Recently I’ve returned to practicing meditation. I only stopped because I thought I was a failure at it. I thought I had to empty my mind and think of absolutely nothing, and I never could accomplish this. I thought I had to feel nothing but calm, and if I could not think of nothing, then I had to focus on just one image. Well, after succumbing to a stress-related heart attack, I decided I needed to give meditation another shot. This time I joined a meditation group that meets on weekends at one of our many beautiful and natural parks in Colorado Springs. The one where we met the first time I attended, was in a large mountainous park, full of rocky cliffs and pine trees, dirt trails, and wildflowers. We sat in an open pavilion in the shade and let the cool breeze flow over us. We wrote down our worries on pieces of scrap paper and ceremonially put them in the Universe Box to symbolically let the universe take on these problems for us. Then we went inside ourselves, eyes shut, quiet, breathing smoothly, and let our thoughts float in and out. I felt the breeze, I listened with gratitude at the birds chirping, and I went deeper into me. It was like my unconscious mind woke to put her arms around me. Occasionally I’d hear a dog bark or a siren in the distance, but it would gently float in one ear and out the other, not even disturbing the serenity I felt. It was like I was one with everything, a part of each thing happening around me, yet above being affected by it.
What happened next was somewhat unexpected. My mind gently drifted to images that I call my “happy place.” Usually my favorite happy place image is a wintry Christmas scene in a room only lit by the softly blinking lights of a small Christmas tree and the warm, crackling of a fire. Looking through the window into the night sky, I see big fat snowflakes falling slowly and gently, no wind to divert them from their path. The light from the moon illuminates them just enough to be clearly seen through the glass. My hand rests on my dog’s back. She is lying next to me with her head resting on my lap. I look down at her, and it’s my beagle, Mulder, who passed away several years ago. She looks up at me with love in her soft brown eyes. I notice that the gifts piled haphazardly under the tree, the tree with homemade and personalized ornaments from my childhood, are all wrapped in old-fashioned Christmas paper, reds and greens with pictures of kids dressed in snow gear that look like they’re from the 1950s. All around me I feel love, not just any love, but the love and wonder of my childhood. I felt like I was me back then. I just sat and let the love and memories wash over me until tears streamed down my face, happy, poignant tears; the coolest thing was I felt such love for me—that little girl. I thought, Is this what they mean by visiting your inner child? At that moment I had an epiphany, that child, her feelings, her hopes, her fears, her personality, they are still me. This was profound to me because I usually feel like such an adult, not in touch with what I always considered my old self. Just realizing that this was still me, that I am still she, gave me a strange kind of understanding of how to take care of myself, how to live a life that I need to live for my good. It was so beautiful. I went home feeling lighter and filled with pure joy.
When I told my meditation group leader about the experience, he told me that what I did was meditation, and it was just fine. I hadn’t failed. I didn’t need to blank out my mind. I can just let my mind drift, go deep, and let my unconscious tell me what I need to know. This was so freeing, and now I am excited each day to visit myself, which ever part of me that decides to show up, and relax, be comforted, and learn whatever I need to learn or let go of. It has been so much easier to make time for my meditation each day. It has never been just like this first experience again, but it is always good. It centers me and I let my mind drift to anything positive it wants to, gently pushing away any other distractions. Sometimes it is just sweet images, sometimes it’s only the sound of nature, or the feeling of a fan blowing on me, but every once in a while, the little girl me, will make a small appearance just to remind me she is still there, we need each other, we love each other.
I’m still working on giving things to the universe, but I’m getting better and better. It’s not like I’ve become a spiritual person though. Well, I guess it’s how you define spirituality. I don’t believe there is such a thing as a spirit—I mean the kind of thing that survives death and somehow contains my personality and essence of who I am. I believe these things, things that make me me, live in the brain, and the brain does not survive the death of the body because it is part of the body. But if you want to call the essence of who I am, the sum total of my experiences, feelings, and personality, maybe even the unconscious or subconscious mind, spirit, then okay. I can deal with that. Meditation for me is getting to the heart of who I am and visiting this calm place where I can be with the inner me in a totally intimate way, a way that I can’t be in touch with myself during the busyness and chaos of the day.
Being exactly who I am on every level and loving that person despite my flaws through meditation has been a freeing experience that I never imagined. I’ve never had a problem with self-esteem, but it’s a different thing to really feel love for who you are, fully acknowledging every flaw. I’m not talking egocentricism, but just really loving and accepting yourself despite not being perfect and not caring if you are perfect to anyone else. Through meditation I understand who I am and can completely accept myself without the pressure of any performance. During those 15 minutes, the world disappears, and I am just a being, worthy of love and tenderness, with no expectations at all. So when I return to the world of constant demands, the responsibilities seem lighter. I am refreshed, rested, and ready to set boundaries to protect the value of myself as a being on this earth, a being with an expiration date. I won’t let that time be used to harm me anymore. So if you think you are failing at meditation because it doesn’t fit some description in a book, don’t listen. If it helps you, if it calms you, or benefits you in any way, you’re doing it right. Do it however you need to do it. Your subconscious you knows what you need. Peace—Christina Knowles
Philosophy was one of my favorite subjects in college, and still remains so today. And although I enjoy reading Descartes and his Meditations on First Philosophy, wherein, he proclaims his existence as well as God’s, it is odd to hear these same 17th century arguments still in use in our modern era. Many people say they just know God exists, and although I understand that this is evidence to them, it does not affect me at all. These arguments are remarkably popular, and although they cannot be disproven, they can certainly be shown to be fallacious and illogical.
In Meditations on First Philosophy, René Descartes claims that he knows he and God exist because he clearly and distinctly perceives this to be the case. He states that because he is able to think about his existence, he must exist. Descartes believes that because he is not perfect, but is able to think of a perfect thing (God), this idea must not come from him, but from God. Descartes also claims that God must exist because he has a clear and distinct perception of him. Another argument Descartes introduces as evidence of God’s existence is that it is God’s essence to exist. He claims that he can only be certain that he and God exist because he can only clearly and distinctly perceive this and this information is innate in him. Descartes’ argument about knowing that he exists because he is able to think about it, is sound. His arguments for the existence of God and for his belief that he can only know for certain that he and God exist are valid, but not true, and therefore, are not sound.
Let me explain. Descartes believes he exists because he realizes that doubting he exists is a form of thinking. If he is thinking, he is doing something, which means he must exist. If this argument is looked at as conversion, then it would not be valid, but I think it can be understood as valid this way: If (p-I think), then (q-I am doing something). If (q-I am doing something), then (r-I must exist). Therefore, if (p-I think), then (r-I must exist). This is a hypothetical syllogism and is a valid argument. It’s premises are true; therefore, it is sound.
However, Descartes also argues that God exists. One reason he believes in the existence of God is that he is imperfect, but he can think of a perfect thing (God). He claims that an idea of a perfect thing could not come from him because of his imperfection. Because of this, he believes the idea must have come from a perfect thing (God). Therefore, God must exist (Descartes, 46). This is valid, first using modus tollens and then disjunctive syllogism: If (p-I were perfect), then (q-I would not doubt). But (not q-I do doubt). Therefore, (not p-I am not perfect). (modus tollens). I can think of a perfect thing. Either (p-it comes from me) or (q-it comes from something external to me). (Not p-it does not come from me). Therefore, (q-it comes from something external to me (God). God must exist. (disjunctive syllogism). These arguments are valid in that their logical organization is not flawed; however, probably not true because their premises are probably not true; therefore, they are not sound. Descartes gives no evidence that an imperfect person cannot think of a perfect thing without an outside influence. There may be other explanations for someone thinking of a perfect thing. I can think of a perfect man, but that does not mean one exists.
Another argument Descartes uses for the existence of God is that he clearly and distinctly perceives God; therefore, he must exist. This can be understood as valid in this way: If (p-I clearly and distinctly think God exists), then (q-God does exist). And (p-I do clearly and distinctly think God exists). Therefore, (q-God does exist). (modus ponens). This may be valid, but it is not logical. Causes of his thinking may be more complex. There may be other reasons he clearly and distinctly thinks that God exists. For example, he may be insane. I may clearly and distinctly think I am Marilyn Monroe, but that does not make it true. He may just be wrong. I have thought wrong things before, but that did not make them true. Descartes’ thoughts are not necessarily facts.
Finally, Descartes argues for the existence of God by saying that it is the essence of God to exist. He states that it is impossible to think of God separate from existing (p. 90). To test the validity of this argument, we can put it in the form of a hypothetical syllogism. If (p-I cannot think of God without thinking he exists), then (q-God and existence cannot be separated). If (q-God and existence cannot be separated), then (r-God must exist). Therefore, if (p- I cannot think of God without thinking he exists), then (r-God must exist). Although this argument is valid in form, it is not sound because it contains a fallacy known as ‘begging the question.’ It is assuming what it is seeking to prove. In order for God to have the essence of existence, there is already the assumption that he exists. Because it is fallacious, it proves nothing and is not logical.
Although Descartes makes a case for his own existence, which is not terribly difficult to do, he fails to prove God exists only because he can clearly and distinctly perceive him and based on his unfounded belief that he cannot think of a perfect being without external influence. Strangely, Descartes believes everything else is to be doubted because it cannot be perceived in this same manner (p. 80). He believes that this perception is innate, but if it is innate, then why is it not innate in everyone? And even if it was, it could be caused by other influences, such as an innate evolutionary need to explain the unknown. He also believes that he can only know that he and God exist and no others, but does he not perceive that others exist as well? Perhaps, he believes that he can perceive others because he perceives himself, so it could come from within him. However, his argument is not sound because it is based on his previous assumption of God’s existence, which is based on his clear and distinct perception of him. It is also contradictory because Descartes mentions other things he clearly and distinctly perceives, things that have no reason to be only internally perceived. If Descartes removes all fallacies upon which his arguments are based, he can only be certain of his own existence, and he fails to prove God exists.
Certainly, everyone has the right to perceive, believe, and feel within his person the truth or existence of anything, and this, indeed, may be sufficient evidence for the individual who experiences this certainty within himself, but this is not a sound argument with which to convince others. Clearly, these are interesting topics of conversation and not everything felt or believed needs to be proven, or even true, for that matter, but one should not be surprised if this line of thinking fails to impress those around him. It is interesting to analyze our own thinking, and writing this makes me wonder what things I accept as true, simply based on a feeling or a perception. Probably a great deal, and that might not be such a bad thing, as long as I don’t expect others to base their beliefs on my feelings.—Christina Knowles
Descartes, René. Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy, 3rd ed. Trans. Donald A. Cress. Indiana: Hackett Publishing Co, 1993. Print
Photo: “Human-Perception.” nabeelafsar.com. Web. 12 June 2015.
Everyone wants to be happy, right? Well, at least most of us do. A few months ago, I published a blog called, “How to Be Happy,” which has been something I’ve really been considering lately. When I first decided to write a blog about being happy, I just went with my own life experiences and gut feelings, but recently I’ve been reading books, articles, research studies, and watching lots of documentaries on the subject, and I’ve learned about some things that make a lot of sense.
In my last article, I mentioned things like being part of a community, being grateful, not getting angry over insignificant things, doing meaningful work, being humble, laughing, being honest and thoughtful, enjoying time alone, eating right, spending time in nature, enjoying the arts, giving to charity, loving animals, and cultivating relationships. After studying the subject in more depth, I found that many of these things I noticed that made me happy were found to be true in cultures around the world, but there were also some things I didn’t mention that I think are quite profound. For one thing, things like our job, income, and life situations have little to do with how happy we are. As long as we have enough to eat, a warm shelter in which to live, and have moderate security, external sources have little lasting effect on happiness. But there are some things that we can do, in addition to what I wrote in my last article, that can have a great impact on our happiness. Here is what I found:
Do something different—Studies show that people, even the ones who think they like routine (like me), benefit from changing things up and doing something completely outside what they normally do (Happy). Novelty and experiences make us happy, and are often the source of our best memories. I really do need to work on this one.
Help people—In my last blog on this subject, I mentioned giving to charity, which does make you happy, but now I am talking about doing something more tangible. Instead of merely giving money, which is helpful, physically do something to help someone. I think it makes a person even more happy because giving money is too easy, but getting your hands dirty feels like you did something bigger, something personal. Helping people always makes you feel good, but only if you don’t expect anything in return. Expectations lead to disappointment and bitterness. But knowing how you made someone feel because you were willing to give up actual time to help him always leads to happiness.
Do things that create flow—Flow is that elated mental state caused by letting go of the mind and just experiencing an almost unconscious state of action that seems effortless (Happy). It’s that feeling of being in “the zone.” Runners experience this as “runner’s high” when they reach a point where they feel they can’t go on, and then endorphins kick in, and they feel like they could go on forever. I’ve experienced runner’s high and a similar feeling while figure skating. I also felt this while writing my novel. After hours of writing, it seemed like the book began writing itself. It was effortless. I’ve heard chefs on the line experience this flow. Anything that you enjoy and do for an extended period of uninterrupted time can become like a zero-point focus, totally absorbing, and all worries and conscious thoughts seem to let go, and you become completely at peace. Apparently, many people achieve this through meditation, but I’ve never been able to properly meditate. Maybe someday.
Exercise—Exercising releases endorphins, making us healthier and happier over all. Exercise often leads to experiencing flow. It makes us healthier, which also adds to contentment, and it can be fun—at least, I’m trying to convince myself.
Sleep—Everyone knows that lack of sleep makes you irritable and unhealthy, but getting enough rest makes you mentally healthier. Some psychologists believe that dreaming is necessary to sanity, but it is commonly known that a lack of sleep can cause depression, weight gain, emotional instability, and an inability to think clearly. Having enough sleep is important to maintain health and happiness. I could definitely use more sleep.
Don’t work too much–This is the hardest thing for most of us, I think. I know I work almost all the time–days, nights, weekends. There have been numerous studies that show countries whose people work 30 hours or less per week, have the most happy citizens, or Gross National Happiness. According to the latest studies, Japan is now the least happiest country due to overwork. They are literally working themselves to death (Happy). I’m sure Americans are not far behind. If you think about it, this one issue can affect all the rest. If we are busy working, trying to pay to keep up a lifestyle that will never make us happy, then we don’t have time for community, volunteering, exercise, sleep, relationships, etc. We won’t have time to do the things that will actually make us happy. But we have to work 40 hours just to survive. For many of us, our jobs require unpaid hours at home just to keep up. It’s a conundrum.
Realize that everything and everyone is connected—Whether we believe we are connected transcendentally, spiritually, or just through energy and commonality as Einstein realized, we affect each other and everything around us (I Am). When we war with each other, hate, steal, treat animals with cruelty, destroy our environment, we are doing this to ourselves. The same is true when we do good. If we realize this connection, we are less likely to harm each other. This makes everyone happier.
Don’t believe in artificial constructs—like the economy, success, and competition. I mean really, what is the “economy?” It’s something we created that seems to enslave most people and elevates a few. Money, the stock market–it only exists because we made it important for survival. It is completely artificial in itself. Success is defined by marketing companies, television and movies, corporations, and school boards. And competition? Isn’t it natural? Doesn’t it provide motivation? Make us feel happy when we win? Not really. Don’t buy into the idea that these constructs are natural and good, and that these are the things we should be most concerned with. People who do, often live with regret and waste most of their lives. Sure, we have to live in the world in which we were born, we have to survive in this system, but we don’t have to buy into the idea that these are the primary areas in which to strive. These things never lead to happiness.
Don’t compete—Human beings are always better off sharing, cooperating, and quite often, compromising. It makes us happier, so why are we so competitive? Our personal selfishness is always reinforced in our culture, as is standing out, being number one, and crushing the competition. But competition leads to stress and disappointment most of the time. It always leaves someone feeling bad.
But standing out—or better put, feeling special, is usually pleasant. Well, the best way to feel special is to be loved, and competition is not good for loving relationships. According to Thom Hartmann, author of The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight, in Aboriginal and indigenous cultures, cooperation is given a much higher value than competition and “competition beyond certain boundaries is considered mental illness” (I Am). He studies cultures and animals to determine what is natural to us and what is a societal construct. He asks if democracies or hierarchies are more natural. He found that not only do animals rely on cooperation to survive, nature never takes more than it needs, or it dies off, as Darwin also realized. I think there is certainly a lesson for us in this. Even Darwin talked more about love and cooperation among mammals than “survival of the fittest.” Often the fittest is the one who will cooperate. Darwin also said that sympathy is one of the strongest impulses of humans (I Am).
Be empathetic and compassionate—We all share the ability for empathy. When we witness heroism, something touching, or empathize with someone going through something particularly emotional, we experience “elation” (I Am). We recognize this feeling of innate compassion for fellow beings as love and as good. This feeling makes us happy even while at the same time, we may be sad. This altruistic impulse is natural and inborn in every human, and the evidence overwhelmingly shows this tendency in other mammals as well within their own social groups, and sometimes even outside it. I prefer this “human nature” to that of the ruthless competitive “nature” that began as a flaw in childhood and was reinforced by our society. Compassion even makes us healthier, while competitiveness makes us sicker in the form of stress-related illness.
Think and be positive, and act positively—I’ve always scoffed at “positive thinkers.” I’ve never believed that we could change physical matter merely by thinking it into existence; however, more and more scientists are exploring this as a potentiality. I’ll wait for the evidence, but even if positive thinking cannot alter a physical situation, it certainly has an effect on how we perceive it—whether we take it as good or bad, and of course, our emotions in dealing with it. Acting positively will affect how others act toward us, which can positively alter our circumstances as well.
Finally, live in a way that causes the least harm to anyone or anything—If, every day, in every interaction, we consider what harm we may cause and choose the least harmful, the whole world would be a better place. We cannot avoid harm—just by existing, we cause harm to our environment. We eat plants and some of us eat animals, we live in houses, we drive cars, and produce waste. We get careless, and we say hurtful things or treat others with unkindness. However, we can choose the least harmful in every interaction with our world. We can plant gardens and use natural ways to keep pests away, we can refuse to consume meat that was raised inhumanely, we can use environmentally friendly materials and not take more than we need, we can conserve, and not waste. We can be responsible and kind. If we lived like this, how could we not be happy?
I’ve heard that our purpose, if we have one, on this planet is not to “be happy” and maybe it’s not, but it seems that we are driven to pursue it. What if being responsible, kind, and loving human beings was our purpose, and precisely because it is our purpose, it also makes us happy? Not the fleeting excitement of a new toy-kind of happiness, but joy, the deep, soul-contentment of being who we should be, who we are capable of becoming. —Christina Knowles
Happy. Wadi Rum Films, 2012. Film.
Happy Photo. yhponline.com. Web.15 May 2015.
Purpose Photo. Hippie Peace Freaks. Facebook. Web.15 May 2015.
I Am. Tom Shadyac. Flying Eye Productions, Homemade Canvas Production, and Shady Acres Films, 2010. Film.
In seeking to define my worldview, I have found myself consistently drawn to seemingly oppositional philosophical viewpoints: Existentialism and Transcendentalism. At least they seem juxtaposed in most ways. My definition of Existentialism is the belief that life has no intrinsic meaning; we create the meaning in our own lives. There is no divine. Transcendentalism, on the other hand, is believing the divine is all around us and in us. We are in nature and nature is in us, and through communion with nature, we connect with the divine soul and are one with everything. This connection is the meaning of life.
Why do I bother defining my worldview? Why do I feel the need to label it? I’ve asked myself this question a thousand times. I believe it is because in order to live consciously, deliberately, and according to a personal value standard, which I desire to do, I need to make choices all the time that fall within certain parameters, and to be vigilant in that, they must be defined. Life is short, and to live it fully aware, one cannot blindly stumble through it.
I read extensively and eclectically, and in my reading, I come across wisdom that speaks to me what I recognize as truth. But is that which seems true, truth? Ah, the age old question asked by every ancient philosopher, and Pilate asked this to Jesus, and at some point, every thinking person must ask themselves, “What is truth?” In forming our worldviews, I find that we latch on to bits of wisdom that seem true because we recognize their wisdom according to our already established values, in which we have internalized throughout our lives from various experiences, both internally and externally. I believe we are even born with some of these values.
I have found many things that seem true in Existentialism. I love Existentialism. People say it is pessimistic and depressing. I don’t see it that way at all. I think it is liberating and comforting. Here are some of my favorite Existential aphorisms:
“I saw that my life was a vast glowing empty page and I could do anything I wanted.”—Jack Kerouac
“All that remains is a fate whose outcome alone is fatal. Outside of that single fatality of death, everything, joy or happiness, is liberty. A world remains of which man is the sole master. What bound him was the illusion of another world.” –Albert Camus
“Life begins on the other side of despair.”—Jean-Paul Sarte
“Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.” —Jean-Paul Sarte
“It’s only after you’ve lost everything, that you’re free to do anything.”—Tyler Durden
“Every true faith is infallible. It performs what the believing person hopes to find in it. But it does not offer the least support for the establishing of an objective truth. Here the ways of men divide. If you want to achieve peace of mind and happiness, have faith. If you want to be a disciple of truth, then search.”—Friedrich Nietzsche
“Memento mori—remember death! These are important words. If we kept in mind that we will soon inevitably die, our lives would be completely different. If a person knows that he will die in a half hour, he certainly will not bother doing trivial, stupid, or, especially, bad things during this half hour. Perhaps you have half a century before you die—what makes this any different from a half hour?”—Leo Tolstoy
“We fear death, we shudder at life’s instability, we grieve to see the flowers wilt again and again, and the leaves fall, and in our hearts we know that we, too, are transitory and will soon disappear. When artists create pictures and thinkers search for laws and formulate thoughts, it is in order to salvage something from the great dance of death, to make something last longer than we do.”—Hermann Hesse
“As if the blind rage had washed me clean, rid me of hope; for the first time, in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world.”—Albert Camus
When I read Existentialist philosophy, I want it to be true. I think it is beautiful and carefree. Unfortunately, I don’t quite buy it.
So I turn to Transcendentalism. After all, I have practiced yoga all my life. Some of my favorite works of literature are Transcendentalist works, and although I see them as contradicting Existentialist views, I see them also as containing profound truths, and one cannot help but be inspired by the idealism. Here are some of my favorite Transcendental pearls:
“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson
“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he had imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”—Henry David Thoreau
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.”—Henry David Thoreau
“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.”—Henry David Thoreau
“So behave that the odor of your actions may enhance the general sweetness of the atmosphere, that when we behold or scent a flower, we may not be reminded how inconsistent your deeds are with it; for all odor is but one form of advertisement of a moral quality, and if fair actions had not been performed, the lily would not smell sweet. The foul slime stands for the sloth and vice of man, the decay of humanity; the fragrant flower that springs from it, for the purity and courage which are immortal.”—Henry David Thoreau
“Wherever a man goes, men will pursue him and paw him with their dirty institutions, and, if they can, constrain him to belong to their desperate oddfellow society.”—Henry David Thoreau
“Many go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”—Henry David Thoreau
“Simplicity is the glory of expression.”–Walt Whitman
“Be curious, not judgmental.”—Walt Whitman
“Re-examine all that you have been told… dismiss that which insults your soul.”—Walt Whitman
“I cannot be awake for nothing looks to me as it did before, Or else I am awake for the first time, and all before has been a mean sleep.”—Walt Whitman
“To me, every hour of the day and night is an unspeakably perfect miracle.”–Walt Whitman
“Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems. You shall possess the good of the earth and sun . . . . there are millions of suns left. You shall no longer take things at second or third hand . . . . nor look through the eyes of the dead . . . . nor feed on the spectres in books. You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me. You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself.”
“There was never any more inception than there is now, nor any more youth or age than there is now; and will never be any more perfection than there is now, nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.”–“Song of Myself,” Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman
“I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, whythen to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. For most men, it appears to me, are in a strange uncertainty about it, whether it is of the devil or of God, and have somewhat hastily concluded that is the chief end of man here to “glorify God and enjoy him forever.”
“An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumbnail.”–Walden, Henry David Thoreau
“Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” ―Ralph Waldo Emerson
“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Obviously, the commonality in these two modes of thinking is the idea that we are the masters of our own destinies; we are the captains of our ships. The only thing holding us back is ourselves. This is the fundamental appeal of these beliefs for me. I love these beautiful ideas; I revel in the wisdom of these two philosophies. The practical advice they give for surviving in a savage world that seems hopeless, gives me hope–Yet, I don’t really believe any of it for a minute. Something deep inside of me says I am not completely in control, I am not the center of my universe, I am not in charge of today, let alone tomorrow. So, I turn to Modernism, Deism, maybe even some Buddhism. The effort to define life’s truths continues. Perhaps I’ll start my own philosophical movement to incorporate bits and pieces of all these things, but that sounds a lot like something an Existential-Transcendentalist would do.—Christina Knowles