Posts tagged Philosophy
Emma Felber | TheSinner.net
Among the usual crop of spectacular promises offered by societies this September, the Debates Convenor Alan Patterson came up with one even more unrealistic than usual. Just as no-one could quite believe that we would attract genuine Westminster MP’s to St Andrews (with the exception, naturally, of Menzies Campbell, who cannot seem to stay away), there were many who doubted that the Debating Society could really, truly produce a speaker willing to stand up in front of 250 students in his birthday suit.
We may have been proved right thus far in our skepticism about the first promise, but to give Mr Patterson credit where it is due, this year’s Rag week Debate delivered on its promise. Heavily documented in the national press, Vincent Bethell, an artist from Coventry, accepted the invitation to pass on his message of personal liberty to whoever would come to Lower Parliament Hall on Wednesday the 13th. Mr Bethell is chair and founder of the Freedom to Be Yourself Society, and seems to be so happy wandering about naked that it is a wonder he ever puts on clothes at all. During a five-day trial after which he was cleared of being a public nuisance, Bethell neglected to observe traditionally formal courtroom clothing, opting instead to appear before the judge in his preferred attire, that is to say, nothing. He has also been spotted at many London landmarks such a the High Court and New Scotland Yard unclothed, so often that tourists are beginning to assume that he is one of the city’s attractions.
“Looked at but cannot be seen – it is beyond form;
Listened to but cannot be heard – it is beyond sound;
Grasped at but cannot be touched – it is beyond reach;
These depthless things evade definition,
And blend into a single mystery.
In its rising there is no light,
In its falling there is no darkness,
A continuous thread beyond description,
Lining what can not exist,
Its form formless,
Its image nothing,
Its name mystery,
Meet it, it has no face,
Follow it, it has no back.
Understand the past, but attend the present;
In this way you know the continuity of Tao,
Which is its essence.”
–Lao Tzu (Tao Te Ching – Peter Merel’s Interpolation)
“Embracing Tao, you become embraced.
Supple, breathing gently, you become reborn.
Clearing your vision, you become clear.
Nurturing your beloved, you become impartial.
Opening your heart, you become accepted.
Accepting the World, you embrace Tao.
Bearing and nurturing,
Creating but not owning,
Giving without demanding,
Controlling without authority,
This is love.”
— Lao Tzu (Tao te Ching — Peter Merel’s Interpolation)
“Let your community be small, with only a few people;
Keep tools in abundance, but do not depend upon them;
Appreciate your life and be content with your home;
Sail boats and ride horses, but don’t go too far;
Keep weapons and armour, but do not employ them;
Let everyone read and write,
Eat well and make beautiful things.
Live peacefully and delight in your own society;
Dwell within cock-crow of your neighbours,
But maintain your independence from them.”
–Lao Tzu (Tao te Ching — Peter Merel’s Interpolation)
The trees on the mountain can be used to build and so are cut down.
When fat is added to the fire it consumes itself.
Cinnamon can be eaten and so is harvested.
The lacquer tree can be used and so is slashed.
Everyone knows the usefulness of the useful
But no one knows the usefulness of the useless!
— Chuang Tzu
A certain carpenter was traveling with his helper. They came to a town where a giant oak tree filled the square. It was huge, with many limbs spreading out; large enough to shade a hundred oxen and its shade covered the entire square. The helper was amazed at the potential lumber contained in this one tree but the carpenter passed it by with a mere glance. When his helper asked him why he had passed up such a magnificent specimen the carpenter replied that he could see at once that the great oak’s branches were useless to him.
“They are so hard,” he said, “that were I to take my ax to them it would split. The wood is so heavy that a boat made of it would sink. The branches themselves are so gnarled and twisted they cannot be made into planks. If I tried to fashion house beams with it they would collapse. If I made a coffin from it you would not be able to fit someone inside. Altogether it is a completely useless tree. And that is the secret of its long life.”
— Chuang Tzu
Simone de Beauvoir is the brilliant mind behind this work; a work that forever changes the lives of those who read it. Here is my analysis of part of the introduction of my favorite book on Existentialism, The Ethics of Ambiguity:
The continuos work of our life,” says Montaigne, “is to build death.” He quotes the Latin poets: Prima, quae vitam dedit, hora corpsit. And again: Nascentes morimur. Man knows and thinks this tragic ambivalence which the animal and the plant merely undergo. A new paradox is thereby introduced into his destiny. “Rational animal,” “thinking reed,” he escapes from his natural condition without, however, freeing himself from it. He is still a part of this world of which he is a consciousness. He asserts himself as a pure internality against which no external power’ can take hold, and he also experiences himself as a thing crushed by the dark weight of other things. At every moment he can grasp the non-temporal truth of his existence. But between the past which no longer is and the future which is not yet, this moment when he exists is nothing. This privilege, which he alone possesses, of being a sovereign and unique subject amidst a universe of objects, is what he shares with all his fellow-men. In turn an object for others, he is nothing more than an individual in the collectivity on which he depends.