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A Guide for the Perplexed: Mapping the Meaning of Life and the Four Levels of Being

A Guide for the Perplexed: Mapping the Meaning of Life and the Four Levels of Being
by Maria Popova How to harness the uniquely human power of “consciousness recoiling upon itself.” “Never to get lost is not to live, not to know how to get lost brings you to destruction,” Rebecca Solnit wrote in her sublime meditation on how the art of getting lost helps us find ourselves, “and somewhere in the terra incognita in between lies a life of discovery.” But the maps we use to navigate that terra incognita — maps bequeathed to us by the dominant beliefs and standards of our culture — can often lead us further from ourselves rather than closer, leaving us discombobulated rather than oriented toward the true north of our true inner compass. Schumacher begins with an apt anecdotal metaphor for how these misleading maps are handed to us: On a visit to Leningrad some years ago I consulted a map to find out where I was, but I could not make it out. Map of Palmanova, from Umberto Eco's 'Legendary Lands.' 'Isle of Knowledge' by Marian Bantjes. We cannot say: “Hold it! Donating = Loving Related:  On Being Human

Helen Keller on Optimism by Maria Popova “Doubt and mistrust are the mere panic of timid imagination, which the steadfast heart will conquer, and the large mind transcend.” Decades before the dawn of the positive psychology movement and a century before what neuroscience has taught us about the benefits of optimism, Helen Keller — the remarkable woman who grew up without sight and hearing until, with the help of her teacher Annie Sullivan, she learned to speak, read, write, and inhabit the life of the mind with such grace and fierceness that made her one of history’s most inspired intellectual heroes — penned a timeless treatise on optimism as a philosophy of life. Simply titled Optimism (public library; public domain), it was originally published in 1903 and written — a moment of pause here — after Keller learned to write on a grooved board over a sheet of paper, using the grooves and the end of her index pencil to guide her writing. Once I knew only darkness and stillness. I know what evil is.

Kierkegaard on Our Greatest Source of Unhappiness by Maria Popova Hope, memory, and how our chronic compulsion to flee from our own lives robs us of living. “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives,” Annie Dillard memorably wrote in reflecting on why presence matters more than productivity. “On how one orients himself to the moment depends the failure or fruitfulness of it,” Henry Miller asserted in his beautiful meditation on the art of living. And yet we spend our lives fleeing from the present moment, constantly occupying ourselves with overplanning the future or recoiling with anxiety over its impermanence, thus invariably robbing ourselves of the vibrancy of aliveness. Kierkegaard, who was only thirty at the time, begins with an observation all the timelier today, amidst our culture of busy-as-a-badge-of-honor: Of all ridiculous things the most ridiculous seems to me, to be busy — to be a man who is brisk about his food and his work. The unhappy one is absent. Consider first the hoping individual. Donating = Loving

The Bridge From Nowhere - Issue 16: Nothingness The question of being is the darkest in all philosophy.” So concluded William James in thinking about that most basic of riddles: how did something come from nothing? The question infuriates, James realized, because it demands an explanation while denying the very possibility of explanation. “From nothing to being there is no logical bridge,” he wrote. In science, explanations are built of cause and effect. But if nothing is truly nothing, it lacks the power to cause. This failure hits us where it hurts. How could it not be? Either way, here’s the thing to remember: The solution to a paradox lies in the question, never in the answer. The oldest stone is this: If you can’t get something from nothing, try making nothing less like nothing. The ancient ether stuck around for millennia until it was re-imagined in the late 19th century by physicists like James Clerk Maxwell, who discovered that light behaves as a wave that always travels at a particular speed. Is that it, then?

How We Know What We Know: The Art of Adaequatio and Seeing with the Eye of the Heart by Maria Popova A timeless guide to “understanding the truth that does not merely inform the mind but liberates the soul.” “What is essential is invisible to the eye,” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry memorably wrote in The Little Prince. A decade after his influential clarion call for prioritizing people over goods and creativity over consumption, British economic theorist and philosopher E.F. Schumacher considers the concept of adaequatio: What enables man to know anything at all about the world around him? Building upon his notion of the five Levels of Being, Schumacher bridges the physical and the metaphysical: Our five bodily senses make us adequate to the lowest Level of Being — inanimate matter. Illustration by Vladimir Radunsky from 'On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein' by Jennifer Berne. He illustrates the spectrum of human ability as it relates to our capacity for adaequatio: This pulls into question the notion of capital-T Truth as commonly used and pursued: Donating = Loving

There's More to Life Than Being Happy - Emily Esfahani Smith "It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness." In September 1942, Viktor Frankl, a prominent Jewish psychiatrist and neurologist in Vienna, was arrested and transported to a Nazi concentration camp with his wife and parents. Three years later, when his camp was liberated, most of his family, including his pregnant wife, had perished -- but he, prisoner number 119104, had lived. In his bestselling 1946 book, Man's Search for Meaning, which he wrote in nine days about his experiences in the camps, Frankl concluded that the difference between those who had lived and those who had died came down to one thing: Meaning, an insight he came to early in life. When he was a high school student, one of his science teachers declared to the class, "Life is nothing more than a combustion process, a process of oxidation." Frankl jumped out of his chair and responded, "Sir, if this is so, then what can be the meaning of life?" Viktor Frankl [Herwig Prammer/Reuters] Peter Andrews/Reuters

12 Keys to a Mental Health Revolution + First, I would want the very ideas of “mental disorder” and “mental disease” questioned and a new picture painted of distress occurring as a result of being human and because of problems in living and not because of mental viruses and chemical imbalances. + Second, if this shift can be made from “mental disorder” to “problems of living,” then we might be able to also make a change in our thinking from “medications used to treat mental illness” to “chemicals with effects that may or may not produce an effect you want to handle one of your problems with living.” I would want fewer human beings on these chemicals, especially far fewer children. + Third, I would want all that we do not know much more honored, so that we can finally really get at, insofar as it is possible to do so, cause-and-effect in human matters and a better sense of what actually helps. 1. 2. + “Because your id impulses are so strong, your punitive super-ego is working overtime and treating you very harshly. 3. 4. 4.

Whitman Illuminated: “Song of Myself,” in Breathtaking Illustrations by Artist Allen Crawford by Maria Popova “He exalted the nature around and within us. His work is an expression of primal joy: He celebrated our animal senses, and the pleasures of being alive.” Visual artists have long been drawn to the literary classics, producing such masterful homages as William Blake’s paintings for Milton’s Paradise Lost and for Dante’s Divine Comedy, Picasso’s drawings for a naughty ancient Greek comedy, Matisse’s etchings for Ulysses, John Vernon Lord’s illustrations for Joyce’s Finnegans Wake and Salvador Dalí’s prolific illustrations for Don Quixote in 1946, the essays of Montaigne in 1947, The Divine Comedy in 1957, Alice in Wonderland in 1969, and Romeo and Juliet in 1975. In Whitman Illuminated: Song of Myself (public library), artist Allen Crawford brings Whitman’s undying text to new life in gorgeous hand-lettering and illustrations, transforming the 60-page poem originally published in 1855 as the centerpiece of Leaves of Grass into a breathtaking 256-page piece of art.

Meaning Is Healthier Than Happiness - Emily Esfahani Smith Health People who are happy but have little-to-no sense of meaning in their lives have the same gene expression patterns as people who are enduring chronic adversity. Please consider disabling it for our site, or supporting our work in one of these ways Subscribe Now > For at least the last decade, the happiness craze has been building. One of the consistent claims of books like these is that happiness is associated with all sorts of good life outcomes, including — most promisingly — good health. But a new study, just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) challenges the rosy picture. Of course, it’s important to first define happiness. It seems strange that there would be a difference at all. "Happiness without meaning characterizes a relatively shallow, self-absorbed or even selfish life, in which things go well, needs and desire are easily satisfied, and difficult or taxing entanglements are avoided," the authors of the study wrote.

Top 10 Mistakes in Making Behavioral Changes (and their solutions) | NLP Discoveries Do you want to create irresistible habits that lead to a healthy, happy and long life? Sustaining long-term, positive habits is beyond frustrating for many people because they sabotage their success, sooner or later. According to Stanford researcher BJ Fogg, the key to success with positive habits lies in establishing desired behaviors according to easy principles that work, while avoiding the top mistakes most people make. Stanford researcher BJ Fogg has a lot to smile about. Fogg is Founder of the immensely popular system called Tiny Habits, which has been the focus of much research and publicity. More 20 years of research while working with thousands of people has revealed the following mistakes people make when attempting to create new habits. 1. Says BJ: Imagine willpower doesn’t exist. Of course the challenge is to find a way to change your behavior without assuming the need for willpower. 2. Says BJ: Seek tiny successes– one after another. 3. 4. Another tried and true NLP principle.

Whatever You Are, Be a Good One by Maria Popova From Tolstoy to Tumblr, a compendium of timeless wisdom on life. In March of 1884, Leo Tolstoy resolved in his diary to create a “circle of reading” for himself, probing “the great philosophers of all time and all people” for wisdom on how to live well. Now comes a wonderful modern-day counterpart that falls partway between Tolstoy and Tumblr: Whatever You Are, Be a Good One (public library) — an impossibly charming compendium of 100 wise and timeless thoughts from some of history’s greatest minds, hand-lettered by illustrator and Brain Pickings collaborator Lisa Congdon. Here are a few favorites: From Willa Cather comes this essential reminder of what psychologists have confirmed: As an enormous admirer of Anne Lamott’s magnificent mind and spirit, I was especially delighted to see this one: I was also thrilled to see our collaboration, based on my obsessive highlights of Anaïs Nin’s diaries, included: Donating = Loving Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter.

What Writing Has in Common With Happiness By Heart is a series in which authors share and discuss their all-time favorite passages in literature. See entries from Jonathan Franzen, Amy Tan, Khaled Hosseini, and more. The final line of an enigmatic Jorge Luis Borges poem became the title for Yasmina Reza's latest book, Happy Are the Happy. Happy Are the Happy features 18 different narrators, each of whom gets to command the reader's attention for at least one chapter. Reza’s books—novels, plays, and an unorthodox book-length profile of Nicolas Sarkozy—have been translated into more than 30 languages. She lives in Paris and spoke to me in New York City. Yasmina Reza: Late in the process of finishing my new book, Happy Are the Happy, I started looking for a title. I was on a plane when the French phrase heureux les heureux, happy are the happy, came to mind. So when I went home, I took all my Borges off the shelf. Happy are those who are beloved, and those who love, and those who are without love. And we can never know.

BPS Research Digest: It's time for Western psychology to recognise that many individuals, and even entire cultures, fear happiness It's become a mantra of the modern Western world that the ultimate aim of life is to achieve happiness. Self-help blog posts on how to be happy are almost guaranteed popularity (the Digest has its own!). Pro-happiness organisations have appeared, such as Action for Happiness, which aims to "create a happier society for everyone." Topping it all, an increasing number of governments, including in the UK, have started measuring national well-being (seen as a proxy for "happiness") - the argument being that this a potentially more important policy outcome than economic prosperity. But hang on a minute, say Moshen Joshanloo and Dan Weijers writing in the Journal of Happiness Studies - not everyone wants to be happy. In fact, they point out that many people, including in Western cultures, deliberately dampen their positive moods. Belief that being happy makes you a worse person is rooted in some interpretations of Islam, the reasoning being that it distracts you from God.

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