“Condemn none….”

In excerpts from the journals that the sculptor Anne Truitt wrote over seven years (“Daybook: The Journal of an Artist”), we read (in an entry dated 16th August): “I have always been mystified by the speed with which people condemn one another. Feeling as righteous as Christ chastising the money-changers in the temple, they cast their fellows into the outer darkness of their disapproval. This seems to give them intense pleasure.”

In a 1959 conversation with the BBC, Bertrand Russell pointed out that “In this world, which is getting more and more closely interconnected, we have to learn to tolerate each other. We have to learn to put up with the fact that some people say things that we don’t like. We can only live together in that way, and if we are to live together and not die together, we must learn a kind of charity and a kind of tolerance which is absolutely vital to the continuation of human life on this planet.”

Alain de Botton encourages us, in “The School of Life: An Emotional Education”, to recognize that “we have a duty” to ensure that our “interpretations of the lives of others” are “generous”.

In an illuminating 2010 essay (“Empathy with the Enemy”), the philosopher Roman Krznaric writes: “I suggest that we should approach empathy as the ultimate form of travel, a means of transporting ourselves into other lives in ways that can illuminate our own. There is no need to limit where we take our journeys. We must extend our empathetic imaginations not just to the dispossessed or disadvantaged, but also to those whose views and actions we might oppose or disdain, from wealthy bankers to bombastic politicians to racist work colleagues – even the sibling who broke a favourite toy. There are few better ways of bringing us face to face with our own prejudices, uncertainties and inconsistencies. That is how empathy can become both a moral guide and a basis for a philosophy of living. Socrates saw the path to the good life in the effort to “know thyself ”. The lesson of empathy is that we will only discover ourselves by stepping outside ourselves.”

Swami Vivekananda (“The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda”) advises us: “Condemn none; if you can stretch out a helping hand, do so. If you cannot, fold your hands, bless your brothers, and let them go their own way.”

Peace 🙂

Vocation — the Secret of Happiness

Roman Krznaric writes of the truly remarkable Marie Curie in “How to find Fulfilling Work“.

Born into a studious but impoverished family of Polish intellectuals in 1867, Marie Curie….was a gifted student. She dreamed of studying medicine….arriving in Paris in 1891, aged 24, she commenced her medical studies, and gradually found herself being drawn to doing research in chemistry and physics, an interest she had partly inherited from her father.

It was the beginning of an extraordinarily intensive life of scientific endeavour that would last over forty years. Curie normally worked twelve to fourteen hours a day, continuing at home until two in the morning after returning from the lab….Her brilliance and dedication were rewarded with a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903, and another in Chemistry in 1911. She became France’s first female university professor, and one of the world’s famous scientists.


Curie was absolutely committed to her career. She lived an almost monastic lifestyle in her early years in Paris, surviving on nothing but buttered bread and tea for weeks at a time, which left her anemic and regularly fainting from hunger. She shunned her growing fame, had no interest in material comforts, preferring to live in a virtually unfurnished home: status and money mattered little to her. When a relative offered to buy her a wedding dress, she insisted that “if you are going to be kind enough to give me one, please let it be practical and dark so that I can put it on afterwards to go to the laboratory.” Before her death in 1934, aged 67, she summed up her philosophy of work: “Life is not easy for any of us,” she said. “But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained.”


In “Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation”, Parker J Palmer tells us that “Vocation does not come from a voice “out there” calling me to become something I am not. It comes from a voice “in here” calling me to be the person I was born to be.”

“Emerald Lake” — painting by Deepa Krishnan

Daniel Dennett, in a 2020 TED Talk titled “Dangerous memes”, points out that “The secret of happiness is: Find something more important than you are and dedicate your life to it.”

Matthieu Ricard  observes in “In Search of Wisdom” that “the definition of perseverance, one of the six “perfections” of Buddhism or paramita….is “the joy of doing good.” “Good” here is not simply a good action; it is something that inspires us deeply. It is joy in the form of effort.”

Peace 🙂

agape

The brilliant children’s book “Love” written by Matt de la Peña, and illustrated by Loren Long, begins when we are babies – and get our first glimpse of love:

In the beginning there is light

and two wide-eyed figures standing

near the foot of your bed,

and the sound of their voice is love

Elsewhere in the book, they write about the child continuing to see parents — the “love that wakes at dawn and rides to work on the bus”, and the “slice of burned toast that tastes like love.”

In “Follies of God: Tennessee Williams and the Women of the Fog” (by James Grissom), we read Tennessee say that “we live in a perpetually burning building”, a “world….violent and mercurial”, which “will have its way with you.” The acclaimed playwright goes on:

We are saved only by love — love for each other and the love that we pour into the art we feel compelled to share: being a parent; being a writer; being a painter; being a friend.

Photo by Andre Ouelleton Unsplash

The psychologist Erich Fromm writes in “The Sane Society”: “In the experience of love lies the only answer to being human, lies sanity.”

In “How Should We Live: Great Ideas from the Past for Everyday Life”, the philosopher Roman Krznaric writes of “agape” — a word that, in the Greek Old Testament, means “unconditional Love” – a word that tells us, as does the Book of John (“1 John 4:8”), that “God is love.”

 Roman suggests that “we should all make a place for agape in our lives, and transform love into a gift” — a gift for everyone in our lives, and “for strangers” too. Roman goes on: “That is how we can reach a point where our lives feel abundant….”

Peace 🙂