Thursday, July 09, 2015

Nietzsche on living dangerously

The secret of realizing the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment of existence is: to live dangerously! Build your cities on the slopes of Vesuvius! Send your ships out into uncharted seas! Live in conflict with your equals and with yourselves! Be robbers and ravagers as soon as you ca not be rulers and owners, you men of knowledge! The time will soon past when you could be content to live concealed int he woods like timid deer!

Friedrich Nietzsche

 The Gay Science: with a Prelude in Rhymes and an Appendix of Songs

View Alain de Botton's programme on Nietzsche

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Vivian Greene on not waiting for the storm to the pass

"Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass...It's about learning to dance in the rain.”
 Vivian Greene

Whilst this quote might sound over-idealistic and, as my good friend Peter Cooper says "be the kind of thing John Lennon would have written a song about", I  believe it contains a healthy nugget of wisdom.

It's a vote against resignation, against giving in, against just waiting for things to get better.  When I see depressed clients a key message is

 Dont wait to feel motivated - take a small step in the right direction now, and then motivation will follow.

That's the "don't wait for the storm to pass" part.

Dancing in the rain, though, seriously? Well.  the idea of Singing in the Rain is hardly new ..

 I'm also reminded of John Locke's characteristic response in the first series of Lost.

The good idea here  is to adapt to the circumstances we find ourselves in as best we can. Don't assume that you can't do anything positive because there is a storm in our life. You might even find something really positive ...

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Abraham Lincoln on the best way to relieve your own suffering

To ease another's heartache is to forget one's own 

Abraham Lincoln

 See Schwartz  and Sendor (1999) Helping others helps oneself: response shift eff€ects in peer support  for empircal support.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

The tale of the two wolves

One evening, an elderly Cherokee brave told his
grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.

He said "my son, the battle is between two 'wolves' inside us all.
One is evil. 
It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance,
self-pity, guilt, resentment,inferiority, lies, false pride,superiority, and ego.

The other is good.
It is joy, peace love, hope serenity,humility, kindness, benevolence,
empathy, generosity,truth, compassion and faith."

The grandson though aboutit for a minute and then asked his grandfather:

"Which wolf wins?..."

The old cherokee simply replied,
"The one that you feed"

This tale can be found in various forms. This version comes from

Monday, April 20, 2015

Jack Kornfield's updating of Rudyard Kipling's If

If you can sit quietly after difficult news;
if, in financial downturns you remain perfectly calm;
if you can see your neighbors travel to fantastic places without a twinge of jealousy;
if you could happily eat whatever is put on your plate;
if you can fall asleep after a day of running around without a drink or a pill;

if you can always find contentment just where you are:
                                          you are probably a dog.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

T.S. Eliot on the life of a procrastinator

Do I dare Disturb the universe? In a minute there is time For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse. 
  For I have known them all already, known them all; Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,   I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;

from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Brilliantly read by Anthony Hopkins.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Stephen Hawking on how to be intelligent

“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change. ”

Stephen Hawking

Thursday, March 19, 2015

J.S. Mill on freedom

  1. The only freedom which deserves the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it. Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily, or mental and spiritual.
J.S. Mill On Liberty

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Robert Sternberg on what makes for a fulfilling intimate loving relationship

Love has three components:

(a) intimacy, which encompasses the feelings of closeness, connectedness, and bondedness one experiences in loving relationships;
(b) passion, which encompasses the drives that lead to romance, physical attraction, and sexual consummation; and
(c) decision/commitment, which encompasses, in the short term, the decision that one loves another, and in the long term, the commitment to maintain that love

Robert Sternberg, The Triangular Theory of Love

I discuss how the Triangular Theory of Love can help you understand - and improve - relationships in  in Achieve Your Potential with Positive Psychology

Sunday, March 15, 2015

It was in the papers so it must be true - or "the dangers of autopilot"

"A few years ago, a delivery driver from Doncaster almost drove his car off a cliff. His BMW was left teetering on the edge of a 100ft precipice in Yorkshire after he had followed his satnav’s instructions, despite increasing indications that he had ceded a shade too much control to the gadget. “It just kept insisting the path was a road, even as it was getting narrower and steeper,” the chap explained, “so I just trusted it. I rely on my satnav. I couldn’t do without it for my job"

Marina Hyde writing in The Guardian  March 11th 2015

She mentions this in the context of over-reliance on technology and the England cricket team. I wonder if there are other lessons too such as
- the dangers of auto-pilot (as opposed to mindfulness)
- the pitfalls of obedience to authority
- the pros and cons of advances in technology in general

What do you think?

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Woody Allen gives a philosophy lesson to Dianne Keaton in Love and Death

Friday, March 13, 2015

Charles Dickens on separating your personal and work lives

"[T]he office is one thing, and private life is another. When I go into the office, I leave the Castle behind me, and when I come into the Castle, I leave the office behind me. "
             Mr Wemmick in Great Expectations (ch 25, p. 142)

Food for thought - what do you think about being exactly the same person at home and work, as opposed to Mr Wemmick who almost has a split personality?

Mr. Wemmick and "The Aged P.", illustration by Sol Eytinge Jr.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Harry Chapin on what things you should and shouldn't change

Sometimes I get this crazy dreamAnd I just take off in my carBut you can travel on ten thousand milesAnd still stay where you are.

Harry Chapin W*O*L*D

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Woody Allen on one of life's little paradoxes

"There's an old joke - um... two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of 'em says, ‘Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.’ The other one says, ‘Yeah, I know; and such small portions.’ Well, that's essentially how I feel about life."

 Woody Allen in Annie Hall

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Robert Solomon's Positive Existentialist Vision from Waking Life

Robert Solomon: Existentialism from Bass Mechanism on Vimeo.
The reason why I refuse to take existentialism as just another French fashion or historical curiosity is that I think it has something very important to offer us for the new century. I'm afraid we're losing the real virtues of living life passionately, sense of taking responsibility for who you are, the ability to make something of yourself and feeling good about life. Existentialism is often discussed as if it's a philosophy of despair. But I think the truth is just the opposite. Sartre once interviewed said he never really felt a day of despair in his life. But one thing that comes out from reading these guys is not a sense of anguish about life so much as a real kind of exuberance of feeling on top of it. It's like your life is yours to create. I've read the postmodernists with some interest, even admiration. But when I read them, I always have this awful nagging feeling that something absolutely essential is getting left out. The more that you talk about a person as a social construction or as a confluence of forces or as fragmented or marginalized, what you do is you open up a whole new world of excuses. And when Sartre talks about responsibility, he's not talking about something abstract. He's not talking about the kind of self or soul that theologians would argue about. It's something very concrete. It's you and me talking. Making decisions. Doing things and taking the consequences. It might be true that there are six billion people in the world and counting. Nevertheless, what you do makes a difference. It makes a difference, first of all, in material terms. Makes a difference to other people and it sets an example. In short, I think the message here is that we should never simply write ourselves off and see ourselves as the victim of various forces. It's always our decision who we are.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Horace on it being later than you think

"Carpe diem!"

Rejoice while you are alive;

enjoy the day;

live life to the fullest;

make the most of what you have.

It is later than you think."

and here's a Special (: version of these sentiments.

and Robin Williams in Dead Poet's Society

Thursday, March 05, 2015

The Buddha on worry and rumination

The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.

The Buddha

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Stephen Covey on how to fall back in love

At one seminar where I was speaking on the concept of proactivity, a man came up and said, "Stephen, I like what you're saying.  But every situation is so different.  Look at my marriage.  I'm really worried.  My wife and I just don't have the same feelings for each other we used to have.  I guess I just don't love her anymore and she doesn't love me.  What can I do?" 

   "The feeling isn't there anymore?" I asked.  

  "That's right," he reaffirmed. 

"And we have three children we're really concerned about.  What do you suggest?" 

   "Love her," I replied.   

"I told you, the feeling just isn't there anymore." 

   "Love her."   

"You don't understand.  The feeling of love just isn't there." 

   "Then love her.  If the feeling isn't there, that's a good reason to love her."

    "But how do you love when you don't love?"   

"My friend, love is a verb.  Love -- the feeling -- is a fruit of love the verb.  So love her.  Sacrifice.  Listen to her.  Empathize.  Appreciate.  Affirm her.  Are you willing to do that?"

Stephen Covey 7 Habits of Highly Effective Living 

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Douglas Adams' key points in the history of the Galaxy

The history of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is one of idealism, struggle, despair, passion, success, failure, and enormously long lunch breaks

Douglas Adams The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Isaiah Berlin on self-direction

I wish my life and decisions to depend on myself, not on external forces of whatever kind, I wish to be an instrument of my own, not of other men’s, acts of will. I wish to be moved by reasons, by conscious purposes, which are my own, not by causes which affect me, as it were, from outside. I wish to be a doer … deciding, not being decided for, self-directed and not acted upon by external nature

Isaiah Berlin  Two Concepts of Liberty 

Nietzsche on what is most needed for an authentic life

One thing is needed.  To give style to one's character-a great and rare art ! It is achieved by those who survey all the strengths and weaknesses of their nature and then fit them into an artistic plan 
Nietszche The Gay Science (or Joyful Wisdom)

Philosopher John Kekes on Wisdom

Wisdom is to arrange our lives so as to satisfy wants that accord with our ideals, while paying due regard to human and traditional limitations and possibilities in general, and to our own limitations and possibilities in particular.

John Kekes  The Examined  Life 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Robert Solomon on the emotions and responsibility

Our emotions involve more than  evaluations, they also ascribe responsibility, praise for gains, blame for losses. 

Robert Solomon, The Passions (p.213 "The Logic of Emotions 7. Responsibility)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Epictetus on what you can control and what you can't control

Some things are up to us and some are not up to us. Our opnions are up to us, and our impulses, desires, aversions - in short, whatever is our doing. Our bodies are not up to us, nor are our posessions, our reputionas, or our public offices, or , that is, whatever is not our doing.
Handbook of Epictetus, 1.  (translation White)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Seneca on a daily habit to increase virtue and reduce anger

Sextius had this habit, and when the day was over and he had retired to his nightly rest, he would put these questions to his soul: ‘What bad habit have you cured today? What fault have you resisted? In what respect are you better?’ Anger will cease and become more controllable if it finds that it must appear before a judge every day. Can anything be more excellent than this practice of thoroughly sifting the whole day? And how delightful the sleep that follows this self-examination – how tranquil it is, how deep and untroubled, when the soul has either praised or admonished itself, and when this secret examiner and critic of self has given report of its own character! I avail myself of this privilege, and every day I plead my cause before the bar of self. When the light has been removed from sight, and my wife, long aware of my habit, has become silent, I scan the whole of my day and retrace all my deeds and words. I conceal nothing from myself, I omit nothing. For why should I shrink from any of my mistakes, when I may commune thus with myself?

            ‘See that you never do that again; I will pardon you this time. In that dispute, you spoke too offensively; after this don’t have encounters with ignorant people; those who have never learned do not want to learn. You reproved that man more frankly than you ought, and consequently you have not so much mended him as offended him. In the future, consider not only the truth of what you say, but also whether the man to whom you are speaking can endure the truth. A good man accepts reproof gladly; the worse a man is the more bitterly he resents it.’

Seneca, On Anger, 3.36.1-4

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Seneca on anger management

I arrived at my house in Alba completely exhausted by the journey, which was thoroughly uncomfortable for an old man like me, thrashed about in that heaving carriage. And what do you know? Nothing was ready for my arrival, apart from myself. So I’m writing to you from my old man’s bed (which is of course unmade), resting, unbathed (for there’s no water) and so tired that I’m not all that sorry that the baker and the cook (now that we’ve located them!) are slower than snails.
All these difficulties have made me aware again of how calm life is if you don’t take its inconveniences to heart, and how we wear ourselves out by magnifying them. It is indeed true that my baker has no bread — but perhaps the farm manager will have some, or a tenant, or the steward. “Not very nice bread, though,” you’ll say. But wait a minute: it will soon transform itself by hunger into food fit for a king. So I’ll wait to eat until I have my own bread, or hunger makes me less picky.
We must teach ourselves to bear things. You could be enormously rich, with a flotilla of servants, and still be mown down by obstacles thrown your way arbitrarily. None of us can have everything we want, but we can refrain from wanting what we haven’t got and cheerfully make the best of what’s to hand. Tonight’s culinary improvisation just might be more tasty, and will certainly be less monotonous, than the dinner I had anticipated. 
Perhaps freedom consists of a stomach that knows when to be quiet.

Seneca: On Luxury (Letters from a Stoic)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Irvin Yalom, existential psychotherapist, on the most important aspects of the human condition

The four “givens” of existence which I have found of most practical relevance in my [Yalom's] work as an existential psychotherapist are as follows: the inevitability of death for each of us and for those we love; the freedom to make our lives as we will; our ultimate aloneness; and finally, the absence of any obvious meaning or sense to life. 

Irvin Yalom, Love's Executioner

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Marcus Aurelius on life and death

Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now take what's left and live it properly.
                                     Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 7.56. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Marcus Aurelius on doing what we can, now

 'Don't wait for Plato's Republic! Rather, be content if one tiny thing makes some progress, and reflect on the fact that what results from this tiny thing is no tiny thing at all!' 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Albert Camus on how to respond to the absurdity of human existence

“I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain. .... The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus

Seneca on being in the present

Both [fear and hope] are mainly due to projecting our thoughts far ahead of us instead of adapting ourselves to the present.
Foresight, the greatest blessing humanity has been given, is transformed into a curse. Wild animals run from the dangers trey actually see, and once they have escaped them worry no more. We however are tormented aloke by what is past and what is to come.  A number of our blessings do us harm, for memory brings back the agony of fear while foresight brings it on prematurely. No one confines his unhapiness to the present.

From Seneca Letters From a Stoic , Letter V