In a crazy, busy world the ‘noise’ at times can seem overwhelming.
The barrage of responsibilities appear endless, the news non-stop and that voice inside your head just craves a willing ear.
It’s tempting to turn to distractions; a glass of wine at the end of the day, a scroll through Facebook, a mind-numbing evening in front of the TV. I do and it’s nice, but …..
As comforting as they are they’re momentary, band-aid solutions at best.
Another day awaits and the cycle of time propels us forward.
We ALL want to enjoy our life. We all want to find a sense of purpose and meaning, even if we don’t openly acknowledge it in words.
So how can we do this?
There’s got to be more than just noise and news and nonsense going on around us and in our heads.
How can we make sense of it all and find some focus? Some perspective? Some meaning and purpose?
Philosophy, my friends! The simple, ‘Backdoor’ basics kind.
It is the ultimate internal instruction manual and offers us a filter for our everyday experiences in life.
It gives us perspective, guidance, awareness and at the very least, reassurance that we’re all searching for the same thing – understanding.
I am no academic scholar of philosophy. I never studied it conventionally, and I am certainly not going to go all ‘old school’ on you here.
Philosophy has always been about helping us to understand who we are and how we should live, through the simple art of thinking and asking questions.
Just like a personal trainer who helps whip you into shape physically, philosophy is a the ultimate form of fitness for our minds and souls.
“Seneca … conceived of philosophy as a discipline to assist human beings in overcoming conflicts between their wishes and reality” (Alain de Botton, ‘Consolations of Philosophy’)
What philosophy is and is not
First, let’s be clear…
It’s NOT all ancient history, Aristotle, long-haired professors and stuffy institutions. It can be if you’re into that sort of thing.
Ancient names such as Plato, Socrates and Seneca might start to ring a bell, but cause you to yawn at the same time.
There are plenty of reasons to read these guys and more, but if the aim of the game is to get to the core basics, then the ‘backdoor’ approach does the job just as well.
The ‘backdoor’ philosophy basics (as I like to call them) are nothing revolutionary but simply the easiest way I’ve found to apply philosophy to our everyday lives.
It’s a way of tapping into what can be a convoluted concept and making it work in a busy, time-poor modern world.
For me it’s about learning through experiences (with kids in tow), asking questions, reading stuff, writing stuff and thinking… about stuff, amidst the madness of family life. All in an attempt to simply ‘live well’.
The 4 Backdoor Philosophy Basics
1. Admit that there is a lot we don’t know
Traditionally, philosophy has been considered a ‘love of wisdom’, but I find this paradoxical. In choosing to be wise, we’re really acknowledging first, ALL that we DON’T know!
But as soon as that’s done, we’re open to learning and taking something new from each experience.
I once heard an educationalists say that if our brains didn’t hurt at the end of each day, then we’re not using them for what they were designed to do.
This makes sense when I think of other muscles in our body, during and after a workout of some kind. Our brain, just like our muscles are designed for action, use, toil.
And overtime, waking a little wiser, day-by-day, each chance you have to think more has a cumulative effect. Use it (your mind) or lose it, as they say.
3. Start practicing the art of asking questions
All kinds; the 5 W’s and the H, with the sole purpose of encouraging thought, not necessarily answers.
So while Philosophy doesn’t offer answers, that’s exactly the beauty of it! (No need to be ‘wrong’ or annoyingly ‘right’).
Thinking and asking questions is what we were born to do.
To use our minds and bodies for thought and then action, but of the ‘best’ kind, has got to be what it’s all about.
4. Live, experience, act!
Philosophy ultimately requires those two most demanding of tasks: thought and action, both of which we’re often reluctant to add to our already growing list of ‘things to do’.
But French philosopher Montaigne believed “no matter how modest our lives, if we attended to our experiences properly and learned to consider ourselves as plausible candidates for an intellectual life, we could all arrive at insights no less profound than those in the great ancient books” (Alain de Botton, ‘Consolations of Philosophy’: p.165).
Philosophy then offers us a fresh lens through which we can gain greater
perspective of our lives; seeing how we can choose to ‘view’ our world, the people in it and the unique experiences on offer everyday, to ultimately learn from them.
If we take the valuable time to reflect and explore our everyday issues it can provide us with understanding, acceptance and the chance to simply be better individuals as a result.
A case for everyday Philosophy
As the pace of life speeds up, societies become increasingly complex and our lives controlled more by technology, it’s no surprise we’re feeling a little frazzled and maybe even losing sight of who we are, where we are going and what the point of it all is.
Yoga’s great, meditation too and there’s a burgeoning Self-help shelf in any book store these days, but philosophy is all-encompassing.
It can help us ‘to interpret our impulses, apply rationality and guide us to cures for our soul’ -Alain de Botton (p.55).
Our struggles with love, money, relationships, societal expectations, parenting, emotions, and the pursuit of happiness, can be soothed with Philosophy’s deft touch.
So while the world outside might be raging on, philosophy can help us find minimal disturbance within.
And when we step outside ourselves and view the bigger picture, we’re inevitably aware of our place and purpose.
Philosophy’s gift is that it might just set us free, in more ways than one. Or at the very least, open a few ‘doors’ for us.