Where does philosophy begin?

A clear perception of one’s own ruling principle, well that’s a good place from where you can start paving the road to walk the philosophical path as per Epictetus.

For instance, for many time is what rules their life. They believe time is precious and don’t see it as just a ticking of the hands of a clock. They would wanna be productive every minute of their lives if possible. For some others, Time is just a catastrophe, perpetual and irreversible.

Here time is the guiding principle behind their actions.

You might feel intimidated as to how should you begin. Is it books ? Or by attending lectures ? Should you sell your worldly possessions ?

None of these things are needed. Epictetus says start from your guiding reason and question your emotions and beliefs that you usually take for granted. An animal becomes self-aware the moment it sees its reflection in the mirror. That mirror image creates self-awareness even in an animal. But we humans possess more than just the faculty to see ourselves in the mirror and be astonished by a doppelgänger. We have the ability to analyze our mind. Once you become aware of that, you will feel yourself come alive. In Socrates’ words you will live a life really worthy of living.

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Be a torch-bearer of renaissance

I write this as a tribute to a public talk in New Acropolis school that I recently attended over the weekend. It triggered so many neurons in my brain.

(The creation of Adam by Michelangelo )

Why should we revere the Renaissance period in history?

If you ask me, I would say it’s because it wasn’t just an epoch. It was a stream of thought and rebirth. The very essence of being reborn to a whole new way of thinking. Man started seeing himself as responsible for his own life than being a passive observer to dogmatic ways of the society.

Who wouldn’t want to break from the chains of old ways of thinking ?

The very freedom of questioning and open spirit to explore the world using one’s discernment.

Man was fascinated with the idea of creating himself not to follow suit or be just another victim of mass production. The focus was on the balanced development of a human being.

There was a figure who was an exemplary to the idea of limitless capacity for self-development in mankind.

Guess who was the epitome of the renaissance period ? Leonardo Da Vinci. A polymath and the guy who showed us that a man has limitless capacity for self-development.

The Last Supper, Monalisa weren’t just paintings. They were the result of unbound imagination of an artist.

The Last supper took five years for its completion, not because it was difficult to conceive the artwork, but owing to the fact that Leonardo always left his work alone at ease without feeling the need to finish things within a deadline.

The beauty of the painting lies in the fact that Da Vinci experimented with different colours and pigments to bring out the essence of the theme which was Jesus having his last supper with his disciples before his betrayal.

Da Vinci was not attached to his work. To be precise, he wasn’t attached to the idea of his work turning out in a specific charted way, rather he didn’t mind it not following a preconceived method of execution at all. Many a time he didn’t even mind his work getting destroyed as he wasn’t afraid of beginning over and over again.

That sense of attachment that one’s creation once begun has to churn out a designated result and come out as a masterpiece was not seen in his demeanour. He let it go and instead just focused on creating and being in the moment.

(The Last Supper by Da Vinci)

Continuous learning and growth

When does growth happen ?

When you are open to learning further and realise there is always scope for more things to sink into your life.

Go back inside yourself and look hard. Be the sculptor of yourself. Remove the superfluous and straighten the crooked. Never stop sculpting your statue.

We usually have a skewed concept of what freedom entails. Freedom wasn’t disconnected from the divine in the renaissance period. It was characterised by a search for unity. A movement away from separation and fear…

The modern man often has the urge to escape from all things considered to be sublime and lofty, to exude an uber “I am so cool “ demeanour. Little does he know, his strength comes from the source which created him.

We live in fear most of the times. Do we ever realise it actually boils down to a state of separation and isolation ? When we come from fear, we see ourselves as different from others. Love is unity. Not because it sounds good to hear it but love brings all elements together. It binds. Where do we seek out the essential ? It is time to re-establish the harmony within and around us.

Man is like a dome that connects the connects the lower part of himself to the higher self( representing a vault of heaven).

What virtues can you imbibe from Renaissance?

Imagination

To look at the seed and see the tree. To see the tree as a projection of the seed. Imagination is that invisible potential that lets you shoot an arrow into the future.

Constant search for next challenge

It’s challenges that make us grow and not get comfortable with looks just fine or would suffice.

Da Vinci didn’t just want to paint The Last Supper but he also turned a mathematician while doing so.

He used geometry to express Jesus’s body in the painting. It’s interesting that if you look hard and measure the outline of Christ’s body, it’s like an equilateral triangle. His knowledge of how light strikes the retina helped him develop his perspective while working on ‘The Last Supper’.

Deep connection with nature

Align with nature’s crosscurrents and revere the harmony of its patterns. They serve as an anchor in every form of creativity you indulge in.

Rely on experience

Build conviction based on your experience. Be a disciple of your experiences as they help you figure out things in life that might seem otherwise intimidating.

Work within constraints

Da Vinci was supplied with materials to complete his sculpture but when war broke out in the country where he was at work, those very same supplies went to the manufacturing of ammunition. Boy, he did learn the importance of working within the constraints of his present reality.

Versatility

Who said we need to be a specialist only in one discipline ? Leonardo was as good a scientist as an artist. He busted the false idea that one cannot be artistic and practical at the same time. He drew the prototype of the first helicopter and also invented anemometer( instrument used to measure speed of wind) while he also managed to paint the epic ‘Monalisa’.

The cult of the specialist is gone. You can be anything and everything that you want in life.

Love, freedom and search for the infinite were the main values embodied by the renaissance.

I think we all can carry this spirit within us and find little areas of our life where we can make these virtues come alive in action.

Last but the most important suggestion, leave this wasteland of experts that the current society has created. You can be a Mozart in music and a Euler in math and you do have the right to dabble in every avenue without limiting your self.

Balance is the key

Life is always about a sense of balance and consistency. I had a pastry a week ago that looked delicious. Who would have ever thought a rainbow coloured cake slice can taste awful when you try it ?

It tasted so bad that one would give up sweets forever. Sometimes any form of extreme can take you to the other extreme such as when you are saturated with sugar you would crave to have something bitter. A coffee with an extra shot of espresso was the only thing that could stave off the excessive ghee ingested owing to a cake baked wrong.

A dessert should appeal your sweet taste buds but in a subtle way. It must not make you repulsive towards sweets.

For a while I was put off by cakes and even the sight of a dessert made my intestines cringe. A sip of cappuccino kind of warded off the distastefulness.

Strike a balance in every aspect of your life, whether its your food or sleeping habits or interactions with people or thinking patterns, anything that is out of sync with the needed balance will hamper your ability to enjoy things for what they are. Once in a while do eat something that tastes below average so that you appreciate the next time when you get your hands on your favourite dish.

Be the awakened one

We all are enlightened souls but we don’t know that yet. If you ask me what is enlightenment ?
I would like to make use of few lines from a poem,
To see the world in a grain of sand
And heaven in a wild flower…..
Figure out who wrote this.
These lines resonate the most with my heart. Enlightenment is not about renouncing any worldly desires or cares. Infact we can all gain this so-called supreme transcendental state of being just as we are right now. We don’t have to go far off to be and feel one with life. Are you fully present in the moment when you enjoy your daily dose of coffee ? You can experience eternity in the moment as long as your mind is free of anticipation of the future or agonising over the bygones.
Allama Prabhu, a poet from Karnataka wrote in one of his Vacanas (literary renditions), that the body is a deceiving hovel of misery. It is stuffed with flesh, fat, bones and skin which endures no longer than a flash of lightening and is poof, gone.
What we can observe from this is our attachment to this body, concrete form is what makes us feel enlightenment is far-fetched. There is nothing wrong in taking good care of this body. Afterall, it is a repository of your soul. Your soul needs a form to manifest itself in this world. The abstract cannot be visible without the body. How would the energy get a direction to flow and have an impact on its surroundings unless something contains it ? We just have to remember ‘I’ is an erroneous superimposition. ‘I’ is a convenient concept created for us to gain a hold of our transient selves.
Who said only Buddha can gain enlightenment ? Even I can. You can. Anyone with an iota of consciousness can achieve that awakened sense of self. A dog is already enlightened. It doesn’t try to be a Buddha.

Civilized Brute

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Every civilization tries to preserve what defines it but alas the culture and values each possesses decays over time as new one takes over it.
Every civilization has a soul but the current one in which we all live in lacks what you can call ‘essence’.

Things can never touch the soul. That’s what Marcus Aurelius said but well right now we all feel that things can fill the void within us. The present civilization doesn’t know the difference between needs and wants. Wanting merely for the sake of wanting is what has led to greed.

Rosseau believed that civilization ruins mankind and takes him away from natural virtues such as compassion and empathy. The natural state of man is benevolence but the moment he becomes civilised, he turns brutal and savage.

Man is born virtuous but well civilization makes him endowed with vices. It drags him away from idyllic happiness to misery.
The more materialistic man becomes, he forgets his innate virtues.

Rosseau goes to the extent of claiming that civilization condemns man to a life in chains.
Man is born free but is brainwashed into being civilised and hence comes across bondage.
He loses the essence of what it means to be free.
He feels owning property is what makes him powerful and free.

Civilization doesn’t really make man advanced, it makes actually greedy and destroy the harmony of nature.
Civilization is its own anti-thesis.

Mark Twain believed that civilization is the multiplication of unnecessary necessities. It’s so true as we just on accumulating things in our life without thinking what purpose they serve.
Our collective consciousness thrives on collecting things for mere sake of collection.

Civilization was meant to ease the life of mankind while he took the essentials from nature without forgetting to also tend to it whenever and whichever way he can. But man developed a sense of authority over nature. He started feeling that nature owes him.

He moulds nature as he pleases.
So the focus went from inventing things to make life easier to plundering nature just to satiate his greed.

Land ownership has changed the dynamics. Man wants to own property by deforestation. He doesn’t care about greenery but would love to have high-rise buildings.

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“The skylines lit up at dead of night, the air-conditioning systems cooling empty hotels in the desert and artificial light in the middle of the day all have something both demented and admirable about them. The mindless luxury of a rich civilization, and yet of a civilization perhaps as scared to see the lights go out as was the hunter in his primitive night.

Jean Baudrillard