The Stoics Manifesto Part One

Art, blogging, illustration, Life, philosophy, United Kingdom

 

eudaimonia Anne corr

I love the Stoics – their attempt to master the meaning of life resonates still.  Let’s not make life difficult by talking about airy fairy concepts like happiness, let’s bring some structure to the existentialist questions that haunt us all, whether we pay attention to them or not.  Ultimately we all face the same challenges of living and dying – just got to pay attention as to how we decide to do it.

Ironing out the detail – what we need to know.

literature, philosophy, Thoughts, United Kingdom

St Augustine quotation Anne Corr

Good to remember , and the thought holds whilst I tackle the daily chores of ironing and domestic doery before I can settle down to the more pleasurable tasks awaiting me on the p.c.

Two commissions to do before Christmas, and one is a delight . I can’t tell you or I would have to kill you. Don’t want to do that.

Thanks St Augustine –  your words are duly digested.

Reminder No.4 – Series One

blogging, Life, literature, philosophy, poetry

thoreau

Reminder Number One ( Series One)

blogging, illustration, philosophy, Thoughts

Einstein quotation

 

Watch a pale blue dot redrawn . Pure Zen

Art, blogging, earth, Life, philosophy, Thoughts

zenpencils soes Carl Sagans Pale Blue Dot

I loved Carl Sagans series ‘Cosmos’ and would implore anyone to check out the whole series.  This version of a tiny portion is a brilliant comic expression.  The man behind Zen Pencils is a real inspiration.  Glad I found him!!  Show your children, show your friends, show your grandchildren, show the law makers, the law breakers, the money makers, show everyone.

zenpencils

 

From http://zenpencils.tumblr.com/archive

Work in progress, with William Morris

Art, books, culture, literature, philosophy

willima morris birmingham mmuseumHow gorgeous is this?  William Morris led the Art and Crafts movement during the 1860’s in Britain. His politics led him to be the leading representative of libertarian Socialism for a time, but his abiding love was for the arts and literature.  Friends with the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood, he married Jane Burden, who became the Jane Morris with whom Dante Gabriel Rossetti was besotted with, and with whom she had a long lasting affair during her marriage to William.

William Morris’s love for decoration led to the wonderful fabric designs that continue to be used world wide, rich with the imagery from nature and the brilliance of his use of colour.

What may be lesser known about the man was his deep interest in medievalism, and his gothic interest in fantasy led him to write ‘A Tale of the House of the Wolfings and All the Kindreds of the Mark ‘.  This tale may have been the precursor of the modern fantasy genre so popular today.  The story influenced the great J.R.R. Tolkein who referenced it as an important  influence on his work of art ‘The Lord of the Rings’.

William Morris

 

The following illustrations are by Edward Burne Jones for William Morris’s unfinished book of ‘The Earthly Paradise’. Morris carved most of the wood blocks himself, and these were rediscovered in the 1960’s.

Charon's Fee. edward Burne Jones illustration of William MOrris Cupid and Pysche From The Strory of Cupid and Psyche  by William Morrisillustrated by Edward Burne JOnes, Psyche throwing herself into the river From The Strory of Cupid and Psyche  by William Morrisillustrated by Edward Burne JOnes, Psychein the garden From The Strory of Cupid and Psyche  by William Morrisillustrated by Edward Burne JOnes,This artist, writer, thinker reaches out from his time to my own, and inspires my own interests in medieval illumination and typographic interest alongside political aspirations of a shared human vision to incorporate the individual in a collective experience of beauty and wonder.

 

 

Only the biggest question requires your attention.

illustration, Life, LOVE, philosophy, Thoughts

YeatsEinsteins reply to a schoolgirl who asked in class about the power of prayer.

Dear Phyllis,

I will attempt to reply to your question as simply as I can. Here is my answer:

Scientists believe that every occurrence, including the affairs of human beings, is due to the laws of nature. Therefore a scientist cannot be inclined to believe that the course of events can be influenced by prayer, that is, by a supernaturally manifested wish.

However, we must concede that our actual knowledge of these forces is imperfect, so that in the end the belief in the existence of a final, ultimate spirit rests on a kind of faith. Such belief remains widespread even with the current achievements in science.

But also, everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that some spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe, one that is vastly superior to that of man. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is surely quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive.

With cordial greetings,

your A. Einstein

Sometimes Einstein is misrepresented about his view on religion, in fact he was unequivocal in his view,  while retaining a healthy respect in mystery and the limit of human knowledge.  As a leading scientist and a vastly respected thinker, his view about religion is important to me.  I know very little , and I refer to thinkers such as he to guide my own position.  After having read recently Andrew Marrs ‘History of the World’, I am further convinced of the worldliness of all the major religions.  There is much about human attempts to influence history and how religion was used as a tool by leaders and thinkers.  Some of those thinkers I can believe were genuine in their beliefs,  but misguided, others plainly were manipulators.

Einstein wrote this to Eric Gutkind from Princeton in January 1954, translated from German by Joan Stambaugh.

“The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this. These subtilised interpretations are highly manifold according to their nature and have almost nothing to do with the original text. For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything ‘chosen’ about them.

In general I find it painful that you claim a privileged position and try to defend it by two walls of pride, an external one as a man and an internal one as a Jew. As a man you claim, so to speak, a dispensation from causality otherwise accepted, as a Jew the privilege of monotheism. But a limited causality is no longer a causality at all, as our wonderful Spinoza recognized with all incision, probably as the first one. And the animistic interpretations of the religions of nature are in principle not annulled by monopolization. With such walls we can only attain a certain self-deception, but our moral efforts are not furthered by them. On the contrary.

Now that I have quite openly stated our differences in intellectual convictions it is still clear to me that we are quite close to each other in essential things, i.e; in our evaluations of human behavior. What separates us are only intellectual ‘props’ and ‘rationalization’ in Freud’s language. Therefore I think that we would understand each other quite well if we talked about concrete things.

With friendly thanks and best wishes,

Yours, A. Einstein

I think that clears up the question for me.  I still experience a deep connection between living beings, I still want to believe in the idea of a collective responsibility and a collective understanding that we all can tap into. I believe in the powers of love, and faith and hope.  I just don’t believe they are attached to a Divine being, separate from the cosmos.  I think our responsibility lies in this world, to one another, to other living beings and to the planet.  What about you?

 

 

 

What was the question?

Art, blogging, Life, music, philosophy
St Augustine Quotation

St Augustine Quotation

‘If one makes music, as the Orient would say, disinterestedly, that is, without concern for money or fame but simply for the love of making it, it is an integrating activity and one will find moments in his life that an complete and fulfilled.’     – John Cage.

I suppose the same goes for any occupation we choose to partake in.  Engage in the activity, and the truth begins to emerge that when we are experiencing ‘flow’, then material benefits pale in comparison.  This is a political statement because it addresses the fundamental values on which we build our societies, whether we look to increasing productivity or whether we look to increasing the value of human life, the opportunity for human beings everywhere on the planet to look toward a fulfilling, active life . Increasing productivity increases the wealth factor for a very small minority of capital providers whenever the means of production are owned by very rich capitalists.

My aim is not to polarise the argument but to raise the question amongst the producers and consumers , what are you doing? Who are you doing it for?

“Greed and envy are the real dirt in the world”

But realistically whenever the difference between the rich and the poor remains so great, there will always be aspiration to achieve the status and the luxuries in which the richest indulge. The matter then appears to reduce the divide, and how is that achieved? Only by politics. Only be sharing the ownership of both the challenges we encounter and the resources with which we manipulate the world. And that has to begin with ourselves, and knowing our motivations. Do I want to earn enough to have a swimming pool? Do I want to earn enough to feed my family?

If we can free ourselves of our ego driven aspirational desires, and address the matter of working in order to provide the necessities, then it will emerge that work itself is not what people despise. It is the kind of work they are driven to perform in order to maintain a lifestyle.

…”..My composition arises out of asking questions. I am reminded of a story early on about a class with Schoenberg. He had us go to the blackboard to solve a particular problem in counterpoint (though it was a class in harmony).

He said, ‘When you have a solution, turn around and let me see it.’ I did that. He then said: ‘Now another solution, please.’ I gave another and another until finally, having made seven or eight, I reflected a moment and then said with some certainty: ‘There aren’t any more solutions.’ He said: ‘OK. What is the principle underlying all of these solutions?’ I couldn’t answer his question; but I had always worshipped the man, and at that point I did even more. He ascended, so to speak. I spent the rest of my life, until recently, hearing him ask that question over and over. And then it occurred to me through the direction that my work has taken, which is renunciation of choices and th  substitution of asking questions, that the principle underlying all of the solutions that I had given him was the question that he had asked, because they certainly didn’t come from any other point. He would have accepted the answer, I think. The answers have the questions in common. Therefore the question underlies the answers.”  John Cage

The questions we ask ourselves is what life is all about.

” Cage linked his life and his music. Life is filled with uncertainty. Chance events happen to us all.  Each of us must take responsibility  and make decisions.  None of us should be imposing our ego image on others.  Most music tries to control its circumstances, just as most of us do. But there’s another way to live.  Accept indeterminacy as a principle, and you see your life in a new light, as a series of seemingly unrelated jewel-like stories with a dazzling setting of change and transformation. Recognize that you don’t know where you stand, and you will begin to watch where you put your  feet”

– Where  the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism by Kay Larson

‘Ignorance and presumption rebuked’

books, history, literature, philosophy

Could it be that Petrarch had the same concerns seven hundred years ago without the advent of social media? Some things change, some things stay the same.  Considered to be the father of humanism, and to instigate the Renaissance, Petrarch embodied a new and vigorous way of thinking, disdaining the centuries preceding as a time he dubbed ‘ the Dark Ages’.  I would have wanted to have sat down and shared a meal with him.  His father chose for him the study of law, which he deplored and left.  He favoured contemplative study, and looking back to the classicism of Ancient Rome and Greece, creating a body of writing as fresh and as cogent today as when he wrote them.

Let me say, then, that I detect in your writings a constant effort to make a display…… As Seneca has said, it is unseemly for a grown man to go gathering nosegays; he should care for fruit rather than flowers. ….
You seem to take delight in exploring new regions, where the paths are unknown to you and you are sure to go astray once in a while or fall into a pit. You like to follow the example of those who parade their know ledge before their doors, like so much merchandise, while their houses within are empty. Ah ! it is safer to be something than to be always trying to seem to be. Ostentation is difficult and dangerous. Moreover, just when you are most desirous of being deemed great, innumerable little things are sure to happen which not only reduce you to your true dimensions but bring you below them. No one intellect should ever strive for distinction in more than one pursuit. Those who boast of preeminence in many arts are either divinely endowed or utterly shameless or simply mad. Who ever heard of such presumption in olden times, on the part of either Greeks or men of our own race ? It is a new practice, a new kind of effrontery. To-day men write up over their doors inscriptions full of vainglory, containing claims which, if true, would make them, as Pliny puts it, superior even to the law of the land. But when one looks within-ye gods! what emptiness is there! So, in conclusion, I beg you, if my words have any weight, to be content within your own bounds. Do not imitate these men who are all promise and no performance; who, as the comic poet has said, know everything and yet know nothing. There is a certain wise old Greek proverb that bids everyone stick to the trade that he understands. Farewell.

Francis Petrarch (1304 – 1374)
Familiar Letters
From James Harvey Robinson, ed. and trans.
Petrarch: The First Modern Scholar and Man of Letters
(New York: G.P. Putnam, 1898)

PhisickAgainstFortune Petrarch254 dialogues attempt to explore the effects of good and bad fortune on the soul. This is Petrarch’s book of practical philosophy, completed in 1360, A German illustrated version was published in August 1532 and remained in circulation for two centuries having a significant cultural impact .

Griselda by Petrarch

Petrarch was very taken by a story told to him in the Italian vernacular by his friend Boccaccio and was so struck by it that he felt the need to retell it in Latin. this became the Story of Griselda, in turn admired by Chaucer who Petrarch may or may not have met. Chaucer related the story as part of his Canterbury Tales, known as the Clerk’s Tale.

One of the features of Petrarch that strikes me is his introspection.  This is not a popular character trait in modern times, where speed of response and immediate gratification is seemingly moulding a different sensibility to the human condition.  But I like him all the more for demonstrating that and for producing work of lasting importance.  During his life he chose to explore a mountain, and contemplated who to take with him, settling finally on his younger brother. This would not be an easy ascent, and at the summit he reputedly drew upon a book of St Augustine for inspiration or solace , and according to his record the book fell open at this point, 

And men go about to wonder at the heights of the mountains, and the mighty waves of the sea, and the wide sweep of rivers, and the circuit of the ocean, and the revolution of the stars, but themselves they consider not.

Back to Petrarch;

“I closed the book, angry with myself that I should still be admiring earthly things who might long ago have learned from even the pagan philosophers that nothing is wonderful but the soul, which, when great itself, finds nothing great outside itself. Then, in truth, I was satisfied that I had seen enough of the mountain; I turned my inward eye upon myself, and from that time not a syllable fell from my lips until we reached the bottom again. […] [W]e look about us for what is to be found only within. […] How many times, think you, did I turn back that day, to glance at the summit of the mountain which seemed scarcely a cubit high compared with the range of human contemplation […]”

Thanks go to http://petrarch.petersadlon.com/books.html for his insight into a fascinating member of the human race.