Tag Archives: good life

Securing the Future for All

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At the time of writing, Pope Francis has been making the news for his visit to Egypt, a 90% Muslim country, and the message of peace he has made with Islamic leaders. But he has also just given a secular TED talk which is very worthy of our reflection.

Solidarity

His first message is about solidarity (which not only means unity, but in the register of Catholicism, also connotes the social aspect of morality as a whole):

“How wonderful would it be if solidarity, this beautiful and, at times, inconvenient word, were not simply reduced to social work, and became, instead, the default attitude in political, economic and scientific choices, as well as in the relationships among individuals, peoples and countries.”

So as Francis said elsewhere this week, we need to resist our cultural dichotomy that gives efficiency free reign over the economy and consigns solidarity to our social lives. But I love how he phrases this in this talk, bringing to my mind the idea of transposing what social work strives to do into all other contexts of human life. That is, the idea of the attention and care given to people in social work becoming the paradigm for how we relate to other persons generally. And as I’ve said before I think almost everyone should be involved in some kind of social work whether it’s with children, the elderly, or the disabled etc. (See related posts here.) But the important part is the spirit in which you connect with others, not whether you work with helping people directly. Francis continues by linking this to what have become the core messages of his papacy:

“Only by educating people to a true solidarity will we be able to overcome the ‘culture of waste,’ which doesn’t concern only food and goods but, first and foremost, the people who are cast aside by our techno-economic systems which, without even realising it, are now putting products at their core, instead of people.”

The challenges of our time, including but not limited to the environmental crisis, demand that we equip people with the skills and mindset to tackle them. Education –life-long education– must promote a ‘culture of care’ for all people, and prioritise the value of connecting with others on a personal level, as subjects rather than as objects. (See an article where I discuss this in more detail.) Fostering such a culture allows associations comprised of mutual assistance to evolve into fraternal communities comprised of ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’.

Tenderness

Building on this theme, the Pope speaks about the need for a “revolution of tenderness”, not a political revolution, but a revolution in how we relate to one another. Tenderness he says, is giving attention to the other in a heartfelt way, but not only engaging and listening with one’s heart but through the senses, often including touch.

What tenderness means is “to use our hands and our heart to comfort the other, to take care of those in need” – including nature. Tenderness is “being on the same level as the other”, co-creating a shared space of communication, a space of relationship for souls to be touched.

Francis adds humility to tenderness as another ingredient we need for our works of solidarity to be a service to others, rather than power which we impose on them. Elsewhere he has said that solidarity with the poor and with our endangered environment requires the courage to live what, by comparison to worldly expectations, are lives of simplicity. To do this is the gift of humility.

Hope

Francis says that “the future does have a name, and its name is Hope.” Hopefulness is the virtue of focusing, not on the past -or even the present- but on a positive future. With this essential role, “hope is the humble, hidden seed of life” and it is a final ingredient for a solidarity that can secure a just future for all:

“Does hope begin when we have an ‘us?’ No. Hope began with one ‘you.’ [But] when there is an ‘us,’ there begins a revolution.” Therefore “the future of humankind isn’t exclusively in the hands of politicians, of great leaders, of big companies. Yes, they do hold enormous responsibility, but the future is most of all in the hands of those people who recognise the other as ‘you’ and themselves as part of an ‘us’.  We all need each other.”

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Watch the full talk here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=36zrJfAFcuc

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Entering the Stoic World Pt.1- Cynicism 2.0

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Epictetus on Stoicism's fundamental principle.

Epictetus on Stoicism’s fundamental principle.

This article of mine was written for The Partially Examined Life.

This week, Monday 2nd to Sunday 8th November 2015, is the fourth annual international Live Like A Stoic Week. The organisers, Stoicism Today, have provided lots of resources on mental exercises and principles of virtue to assist you in the endeavor, along with psychological reasons for aspiring to this practice in the modern world. So why I am here? To provide some less practical, historical and philosophical background to the deeply inspiring, pragmatic tradition of Stoicism. The Partially Examined Life’s recent podcast focused on the Enchiridion, the popular handbook from the later Roman Stoic Epictetus (55-135 CE). This was wise because about half of Epictetus’ work survives, whereas as they noted, sadly very little survives from the earlier Greek tradition.

Read the rest of this entry

Aristotle On Happiness In Plato’s State

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Aristotle

Aristotle

 

The following is a guest post from Toby Coe.

In Book Two of The Politics we witness the exciting clash of two conflicting political ideologies, Aristotle’s politics being primarily based on pragmatic concerns; whilst Plato’s state is founded on more idealised principles. In this essay we shall examine Aristotle’s critique of Plato’s utopia and whether these criticisms are valid, concluding that Aristotle’s criticisms of Plato are broadly successful, because they expose Plato’s conception of happiness as false.

Aristotle has two main complaints concerning Plato’s state:

1) The practice of wives and children being held in common is both impractical and wrong.

2) Communism among the guardians will be inimical to their happiness and bad for the state. Read the rest of this entry

A Brief Analysis of Stoicism

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This week ending 1 December is the second annual international Live Like A Stoic Week. When I began research a few days ago in order to rush out a quick post for the event I had forgotten how much I was inspired by Stoicism, and consequently I my essays are too involved to finish in time.

After some pestering, Toby Coe has kindly come to the rescue with this brief analysis. He said he read the Meditations, so I hope he didn’t mean Descartes’ or this is going to be a very short post indeed.

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The Roman Emperor and Stoic, Marcus Aurelius (pictured) writes:

…philosophy doth consist in this, for a man to preserve that spirit which is within him, from all manner of contumelies and injuries, and never do anything either rashly, or feignedly, or hypocritically…”1

This is a very elegant summary of one of the core features of Stoic philosophy, namely, a moral and spiritual view of the task of philosophy. Philosophy is to provide a man the ability to cope with misfortune and not to be dominated by the passions that often make us attached to things that are fragile: fame, wealth and security.

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Working Less?

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Adverts annoy me. Particularly uninvited adverts in public spaces- especially in green, residential spaces. I often fantisise about vandalising them, a la Banksy. In recent months I was even irritated by an advert for charity. Now, I don’t mean that I got people to sign up to sponsor me for every ad I endured, I mean there was an advert for charitable purposes which frustrated me every time I passed by. Read the rest of this entry

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This week TED has uploaded a talk enthusiastically endorsing meditation. TED and meditation, or ‘TEDitation’ -it’s a combination cynics are already dubbing an unsightly collision between facile pseudo-scientific hot air – and meditation. Seriously though, it’s been known for some time that technology and meditation is a match made in Nirvana- particularly in medicine. TED noted a few scientific reports into the effects of meditation that have been carried out in the last year, but I wanted to go back a bit further and simply summarise the key findings of those studies which came to light in my brief search. I’m not a scientist so I’m not going to explicate the primary sources. Read the rest of this entry

Benefits of Meditation: Scientific Studies