By Maria Popova (brainpickings.org)
“Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?” Elizabeth Gilbert asked in framing her catalyst for creative magic. This is among life’s most abiding questions and the history of human creativity — our art and our poetry and most empathically all of our philosophy — is the history of attempts to answer it.
Friedrich Nietzsche (October 15, 1844–August 25, 1900), who believed that embracing difficulty is essential for a fulfilling life, considered the journey of self-discovery one of the greatest and most fertile existential difficulties. In 1873, as he was approaching his thirtieth birthday, Nietzsche addressed this perennial question of how we find ourselves and bring forth our gifts in a beautiful essay titled Schopenhauer as Educator (public library), part of his Untimely Meditations.
Nietzsche, translated here by Daniel Pellerin, writes:
Any human being who does not wish to be part of the masses need only stop making things easy for himself. Let him follow his conscience, which calls out to him: “Be yourself! All that you are now doing, thinking, desiring, all that is not you.”
Every young soul hears this call by day and by night and shudders with excitement at the premonition of that degree of happiness which eternities have prepared for those who will give thought to their true liberation. There is no way to help any soul attain this happiness, however, so long as it remains shackled with the chains of opinion and fear. And how hopeless and meaningless life can become without such a liberation! There is no drearier, sorrier creature in nature than the man who has evaded his own genius and who squints now towards the right, now towards the left, now backwards, now in any direction whatever.
Echoing Picasso’s proclamation that “to know what you’re going to draw, you have to begin drawing,” Nietzsche considers the only true antidote to this existential dreariness:
No one can build you the bridge on which you, and only you, must cross the river of life. There may be countless trails and bridges and demigods who would gladly carry you across; but only at the price of pawning and forgoing yourself. There is one path in the world that none can walk but you. Where does it lead? Don’t ask, walk!
But this path to finding ourselves, Nietzsche is careful to point out, is no light stroll:
How can man know himself? It is a dark, mysterious business: if a hare has seven skins, a man may skin himself seventy times seven times without being able to say, “Now that is truly you; that is no longer your outside.” It is also an agonizing, hazardous undertaking thus to dig into oneself, to climb down toughly and directly into the tunnels of one’s being. How easy it is thereby to give oneself such injuries as no doctor can heal. Moreover, why should it even be necessary given that everything bears witness to our being — our friendships and animosities, our glances and handshakes, our memories and all that we forget, our books as well as our pens. For the most important inquiry, however, there is a method. Let the young soul survey its own life with a view of the following question: “What have you truly loved thus far? What has ever uplifted your soul, what has dominated and delighted it at the same time?” Assemble these revered objects in a row before you and perhaps they will reveal a law by their nature and their order: the fundamental law of your very self. Compare these objects, see how they complement, enlarge, outdo, transfigure one another; how they form a ladder on whose steps you have been climbing up to yourself so far; for your true self does not lie buried deep within you, but rather rises immeasurably high above you, or at least above what you commonly take to be your I.
With this, Nietzsche turns to the true role of education in the excavation of this true self — something Parker Palmer addressed a century later in his beautiful meditation on education as a spiritual journey — and writes:
Your true educators and cultivators will reveal to you the original sense and basic stuff of your being, something that is not ultimately amenable to education or cultivation by anyone else, but that is always difficult to access, something bound and immobilized; your educators cannot go beyond being your liberators. And that is the secret of all true culture: she does not present us with artificial limbs, wax-noses, bespectacled eyes — for such gifts leave us merely with a sham image of education. She is liberation instead, pulling weeds, removing rubble, chasing away the pests that would gnaw at the tender roots and shoots of the plant; she is an effusion of light and warmth, a tender trickle of nightly rain…
In a sentiment that calls to mind David Foster Wallace’s superb commencement address on the true value of education, Nietzsche concludes:
There may be other methods for finding oneself, for waking up to oneself out of the anesthesia in which we are commonly enshrouded as if in a gloomy cloud — but I know of none better than that of reflecting upon one’s educators and cultivators.
Complement the altogether fantastic Schopenhauer as Educator with Nietzsche on the power of music and his ten rules for writers, then revisit Florence King on how to find yourself and Parker Palmer on how to let your life speak.
Comedian John Cleese speaks his mind about political correctness.It's an opinion informed by his entire career in comedy.
Posted by Big Think on Wednesday, February 27, 2019
DNA is a strand of information that conveys information about you with a language that has 4 letters in its alphabet: Adenine, Guanine, Thiamine, and Cytosine. The arrangement of these nucleotides in the strand provides all the information your body needs to be what it is and to function as it does.
Feb 26, 2019 /
But there’s good news: the internet can help us dissolve these feelings and create new bonds of solidarity, says media theorist Douglas Rushkoff.
Once, after delivering a lecture at Berkeley in the 1960s, a psychologist took questions from the audience. A young woman stood up to explain that she understood the deep connection between people and the collective responsibility that we all shared for the world, but she didn’t know what to do next. The psychologist answered, “Find the others.”
In this day and age, how do we “find the others” — that is, find the people with whom we can connect more directly? We can start by opposing all of the conventions, institutions, technologies and mindsets that keep us apart and by restoring the social connections that make us fully functioning humans. But while challenging overt methods of separation is straightforward, our internalized obstacles to connection are more embedded and pernicious. And they all tend to have something to do with shame.
The social convention of hiding one’s wealth or lack of it has less to do with protecting one another’s feelings than protecting the power of our superiors.
For instance, we’re trained from an early age not to talk about money. Our salaries and savings are considered to be as private as our medical histories. This habit has its roots in the ascent of former peasants. When the aristocracy realized they could no longer keep ahead of the rising middle class, they sought non-monetary methods of indicating status, such as nobility of birth. Unable to keep up with bourgeois styles of dress or home decor, aristocrats pushed for less ornate aesthetics. As a result, it became classy to hide one’s wealth, rather than display it.
It’s still considered rude to ask someone how much money they make. In certain situations, we’re embarrassed if we make too little; in others, we’re ashamed if we make too much. But the whole social convention of hiding one’s wealth or lack of it has less to do with protecting one another’s feelings than protecting the controlling power of our superiors.
So, the boss gives you a salary increase — just as long as you don’t tell anyone else about it. Because if you do, everyone else will be asking for the same thing. But maintaining the secret puts you in cahoots with management, submitting to the same dynamic as an abused child who is paid in candy to keep quiet. The bribe is a bond based in shame, and the bond is broken only when the victim finds others in whom to confide — often people who’ve experienced the same abuse. Real power comes when we’re ready to say it out loud, as a movement of people opposing such abuse.
Likewise, the power of unions doesn’t just lie in collective bargaining but in the collective sensibility that unionizing engenders. The crosstalk between workers can break up management’s efforts to make them compete with one another over scraps. That’s why taxi apps and internet errand platforms don’t have features that allow workers to converse about their experiences. Crosstalk breeds solidarity, and solidarity breeds discontent.
The things people do become normal when they can’t be shamed into silence about doing them.
Religions, cults, governments, and social media platforms all use the same tactics to control members: they learn an individual’s secrets, sexual proclivities, or identity issues, and threaten to use this information against them. Some cults use lie detectors to drill down into their targets’ most shameful truths, technologies that are updated versions of the confessionals once used by churches to blackmail wealthy parishioners or to shame the poor ones into exploitative compliance. The happy explosion of new genders, racial identities, and disability intersections flies in the face of social programming designed to stigmatize differences and disadvantage those labeled outsiders.
Shaming those who deviate from the norm helps galvanize unity among the group and enforce adherence to the rules. Frat houses shame new recruits into macho antics, just as pious hypocrites shame their followers into obedience. In more prosocial hands, the same tactics can be used by schools to stigmatize bullying or by environmentalists to punish polluters. But the problem is that people and institutions behaving destructively are not so vulnerable to shame. Bullies are proud of their conquests, and corporations experience no emotions.
Social shame only truly hurts humans who are being human. It is a counterproductive way of bonding people. Human teams should be based on common hopes, needs, strengths and vulnerabilities. The internet, with its sometimes forced transparency, creates possibilities for the dissolution of shame and for new bonds of solidarity across formerly impenetrable boundaries. It’s no coincidence that a digital culture with imposed surveillance and inescapable exposure has also brought us gay marriage and cannabis reform. The things people do become normal when they can’t be shamed into silence about doing them.
Experiments have revealed that after just a few moments of awe, some people behave with increased altruism, cooperation and self-sacrifice.
Once we dispense with shame, we are liberated to experience the full, sacred, unlikely wackiness of being human. We are confident enough to leave the safety of the private computer simulation and jump into the wet chaos of social intimacy. Instead of marveling at the granularity of a VR world or the realism of a robot’s facial expression, we open our senses to the taste of the breeze or the touch of a lover. We exchange the vertigo of the uncanny valley for the exhilaration of awe.
The state of awe may be the pinnacle of human experience; it’s what lies beyond the paradox. If humans’ unique job in nature is to be conscious, what more human thing can we do than blow our minds? Beholding the panoramic view from a mountaintop, witnessing the birth of a child, staring into a starry sky, or standing with thousands of others in march or celebration — all dissolve the sense of self as separate and distinct. We experience ourselves as both the observing eye and the whole of which we are a part. It’s an impossible concept, yet an undeniable experience of power and passivity, awareness and acceptance.
Psychologists tell us that the experience of awe can counteract self-focus, stress, apathy and detachment. Awe helps people act with an increased sense of meaning and purpose, turning our attention away from the self and toward our collective self-interest. Experiments have revealed that after just a few moments of awe, some people behave with increased altruism, cooperation and self-sacrifice. The evidence suggests that awe makes people feel like part of something larger than themselves, which in turn makes them less narcissistic and more attuned to the needs of those around them.
Unfortunately, opportunities to experience awe are becoming more scarce. People spend less time camping or in nature, the night sky is polluted with light, and participation in the arts and culture is down. Art and outdoors classes in public schools have been jettisoned in favor of those that prepare students for the standardized tests on which schools are judged. There are no easy metrics for awe.
Once burned by someone manipulating awe, we become jaded and cynical as a defense against being wonderstruck.
Like any extreme state of being, awe can also be exploited. Movies use special effects and giant spectacles to leverage this feeling at specific moments in a story arc. Dictators hold huge rallies to exhilarate followers, while avoiding reasoned debate. Even shopping malls attempt to generate a sense of awe with high ceilings and giant fountains.
For a moment, awe overwhelms the senses and wipes the mind clean, making it more open to input. This helps a person take in new information but also renders them more vulnerable to manipulation. Once burned by someone manipulating awe, we are twice shy to open ourselves to it again. We become jaded and cynical as a defense against being wonderstruck.
Still, just because awe can be abused doesn’t mean we should give up on its humanizing potential. There is a difference between real awe and manipulated excitement — between staring out onto the expanse of the Grand Canyon and standing in a sea of true believers at a nationalist rally. Manufactured awe doesn’t unify; it divides us into individual consumers or followers. We become fragmented, each imagining our own relationship to Dear Leader.
True awe, on the other hand, comes with no agenda. It’s not directed toward some end or plan or person; there’s no time limit or foe to vanquish. There is no “other.” True awe is timeless, limitless and without division. It suggests there is a unifying whole to which we all belong — if only we could hold onto that awareness.
Excerpted from the new book Team Human by Douglas Rushkoff. Copyright © 2019 by Douglas Rushkoff. Reprinted by permission of W.W. Norton & Company. All rights reserved.
Watch his TED Salon: Samsung talk here:
February 26, 2019 (theonion.com)
VATICAN CITY—Hoping to gain new insights into the church’s sexual abuse problem by directly empowering those most likely to become its victims, Pope Francis announced Tuesday that he had elevated a 2-year-old boy to the position of bishop. “We’re confident Bishop Timmy can help us make real, systemic progress in addressing this issue,” the pope said following the toddler’s ordination mass, during which the new bishop drank from a chalice of consecrated Juicy Juice and was given liturgical vestments that included both a white linen snap-bottom onesie and a too-large mitre that kept slipping down his forehead. “For years, we’ve ignored the needs of these poor children, and now it’s time to give them a real voice within the clergy. His Excellency Timmy, who can speak at least 50 words and reproduce the sounds made by many of God’s creatures, will be that voice. I’m pleased to report several older clergymen have already volunteered to provide our youngest-ever bishop with one-on-one attention to ensure he is fully prepared for the role.” At press time, the new bishop was reportedly turning heads at the Vatican with his controversial decision to chew on a nearby crucifix.
Pisces | Feb. 19 to March 20
You will be suddenly struck by the realization that there is no meaning to the universe save that we make, and that all human love is merely sexuality in disguise, but then you’ll be struck with the realization that some jalapeño poppers would be great about now.
Aries | March 21 to April 19
Your plans for an exciting weekend will be spoiled when a busybody scientist decides he just has to ask you why you want all that plutonium.
Taurus | April 20 to May 20
It will seem as if you’ve finally received divine evidence of your Christlike nature, but it turns out all women bleed like that.
Gemini | May 21 to June 20
Remember: The patient raindrops can eventually wear away even the hardest stone. Don’t let them get to close if you value your life.
Cancer | June 21 to July 22
You’ve always been afraid of someone washing your mouth out with soap, but that was before you learned they made a special mouth-soap in the form of a minty paste.
Leo | July 23 to Aug. 22
By this time next year, you’ll be $400,000 richer, two cars the better, and just as gullible as you are now.
Virgo | Aug. 23 to Sept. 22
Sometimes in life, you just have to march right in there, introduce yourself, fight off a couple of rather large security guards, and demand a raise.
Libra | Sept. 23 to Oct. 22
While there’s no shame in admitting you don’t know everything, there’s actually quite a lot of shame in admitting you can’t figure out how to eat chips and salsa.
Scorpio | Oct. 23 to Nov. 21
Your two-pack-a-day habit will finally kill you this week, but then, that’s a lot of wolves to fight off.
Sagittarius | Nov. 22 to Dec. 21
Help out your friends and relatives with a sensitive issue this week. Clearly label all your worldly possessions with the name of the intended recipient by about 8:15 p.m. on Friday night.
Capricorn | Dec. 22 to Jan. 19
All of your questions will be answered this week moments after the zookeeper, the fire marshal, and the roller coaster operator all tell you, “No.”
Aquarius | Jan. 20 to Feb. 18
The attention is nice and all, but in the end, you put your pants on just like everyone else: One multi-million-dollar cybernetic leg at a time.
Reading, writing, and…Rousseau? Why Philosophy 101 starts young in France
The idea that philosophy is a suitable subject for children is a hard sell. But in France, where educators recognize the value of helping children understand a complex world, the practice is catching on.
Morgan Fache/Les Petites Lumières
Children participate in a philosophy workshop led by the nonprofit Les Petites Lumières, which works to introduce philosophy to young children. The practice is catching on in France, where libraries, nonprofits, and schools are offering philosophy workshops for young children.
February 26, 2019
Cédric Cagnat begins his philosophy class by lighting a white candle in the middle of a circle of a dozen 7- to 10-year-olds here in the Médiathèque Eugène Flachat, a library in the northern Paris suburb of Asnières-sur-Seine.
“What is philosophy?” he asks. The group stares wide-eyed at first, until Mr. Cagnat breaks down the concept into chewable pieces. Philosophy, he explains, is a chance to listen to one another and communicate. And today is unlike a regular day at school, where teachers often talk at students without asking for their input.
“How many times in your day do adults ask you your thoughts on things?” he asks. The room is quiet.
This class, “Humans versus Animals,” sponsored by nonprofit Les Petites Lumières, is part of a growing movement of teaching philosophy to children in France. Until recently, philosophy has been a subject reserved for high school or university students here. As part of the country’s national education curriculum, it is offered to French students in their last year of high school and has been a part of the exit exams, or baccalauréat, since Napoleon created the test in 1808.
But now, educators in France are pushing to make the subject more accessible to younger children, with classes and workshops at schools, nonprofits, and local libraries.
As larger societal questions – from terrorism and immigration to climate change – make their way into daily dinner-table discussions in France and around the world, philosophy is becoming an important means of breaking down and understanding complicated concepts for children. Learning philosophy at a young age has also been shown to improve school success.
“Teaching philosophy to children helps them to ask questions, develop empathy and a collective consciousness,” says Cécile Viénot, a Paris-based child psychologist. “We’re here to shape our future citizens. One day these children will be able to vote and make decisions about our society.”
For children, a natural fit
The practice of teaching philosophy to children got its start in the United States in 1974, when Matthew Lipman created the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children at Montclair State College in New Jersey.
Mr. Lipman’s method proposes reading philosophical narratives to children and encouraging them to respond with questions. Researchers across the globe have since devised their own methods. In South Africa and Spain, educators use picture books and visuals to stimulate philosophical thinking and dialogue. The Philosophy Foundation and Thinking Space, both based in Britain, use thought experiments – encouraging thinkers to explore a specific line of thought – and other games and activities to promote critical thinking skills.
In France, educators have strayed from Lipman’s teaching, turning most often to French philosopher Michel Tozzi’s approach, which encourages the Socratic method of inquiry. Here, the educator simply acts as a guide, asking probing questions to elicit responses from students without lecturing.
Yet until recently in France, the idea that philosophy was a suitable subject to teach children was a hard sell.
“There is often confusion about the difference between studying philosophic texts in school and philosophizing,” says Chiara Pastorini, the founder of Les Petites Lumières, a nonprofit devoted to teaching philosophy to children. “But asking philosophical, existential questions is so natural for children.”
The benefits of learning philosophy are wide-ranging – listening to others, being exposed to different points of view, building a better sense of self. These skills are especially important to how children view others.
Children become less self-focused between ages 8 and 10, and thus become more interested in others, says Ms. Viénot, the child psychologist. “This can cause fears of others, from personal things like harassment at school to societal questions on immigration and how they view people different from themselves,” she says. “Philosophy helps build children as citizens of society, to ask questions. From a very young age, children are completely competent to do so.”
Cognizant of that competence, Dr. Pastorini tackles relatively complex themes in her workshops, like violence, friendship, power, justice, and knowledge, to talk about concrete issues taking place in society.
“Philosophy can be used to talk about power at the time of elections – what it means to be a leader – or terrorism and violence,” says Pastorini, whose nonprofit saw a boom in interest after the Paris terrorist attacks in 2015. “The environment and our relationship to nature, or war, are also very important themes.”
Learning philosophy also has more concrete results, and can spell school success now and later. A 2015 British study by the Education Endowment Foundation showed that children who studied philosophy made more progress in math and reading compared with students who did not. Previous studies showed children who learned philosophy showed improvement in reading and logical reasoning skills.
“In the end, my children will take the [educational] path of their choosing, but I think it’s good for them to learn philosophy now versus 10 or 20 years from now,” says Abaida Touda, who brought Mounia, 10, and Mouad, 7, to the workshop in Asnières-sur-Seine. “It’s a way to put philosophy in their heads already.”
The movement has gotten an added boost in France since the University of Nantes created a post-undergraduate diploma in 2017 on teaching philosophy to children, in partnership with UNESCO. France now joins Quebec, Belgium, and the United States in offering an advanced degree on teaching philosophy to young people.
“Just like with any pedagogy, this type of teaching requires training in how to provide discipline or how to use educational materials,” says Edwige Chirouter, a philosophy lecturer at the University of Nantes and the director of the philosophy for children training program.
Though the benefits of learning philosophy young are increasingly recognized, the subject has yet to be integrated into France’s highly centralized national education system. But France’s vision of children is starting to change.
“For a long time, we have thought children are immature … that they’re a blank page and it’s up to us adults to fill it in,” says Viénot. “Philosophy classes for children are an asset because the adult becomes the passive listener and gives the child confidence to offer his or her opinions, and not the other way around.”
(Submitted by Calvin Harris, H.W., M.)