The School Of Practical Philosophy: Philosophy Works - Week Nine
Posted March 15, 2011 at 8:30 AM by Ben Nadel
Over the weekend, I started reading A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s by Stephanie Coontz. The first chapter is basically a list of ways in which much of the 20th century was nothing more than a sugar-coated dark ages for women. But, the second chapter, which is where I am now, really got me thinking about Philosophy class. In the book, Coontz describes a world in which women were so diminished by society that they completely lacked the words needed to articulate the pain that they felt. Women, who admitted to regularly breaking into tears throughout the day, described their feelings as confusing - that they had no idea why they were crying or where their suffering was coming from.
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It definitely brings palpability to Socrates' quote, "The unexamined life is not worth living." Philosophy - especially self-reflection and self-exploration - is so important in life. Understanding one's own desires is not a "nice to have;" rather, it is the critical aspect of a healthy and fulfilling existence.
But, I don't want to get side-tracked on The Feminine Mystique; instead, I'd like to return to last week's question, "What am I?" And, at this moment, I'd like to answer, I am Love. I am the love of ColdFusion. And jQuery. And DOM manipulation. I am the love of weightlifting. And the rush of blood to my muscles. I am the love of my friends. And the things I can do to help them. I am the love of movies with sappy endings. And dare-to-be-great situations. I am the love of human potential. And of man's ability to self-actualize.
I am the love of many things. But, more important than that which I love, is the fact that I am comfortable giving that love. I accept the vulnerability that comes with expression and I embrace the understanding that it is Vulnerability that sets us free.
Vulnerability, however, is a bit of a misnomer. What I really mean to describe is a shift in the way that we think about expression. Expression is not about You - it is about Me. The love that I give to You is not about You - it is about Me and the way that I feel. So, when I say vulnerability, what I really mean is: the love of one's self and of one's desires.
As far as this week's class goes, I had a bit of trouble concentrating. We talked about diversity and unity; and about how we are much more like each other than we acknowledge. I had trouble getting into the conversation, which is a shame since it's a very interesting topic. More than anything, though, I am sad that next week will be the last week of this class. I'll definitely be signing up for the next course! This has been nothing but a good time.
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Diversity. Oh, boy, that is quite a loaded topic. I have some really strong, somewhat politically incorrect opinions on this issue, as well as feminism.
The exact phrase they used last night was, "Unity in Diversity." I like the idea, but I was kind of out of it last night; I felt very distracted and couldn't seem to get into the moment of the conversation.
It's funny, when they started talking about diversity, I kept thinking about a passage from "It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It" - one of my favorite books by author Robert Fulghum. In the beginning of the book, he talks about the brain and about diverse it is:
The single most powerful statement to come out of brain research in the last twenty-five years is this: We are as different from one another on the inside of our heads as we appear to be different from one another on the outside of our heads.
Look around and see the infinite variety of human heads - skin, hair, age, ethnic characteristics, size, color, and shape. And know that on the inside such differences are even greater - what we know, how we learn, how we process information, what we remember and forget, our strategies for functioning and coping. Add to that the understanding that the "world" out "there" is as much a projection from inside our heads as it is a perception, and pretty soon you are up against the realization that it is a miracle that we are communicating at all. It is almost unbelievable that we are dealing with the same reality. We operate on a kind of loose consensus about existence at best.
From a practical point of view, day by day, this kind of information makes me a little more patient with the people I live with. I am less inclined to protest, "Why don't you see it the way I do?" and more inclined to say, "You see it that way? Holy cow! How amazing!"
I am not sure that that means much in this context; but, I just couldn't get this out of my head during the conversation.
That's a very good passage. Especially the last paragraph. I've always marched to a different drumbeat, and I can't easily be pigeonholed.
That was a huge eye opener. To not only understand why someone has a different view something but to be amazed how cool it was for someone to come up with yet another view.
I think this is starting to spark some things. With out diversity, we wouldn't have innovation. If everyone thought the same way, no one would think at all.
So the right conclusion wouldn't be to pigeonhole Lola, but to walk next to her bobbing my head to her beat while keeping true to my own and maybe even turning mine down!
That sounds like an interesting book. Coontz...that sounds familiar...is she related to the other Coontz writer, or is it spelled differently?
I picked up a book the other Coontz had written one time, and at first was a little turned off by the simplistic writing style. But, because I hate to start a book without finishing it unless it is completely awful and offers NO value whatsoever, I finished it. I ended up enjoying the content of the book and also seeing where the simplistic style might be good for that particular story to be told that particular way, but I still thought it was a very simple style of writing compared to what I was used to. I think it was Coontz.
I have my own beat going, and I have always been that way. But you know, the thing is, when you combine my beat with someone else's, it may clash, but it may also produce a harmonious sound that is much better than either beat was alone.
And as far as diversity goes, I think that within one person, you can have a lot of diversity. I don't think that diversity comes only through more than one person. Granted, when you add more people to the equation, you have more of a chance of adding diversity, but you can have more diversity with just one person or with a few people who have diversity within themselves than you can sometimes have with a whole huge group of, say, 1000 people who are all basically the same. Increasing the number of people in a group doesn't necessarily increase the diversity, and decreasing the number of people of a group doesn't necessarily decrease the diversity. And in order to have diversity of skills/intelligence, etc within an organization, you don't necessarily have to have people who have diversity in terms of looks...it really doesn't have all that much to do with it. Two people could just about look exactly alike, but be as diverse in mind as any two people; whereas, on the other hand, people could look as different as possible, and yet their minds could think just alike.
Here's a quote about Socrates that I picked up during Jurisprudence class: "It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied" I always found that interesting, because I have known a lot of people who were merely happy with settling for the instant gratification instead of chosing long-term true satisfaction.
"It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It" is one of my all-time favorite books. My father gave it to me when I was very young, so I have a bit of a bias for it (I am sure I associate it with my father); but, it really is just a quality book - the best on of Robert Fulghum that I have read.
Well said my friend :) Doing that definitely requires an open mind.
I think there are a few famous writers with names like Coontz and Koontz. I don't think they are related.
When you talk about styles clashing, the thing I immediately thought of was the Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. It talks about the different ways in which people can connect with each other:
At the end of the day, diversity or not, I think it's important to try and bring people into your life that inspire you. I remember I went on a job interview a long time ago and I told the interviewer that I would love to be the "dumbest guy in the room." If I could do that, then I would have a tremendous amount of stuff to learn! (Didn't get the job though -- It was the kind of place where I probably wasn't even smart enough to be the dumbest guy int he room).
@Ben - oops! I must've spelled that author's name wrong...sorry! Thanks for the link, though...VERY interesting read! I read it and then left a LOOOOOOONG comment. Sorry about that!
I have had MANY opportunities to be the dumbest person in the room. :-) When I was in high school, they sent me to this leadership conference that they only sent 1 person from every school to...I was amazed at how dumb I was compared to everyone else. I'm probably the dumbest person to come to your website and post comments on your blog. But that's cool, because I pick up and learn a lot while I'm here. :-) If I were in a room of 5 Ben Nadels (or how many ever there were), or people on his level, I would be the dumbest person in the room. :-) But I do have to ask this one question? When you start looking to date again some day, are you going to be interested in only dating girls smarter than you? Because if so, not to be discouraging or anything, but you will probably have to look a lot longer if that's the case, and your dating pool will be teeny-tiny also, if that's the case. I can't imagine there are too many people smarter than you are.