Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

A Gentle Philosophy

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A Gentle Philosophy (or A Kind Philosophy, or A Soft Philosophy, depending on the translation) is the title of a song I like a lot (maybe I’ll put the video below), and is something I thought about after my last post in which I mentioned the philosopher talking of “an alleged emergency” and basically treating the current state of affairs of our species as just another thought experiment.

Through a series of different connections, thinking about philosophy, I came to the usual – my own philosophical gurus, and their teachings. Because we are creatures of science and philosophy, and there’s always something to learn from the classics.

Disease is an impediment to the body, but not to the will, unless the will itself chooses. Lameness is an impediment to the leg, but not to the will. And add this reflection on the occasion of everything that happens; for you will find it an impediment to something else, but not to yourself.”

Epictetus

The high and lows through which me and my brother have been navigating these last five years have taught us a very practical lesson on the subject of impermanence.
I have posted in the past about how I found an interesting coincidence in schools of thought as apparently distant as classic stoicism and Eastern zen and taoism. And it is not that I spend my days quoting from the Taol Te Ching, or from Takuan Soho’s Letters to the Sword Master, or from Epictetus.
But sometimes, when the going gets rough, and I need to pick myself up, I happen to think… hey, it’s like Seneca, or Chuang Tsu, or Taisen Dashimaru said…

“We have no grounds for self-admiration, as though we were surrounded by our own possessions; they have been loaned to us. We may use and enjoy them, but the one who allotted his gift decides how long we are to be tenants; our duty is to keep ready the gifts we have been given for an indefinite time and to return them when called upon, making no complaint: it is a sorry debtor who abuses his creditor.”

Seneca

About one hour ago, a friend I respect deeply told me something that I will try and remember for the rest of my life. We were discussing these hard times, and the hard times yet to come, and he said “To be rich in the superfluous but poor in the essential is stupid.”
And I don’t know if it’s a quote from somewhere or not, but it’s spot on.

“Don’t set your mind on things you don’t possess as if they were yours, but count the blessings you actually possess and think how much you would desire them if they weren’t already yours. But watch yourself, that you don’t value these things to the point of being troubled if you should lose them.”

Marcus Aurelius

And in these days, when everybody is giving away books for free – I am doing it myself – I thought it might be a good thing to point you in the direction of a beautiful set of books, curated by productivity guru Tim Ferris, and called The Tao of Seneca.
You can download them from here.
Who knows, maybe they might help.

And now, the song I mentioned… (yeah, sorry, it’s in Japanese)

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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