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We Are What We Repeatedly Do

We Are What We Repeatedly Do

How do we come to be strong as people? How do we come to be brave, patient or persistent? Are we born that way?

Sayings such as “Practice makes perfect” exemplify the well-known fact that repetition improves learning. This was discussed by abundant ancient and medieval philosophers and was demonstrated empirically by Hermann Ebbinghaus, the first academic to carry out a protracted series of experiments on human memory. In a classic 1885 book, Ebbinghaus showed that retaining of information improves as a function of the number of times the information has been studied. Since the time of Ebbinghaus, innumerable investigators have used repetition to examine learning and memory.

Without any knowledge of how the brain works, about 2,500 years ago Greek philosopher-scientist Aristotle pretty much nailed it by using common sense to explain what he observed in human behavior:

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.

It may sound a lot like the truism, “Practice makes perfect,” but Aristotle is accurate that being who we are comes from repetition of performance to form behavior patterns.

These days, neuroscientists explain that behavior patterns happen when the brain cells concerned in the behavior become physically connected to each other in a network called a neural pathway. We aren’t born with this efficient hard-wiring. More exactly, the separate brain cells involved in the behavior are stimulated by usage to grow tiny filaments called dendrites. By reiterating the behavior over and over, the dendrites ultimately connect the cells with each other into a network called a neural pathway. At this stage the behavior pattern is said to be entrenched, meaning the mental processing is so efficient it feels effortless and automatic. Indeed, the behavior may be implemented even without conscious thought.

We use words like skills, habits and personal strengths to describe these behavior patterns. We can learn bad habits as well as good habits—any kind of behavior pattern at all. All it takes is replication over time. We can develop addictions as well as character strengths. As Aristotle said it so well so long ago, “We are what we repeatedly do.”

Thus, repetition need not lead to enhanced learning. Rather, repetition leads to increased opportunities for learning to occur. Whether learning takes place will depend on the type of information that has to be recollected and the amount and nature of dispensation that a person carries out.

Because the brain cell connections are physical, the patterns they enable are hard-wired…and everlasting. So if you want to break a bad habit, your challenge is to grow a new substitute neural pathway. You don’t actually get rid of old, undesirable behavior patterns. You learn new ones that give you more satisfaction, which means you’ll use them more and the old ones less.

The good news is that once you learn how to swim or ride a bicycle, the skill will stay with you for the rest of your life, even without using the ability for years.

More good news for people practicing a learning journey: You can grow stronger by simply doing the right things constantly over time. The behavior may seem awkward and clumsy at first, but it becomes easier the more you do it.

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Boredom is a Sickness of the Soul

The Only Unhappiness is a Life of Boredom

The Only Unhappiness is a Life of Boredom Have you ever been bored? When we have nothing in particular to do, and have time on our hands, a strange unrest seizes us, and we feel our life to be futile and meaningless.

Nearly all unhappiness in life comes from the inclination to blame someone else. Let us always hope well of a cause that is good in itself, and beneficial to human race. The pathology of the case up until now remains concealed in darkness. At that profundity the bottom, which had no pressure of water above it, and had a substantial pressure below, would not sink nor fall from the tube, but in reality swam at that depth upon the water? There is no one rationality why all these states got into trouble. Much is already being done, but more is needed. It is called the sewer serene, a disquiet in which the eye is, to all appearance, as capable of seeing as in the profound state; but, notwithstanding, the individual remains for life in gross darkness.

Boredom is not an uncommon human experience. It is a divine judgment against our uncreative life. The Lord placed us in this world for a purpose. We have tasks waiting to be done. In us, there is the energy of hand and heart and mind, craving for release, for action. Yet we allow the tasks to remain undone, and our energies to be untapped. Our feeling of boredom is an indication of God’s displeasure with what we are making of ourselves. This unrest of the soul calls for no special cure except work, work that will serve someone in the world, work that will give us the most priceless of all joys—the satisfaction of being useful, of being creative.

God has woven many safeguards, for our own wellbeing, into the fabric of our natures. In the face of peril, we are pervaded by an emotion of fear. When our bodies need sustenance, we feel a sensation of hunger. Because the Lord wanted us to live with mates in the family of life, He gave us the sexual urge. These pressures in our nature are the controls the Lord has set upon us to steer us die way He wishes us to go. Boredom is just such a control.

The Lord did not want us to stagnate through idleness. We each have a job we can do, and should do. It may be a rigorous job, and initially it may appear hard, even beyond us. Nevertheless, let us put our hand and heart to it, and if we suffer from any feeling of boredom, it will fade before we know it, as morning mist fades at the oncoming sun.

Boredom is One of the Greatest Tortures of Life

Boredom is One of the Greatest Tortures of Life Humans defend their territory covetously—trapping, snaring, poisoning, shooting offhanded, and putting the dogs on the contention. The Japanese have a term, kenzoku, which translated literally means ‘family.’ The connotation suggests a bond between people who have made an interchangeable commitment and who possibly therefore share a similar fate. It implies the presence of the deep connection of friendship, of lives lived as comrades from the distant past. The air upon the Italian desolate coast, still open and dry the soil, is incessantly found grievous; while universally through Europe the most thickly settled cities are reckoned the most healthful.

Normally, people believe that defeat is characterized by a general bustle and a vehement rush. Bustle and rush are the signs of victory, not of defeat. Victory is a thing of action. Every participant in victory sweats and puffs, carrying the stones for the building of the house. But defeat is a thing of tiredness, of incoherence, of boredom. Above all of futility. Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari wrote in his best selling Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind,

Nobody would doubt that all the new technologies will enhance again the collective power of humankind, but the question we should be asking ourselves is what’s happening on the individual level. We have enough evidence from history that you can have a very big step forward, in terms of collective power, coupled with a step backwards in terms of individual happiness, individual suffering. We need to ask ourselves about the new technologies emerging at present, not only how are they going to impact the collective power of humankind, but also how are they going to impact the daily life of individuals.

This gives rise to a tremendous stirring, one based not on hope but on experience. When the Dutch, smith bole, cut down the clove trees of the island of ternate, of which it was full, in order to raise the cost of cloves in Europe, this produced such a shift in the air, that the island from being exceedingly salubrious, became sickly and unhealthy to an uttermost degree. At least you would ultimately know how mystifying the hole is. Yet what is inside is the only origin of happiness.

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Generousness Brings Enjoyment, and Discipline Happiness

The Prose of Everyday Life

Young couples occasionally look back with nostalgia on the romantic beginnings of their love. The bonds, which now link them to each other, are real and deep, yet they remember the earlier exhilaration, when each encounter was an adventure, long anticipated, and long remembered. They sometimes feel as though all the sparkle, all the poetry has gone out of their lives.

The Prose of Everyday Life Their complaint is in some sense true, but they do not fully understand the meaning of the change, which has taken place in their lives. The excitation was a necessary stimulant to courtship. It was necessary to overcome the resistance to the loss of independence, which is in some respects inevitable when two lives are to be merged into one. A tree, in the early stages of its transplantation needs special nurture, and so do young people at the time of the most radical change in their lives.

That stimulant recedes when it has accomplished its purpose. Indeed its persistence might become a hindrance, since some young people whose pursuit of each other has ended with the prize won; now have other things to do. They must begin the prose of everyday life. They must begin to share the rigors of living, to face common tasks, to help each other in their climb towards the new horizons opening in their life together.

The thin kindling wood gives off a brilliant flame, but that flame cannot last, and does not give out warmth. Its function is to ignite the heavy log, which will burn with less sparkle, less glitter, but with the most glowing steadiness. The fire of later years is not as brilliant as the blaze, which burned at the beginning, but it is firmer, surer, and warmer.

It was made of clay, effortlessly chipped, and coarsely painted. The universal arrangement is the time-honored one of a thoughtfulness of the anatomy of the cerebellum from a descriptive point of view, followed by a segment on experimentation, with, in the end, a detailed account of the diagnostic of affections of this portion of the brain, and a discourse of the relation of the brain to motility.

Happiness is Simple-minded Than Suffering

Happiness is Simple-minded Than Suffering Let us not permit the kindling wood to flare up and burn itself out in a beautiful but brief exhibit of flame, without being sure it ignites the thicker log for the more enduring fire.

Would not this require vast strength to effect? Pretty standardized is the force that the muscles of the arm exert in raising the whole length of the arm, and the weight of the hand beside. Our lives are not determined by what happens to us but by how we react to what happens, not by what life brings to us, but by the mindset, we bring to life. An affirmative mental attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events, and outcomes. It is a medium, a spark that creates extraordinary results. Our reputation is an instrument, then-not, hopefully, for creating or maintaining our self-esteem but for pragmatic pilot age through daily life, a good one smoothing out the travel somewhat, a bad one causing doors to slam in our face and testing our self-confidence in ourselves. German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche writes in Mastery,

Do not talk about giftedness, inborn talents! One can name great men of all kinds who were very little gifted. They acquired greatness, became ‘geniuses’ (as we put it), through qualities the lack of which no one who knew what they were would boast of: they all possessed that seriousness of the efficient workman which first learns to construct the parts properly before it ventures to fashion a great whole; they allowed themselves time for it, because they took more pleasure in making the little, secondary things well than in the effect of a dazzling whole.

Given these and other benefits, I can think of very few grounds entrepreneurs would skip physical exercise to work on their business. The research says that exercise is working on their business. This is why happiness is simple-minded than suffering, which is incessantly working so hard. The unicorn of happiness is allergic to advice and Little Me’s elaborate schemes are not interesting to her. She is a free roamer with no fixed terminus or shape; her hooves are in the Tao.

Nonetheless, when the lights diffuse to the corporeal matter, then the light becomes seeable and is revealed to the senses because of the heaviness of the corporeal matter. Many people find this to be one of the most difficult aspects of the mindfulness practice. They were all grateful that he was the one who was hit by the bus and not them.

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A Life Frittered Away by Detail

'Walden' by Henry David Thoreau (ISBN 1505297729) From Henry David Thoreau’s Walden,

Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail. In the midst of this chopping sea of civilized life, such are the clouds and storms and quicksands and thousand-and-one items to be allowed for, that a man has to live, if he would not founder and go to the bottom and not make his port at all, by dead reckoning, and he must be a great calculator indeed who succeeds. Simplify, simplify.

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Your Life is Not Your Own

The Heart and Benevolence That is God

Your Life Is Not Your Own “It is my life. I can do with it as I please.” How often have you heard that defiant declaration of independence? Yet, it is based on no more than a half-truth. Nevertheless, if this were the case the ill results of neediness from sleep would tend to accumulate and hence become more evident after such deprivation had consumed for a number of years.

It is true that every man has a duty, not to speak of a right, to live by his own lights. No man was meant to be a duplicate of another, or echo someone else’s voice. The Creator made each of us a distinctive person, with a mind of his own. Presumably, He wanted us to live by it, to justify making us what we are. Yet, our life is not entirely our own, and we do not have an unqualified right to do what we please. Our parents, our friends, our society too, have all made investments in us, and what we do makes a difference to them! We are obliged to consider whether we are conserving or dissipating their investments.

The greatest investor in our lives is God, Who conferred existence upon us, and who endowed us with potentialities waiting to be awakened by us to active life. The Creator’s work is never without a purpose, so there is then a goal, a commitment to which our lives are charged. A man may refuse to pay his bills, but a record exists. A charge is entered against every name and we are all in duty bound to redeem our outstanding obligations.

It strengthens your purpose to stick with your resolve not to do harm again. As if, happiness is somewhat reciprocally, symmetrical to desire. It has been suggested that only such tests should be used which all-normal persons without exclusion can fulfill (Zhen). American Psychologist Lorne Ladner writes in his The Lost Art of Compassion,

We all naturally want to be happy. However, …. when we approach life in a self-centred way, focusing primarily on our own protection, security, possessions and well-being, happiness always eludes us. Seeking happiness in this way unintentionally but inevitably leads to insecurity loneliness, neediness and misery. By contrast, when our approach to life is base on love, empathy and compassion for others, happiness flows to us in an ever-increasing stream. ….

Many people agree that compassion, like … charity, is a good thing. However, people are so in the habit of seeking happiness outside themselves that it’s extremely rare for anyone to even consider taking this idea literally—which is how it’s intended—and experiment with cultivating compassion as the main path to happiness in their lives.

Inspiration Comes Only from Reverence Toward the Achievements of God

Reverence Toward the Achievements of God Would not this involve immense strength to effect? Similar is the force that the muscles of the arm wield in raising the whole length of the arm, and the weight of the hand beside. To fortify their case, they also sought through all uncommitted project documents and data files, many of which recognize from the days when computers relied on punch cards for data entry and stored data on nine-track tape.

If everyone else around us is consuming material things and giving in to craving, it is more hard to maintain our mindful awareness. In less than a century, it had entirely lost those traces left by the shoes of George Washington. Trying to cut a three-iron around a tree, he alternatively deinked its trunk, the ball rolling back at him, scoffing.

Manifestly, imagining the pleasure they would feel from humoring in an unavailable enticement distracted the children even more than cognitively restructuring the way they thought about the enticement before them.

The ability of newborns to imbibe everything around them straightaway dictates the intention of a particular environment for them in the hospitals. My intuition is that self-knowledge and experience play a theatrical role in reconciling happiness vs. meaning, short-term versus long-term.

“My life is not my own.” It is a trust for which I am responsible. I have no right to do with it as I please, but I am under an obligation to discharge the terms of the trust.

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Do the Best You Can and Don’t Take Life Too Serious

Do the Best You Can and Don’t Take Life Too Serious

The Wisdom of Living

The Wisdom of Living The finger on the dock of time turns inexorably. We are sometimes saddened when we realize that time moves on, that the years are slipping out of our hands, yet these thoughts need not really depress us. Evils in the journey of life are like the hills which alarm travelers on the road.

The wisdom of living consists in making the most of what we are given. We cannot weave without threads, but it is our skill with the threads that determines whether we shall fashion a beautiful tapestry or labor without producing anything of use or beauty.

God does not fashion life for us. He does not determine the shape of our dreams, or our accomplishments, but He gives us the threads… He has endowed our hands with energy, our minds with power to reason, our hearts with the power to feel, and He placed us upon the scene of nature abounding in the raw materials with which we can build to our heart’s desire. Both appear great at a distance, but when we approach them we find they are far less insurmountable than we had conceived. Both of these, when their nature is examined, are equal.

Cultivating Gratitude Makes Each Day Worth Living

Only a fortunate few experience unadulterated synchronicity of such allegiance. Given this four ways gratitude can profit us, we have some very good reasons to return thanks more than once a year. Cultivating gratitude makes each day worth living and might even give us more days. Although some students take more than four years to discharge their degrees, most juniors and seniors are comparatively young compared with students in urban communities where working masses take part-time loads and evening classes.

An artist who has spent his days fashioning a thing of beauty rejoices in his labor when it is done. He does not fret that the days, which have passed, have made him older. Only empty days, futile days, wasted days, are a tragedy. Only the passing of days such as these is depressing. Alan Garner wrote in The Voice That Thunders,

The purpose of the storyteller is to relate the truth in a manner that is simple: to integrate without reduction; for it is rarely possible to declare the truth as it is, because the universe presents itself as a Mystery. We have to find parables; we have to tell stories to unriddle the world … The job of a storyteller is to speak the truth; but what we feel most deeply cannot be spoken in words. At this level only images connect. And so the story becomes symbol; and symbol is myth

Develop interest in life as you see it; in people, things, literature, music—the cosmos is so rich, simply throbbing with bountiful treasures, beautiful souls and interesting citizenry. The only well-founded ground of judgment of conviction would be that with the personal tastes and self-regarding concerns of individuals the public has no business to interpose.

Life Wastes Itself While We are Preparing to Live

Life Wastes Itself While We are Preparing to Live How are we using the threads that the Lord has given us? At the New Year, we ask this question. It is a disturbing question, because on its answer depends the sum of meaning in our lives. Investing a fixed sum of money at regular intervals prevents you from buying too many shares when stock prices are over-inflated, as many market seers consider them to be right now, thereby threatening your average cost per share and increasing your return. The latter tells of a German who showed various feats of this kind at Greater London, and who performed before the king and a part of the imperial family. Anyone who is perfectly certain about a belief is likely to be wrong.

Wasted threads, badly used threads, show up in the final design, but when we weave with skill, and fashion life into a pattern of harmony and goodness, and then our existence becomes permeated with serenity and peace. We can laugh though die days pass and the years go, for then we have given only time in exchange for achievement.

During this season of the year, we often recall the Psalmist’s prayer, “O teach us to count our days that we may get us a heart of Wisdom.” No, it does not really mean to count days. Anyone can do that. It is rather a prayer to make the days count. That is indeed the supreme wisdom of living.

In short, a great and brilliant plan of Almighty administration is in part opened; and nothing is omitted that may give humanity the mystifying sense of their being all the subjects of the moral regime of God. The company of concordant friends will be the best medicine in an evening; and good broth his primed supper. The risk of taking one or a handful of circumscribed experiences and generalizing them across our aggregate life.

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The Art of Enjoying the Blessings of Life

The Gift of Life

The Art of Enjoying the Blessings of Life There is an art in enjoying the blessings of life, and unless we master it, we court disaster. It is a simple art. It consists in realizing that everything we are and everything we have is a gift, ultimately from the Creator and that every day of our lives the gift is renewed to us. This realization will deepen our joy in possession and it will lighten our grief in deprivation.

In assessing my own condition, I am often tempted to be dissatisfied. My mind wanders towards what I lack. Moreover, if I contrast my poverty with somebody else’s affluence, I am tempted to rebel against my destiny.

However, my mind is set at peace when I suddenly remember that whatever I have is not, in a final sense, of my own making. Nor is it mine by any right. For what did I bring with me into the world that is my home? I came into it utterly helpless. Moreover, the goals towards which I have grown and everything, which has been placed in my hands, to have and to cherish, is a gift given me freely, graciously. It was given in love, a love that I could not really earn and for which I can offer little in return. In addition, when I become aware of this, I find a new contentment.

This awareness of my blessings, and of their source, prepares me also for their inevitable surrender. Either for I know that the things I cherish will not last or that if they do, I, being mortal, will not always is here to enjoy them. A final separation awaits every relationship, no matter how tender. Someday I shall have to drop every object to which my hands now cling.

Enjoy the Roses, Taste of Their Beauty, Delight in Their Fragrance

These thoughts sadden me, but I can bear them more readily when I remember that the measure of my loss is also the measure of my privilege. Shall I rebel because my roses last so brief a time? Shall I grieve when none blossom in my garden? No! I must rather give thanks for those days I was privileged to enjoy roses, to taste of their beauty and their fragrance.

Each day of my life, my blessings are given to me anew. For the gift given me and for whatever time I am privileged to keep it, I am grateful. In addition, when I am asked to surrender my gift, I shall still know that I was richly blessed. Moreover, I shall say, “Praised be Thou, O Lord my God, that Thou didst grant me the privilege to know the gift of life.” This blessing has value: it discourages surrender and fuels religious zeal.

People have to confront regrets. Becoming matured means learning to admit what you cannot change, facing dissonant sorrows, and learning to love life as it truly happens, not as you would have it happen. When somebody attaches unkindness to unfavorable judgment, she is angry. Angry people need to criticize as an outlet for their anger. That is why you must resist unkind criticism. Unkind criticism is never part of a meaningful criticism of you. Its intent is not to teach or to help, its purpose is to penalize. Life is not supposed to be an all or nothing combat between miserableness and blissfulness.

Everyone Needs Positive Role Models: A Good Reputation Inspires Others

Good Reputation Inspires Others We know that before the Bank of New England went under, a lot of business firms withdrew their money and put them in other banks. In the meantime, recollecting that nothing was ever yet done which someone was not the first to do, and that all good things that exist are the fruits of originality, let them be humble enough to believe that there is something still left for it to attain. Reassure them that they are more in need of originality, the less they are conscious of the neediness. American designer and engineer William S. Cobb writes about emptiness is not what you expect in The Game of Go,

Emptiness refers to the absence of something that, for some reason, one expects to find—as when we say a glass, normally used to hold liquids, is empty even though it is full of air. The point is not that there is nothing there at all, but rather that what is there differs from your expectations.

All who want happiness want to eradicate distress? Life is not supposed to be a conflict at all. In addition, when it comes to happiness, well, sometimes life is just all right; sometimes it is well heeled, sometimes wonderful, sometimes tedious, sometimes unpleasant. When your day is not perfect, it is not a failure or a frightening loss. It is just another day. By this system, men lie much cooler, and it is more accordant in every respect, as well as healthier.

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How to Feel More Optimistic

  • Feel More Optimistic No matter what happens, you’re not a victim. It’s up to you to determine your response.
  • Embrace your life’s purpose. Make your own unique contribution that turns your environment into a better place and fulfills you.
  • Make the reality your reality.
  • Don’t be distracted by the overwhelmingly negative news around you.
  • Don’t look back too often. Keep yourself open to today’s new opportunities.
  • Listen to your friends and loved ones, but don’t become dependent on what others think of you.
  • Be grateful for everything life has given you and for every step forward you can take.
  • Make sure you laugh often. Do not take yourself too seriously.
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Philosophical Hedonism

Philosophical Hedonism

Philosophical Hedonism holds that human actions should be motivated by the pursuit of pleasure.

How should we live? We pursue education so that we can get a career, so we can make money, so we can buy things, so we can … what? Presumably, we do not want a career or money just to have a career or money, but in order to be happy. The idea that the morally good or “right” motivation for acting is the pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain is called hedonism.

Hedonism can be traced to the sixth-century BCE Indian philosophy Carvaka, but its most influential form was in the ancient Greek teachings of Aristippus of Cyrene (c. 435–356 BCE) and Epicurus (341–270 BCE). Epicurus said in a letter to Meneoceus, “[We] do everything for the sake of being free of pain and mental distress.”

Regarding pleasure as the only valuable pursuit, hedonism sets itself apart from other widely accepted moral views, such as that a person has moral duties to do certain things regardless of whether they make them happy (deontology) and that a person has obligations to do whatever God commands, irrespective of the impact on their own welfare (divine command theory).

However, philosophical hedonism should be distinguished from the mere pursuit of pleasure. While some accuse hedonists of advocating a life of debauchery, philosophical hedonists reject this characterization. Epicurus argued that while every pleasure is good, “it does not follow that every pleasure is a choice worthy without qualification.” He extolled traditional virtues of self-sufficiency, prudence, and even a healthy diet, since they too contribute to a lifetime of happiness. Though hedonism was rejected by many influential moral philosophers (such as Thomas Aquinas and Immanuel Kant), it continues to play an influential role in contemporary moral and political thought.

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“I Must Be Myself” from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance”

'Self-Reliance and Other Essays' by Ralph Waldo Emerson (ISBN 0486277909) 

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803—1882) was an American essayist and poet. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Emerson was the fourth child of a Unitarian minister. Throughout his writings, Emerson is keenly concerned with the growth of the individual—the development of the individual’s powers, potentials, and capacities—an emphasis demonstrating that his thought is thoroughly centered on educational concerns.

Emerson was one of his era’s leading liberals. His prime meaning in any case is self-reliance intellectually and in everyday life. He urges us to trust ourselves, to recognize human divinity and avoid imitation. It is a simple message but all-important – and far easier said than done.

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self-Reliance may be a short essay, but it is packed with advice which is probably more relevant today than it has ever been. At only 30 pages, Self-Reliance has the qualities of a concentrate, perhaps the very essence of personal development. Self-Reliance was one of the key pieces of writing which helped carve the ethic of American individualism, and forms part of the intellectual bedrock of today’s self-help writers. Relish what really matters in your life; the simple things like your friends and family, your hobbies and perhaps your work. Enjoy the freedoms you have and recognise the value of living a normal life outside of the public eye.

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self-reliance is one of the major writing that helped carve the ethnic American individualism and form the intellectual basis of today’s writers. The thought of self-reliance inspires people not to conform to social conventions but to rely on themselves. When you are working on your next task, give it your full concentration and really put the effort in to produce the best possible end result. Even if it doesn’t lead to glittering success, you should be proud of yourself for doing your very best.

Emerson’s essay begins by reconstructing volving theory of recognition and the central role it played for his concept of ‘self-reliance.’ Initially having adopted the theorizations of recognition developed by Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, Emerson came to articulate the idea of self-reliance by way of developing an alternative approach to recognition, in which the source allocating recognition is neither society nor an inborn moral sense, but rather the transcendentally conceptualized self. Emerson’s shift towards self-recognition poses questions seldom asked in the contemporary debate on recognition.

“… Live no longer to the expectation of these deceived and deceiving people with whom we converse. Say to them, O father, O mother, O wife, O brother, O friend, I have lived with you after appearances hitherto. Henceforward I am the truth’s. Be it known unto you that henceforward I obey no law less than the eternal law. I will have no covenants but proximities. I shall endeavour to nourish my parents, to support my family, to be chaste husband of one wife,—but these relations I must fill after a new and unprecedented way. I appeal from your customs.

I must be myself.

I cannot break myself any longer for you, or you. If you can love me for what I am, we shall be happier. If you cannot, I will still seek to deserve that you should. I will not hide my tastes or aversions. I will so trust that what is deep is holy, that I will do strongly before the sun and moon whatever inly rejoices me, and the heart appoints. If you are noble, I will love you; if you are not, I will not hurt you and myself by hypocritical attentions. If you are true, but not in the same truth with me, cleave to your companions; I will seek my own. I do this not selfishly, but humbly and truly. It is alike your interest, and mine, and all men’s, however long we have dwelt in lies, to live in truth. Does this sound harsh to-day? You will soon love what is dictated by your nature as well as mine, and, if we follow the truth, it will bring us out safe at last.”

Full essay is here. Emerson wrote Self-Reliance in 1841—well over 160 years ago—and I believe it provides both a delightful antidote for the times in which we live and also holds up an ideal with which to guide us. Self-reliance—the ability to stand on our own two feet and live a life which is our own and not borrowed from someone else, or one which is meaningful and not superficial—is indispensable in instituting our own exclusive identity. So if, like me, you think self-reliance is important, read on.

“A man,” Emerson writes, “should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the luster of the firmament of bards and sages.” There is a certain ambiguity in this statement concerning the question of whether social approbation is categorically distinct from the “grace with the loftier deities” or linked to it by inversion. One also notices Emerson’s rhetorically combining Roman polytheism with Protestant grace, the distinction between lesser and loftier deities amounting to a kind of Protestant doctrine of two kingdoms in which two different economies of recognition are at work. Find somewhere you can think and reflect. It might be the public library or the bottom of your garden. It doesn’t matter where, as long as you spend some time thinking and don’t forget to take a notebook to jot down your thoughts. Everything we do depends for its quality on the thinking we do first.

The great philosopher of affirmation is concurrently the great teacher of dissatisfaction, even disappointment. In each of us, the energies of hope should make room for the emotion of philosophical acceptance of the world, as it must be. If you want to feel at peace go for a walk in the countryside and learn to appreciate your surroundings. Better still, do some sport as this releases serotonin which is so critical to the feeling of well-being. You don’t need to spend lots of money on a new car to make yourself feel happy; just go for a run.

Having established these fundamental dimensions of Emerson’s theory of inspiration, it is crucial to see that Emerson’s praxis of eloquence was geared at putting inspiration into effect. This he attempted to achieve by activating the reader’s imagination.

Quotations from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance”

  • “Discontent is the want of self-reliance: it is infirmity of will.”
  • “It is easy to see that a greater self-reliance must work a revolution in all the offices and relations of men; in their religion; in their education; in their pursuits; their modes of living; their association; in their property; in their speculative views.”
  • “I must be myself. I cannot break myself any longer for you, or you. If you can love me for what I am, we shall be the happier. If you cannot, I will still seek to deserve that you should. I will not hide my tastes or aversions.”
  • “You take the way from man, not to man. All persons that ever existed are its forgotten ministers.”
  • “In this pleasing contrite wood-life which God allows me, let me record day by day my honest thought without prospect or retrospect, and, I cannot doubt it, it will be found symmetrical, though I mean it not and see it not. My book should smell of pines and resound with the hum of insects.”
  • “Society is a wave. The wave moves onward, but the water of which it is composed does not.”
  • 'The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson' by Ralph Waldo Emerson (ISBN 0679783229) “We fancy it rhetoric, when we speak of eminent virtue. We do not yet see that virtue is Height, and that a man or a company of men, plastic and permeable to principles, by the law of nature must overpower and ride all cities, nations, kings, rich men, poets, who are not.”
  • “And so the reliance on Property, including the reliance on governments which protect it, is the want of self-reliance.”
  • “Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.”
  • “Inasmuch as the soul is present, there will be power not confident but agent.”
  • “Society never advances. It recedes as fast on one side as it gains on the other.”
  • “In the Will work and acquire, and thou hast chained the wheel of Chance, and shalt sit hereafter out of fear from her rotations.”
  • “The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet.”
  • “Life only avails, not the having lived.”
  • “Be it how it will, do right now. Always scorn appearances, and you always may. The force of character is cumulative.”
  • “We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents.”
  • “I like the silent church before the service begins, better than any preaching.”
  • “Insist on yourself; never imitate.”
  • “What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think.”
  • “Truth is handsomer than the affectation of love. Your goodness must have some edge to it,—else it is none”
  • “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do.”
  • “Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing.”
  • “There will be an agreement in whatever variety of actions, so they be each honest and natural in their hour. For of one will, the actions will be harmonious, however unlike they seem.”
  • “I do this not selfishly, but humbly and truly. It is alike your interest, and mine, and all men’s, however long we have dwelt in lies, to live in truth.”
  • “If you are noble, I will love you; if you are not, I will not hurt you and myself by hypocritical attentions.”
  • “Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist.”
  • “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.”
  • “Travelling is a fool’s paradise. Our first journeys discover to us the indifference of places.”
  • “The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.”3/29/2016
  • “Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members.”
  • “Character teaches above our wills.”
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