Ben Nadel
On User Experience (UX) Design, JavaScript, ColdFusion, Node.js, Life, and Love.
I am the chief technical officer at InVision App, Inc - a prototyping and collaboration platform for designers, built by designers. I also rock out in JavaScript and ColdFusion 24x7.
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Ben Nadel at CFUNITED 2009 (Lansdowne, VA) with:

The School Of Practical Philosophy: Love - Week One

By Ben Nadel on

Last night, I started "Love", which is course #3 at the School of Practice Philosophy. If you've followed this blog for a while, you'll probably know that I am a huge fan of love and that I put a great deal of time into reflecting upon my own thoughts, feelings, and experiences of it. In fact, I would go so far as say that Love and Romance represent one of the main pillars upon which I rest my identity. Ironically, it is this very passion for Passion that made me so nervous in class last night.


 
 
 

 
I saw the sustainable happiness poster on the way to philosophy class. I think this must be a good sign.  
 
 
 

I am taking this course in an effort to better understand myself and to become more conscious of my own feelings, choices, and actions. In order to do that, it is critical that I remain open-minded. However, being so passionate and strong-headed about Love, I found myself suddenly afraid that I would not be able to remain open-minded; I worried that everything that I brought up in class would seek only to further my existing thoughts rather than to challenge them.

Clearly, a big part of my "growth opportunity" this semester will be stepping outside of my own comfort zone; and, to neither accept nor reject concepts outright before I have had a chance to think about them deeply. This will be difficult; but, I think it will be quite fun and rewarding!

Last night, we started the course by talking about Pure love vs. Impure love. For impure love, people threw out concepts like, "Expectations", "Stingy", and "Strings Attached." For pure love, the class used terms like, "Unconditional" and "Selfless". I brought up the idea of "Timeless." When asked to explain this, I said that pure love exists outside the context of daily life and the moment-to-moment fluctuations in our heart.

I couldn't remember where I had heard this (maybe a TED talk), but I quoted a man for saying, "I love my wife, even when I hate her." I love this quote because it necessarily separates the reactive self from the conscious self. If life is a battle to own our emotions, we are going to fail a lot. And, rather than rejecting this as a fallacy, we need to embrace it so that we can differentiate between the people we choose to be and the people we happen to be on a moment-to-moment basis.

In order to do this, I think it's important to have a list of, "The things that I do when I Love." This list would contain the conscious actions you want to perform, regardless of how you feel in the moment. Having a list like this allows one to reconnect with their Pure love even when their current state feels like very much less than love.

As an example, when I go to sleep at night, the last thing that I always do is reach behind me and touch my girlfriend on the butt. I do this no matter how I feel - whether I'm exhausted, sad, tired, irked, or depressed. For me, this gesture communicates the fact that I'm glad she's there; that I sleep better with her behind me; and that no matter how I may feel in my head, my heart is always with her.

The best part of this kind of a "Things I Do" list is that there is a strong mind-body connection in humans. Meaning, our physical actions heavily influence the way we feel. Just as your confidence increases when you walk faster or you feel happier when you smile, you definitely feel more love when you choose to perform the actions that you know represent Love.

As I am writing this, I am realizing that my "Things I Do" list might not be terribly long. I think a good part of my journey this semester will be to make that list longer - to come up with the ways that I want to express the love in my heart even when my head is filled with the tumultuous and incongruous feelings of the moment.

As a closing thought, I will reflect on a question posed in class: Do you remember a time in your life in which your love was Pure? To this, many people said that they felt pure love as a child. While this sounds good, I believe this to be an false notion. It's like saying that you learned how to love from watching your Dog. On the surface, it will definitely make you smile and feel good and it might even make you cry; but, how different is it from saying you learned to love by watching your computer? After all, the computer treats me with the same unconditional service no matter how I treat it.

Pure love, I believe, requires consciousness and choice. As such, the time in my life in which my Love is most pure is hopefully always, "Now." If it was ever anything else, I'd be moving in the wrong direction.




Reader Comments

I do that same butt-touch thing, and I always think the same things you mentioned. Thankfulness, comfort, security. It's a great affirmation to end the day

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My boyfriend does the same thing! And I always look forward to it. It's very comforting. It makes me feel connected to him even when we are sleeping, which is a solitary act. Even when we are not in the same room, or even state, I can feel that love tap and I known he's always there for me. Good luck with your pursuit! Sounds like you are well on your way. (P.S.) your GF is very lucky : )

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@AR,

It's comforting to hear that others work the same way. Agreed, it really is a great affirmation to the end of the day.

@Mary Kate,

I try to take it a day at a time. Each day [hopefully] gives me an opportunity to improve the way I live my life and how I affect the lives of those around me.

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@Ben, Another course in the practical philosophy, huh? Very cool! Good job with the life and relationship blog. :-) I like those.

Thought provoking, as always. And about the list...it may be a good idea to at least consider the love languages thing...and depending on who you are with, have a different or slightly different list. If your girlfriend was a service girl, then your list could have more of those things. If she was all for the affirmation, then make sure your tasks catered to her affirmation needs.

Question: is the butt some area of the body that you picked specifically because your girlfriend has a nice butt, or because it means something to you, or are you a butt man, or is there a different reason you chose that particular area? And is it open to change, say, if you had a girlfriend that didn't like that, but didn't mind it on her shoulder or something?

I have to confess, I had an ex that did that, and it kind of irked me. I have also heard of a married couple where the man slapped the girl on the butt with a towel for 15+ some years, and eventually, she left him...and that was a big thing in her leaving him.

I don't know if it would irk me in every realationship, or if it was just him, but it did, and more so when we were in an argument.

To the question about a time in one's life that one experienced pure love--I experienced that whenever I had someone that I would do almost anything for, regardless of the cost to me (and not just monitary cost). And I woudln't be doing it, thinking of the fact that it was costing me, I would be doing it for them, but also so I could enjoy their reaction to it. There was never any thought of a return to me. The return to me was merely their enjoyment. There wasn't much I wouldn't sacrifice for that person.

The other was my first boyfriend, but I have already talked enough on your site about him! :-)

I think often, pure love gets tainted with romantic love. Unfortunately, it can be a very tainting thing. While my first boyfriend and I had pure love, and we had romantic love, and it never got tainted, I don't think that is a balance most people acheive, especially in romantic love. That's one of the reasons so many marriages dissolve these days.

Sadly, I didn't feel pure love so much as a child. I know a lot of people are referring to the love from their parents, but as I have said before, I was adopted, then my mother had two other children after me, and emotionally abondonned me and my older sister at that. When I was 16, she told my sister "I just can't love her as much as I love you, because seh's not mine. I can't help it, that's just the way it is." It's not that it wasn't something I hadn't known for a very long time, but it's also not the most settling thing for a girl of 16 to hear, and from that moment on, I realized I would have to be on my own emotionally. My pops did the best he could in the situation, but a recent conversation with him made me realize he had pretty much the same feelings as my mother. So I was kind of emotionally screwed up from the get-go...

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@Anna,

I chose the butt because it's fun, but mostly because that's where my hand lands when we are back to back (I'm only so flexible). I find the gesture to be more important than the actual contact zone.

Also, keep in mind that this gesture is just as much for Me as it is for Her. By performing this action, it allows me to become more still, to become more calm, and to regain touch (metaphorically) with what I consider to be the underlying, timeless, purity of the Love.

Of course, if it was a problem on her end, I should hope she would say something about it. And I think we can all agree that [almost] no one enjoys being whipped with a towel. I coulda seen that divorce coming from a mile away ;)

I'm sorry to hear about your childhood circumstances. That's definitely not the kind of care-free childhood we often like to talk about. And, I think it probably makes your journey much harder as you are always needing to make up for not having fantastic role-models.

I think now of a book I am reading which says something like:

"You cannot choose who loves you. You can only choose who You love. So, become love!

This is the kind of spirit I am trying very hard to embrace, especially in the last year or so.

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I don't put selfless love at the top of the hierarchy. Mostly because I equate that kind of love with "The Giving Tree" type of sacrifice common to addict enablers and helicopter parents. Unconditional love? Not unlimited unconditional love. Except maybe for my children. And even then, loving them may also mean choosing not to endorse or support the things they do.

Maybe my goal is to separate love from action/giving. I can *love* someone and accept who they are, even while I choose not to be with them or to do things for them.

So my question is...is the love just a feeling in me? Or is it, like electricity, really only valuable in how it's "spent"?

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@Ben,

Well, it's awesome that you're making such an effort for your current girlfriend, and I am sure she really appreciates it. About the butt...O...so if you were with a girl who was shorter, the hand might fall to a different area?

I was once sleeping next to a guy I was dating, and in the middle of the night, I woke up feeling playful. So I smacked him on the butt 3 times. I thought he was sleeping on his stomach. It turns out he was not, he was sleeping on his back. So my hand actually fell in pretty much the exact same spot--but on the front. He was not very appreciative of that, I think. He was dead asleep, and I think that woke him up pretty well, needless to say. I hope he is able to have children in the future if he wants them.

So, I'm not totally anti-butt, and definitely not when it comes to other people's butts. And I am sure your girlfriend has a nice one. But when it comes to my butt, I am a bit sensitive, because being involved in athletics as I have, I have a really hard butt, and men have always been very critical of it. So I'm a little sensitive and self-conscious about it.

It's ok about the childhood thing. I don't want to make out like I had a horrible childhood, like there was no joy in it, or like I had the worst childhood ever. I know plenty of people who had much worse. And also, on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, I don't think emotional needs are really on there as very basic needs...the most basic ones being food, water, shelter, etc. So I was always mainly just thankful that those were taken care of. It made me kind of independent in an emotional way, because I kind of had to find my own way emotionally, so to speak. And I probably shouldn't say I didn't experience any kind of love at all as a child. Even though my mother obviously wasn't able to acheive the level that mother should for her child, and my father's sentiments were apparently similar, there were others that loved me...so I wasn't totally left out in the cold. There may be some underlying stuff there, though, that has hurt some of my relationships and could explain why I have had some crappy ones, but I am just trying to learn from everything I experience and become a better person through that.

I think the reason I am so hung up on selfish love vs. selfless love is because of how selfish my mother was. And the sacrifice thing. For instance, my mother is always now reminding us of her "sacrifices", and throwing it in our faces. We don't sacrifice to try to get stuff out of others, and we don't sacrifice to hold it against a person and throw it up in their faces. A true sacrifice is one that you really don't have to speak of again and one you really want to make. The sacrifices I have made for people, I would never remind them of unless it was only to remind them of how much I loved or love them, not to try to throw it in their face or try to get them to do something for me.

And with the first boyfriend, I did feel an unselfish love, but it went both ways. He was very selfless, and in some ways, so was I. There is no way I could have done that had he not been.

Unconditional love...that's a hard one. If you love someone unconditionally, and they cheat on you, and you leave them, was it really unconditional love? Or was it love conditioned upon them not cheating on you? Because I don't think I could stay with someone who cheated.

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You're awesome, thanks for sharing this. Great thoughts on innocence vs experience, and the power that comes from choosing a state of love even in the face of human trials and sometimes terrors. I agree that this love is far more admirable -- and rare -- than that awesome love of the innocent child or pet.

I used to not believe in faking it til you make it, but lately I'm starting to feel a power in choosing acts of generosity or love or even just "thinking positively". There's a power in overcoming that inner negative Nancy that tries to say "oh that's just silly" or "I don't need this stuff". Truth is we all need this love. The world would be unbearable without it.

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Remembering a moment when love was pure? Wow, what a hard question. I honestly think this only happens with children before age 3 or 4, when their innocence has been untouched for the most part. That's when their love is the most pure. They don't care that the adult may have bad habits that make it hard to love them. Well, yeah, they may sense that such people are not to be approached, but their innocence is such that they cannot understand why.

Sadly, that is the very moment that their innocence starts to fade away. (There's a special place in hell for predators abusing children.)

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It would seem to me that you have presupposed that humans can even accomplish/comprehend pure love. Of course, this assertion is only as valid as our agreement on the definition and type of love being discussed. Before any talk of love can continue I would think that an agreement of the definition is required. In addition, which love are you focusing on? (Storge = Affection, Phileo = Friendship, Eros = Romance, Agape = Unconditional Love)? Once this is decide, what words are you using to define it?

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@Cody Lindley,

I agree totally about the type of love being discussed, but in the past, @Ben has said that he tends to shy away from things of a religious nature, and it would be very difficult to discuss agape love without getting into the Devine nature of the love of God.

My comments thus far have been geared more towards human love. That which is devine can only be glimpsed at from our little spot, and we can really only hope to immitate it and try to understand it.

I really, believe it or not, attempt not to make religious comments on this site, but it comes up sometimes. :-/

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@Anna & Ben - If we are to think correctly about a topic then there is no thinking that should be excluded for subjective reasoning.

@Ben - There is a lot of great thinking already done pertaining to love. If we are philosophizing then no thought is off limits. If we are excluding certain thinking based on subjective biases then we are not philosophizing. At that point, we are simply devising a subjective interpretation. In order to be intellectually honest in the topic of love I am not sure how one could dismiss the love defined by Christ. I'm not telling you to be religious here or think about religion, I'm simply saying that if you are going to have a balanced view of love you might want to consider examining the love that Christ promoted (e.g. Aristotle thought much about the assertions of religion and god without becoming "religious" so to speak).

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@Cody,

I agree with you. When I was in school, and I realize I went to a highly religious instituation for my schooling, one of my courses was in Philosophy. Let me stop here, since you know that I went to a religious school, and I know a lot of people think that kind of education is narrow-minded, and that they attempt to force you to learn, think, and believe certain things...let me just say that we examined everything. There, they wanted us to have all points of view and understand every side of the material and draw our own conclusions.

One of the courses of Philosophy I took was Politcal Philosophy, and I don't care to get into a political debate right now, but the other one I took was a Philosophy of Law class (Jurisprudence). (There was also Philosophy weaved into many of my other classes, as the first degree I obtained was in fact a B.A.) Anyway, many of the Philosophers, even the ones who were "devoutly atheist, agnostic, or deist" did in fact study different theological and Christian doctrines and Philosophies. Some of the Philosphers we studied were in fact Christians, but also many of them were not. Regardless, many of them nonetheless studied and adopted at least some of the Christian principals.

One of the reasons I believe that a lot of people get deprived of ever experiencing true love is a combination of two seemingly contradicting things -- a narrowminded-ness, and lack of patience (refusal to wait -- willingness to accept the counterfit over the real).

I think some people are so eager to experience all of the wonderful things that love bring, that they get distracted along the way when they meet someone who seems to have everything their heart desires. My favorite paster the pastor of one of my favorite churches puts it this way:

http://pri1a.faithhighway.com/images/10000/4000/631LU/user/DesprateSexLivesPart1-1.wma

You meet a woman who is absolutely the apple of your eye. She has caught your eye in a way no other woman has. She's classy, intelligent, beautiful, witty, sweet, considerate, and all of the wonderful things you have always wanted in a woman. You want to take her out to the very best steakhouse...nothing but the best would do! You want to impress her as much as she has impressed you. You take her out to the best of the best steakhouses in town -- in my town, that would probably be a Morton's Steakhouse or a Ruth's Chris. When the waiter comes around, she's looking her menu over, and suggests you go ahead and order. You want her to know that you are there to impress, so you order something that indicates how classy you are from the menu. The waiter turns to her and she orders a tube steak. (a hotdog). Now, hotdogs have their time and place, no doubt, and some people love them. But you have brought this woman to the classiest, best steakhouse in the city, and she orders a hotdog. You may at this point be wondering why. Is she trying to test you? Is she afraid of breaking your bank? WHAT???!

Anyway, the point is...she could have had anything on that menu...you woudln't have minded. But she chose a hotdog. A hotdog.

That's how a lot of people approach dating. They have all of these wonderful choices...they have all of these people they could date. Some of them would be awesome as dating partners. But then, some equivalent of a hotdog comes along, and they accept that. Or they take that before a good woman or man has even a chance to come along. What he is getting at is settling. So many people settle for the hotdogs when they could have the best steak in the house.

All of this said, I am not referring to poor vs. rich or good-looking vs. ugly or smart vs. stupid or any of those things. I am referring to the good, true, pure love which is better than any other love. There are men out there (and women), and they have women (or men) who have the best, most pure hearts in the world who would date them, and those women would be capable of that true, rare love we speak of, but they choose to date someone else...and who knows why? Maybe the hotdog doesn't look like a hotdog. Maybe, on the surface, the hotdog has been made to look ever better than the best steak you could order. But it's not. It's just not. And you aren't going to have that kind of love with the hotdog.

There is one truth I have found in my experience on earth as far as love and people is concerned, and not to sound mean or anything, but there really are those people who are truly capable of sharing that wonderful, true, pure love, and there people who just simply aren't. If you know what I am talking about, there is at least a chance that you are capable. If you don't, you may still be capable, but you may be confused at this point.

I have known both types of people, definitely.

And the ones who aren't capable, some of them are capable of putting on a show, and some in fact even capable of putting forth a pretty good effort as far as it is concerned and trying. Especially when they meet "the one", or someone they really want to have that with. But it is still, no matter what, just the shallow kind of love they are imitating from what they have seen in others.

Anyway, this is getting pretty long. That's ok, because it's really ok if some people don't read what I am about to write below. Disclaimer: it is highly personal.

@Ben et. al. who have read the bit about my mother: I totally don't blame her, and I really can see where she is coming from. I'm not saying I, personally, would ever be able to feel that way...or lack of feeling that way...about a child of mine, adopted or not, but I can completely understand where she is coming from. It's still not something that is easy to hear at 16, but I am for the most part over it, and I can definitely see some good that came from it. You love who you love, those you don't, you don't, and you can't always choose or force yourself if you just. simply. don't.

The one thing I do know, and am thankful for, is that regardless, I still had a MUCH better situation than that which I came out of. Had they not adopted me, the situation would have been much worse. LOVE OR NO LOVE. My biological mother, whom I met years later, was abused in every way possible by her biological family...starting with my biological grandfather, starting at 4 years old. She loved me enough to get me out of there and ensure I have a much better life. My life has not been bad, really. So I am SO thankful that the very first act by my biological mother...that of giving me a better life...had been in love. So that is definitely one of the glowing examples of love I had in my life early on. And in spite of anything my mother may have said, anything really was much better than getting sexually, or any kind of abused, at the age of 4. It was almost a definite that I would have gotten abused had I stayed in that situation. I was saved. I was also born into extreme poverty. My biologcal grandparents had 11 children, none of which they could really effectively financially take care of. The poverty, obviously, wouldn't have been the big deal the abuse was, but still...just another way my life was so much better.

So I am thankful. And blessed...

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@Ben,

I love how you brought up 'Timeless' to define love. Because trying to define an unconditional love becomes conditional in one way or other ... the definition somehow confines it. Also unconditional and selfless love is best defined to be mother or father's love for a child. In romantic terms, timeless would be perfect kind of love that one can experience... even for a moment... because that moment stretches to eternity since every moment you remember that it brings the same feeling all over again.

BTW... you should become love guru! ...:)

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@Anna,

What you have mentioned about settling out of desperation doesn't come in the realm of love. It may fall under pseudo love... But the irony is that love is so complex and powerful that a pseudo love can turn to real love with time and seemingly true love may turn out was nothing but a pseudo love. But the truth is that when you are truly in love with someone... your soul feels happy, sunny and light. It's the happy feeling, love for life and the feeling to love everything in this world. The abundance of which overwhelms one so much that you feel either calm or restless to share it with whole world. We all have the power to feel that. But we get so busy with our mundane life with our basic needs that we don't let go enough to feel those feelings. I also feel happiness and love is contagious. A smile or a kind word from an absolute stranger may just feel your heart with so much love for everything at a moment ~ then you just passing by with that glow on your face may just make someone else feel good for no reason.

Regarding what you said about whether you love or don't, you can't force yourself.. reminds me of a line in the novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn... where the mother feels after she gives birth to the second child (a boy).. the sadness that she can never love her older girl child as much as she loves her son... I don't know why I remembered that book after reading your comment. I had read it 10 years back or so... think I should read it again. I love that book.

As @Lola has mentioned... child abuse is the most heinous crime... I have no words to describe my anger for such people.

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There are often times when people settle out of desperation, or for other reasons, and it ends up just working out. And this isn't specific just to ordinary, every day people either...there are even some celebrities and people of extreme wealth and/or position who do this as well. And the reasons it works out...I have no idea...maybe it really is love, or really does turn into love? Maybe it works out because the desperation has hit a level where the person just works that much harder to make work out. Maybe there is no love there, or not the level of love that is achievable, but there are other things that make it work. Maybe there isn't love, but the people are such a great match otherwise, that they make it work. I don't know. I am probably not even qualified to comment on the subject of love. :-) It is a very extremely complicated and complex thing. There is a reason, though, that Russian mail-order brides do exist out of the context of the everyday common comments people make about them. And it isn't necessarily in the form of the mail, nor are they always necessarily Russian, but the phenomenon is out there (I use the word phenomenon for my current inability to grasp the more precise and accurate word).

I do think love is actions, but it's also emotions, too. Action-wise, I could be as good as anybody, and I cound certainly fake it. I try not to fake anything, but I could. But the emotional thing...that's where my growth has been stunted in some ways. So having a geniune emotion is still very difficult for me sometimes. It still happens, but it doesn't come easy for me. Things that inspire that geniune emotion are puppies and babies (and some of the things that make other ordinary people melt). When I was still a teenager, I met my foster parents for the first time. When I met them, they were fostering this other precious little boy, and I really just wanted to adopt him. Obviously, I had the good sense to know my positon in life wasn't a good one to be in in order to adopt another human being at that time, but had I been in a good position, it would have been hard not to.

And had I adopted him, there never would have been anything to make me love him any less, not even having my "own", biological children. I never would have loved another child more than I loved him. It may have been a slightly different experience, or maybe even it could be described as a different way of loving two people, but the level of love would have been exactly the same. And if I end up with a man who is not capable of having children, and he wants to adopt, it certainly isn't something I wouldn't think about. If he had children, I would try my best with his children. I still think about that boy sometimes, the one I would have liked to have adopted, had I been in the right position, and I keep up with him, as well, but not in a creepy stalker way. It's just neat to see how he has progressed since being adopted by someone else.

With dogs, inspite of the fact that I have met some that have made me melt and feel love, I am not overall a dog person. I currently don't keep any at my place. There is one, though, that I met, that was love at first sight. He was being abused and neglected, so I adopted him, and gave him a home. My parents wanted him, so I gave him to them. They don't show to animals the neglect they show to some of their children sometimes, at least not enough to make me feel like his needs are being neglected, and I know he has a good life there, so I let him stay there. He is happy there, especially since he has tons of land to run on. Where I live, I couldn't keep him. At least not without paying a hefty fine, and I refuse to have him live so close to traffic and where he would be confined to a house when the outdoors is what he loves, unless I had to.

It's just harder for me to love grown-up human beings, especially men, especially that way. I have friends that I love and adore, and would do almost anything for. I do like having friends. And when it comes to more than friends relationships, I prefer to be friends first and let it naturally grow into a more than friends type relationship, or not...but I just feel it is a more natural thing when I am friends with the guy first.

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Hi Ben,

I came across your blog while researching the School of Practical Philosophy. I am curious about some of the criticisms I have heard and as someone who sounds like they are enjoying their time with the school wanted your take.

After the second year is there still a surprise ceremony where you bow down to a hindu guru portrait and are asked to donate a weeks wages?

I know this was the case in the past but perhaps the school has changed in the last few years. I know you haven't finished your second year but this is my primary concern that is stopping me from getting involved.

In the criticisms I've read they say that it becomes evident that it is a religion with one point of view of the world and that the courses up until then are aimed at corralling people's ideas to be in line with the "oneness" Hindu religious tenant that the school is based on. I've also read that the teachers often seriously misrepresent the ideas of famous philosophers to make it seem as if their ideas support this theory of "oneness".

Essentially if the school is truly a school that teaches about various philosophies and how they can be applied to our lives it is interesting. If they however misrepresent various philosophies to get you to apply their own Advaita Vedanta philosophy I am not. If you have to lie at the start I figure there can't be much truth to it.

Do you have much outside knowledge of the philosophies of Plato, Emerson etc? If you don't have enough background info in what they actually teach to know if the school accurately presents their ideas please let me know. An honest "i don't know" is sometimes the best answer you can get.

Thank You in advance for you time :)
-Austin

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@Austin,

Please rest assured that there is absolutely no bowing down to any gurus at this school :D That is the craziest thing I have ever heard :D I have not given any time OR money to this school outside the $90 fee for the course (which, after 3 semesters, still blows my mind as an amazing deal!). Honestly, I don't know how they do it. I think all the teachers are volunteers and really just love what they do. My teacher has been at this school for like 18 years or something doing this.

The course materials cover many religions and philosophers. There appears to be no predominant ideas other than that of self-contained wisdom. We do talk about Plato and Socrates a lot; but, we also talk about Jesus and Buddha and Hindu philosophers and poets of all walks of life.

As someone who has always been a-religious, I can attest that any kind of "cult" mentality would be throwing up red flags. And, since they have asked nothing of us outside the 7PM-9:30PM class, I can't even find any evidence of any intent to lead us in some cryptic path.

I go because the class has great, provocative conversations and has really nice people. I think the topics discussed really do make me feel more conscious about my actions and my feelings.

I would highly recommend the class to anyone :)

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@All,

I've been doing a lot of thinking about the concept of "selfless" and "unconditional" love this week:

http://www.bennadel.com/blog/2262-The-School-Of-Practical-Philosophy-Love-Week-Two.htm

Obviously, words can mean different things to different people; but, I used this word as a spring board to some deeper thinking.

@Sharon,

I believe Loving is a combination of feelings and actions. I think either without the existence of the other is probably not worthwhile.

@Cellvia,

Thanks! Glad you're enjoying the conversation. And, I will certainly agree that we all need love!

@Cody,

While it happens sometimes, I try not to get caught up in some cycle of semantic arguing. Regardless of what the technical definitions for words are, I think we all "feel" them in a different way. As school, we try our best to define the words before we get heated over them; but, heck, just look at my latest post (above) - I've probably twisted the concept of "Selfless." More than anything, I just like to find ways to trigger deeper thought.

However, speaking of the different types of love, there is fantastic TED talk about different aspects of love and relationships (lust, pair bonding, etc.) by Helen Fisher, if anyone is interested:

http://www.ted.com/talks/helen_fisher_tells_us_why_we_love_cheat.html

For me personally, when I refer to Love, I am concentrating primarily on the way I choose to *express* myself. To some people, that is platonic love. To others, that is romantic love. I find the actual type of love less important than the way I choose to conduct my actions in the context of such loves.

As far as religion, I think @Anna misspoke a bit; while I am not a very religious person, I don't dismiss religion. I just don't like it to lead to unnecessarily heated debates. This is why I shy away from talking politics and, in recent years, have shyed away from talking about ColdFusion vs. (insert some other language here). Zealotry (either for or against something) does not allow us to think deeply.

And, certainly, in class, we do talk about Christ and his teachings.

@Smita,

I think you make a great point:

"Because trying to define an unconditional love becomes conditional in one way or other"

In class, people often refer to the unconditional love they feel for *their* children; but, as you say, this is a contradiction in terms. They would have to have unconditional love for ALL children for it to be unconditional, no?

This why I think is a bit of a waste to spend too much time thinking about Selfless and / or Unconditional love.

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@Ben, so what you are saying about the unconditional love and the children is that when you love your children "unconditionally", it is really not "unconditional", because it is conditioned upon them being your specific children, and not any other child? Further, is it then not possible to love another person, a partner perhaps, "unconditionally", because if it were true unconditional love, then you would love everybody the exact same way, so it is conditioned upon it being that specific person?

I apologize if I misspoke about the religion thing...that is just the impression I had always gotten in the past from certain posts you made. But I am very sorry if I was being inacurate and speaking of you incorrectly. I would never intentionally do that to anybody.

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@Anna,

I think what I am saying (or rather what I am feeling) is that worrying about attaining "unconditional" love is really not a great use of one's time. I think it would be far more worthwhile to think about just becoming better at expressing our love.

Think about programming - is it worthwhile to spend too much thinking about what a "perfect" programmer is? Or would it be more worthwhile to just put a lot of effort into becoming a *better* programmer.

My gut feeling is, getting better is worth more value than worrying about perfect. With love, getting better is probably worth more value than worrying about unconditional or selfless love.

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@Ben, I think you are dead-on with taking a proactive approach with it, instead of trying to attain it without taking a look at yourself and attempting to become a better person as a result of working on yourself. I had a friend who would bellyache and whine constantly about being single. He would constantly go on about his state of depression at being single, instead of just enjoying being single and making the most of it. In all of his whining, not once would he talk about how he could make himself a better person, how he could develop into the kind of person a woman would want to be with. There were good things about him, obviously, but there were also things I could personally see about himself that he could do to make women actually want to date him and to attract them to him. He finally got into a relationship because I encouraged him to put an online profile out there and I initially signed him up for an online profile, filled it out, put it out there, and got some responses to it, which he was able to subsequently respond back to and eventually start a relationship with one of the women on there. And for the record, I wasn't being pushy about him dating someone, nor did I put it out there because I think everybody should be dating someone and that no body should be single, nor do I think everyone should necessarily have one out there. It was because he would complain and whine constantly about it, and it was obvious to me that it was something that was of utmost importance to him, but he wasn't really willing to do anything to get it. So I decided finally to take action and do it. But the point I'm making in all of that is that there are a lot of people who don't take action. They would rather passively sit and think about getting this unconditional love rather than try to do something to better themselves. If one wants unconditional love, they should probably go about loving unconditionally, and chances are, they would get so caught up in doing that themselves, they would probably stop worrying about whether they were getting it or not.

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