for neurosis is to change your world-view. One needs to plunge into world experiences and then try to attain meaning from it. To Goethe, men didn’t know what proper experiences were. Religion needs to be supported by external and compelling activities, not just a belief in God. What is the best foolishness to live under? The best one is the one that provides the most dignity and freedom. Religion removes our responsibilities. We can make free decisions. We can rely on powers that support and do not oppose us. Religion also allows one to explore their individual heroic personality. Also, it gives hope because it is largely unknown. It relieves the absurdity of earthly life. To Rank, Christianity ranks as an ideal. Is there a cost for failure to reach transcendence? Can an individual affirm and accept himself from himself? A creative person is too full of himself and of the world. One needs to ask important questions like what world view? What powers? For what heroism?

Generally speaking, we call neurotic any life style that beings to constrict too much, that prevents free forward momentum, new choices, and growth that a person may want and need. – Ernest Becker

To live is to engage in experience at least partly on the terms of the experience itself. One has to stick his neck out in the action without any guarantees about satisfaction or safety. – Ernest Becker

In sin and neurosis man fetishizes himself on something narrow at hand and pretends that the whole meaning and miraculousness of creation is limited to that, that he can get his beatification from that. – Ernest Becker

A General View of Mental Illness. Humans fear isolated forms of human existence. Mental illness is very complex and varied. I will try to simplify the concepts for the layman. Is there even a general theory of mental illness? Mental illness is essentially denial of creatureliness. People who have depression are afraid of life. Fear of life leads to excessive fear of death. Depressed people fear to move and do anything. Do not live simply to meet the demands of others. Men do not have the power to rely on. People hunger for immortality in their own small family circle. Transference is the use of an object for self-perpetuation. If you cannot fight or flee from your problems, you will enter a state of depression. People who are depressed want others to care for him and take care of him. There is a sense of guilt in this. Failure to have a useful social role can lead to depression. Menopause reawakens the horrors of our body. Nature is the real ‘castrator’. Once both the bodily and the cultural projects fail, one is a failure. Some form of heroism is needed. One cannot simply rely on object-embeddedness. One has to be a hero in some way. Schizophrenia is another sort of mental illness. He is a realist. He fears life and its demands and lives in mistrust of himself. We have a good theory of what schizophrenia is about. The symbolic and bodily self are completely disintegrated. He is not securely rooted in his body. As a result, he needs to hyper-magnify his world to achieve transcendence. Hence, he seems very contrived. He is open to his own anxieties. His body, to him, is a mass of stench and decay and will betray him. A normal person will use his body with confidence. He doesn’t have an ego response. Perversions are not marginal. Freud was interested in studying about perversions. To him, the fetish is a substitute of a woman. Man can find dualism strange and cannot accept impermanence of the body. Children are shamed of their bodies when they soil themselves. Death and decay are themes of obsession. Children are indeed bothered by their bodies. This is especially so if he has seen traumatic things. Their kids will grow up weaker in their body confidence. Low-esteem is a serious problem too. Wanting to sexualize is an expression of individualism. This also explains fetishism. Our body is standard, but the self is personalized. How can one reconcile this? Perversions are in essence a striving for freedom. Freud thought that the fetish object represented the mother’s ‘penis’. People with fetishism treat their bodies with a halo, like a personal thing. Some people have fetishes with shoes. Feet are ugly while shoes are beautiful. Fetishes can be charms too. Clothing has massive impact on people. Perversions are a form of private religion. Sadism and masochism might seem natural. When you rape someone, you show you can manipulate and dominate another person. It provides intensity in the place of emptiness. Masochism is a way of taking pain and transmuting them into pleasure. Rank thought that Mankind could not get rid of thoughts of masochism and sadism. Mental illness are seen as failed heroics. They all have the power of courage.

All living organisms are condemned to perversity, to the narrowness of being mere fragments of a larger totality that overwhelms them, which they cannot understand or truly cope with – yet must still live and struggle in. – Ernest Becker

The more you shrink back from the difficulties and the darings of life, the more you naturally come to feel inept, the lower is your self-evaluation. It is ineluctable. – Ernest Becker

One must pay with life and consent daily to die, to give oneself up to the risks and dangers of the world, allow oneself to be engulfed and used up. Otherwise, one ends up as though dead in trying to avoid life and death. – Ernest Becker

If you can’t be a hero within a communal ideology, then you must be a nagging, whining failure in your family. – Ernest Becker

The body is definitely the hurdle for man, the decaying drag of the species on the inner freedom and purity of his self. – Ernest Becker

Retrospect and Conclusion: The Dilemmas of Heroism

Psychology and Religion: What is the Heroic Individual? We tend to follow other person’s ideas. We find idols in our lives. We try to convert our people to our idea. The artist tries to create his meaning and he must be sustained by them. Kierkegaard thought man had to live in faith and give meaning of life to his Creator. This is the knight of faith. One needs to find what is needed to live. Man cannot get rid of his nature. The enemy is repression, the denial of death. Men sets limits for himself because this a truly human existence. Therefore, our culture or superego sets such limits. Even if you can postpone death, people might still fear dying prematurely. What kind of Gods would people in a Utopia worship? There are certainly limits to psychotherapy. One cannot have it all his own way. One must draw back in some areas and pay the penalty in some form or another. Psychotherapy does have its uses. Psychology is useless, because it helps to cure weaknesses, but it does not promise immortality. Hence, that is why psychotherapy does have use. Psychology is not a new belief system. The author believes that the fusion of psychology and religion is logical. There are also limits to human nature. There is no way to transcend the human condition. Social movements are mere fancy. Is therapeutic revolution a viable concept? Utopian societies tend to deaden human sensitivity and deny humans of heroism. There are a lot of things about creation and life which we do not understand. All we can do is speak to the life force.

A creature who takes more of the world into himself and develops new forms of courage and endurance. – Ernest Becker

Whatever man does on this planet has to be done in the lived truth of the terror of creation, of the grotesque, of the rumble of panic underneath everything. Otherwise it is false. – Ernest Becker

Whatever is achieved must be achieved from within the subjective energies of creatures, without deadening, with the full exercise of passion, of vision, of pain, of fear, and of sorrow. – Ernest Becker

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