On Suffering

Nietzsche criticized those who wished to abolish suffering. As an outcast who lived by himself in a small cabin and died alone, he likely knew suffering well. But this does not mean he was necessarily unhappy with his life. Suffering, according to Nietzsche, was what made life beautiful and, ironically, enjoyable. In a form of philosophical judo reminiscent of Alan Watts’ ‘law of reversed effect’, it is through embracing rather than refusing suffering, that we can come to appreciate, and perhaps more precisely locate, those things in life which truly bring us joy.

As Watts was keen to remind his listeners, once cannot have black without white, foreground without background, self without other, and, as Nietzsche would add, joy without suffering. Suffering is not simply a feature of life that bring joy into focus, it is its counterpart. They are inextricably bound to each other, existing as two sides of the same process. To press the point just a little further, waves must have crests and troughs, ranges must have hills and valleys, and experience must have joy and suffering. It was from this perspective that Nietzsche wrote, not with misanthropy, but with love,

To those human beings who are of any concern to me I wish suffering, desolation, sickness, ill-treatment, indignities—I wish that they should not remain unfamiliar with profound self-contempt, the torture of self-mistrust, the wretchedness of the vanquished…

Because it is these very experiences that bring the joys of life into focus. Nietzsche thought of life as climbing a mountain and that as one climbs higher, the muscles tighten, the air thins, the lungs wheeze, the body strains and struggles under physical exertion; but the view from the top is more exceptional, extraordinary, and captivating then if we had remained at the summit.

Unfortunately, it is part of our cultural conditioning to deny this suffering, and in turn, the greater joys it brings. We inwardly cry ‘make it stop’ and use whatever means at our disposal to mute our internal screams. We may turn to drinking, drug taking, distraction, or numbing, but as we all know, this only adds a second arrow of suffering to the first.

Echoing Nietzsche, Simone Weil remarked that rather than denying our suffering and therefore compounding it, we must embrace and acknowledge it. As with suffering,

A similar use can be made of hunger, fatigue, feat and everything that imperatively constrains the sentient part of the soul to cry: I can bear no more! Make it stop! There should be something in us that answers: I consent that it should continue up to the moment of death, or that it should not even finish then, but continue for ever…to make of us in this way of the sufferings that chance inflicts upon us is better than inflicting intellectual discipline upon oneself.

It is through suffering that we gain insight into joy. If you wish to befriend one, you must befriend the other. Nietzsche noted, ‘whoever wanted to learn to jubilate up to the heavens, would also have to be prepared for depression unto death’. Of course, nobody wants to go to hell, but it appears that, as Watts remarked, if we are to have intense pleasures, we must also have intense pains. The other option, it appears, would be to minimise displeasure as much as possible, but in the process, minimise all pleasures too. I won’t tell you how to live, it is ultimately up to you to decide if the view from the peak is worth the climb from the summit. But life includes suffering as well as joy, and embracing this fact, rather than running away from it, will lead to a more richly textured and fully human life.

Suffering is valuable for the insight it can (but by no means neccasarily) provide. For all our powers of abtract reasoning and investigation, we are similarly adept at, if not consciously repressing, than ignoring the parts of our selves that require attention. In a stream that runs smoothly, the sediment slowly falls and remains seated on the bed. But suffering functions like a sudden rush, a storm, that dislodges the sediment and throws it back into the stream and while murkying the waters, reveals what was always there, but was too still and submerged to be noticed. Suffering can, for perhaps the first time in a long time, shake us from our stupor and bring to our attention what was previously unnoticed. While not guaranteed, it provides an opportunity, if properly handled, for growth. It does not mean we will no longer suffer, but it does mean we can grow. And while it will still hurt, some solace and comfort can be found in the fact that suffering is not inherently evil, and can provide a springboard for us to transform into more authentic versions of ourselves.

On Language

Imagine the following situation,

Your girlfriend has just left you. Bewildered and listless, you sit down at the table outside where you shared so many happy memories together. You think of how she used to throw her head back and laugh when you made a particularly witty remark. You remember how she would meticulously roll out the cinders at the end of her cigarettes on the ashtray. You remember how she would tilt her head to the side and smile self-consciously, almost embarrassed that she found someone who felt that way about her. But, now she is gone. You sit alone, staring across the table at an empty chair. You have this inexplicable feeling…

And it is precisely here where language is so important because it helps describe what would otherwise be indecipherable, delineate what was previously opaque. Although there is no word for it in English, you may be experiencing what the German’s call worhanden, where something’s presence is magnified by its absence. It may bring you to a second realisation; that you did not know what you had until it was gone. This feeling is zuhanden, another fantastic German word which means ‘hiding in the light’.

Language can help us realise – that is, to make real – the subterranean and previously indescribable feelings of our heart’s. Indeed, language can clarify and obscure. But, when used mindfully and with care, language can help deepen and sharpen our understanding of our own feelings.

However, there is a sense, in which this is not true, or at least, not relevant. While language may help us identify and make sense of our feelings, it has, like any tool, its own shortcomings. If I learn your name, I still don’t know anything about you. Or, at least, nothing that matters. If I really wanted to know you, understand you, and have communion with you, naming you would not help me. What I would need to do is listen, feel, and identify with you. The same holds true of feelings.

If you say what you are feeling is worhanden, or that you are feeling angry, or sad, or listless, you do not really know anything more than you did previously. You have, however, put a conceptual and fragmented box around your feelings. To truly understand the feeling, you have to act how you would if you wanted to understand a person: you have to listen. Rather than telling yourself what the feeling is, allow the feeling to tell you what it means. Then, you may reach an understanding that cannot come through language. You may not be able to put that understanding into words, but perhaps that is the point.

The Importance of a Mental Breakdown

One thing we are very good at is ‘putting things off’. It has been a while, but we will call our parents tomorrow; we are just too tired to do it today. We will start that diet regime, but after just one more hamburger. We will become more understanding and empathetic, but later, because what this person just said was utterly stupid and they need to be corrected. We will deal with the agony of a partner leaving us, but it must be later because there is work to be done, meals to be prepared, and friends to be seen. Indeed, we are excellent at putting things to the side today, in the vain (and misleading) hope that they will be dealt with tomorrow. Of course, tomorrow soon becomes today, and the problem is put off once more into the infinitely receding horizon of the future. We put things off all the time and it allows us to continue in our day to day lives. It is a curse we believe is a blessing.

Because, eventually, something happens. The parts of ourselves that had been squeezed down, pushed aside, ignored, repressed or denied; suddenly burst forth with such unrighteous anger that we do not fully understand what has happened. One moment we were fine and then all of a sudden: snap, like an elastic band that was stretched beyond a critical point. What has inconceivably (and inconveniently) happened is that we have broken down. The conflicts/struggles/unresolved issues of our internal worlds have been left unattended to for so long that they find expression in the only way they know how. The breakdown is the mind’s attempt to force us to finally look at these problems and attend to them. It is, ironically, a process of becoming better by first making oneself incredibly sick. It is a blessing we believe is a curse.

But, the breakdown is an opportunity (perhaps for the first time in a long time) for us to look at ourselves as we are. The uncomfortable memories we evaded, the wishes and dreams we neglected, and the emotions we denied come forth, and while it is painful and confronting, it allows us to come to terms with a whole other dimension of ourselves and begin a process of reconciliation and healing. A breakdown, therefore, is not only a process of destruction, but a momentous opportunity for growth.

A breakdown is frightening. After being quiet for so long, the thoughts, feelings, memories, and unarticulated desires burst forth with mute rage, attempting to be heard in the only way left at their disposal: shutting the whole system down. The screams of the unheard are filled with pain, sorrow and misery. It is confronting, especially in a culture that extolls us at every waking moment to be happy. But the breakdown tells us that happiness is no longer an option. Thankfully, by finally facing these previously ignored parts of ourselves’, we may find a type of reconciled peace that was previously withheld.

When we break down, as we all will at one or many points in our lives, we would be wise to remember that we have not fallen ill. We were already ill, we just didn’t know it. We are finally in the process of getting better. If managed correctly – with an understanding and forgiving approach – the crisis will not become a disintegration of who we were, but rather, a removal of a noxious mindset, and a chance to rebuild our lives’ in a more authentic way.

On Vulnerability

With tender and invisible threads, we are inextricably bound to one another. Although we choose to live mainly through shadowy abstractions of the ‘I’ and ‘me’, they only momentarily disguise the indisputable truth: we cannot live without each other.

Of course, there are those who try. They retreat into the mountains, or run away on overseas vacations, desperately seeking to separate themselves from others in the vain hope of avoiding the pain of loss, the agony of betrayal, or the scarring burns of deceit. But, when one retreats from life like this, encasing themselves behind the brick and mortar of fear and insecurity, they not only distance themselves from the pain of separation, they likewise negate the joy of communion. For one simply cannot have one without the other.

‘The more we are able to love another person and to enjoy his company, the greater must be our grief at his death, or in separation’ wrote Alan Watts, in his splendid meditation on the wisdom of insecurity. ‘To the degree that life is found good, death must be proportionately evil’. As Simone De Beauvoir understood well, life places an exceptional burden on us. With playful irony, we have no choice but to be free; free to think, free to feel, and free to believe. But, for some, the freedom to feel becomes too painful, and they try to shut it down. Watts continues,

Something of this kind is often attempted. There is the woman who, having suffered some deep emotional injury in love or marriage, vows never to let another man play on her feelings, assuming the role of the hard and bitter spinster. Almost more common is the sensitive boy who learns in school to encrust himself for life in the shell of the “tough-guy” attitude. As an adult he plays, in self-defence, the role of the Philistine, to whom all intellectual and emotional culture is womanish and “sissy.” Carried to its final extreme, the logical end of this type of reaction to life is suicide. The hard-bitten kind of person is always, as it were, a partial suicide; some of himself is already dead.

Pain, suffering, anxiety, grief and sorrow are integral aspects of the human condition. If we wall them off or cut them out, we are not protecting ourselves from anything, what we are doing is denying our own humanity. It is more difficult to stay with your grief than run from it, but it is also more rewarding.

Opening ourselves to love but also hate, to being embraced but also rejected, is the most difficult yet rewarding part of life. It is what makes a fully human existence possible. It is a skill that can be mindfully practised if we can remind ourselves that it all starts with allowing ourselves to become vulnerable.

When we allow ourselves to become vulnerable, we gain an incredible vitality and zest for life. Because so much of our energy goes into protecting and securing ourselves from grief, sorrow, anxiety and so forth, once we stop this, it can finally be directed to more sublime and transcendent ends. The materials used to construct cold walls of exclusion can be used to build beautiful bridges between us.

If you do not have sight you can never be blinded, but you will never bear witness to the shifting mosaic of a kaleidoscope, or the tranquil beauty of a bee buzzing humbly on a blooming rose. If you do not have ears, you will never have to listen to cruel rumours and gossip, but you will never enjoy the melodic symphonies of Mendelssohn or Brahms. If you do not have an open heart, you will never be hurt again, but you will never be able to experience the bliss of being loved unconditionally and accepted for who you are.

Being vulnerable means exposing yourself to pain, just as much as to pleasure. There is no guarantee that they will come in equal proportions, in commensurate quantities, or even that what is pleasure today will not turn into pain tomorrow. But, being vulnerable affords us the opportunity to truly live and commune with ourselves, with others, and with the universe.

We are so used to thinking about vulnerability in terms of the terrible things that come as a result of it. If we open ourselves up, we allow others to hurt us, trample on our feelings, and push us down. Of course nobody wants this. But, in allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, we open the path for real connection and companionship, and the chance of a really loving and humane relationship. Vulnerability opens ourselves up to the other aspects of our nature we usually keep hidden. It leads us to a fuller and richer reality. What’s more, it can become the bedrock for a new relationship, where we can connect with others on a deeper and more profound level than we have before. We will be able to share our deepest fears, darkest thoughts, and loftiest aspirations, and in doing so, achieve a deeper and more fulfilling emotional connection than we have hitherto had.

On Charity

We often think of charity in the material sense, such as giving money. But this is only its most narrow interpretation. Considered more widely, to be charitable is to offer someone something they may not be able to get themselves, or may not entirely deserve, but because they are human, are worthy of it. There is something far more valuable than money that we are able to give selflessly and without conditions: ourselves.

We can be charitable with our time, by giving our partner the painful yet undoubtedly important time to themselves in order to gather their thoughts or calm their inner storms. We can be charitable with our love, recognising that to love is to love freely and unconditionally, accompanied by the sublime understanding that to give love is to receive it. We can be generous with our patience, acknowledging that we operate at a pace according to our internal clocks and that we cannot (no matter how much we might wish otherwise) demand others to comply with our tempo. And these can be summed up within a grander meta-category: for us to be charitable in our understanding of others. This charity is more precious than diamonds and gold, and more elusive than the horizon or one’s own shadow, yet, it is absolutely fundamental in any relationship.

The charity of understanding is rooted in the realisation that we are often petty, ill-tempered, and ignorant. This seeming misanthropism is bound to the recognition that we can also be kind, generous and empathetic, and that in fact; this is exactly what the call for charity entails.

Perhaps you are over bearing and your partner is under bearing, you may need constant affection and they may need little, and you may need to be reminded that you are loved whereas they are amply confident in themselves. A charitable understanding would involve recognising that we enter into relationships from different positions, and that our current position matters just as much as where we have come from and the trajectory we have taken.

While it is easy to rebuke others when they speak clumsily or admonish them when their actions do not match their loftier aspirations, we would be wise to remind ourselves how deeply grateful we are when people extend us understanding when our words fail us, or we fail to act righteously.

When a person in your life lashes out in blind fury, criticises without seeing their own hypocrisy, or collapses into tears over something as innocuous as an advertisement, the charitable will look on not knowing any of the details, but imagining the events that has led this person before them to act in such a manner. Rather than assuming the worst, the charitable will imagine the personal sorrow that lies beneath the tears, or the unresolved childhood anguish that shifts imperceptibly below their criticisms like tectonic plates. They will find the vulnerability behind the pomposity, the pain behind the venom, the defeat behind the pride. They will remember that the person before them was once a child, as pristine and clean as any one of us, and that it was the circumstances in life that brought them to where they are.

To be charitable is to cling steadfastly to the realisation that we are all human and that beneath it all, there is someone wanting to be heard, they just might not be able to put their thoughts into the correct words. All that is required of us is a patient and calm mind which refuses to judge, and can see the innocent child beneath the jaded adult. We must remind ourselves that we are always on the verge of needing someone to come to our imaginative aid. We too have spoken rudely, accused incorrectly, or reasoned poorly, but it was the charitable understanding of others that gave us the freedom to say what we did, to reflect, and to become better versions of ourselves. We must be charitable in withholding our scorn, condemnation and ridicule of others in the hope that they will accord us the same in our forthcoming hour of shame.

It’s Okay To Not Be Okay

When it comes to our relationships with ourselves, one of our most hazardous and insidious beliefs is that we must always be happy. A product of a culture that extols us at every waking moment to enjoy and sap as much pleasure from life as possible, we are reminded everywhere that happiness is the supreme goal in life. Disinterest in seeking out ever new and unique forms of happiness is seen as a sickness. Unhappiness is seen as a deformity, one which must be immediately rectified before anybody notices. Happiness is considered a-priori that normative state, and any deviation from this state is seen as an abnormality, if not a failure.

The dark underside of this belief is how it is offensive to be sad or, even worse, that we might want to be sad, to feel this other aspect of our humanity so often relegated to the shadowy margins of our psyche.

Unlike happiness, our culture meets sadness with a toxic mixture of repulsion and refusal. We want to make the sadness go away and lift the heart out of the pit of despair.

We have all been victims and likely (well-intentioned) perpetrators of denying sadness. We tell our bereaved friends that it is going to be okay, that things will get better soon, perhaps things are bad now, but they will not remain so forever, or that being sad gets us nowhere so we might as well be pragmatic and toss sadness aside. We engage in all forms of mental and emotional gymnastics to make the sadness disappear.

One of the unintended consequences of this behaviour is to widen the abyss between ourselves and our saddened counterpart. They are painfully aware of their own condition. The daughter of a dying mother knows the feeling of her internal organs twisting from anguish is not “good”, and that crying every day is interfering with her life. Of course she knows this. We might try to coax her out her misery, to dissolve it, and to lead her to a happier place, but for someone incapable of anything except sorrow and grieving, the call to be happy only affirms the distance between themselves and others. The result is not communion, but alienation.

It might seem intuitive to try and remove sadness, but there is another approach, no less intuitive, but perhaps more affectionate and considerate of the other. We could, instead of trying to remove sadness, feel it. We could extend a helping hand and empathetic ear to our friend and hear them out. What they need, even if they may not put it in these words or realise it themselves, is to accept that, in the piercingly simple words of Miranda Devine, ‘it is okay to not be okay’. We can sit with our friend and do something we might not be used to doing: listen.

If we can begin accepting that it is okay to not be okay, rather than rejecting our sadness as something deformed and separate from ourselves, we will be in a position to accept that it is an uncomfortable but necessary part of what it means to be human. It will, in turn, allow us to feel more fully, and lead more intense and emotionally fulfilling lives. What others require of us, is not instructions on how to be happy, or second-hand advice on dealing with pain or sorrow; ultimately, what the other needs is so painfully simple it is easily overlooked: a mind ready to listen, and maybe, two arms ready to hug. The beautiful thing is that this is something all of us can do.

In Honour of Losers

Our society has a tendency to embrace simplistic narratives about the world and our place in it. ‘Good versus evil’ would be one such example. Whether it is a hero battling a villain, or a ‘nation under God’ battling terrorism, there is no such thing as a person (or nation) that is inherently good, and one that is inherently bad. This way of framing life says little about the world, but much about how we think about it.

Another simplification that dominates how we look at ourselves and each other is to categorise some as ‘winners’ and others as ‘losers’, which is really just ‘good’ and ‘bad’ under another label.

The logic at work here is that life can be reduced to a single, all-encompassing matrix where competitors in the race can be ranked from lowest to highest (with medals handed out accordingly).

But, of course, life is not like this. It is a multiplex of many different races, occurring over unique and distinct terrains, with any number of competitors. There are races for fame, prestige, power, status, and rank. And while these receive the most coverage, there are other races occurring all the time. There is a race for who can be the most understanding friend, a race for who can stay calmest under pressure, a race for who can be the most attentive and loving in the face of overwhelmingly harsh and difficult circumstances.

But, the coverage given to certain races – such as the race for power or wealth – creates the impression, soon turning into an opinion, transforming into a belief; that these are the only races worth winning. In the process, we judge ourselves according to athletes we have no hope of contending with. One would not place a child against an Olympic runner and expect them to succeed, nor would one invite a fish and a monkey to a tree climbing race expecting a fair competition. We are not suited to every race in life. Our advantages in one area will become disadvantages in another.

In our more self-critical moments, we begin to feel like fish that have entered a tree climbing competition against monkeys. We feel like we are ill-equipped and unable to compete. Dejected, we blame ourselves. If only our fins were fingers with the necessary climbing dexterity. But, it would be helpful to remember, that if the competition was a swim across the Bass Strait, we would be feeling very different.

We have people in our lives who we think are doing better than ourselves. They may already own houses, go on fabulous holidays every year, be in long term committed relationships, or never suffered the loss of a loved one. We look on at these people and think to ourselves that they are truly winning at life. But on closer inspection, this might not really be the case.

You might not own a house, and have grown up in poverty. But that has given you a appreciation of small pleasure that perhaps your wealthy friend does not have. Another friend may go on fabulous holidays every year, surround themselves with all sorts of pleasures, and spend their days in supreme entertainment. But, they might be less adept at being alone than you, someone who does not have the money to spend every waking moment busy with pleasure. Your friend may never have experienced the severely painful experience of losing a loved one or having a family member struck down with cancer. But you have developed a resilience borne out of suffering that your friend does not have. While another friend is having a party of life, you may have developed depression; but as a result, you may develop an appreciation of life that is profoundly deeper than someone who has never felt the crushing emotional toll of loss as you have. You lost one race, but you certainly won another.

Someone who wins at being a ruthless businessperson will likely lose in the race to be an attentive and understanding partner. Someone who wins the race for prestige and fame will be a loser in the race to be humble and empathetic in the face of someone else’s pain. We simply cannot be winners at everything, which means, likewise, we cannot be losers at everything either.

You are not a loser. It would be far more accurate (and fairer) to note that you may be a loser here, but that only makes you a winner there. If we can begin to realise that life is a multitude of races, and that we will lose some, but win some also, then perhaps we can redeem ourselves in our own eyes and realise that we are not totally losers at all but sometimes flawed and other times excellent humans who are good at some things, and not others.

A New Year

What is it that we celebrate when one year descends below the horizon of time while the next is rising beyond it? In a sense, nothing. Nothing really changes at this point. Its signification appears to come from its convenience at the end of the calendar, rather than from some real (as opposed to artificial) event, like the winter solstice, or the first full moon of the Summer equinox.

Yet, there is something to be said, however briefly, about its very artificiality, a word we would be wise to remember, shares an etymology with artifice, and both of these with art; that is, with the creation of something new and symbolically powerful. The celebration of new years is an artifice of the human imagination, sure, but this does not empty if of meaning, but rather, opens a space where it can become meaningful.

What meaning do we grant it?

The new year is simultaneously requiem and ressurection.

New years is a requiem for the year, for dashed hopes, squashed aspirations, and unmet goals; a chance for us to bury our past failures, regrets, and disappointments, and let them sail off with Charon, heading for oblivion. We wanted to lose 10kg, build that deck, and become a more attentive partner, but our aspirations were not met with equivalent strength of will. No matter, that was then, and this is now. Now is the time to restart and not let these things hold one back.

New years is likewise a celebration of dreaming. It is the dream of all dreams, a dream we so ardently want to make a reality. In the new year, we celebrate the possibility of things being different. This time, we really are going to lose that weight, commit to that renovation, or become the partner our significant other deserves.

Just as new year is a requiem for a dead past, it is likewise a resurrection of hope. The hope that was trampled, beaten down, and left for dead from the trials and tribulations of the previous year is brought back to life with a renewed optimism that maybe, this time, we will succeed in the resolutions we have set ourselves.

New year’s is about recognising the person we have been in the current year and striving to be a better sort of person in the next. The new year is the metaphysical crossroad we traverse annually, where we look back at the person we were and then set our sights forth on the type of person we want to (and hopefully can) be. The new year is the juncture between a solid, fixed, and unchangeable past that refuses to budge, and a future still yet unwritten, undecided; pliant, and flexible enough for us to shape it. At new years we are faced with the inexorable tension between the questions ‘who am I’ this year and ‘who do I want to become’ in the next?

There are, as always, the naysayers, who seek to empty new year celebrations of signification. ‘Why wait’, they say, ‘until the end of the year? You can make changes now’. Strictly speaking, they are right. You don’t need to wait until the end of the year to try and become a better person. (Although, I don’t think anyone actually makes that claim). But they misunderstand why the new year is so valuable. The new year, strictly speaking, has no value. After all, it is just another arbitrary span of time. However, it has immense symbolic value. It punctures the calendar, delineating between one moment and the next. We are a symbol using species. The ring on the finger of an engaged partner and new year both are technically without value, but they remain symbolically valuable; both make real and visible to the world that something has occurred, that change has happened.

In the infinitesimally small magic moment separating this year and the next, we celebrate the possibility of a refresh; of cutting our losses and starting over in a way that allows us to make the past well and truly passed, and the future, well and truly upon us. The new year is a mourning for what we wanted to achieve but didn’t, a celebration of the chance to start anew, and a declaration that despite our failure to live up to our lofty aspirations, we are the architects of our destiny.

On Writing

‘All action’, wrote Hannah Arendt in her meditations on what it meant to be human ‘presupposes a spectator’. Humanity is about seeing and being seen. This is not some idle commentary on the importance of Facebook friends or Instagram followers. It is a recognition that we are not fully alive until we are acknowledged by ourselves and our peers. Visibility is a precondition for feeling alive.

Writing, like other forms of creative expression, assumes the spectator. The painting is painted, the music composed and the words written in order to be enjoyed. Enjoyed by whom? Well, someone of course! The very act of creative expression assumes there will be someone there to receive and enjoy it.

The creative act is a revelation. ‘Revelation’ shares an etymological root with ‘reveal’, of removing the shroud/image/façade and seeing beneath. Revelation means literally ‘lifting the veil’. The creative act is a self-revelation where the artist bears themselves as they are on their canvas, music sheet or loose leaf. Art involves laying oneself bare in front of others.

This quality of psychological nakedness, of raw honesty, is fraught with ambiguity. Of course, the artist may be accepted and praised for what they have done. But they may also be rejected and tossed aside. This goes beyond mere pessimism or optimism but is a recognition of the fact that nothing is promised in advance but the artist perseveres, knowing a devotion to their truth matters more than its reception by spectators.

Crucial, for me, and perhaps for others, is recognising that in the creative act we open ourselves up to others. We allow others to peer into our soul and see what it is like. The book says as much about the world around as it does about the author who wrote it. The book says of its author ‘I am here. I lay before you something important. You may accept it or may reject it but you cannot help but recognise it. This is my offering to you. This is my truth’.

On Distance

Depending on your position, your sight can be improved by moving closer or further away from the object of your attention. Coming closer to an object allows you to notice finer details yet come too close and everything turns into a blur. Yet, its opposite suffers from a commensurate defect. Moving away may allow your eyes to adjust and clearly see what was once a blur but, move too far away and distinctions melt and you fail to tell essential things apart.

Sometimes we are too close to something (our attachments, our fears, our relationships with others and ourselves) to be able to see clearly what is going on with them. But by moving back – not by severing attachments or pushing things away – but by observing your own thoughts, behaviours, and emotions; you may see something you couldn’t before.

I like to think of philosophy like a pair of glasses. Philosophy, like glasses, doesn’t show you anything new. All that happens is your vision is corrected. You once saw things one way and now you see them differently. And, like with glasses, you decide whether your vision is improved or not. But, not everyone needs glasses and not everyone needs philosophy. But there is no harm in trying to improve your vision.