Rational living

who_cares_sidewalkIn such a rational world, it can be disconcerting (to say the least) to think about what it is that makes our lives “worthwhile.” This is a question/issue/thought-experiment that has consumed much thinking, and sometimes deliberating, throughout my life—at some times more than at others.

Just this morning, I read an article on Brain Pickings that summarizes Leo Tolstoy’s historical experiences and thought processes on the matter: “Leo Tolstoy on Finding Meaning in a Meaningless World.” I found that Tolstoy provides a useful, rational, and irrational answer to this question.

Furthermore, I think that his findings have an important implication for the many in our society with negative feelings toward religion, spirituality, faith, etc. These negative feelings arise within a very large scale, ranging from indifferent to adamantly anti-religion/-anything. After reading this article, it appears to me that we must all have some element of faith, merely insofar as we still choose to live, whether it be easy for us to choose so or extremely challenging. I have personally experienced this wide spectrum of desire for life, which I think is one reason Tolstoy’s arguments struck me so intensely.

While I intend to respond more fully to some of the thoughts and issues inherent in the Tolstoy article, I’d like to leave you with a short(er) summary of Tolstoy’s thought process on the matter (emphasis is my own).

“I asked: ‘What is the meaning of my life, beyond time, cause, and space?’ And I replied to quite another question: ‘What is the meaning of my life within time, cause, and space?’ With the result that, after long efforts of thought, the answer I reached was: ‘None.’….

“Having understood this, I understood that it was not possible to seek in rational knowledge for a reply to my question, and that the reply given by rational knowledge is a mere indication that a reply can only be obtained by a different statement of the question and only when the relation of the finite to the infinite is included in the question. And I understood that, however irrational and distorted might be the replies given by faith, they have this advantage, that they introduce into every answer a relation between the finite and the infinite, without which there can be no solution.

“So that besides rational knowledge, which had seemed to me the only knowledge, I was inevitably brought to acknowledge that all live humanity has another irrational knowledge — faith which makes it possible to live. Faith still remained to me as irrational as it was before, but I could not but admit that it alone gives mankind a reply to the questions of life, and that consequently it makes life possible.”

See the linked article by Maria Popova for a longer exposition and opportunities to find his full work.


Photo of sidewalk graffiti in New Orleans, artist unknown; photo by Maggie in June, 2013.

Advertisements

Why yoga: Because I don’t “have to”

lilliesI have spent, and still do spend, a lot of my life feeling obligated to do certain things. I guess it’s a bit complicated to explain; and, anyway, I never really noticed it until the drama of graduate school (I guess we can call that my existential crisis). I’ve noticed that many other people experience this internal belief as well—that they have to be a particular way or do certain things, and/or in a specific way. Spoiler alert: it’s all related to judgement and how we judge ourselves. But we’ll get to that later.

One thing that I love about yoga—that I didn’t notice about it until after about eight years of practice—is that it demands nothing of me. I don’t have to do yoga. I don’t have to do a downward-facing dog pose; I don’t have to do asana first, pranayama second, and meditation third; I don’t have to practice for at least 50 minutes at a time for it to be “worth it”; I don’t even have to roll out my mat every day. I don’t have to do a damn thing. It’s really such a relief.

…And yet I continue to do yoga. Over and over again, I roll out my mat and try out postures with my body. Sometimes I meditate, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I meditate without doing postures. Sometimes I practice breathing exercises in the car or when waiting in line. For nine years now, I’ve continued to do yoga—and I will (more than likely) continue to do postures until my body won’t let me anymore. Not because I have to, but because I choose to do so.

Continue reading

Why yoga: Fear of, or Longing For, Oneness

I’m going to try a new blog thing: I’m going to write articles every once in a while that address “why yoga?” I’ve had the idea for some time now (and I have a few drafts waiting to be finished), but I wanted to send this one out already, even if it might not be the most introductory… Oh well. It stems from my previous post regarding globalization and individuality.

One of the reasons I do yoga is because of the new truths that it introduces me to. I have learned so much about myself and the world around me because of my practice. I have also learned about other lessons… like, I’ve learned about states of deep concentration and meditation – but, let’s be honest, I haven’t actually attained them yet.

I’ve learned about the potential reality that we are all connected; we are all part of a Divine Source of Energy; etc… Sometimes it’s a cool concept, and I feel like I can see it through a microscope in myself. And sometimes it scares the poop out of me!! Anyway, here we go:

In another post I wrote: “Every moment is unrepeatable and impermanent. Objects, people, and moments in time possiblymaybe can be perfectly replicated – but the experience will always be a new one.”

Sometimes this sentiment helps us to relax and chill out about things; but taken on a bigger scale, it can be quite terrifying. We humans really REALLY want to just HOLD ON to things! But as Stephen Cope explains it, there is “suffering inherent in wanting to possess people, places, and things;..[while there is] true delight in simply knowing these objects…” (The Wisdom of Yoga, p. 260).

Our immediate human nature believes that if we possess things, we will be happy – we want to possess our unique landmarks, our Cathedrals of Junk, our individuality, our uniqueness… It seems to me that the ultimate finding of yoga is that we cannot possess these things.

The fact that we cannot actually possess anything is why we are able to have individual experiences, though! Because, as Octavio Paz so eloquently put it once,

That is the paradox of our condition…Our experiences are not historical, but we are. Each of us is unique but the experiences of death or love are universal and repeated.

Continue reading

Individuality, Globalization, and Art – musings from Marfa, TX

What if we woke up one day, and there was no more unique individuality? Like, what if the Cathedral of Junk in Austin was no more unique than any other landmark anywhere – or even, that versions of it existed in every city? Is this a potential consequence of globalization? Will everything be the same everywhere?

Continue reading