Category Archives: Philosophy

GENIUS PHILOSOPHY 101 – Episode 2

The Phantom Philosopher

What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?
– Robert H. Schuller

Image courtesy of the phenomenally gifted Iurie Belegurschi, a Moldovan self taught photographer specialising in capturing exquisite shots of the Icelandic landscape and the Northern Lights.

Perusing his gallery does not disappoint.

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Genius Philosophy 101

Beautiful ocean photography.

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space.

He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.

This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us.

Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

Albert Einstein

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Lovely Lovely

The way is not in the sky.

The way is in the heart.

Buddha

Yellena James Art

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened.

Happiness never decreases by being shared. 

Buddha

Yellena James Art

We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think.

When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.

Buddha

Yellena James Art

The whole secret of existence is to have no fear.

Never fear what will become of you, depend on no one.

Only the moment you reject all help are you freed.

Buddha

I appreciate I’m in danger of incurring the wrath of the Trade Descriptions Act with the abundance of visual posts as opposed to literary masterpieces but I think these beautiful drawings by the insanely talented Yellena James are too pretty not to share…

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Perception

Perception

Street Art

It is the function of art to renew our perception.

Street Art

What we are familiar with we cease to see.

Street Art

The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it.

Street Art

Anais Nin.
Images courtesy of street artist Julian Beever.

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Alberto Einsteino

“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious – the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.”

Beautiful Photography Morning

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Hillsborough; Who Will Guard the Guards?

The recent events of the Hillsborough inquiry – more about this later – have lead me to the conclusion that philosophy, like Burger King and the music of George Harrison, is – in my not-so-humble opinion – criminally undervalued.

SUPERIOR.

Why?

Because the study, dating back several millenia, helped to form the basis of all rational thought, classification of knowledge and establishment of education for humanity.

Rather important then.

World peace and philosophy for all.

All very noble sounding – but what exactly is philosophy? And what place does it have in modern society?

Stripped bare, I suppose you could call it speculation; the asking of questions to create opinions and ideas, as a way of seeking the truth.

Nearing my tenth year of trying to read all 842 pages. Would make a wonderful murder weapon.

Debate continues as to whether philosophy is an outmoded concept with any place in today’s world.

Through various guises; it’s very much alive and and visibly weaved through the very structures of contemporary and popular society.

Marxist philosophy relates to capitalism; perhaps the most significant catalyst for all human activity in modern age, the pursuit of material wealth.

Law has it’s very foundations rooted in ancient philosophy, the definition of ethics and morality stem from early debate in  ancient Greek and Roman times and the justice system is built upon the subsequent ideals. For wrong or right, it’s intentions are simple and based on the execution of the principles of fairness.

This week, the U.K finally saw the disturbing discoveries of an inquiry into the tragic events at Hillsborough in 1989; for anyone unaware of the situation;

On 15 April 1989, at the start of an FA Cup semi-final, a crush on the steel-fenced terraces of Sheffield Wednesday’s stadium resulted in the death of 96 Liverpool fans and left hundreds more injured.

The key findings of the report essentially established a number of injustices and unveiled a conspiratorial veneer, lasting nearly a quarter of a century, finally shattered, leaving a trail of destruction in it’s wake.

While the findings were unquestionably welcomed as progress for all affected by the tragedy, the natural evolution into angry questions being asked and accusatory fingers being pointed begs the question; as relevant now, as twenty three years ago, as when initially conceived as a Platonic concept; Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who will guard the guards?

Essentially, in a hierarchial society, order is established by the categorising of its citizens. At the top, we place guards, given the responsibility to oversee the safety and security of the society, ensuring it’s inhabitants are lawabiding and avoiding chaos.

Only what happens, when the guards themselves do not follow the laws, when their actions – intentional or not – instigate the chaos? When those who we look to for protection are the very ones causing us the harm?

In the Hillsborough case specifically, there were several factors to take into consideration when examining the behaviour of the police officers involved, not least the fact that many experienced post-traumatic stress as a result of the horrors that they witnessed that day

If the inclination to follow the in-built moral compass; the natural urge to do what is right and just – were to clash with the instinct for selfpreservation; blindly following the orders of superiors for fear of reprisals – a decision between fulfilling the given role of  guardian versus application of rational self-interest would have to be made. So, theoretically; the ethics of the guards themselves – if subject to any kind of discipline for actively embodying the required characteristics of their positions – would be compromised.

The philosophical concept – and question – of the guards requiring guarding seems to have found some kind of answer through the implementation of independent panels.

A collection of non-biased individuals who essentially police the police –  but who guards them? Are these organisations immune to the temptations of corruption; bribery and preferential treatment? Intimidation tactics?

It would seem the latest findings support the impartiality of the inquiry conducted and it’s believed that the deception uncovered could lead to criminal proceedings.

So will the guards being guarded by the people lead to a safer and more just society for the people being guarded by the guards?

What of the safety of the guards themselves?

The tragic murder of two Manchester police-women earlier this week bore witness to the vulnerability and bravery of those who, for the purest of reasons, choose to dedicate their lives to the preservation of public security and justice.

The legacy left by Hillsborough, unfortunately, casts a shadow over an organisation that, in actuality, is composed almost entirely of honest, well intentioned people.

In the same respect that human nature is more complex than simply right or wrong – the actions of those involved in the incident go deeper than being defined as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – though even the most morally reprehensible would have to agree that police corruption; from the bottom rung to the top food-chain, poisons any hope of a just democratic society.

At last, as the families of the ninety six killed begin the final leg of their epic journey to gain a sense of closure, it seems the holding up of  hands indicates that justice – a long time coming, could soon be on the way…

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You don’t have to listen to the Buddha…

…but there’s a reason why he’s grinning.

See the bad-ass in the bottom left? He is the actual Larry. And you too, can be as happy as him.

Old People Funny

So why do too many of us spend a fair chunk of time feeling general miserable and dissatisfied?

Recent studies show that most humans spend around 47% of their waking hours in autopilot mode; roughly defined as a ‘cognitive state in which you act without self awareness’.

Essentially that means that for half the time, when you’re not blissfully unaware of life , busy snoring, farting and blanket hogging recharging your batteries, you’re wasting precious time existing in a sense of purgatory, the lights are on but no-ones really in…

Instead, we’re busily introspecting – more specifically, focusing our attention on our internal narrative. You know the little voice reading this out to you in your head?*

Gollum

That’s your internal narrative or monologue; also known as a stream of consciousness.

An ongoing sequence of thought, observation, query and muse, this little voice has a massive effect on your general outlook and mentality.

In a perfect world, it would be jumping up and down, waving metaphorical pom-poms and always encouraging, congratulating and generally having your back during the  roller coaster of life, a hybrid of the best friend ever,  combining the optimistic attitude of Buddy the Elf, wisdom of Albus Dumbleore and the invincible bounce-back-ability of Chuck Norris;  the world’s most awesome mentor as it were.

Stewie Family Guy

Unfortunately, McDonald’s still don’t deliver, the snooze button will never fully satisfy the need for ‘…five more minutes’ and your internal narrative can, quite frankly, be something of a complete bitch and according to aforementioned study, most of the thoughts delivered to us through it end up making us feel pretty unhappy.

If you’ve ever suffered with depression, you’ll be aware that this little voice inside your head can, on times,  become bogged down with bad vibes, leaving a feeling more like a canal of negativity than a stream of consciousness.

Trolley in canal

These bad vibes are often responsible for some of the shittier less productive pearls of wisdom that our stream of consciousness has to offer; affirmations of negative self esteem, low self worth, lack of confidence; all of these things contribute towards a less than cheerful outlook.

Ever been warned about the dangers of over-thinking things? Over-analysing a situation? People tend to do this over relationship issues, often to the detriment of their own sanity, well being and – ironically, the relationship itself.

Peanuts cartoon

In this state, we become self conscious, evaluating and assessing ourselves and our circumstance.

Often, our findings see us falling short of preconceived ideals or unrealistic expectations; what we should look like, who we should be, what our lifestyles should be like, our relationships, aspirations…

Image of perfection

A lot of the time, these unattainable concepts aren’t even actually desirable to ourselves, set forth by the media, reinforced by our friends, family and social surroundings, we find ourselves – in autopilot – blithely accepting them to be true. This can leaving us feeling inferior and unworthy – thus, endorsing the distorted negative cycle.

So, every now and again, it can be incredibly helpful to remove yourself mentally from the downer, returning tickled pink. Or at the very least with, a fresher and more  productive perspective.

That’s all very well you say – but I can’t just turn it off.

As a matter of fact, you probably can.

For a while anyway.

With a bit of practice, there’s no reason why anyone can’t silence the mental chatter, step out of the auto-pilot haze into the sunshine and enjoy actually experiencing life rather than going through the motions.

Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes

And the best bit?

You can practice this – anywhere. You’ve got all the equipment you need already.

A nice quiet space is ideal, try and keep your back relatively straight while being comfy – we’re aiming for somewhere in between the slump adopted at the end of a night of alco-overindulging and ‘rod stuffed up your ass’. You may prefer to close your eyes, it’s entirely up to you…

Binge Drinking

Completely focusing on your breathing is a nice, simple way to start. It’s literally as straightforward as paying attention to the inhale and exhale process you automatically do thousands of times a day.

Correct Posture

Employ all your senses in with this, try and focus entirely on taking a breathe deeply into your lungs, feeling the air entering through your nostrils – if taking a deep breathe feels a bit strange, try putting your right hand just below your bellybutton, it makes it easier.

Experience the sensation of your rib cage rising and expanding as it fills – and exhale, slowly.

The falling of your chest, the gentle release of breathe – listen to the noise.

You’ll probably find your mind wandering, don’t worry about it – be aware of the thought without following it, realise it’s passing, like the melting of a snowflake – and bring your attention back to the breathing.

Polar Bear Cute

Try counting ten intentionally, slow, rhythmic in-and-out breathes; it’s impossible not to feel calmer afterwards.

And – far from putting a dam in the stream of consciousness, so it all comes flooding out afterwards, this technique – with a little practice – can help drastically reduce the time we spend in our own heads getting verbally bashed.

Robot funny

Officially mindfulness is defined as; bringing complete attention to the present experience on a moment-by-moment basis. Basically, the opposite of zoning out.

Practicing mindfulness in this way needn’t always be a case of setting time aside either. In traffic, washing dishes, peeling potatoes, having a bath? The time spend on activity where your mind is prone to wandering can be used.

Smiling man in bath funny

Why bother?

It’s been proven that mindful meditation in this way can have a hugely beneficial effect, both psychologically; positively impacting mood, memory and mental capacity – and physiologically; reducing stress responses, lowering anxiety, blood pressure and boosting our immune system and energy levels.

So now you know. Instead of playing the ‘…spotting people picking their nose game’ in traffic, take the opportunity to indulge in some light mental relaxation. The chirpy looking fella below, looking remarkably pleased with himself, does.

Buddha Laughing

“How does one practice mindfulness? Sit in meditation. Be aware of only your breath.”

Buddha

*I’m assuming you’re reading this in your head and you’re not being hand-fed grapes, under an umbrella whilst someone with dulcet French tones reads aloud to you. If this actually is the case, I’m really quite jealous. That sounds lovely.

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