Advice on how to live a satisfying and fulfilled life is the same, from the Buddha, from Epictetus, from Lao Tzu, from Bertrand Russell and Marianne Williamson, from ancient and modern Christians. They all tell us not to pursue happiness as though it were something we could win, or buy, or own. We can only appreciate what comes to us, while focusing our intent and our action on giving happiness to others.
Remember that you must behave as at a banquet. Is anything brought round to you? Put out your hand and take a moderate share. Does it pass by you? Do not stop it. Is it not yet come? Do not yearn in desire toward it, but wait till it reaches you. So with regard to children, wife, office, riches; and you will some time or other be worthy to feast with the gods.
This well of peace and deep satisfaction is never found by those who pursue it, but may be granted by grace to the self-forgetful soul.
— Evelyn Underhill
Sharing our gifts is what makes us happy.
— Marianne Williamson
To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.
— Bertrand Russell
Conventional people hoard more than they need; but I possess nothing at all.
— Lao Tzu (Brian Browne Walker)
If one speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows one like a shadow that never leaves.
— from the Dammapada
Pure, holy simplicity confounds all the wisdom of this world and the wisdom of the flesh.
— St Francis
It was only when I gave up on my own desires and devoted myself to the service of others that I left my former misery behind and found an unexpected wellspring of joy.
— St Augustine
Those only are happy who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness; on the happiness of others, on the improvement of mankind, even on some art or pursuit, followed not as a means, but as itself an ideal end. Aiming thus at something else, they find happiness by the way.
— John Stuart Mill
For that I never knew you, I only learned to dread you,
for that I never touched you, they told me you are filth,
they showed me by every action to despise your kind;
for that I saw my people making war on you,
I could not tell you apart, one from another,
for that in childhood I lived in places clear of you,
for that all the people I knew met you by
crushing you, stamping you to death, they poured boiling
water on you, they flushed you down,
for that I could not tell one from another
only that you were dark, fast on your feet, and slender.
Not like me.
For that I did not know your poems
And that I do not know any of your sayings
And that I cannot speak or read your language
And that I do not sing your songs
And that I do not teach our children
to eat your food
or know your poems
or sing your songs
But that we say you are filthing our food
But that we know you not at all.
Yesterday I looked at one of you for the first time.
You were lighter that the others in color, that was
neither good nor bad.
I was really looking for the first time.
You seemed troubled and witty.
Today I touched one of you for the first time.
You were startled, you ran, you fled away
Fast as a dancer, light, strange, and lovely to the touch.
I reach, I touch, I begin to know you.
— Muriel Rukeyser was born this day in 1913
…that the function of this abyss of freedom that has opened out within our own midst is to draw us utterly out of our own selfhood and into its own immensity of liberty and joy. You seem to be the same person and you are the same person that you have always been; in fact you are more yourself than you have ever been before. You have only just begun to exist. You feel as if you were at last fully born….Now you have come into your element, and yet now you have become nothing. You have sunk to the center of your own poverty, and there you have felt the doors fly open into infinite freedom, into a wealth which is perfect because none of it is yours, though it is all there for you.
And now you are free to go in and out of infinity. This darkness is not a place, not an extent, but a huge, smooth activity. These depths, they are Love. And in the midst of you they form a wide, impregnable country….And you, while you are free to come and go, yet as soon as you attempt to make words or thoughts about it you are excluded. You go back into your exterior in order to talk; yet you find that you can rest in this darkness and this unfathomable peace without trouble and without anxiety, even when the imagination and the mind remain in some way active outside its doors.
— slightly paraphrased from Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation
We are conditioned to think that our selves and our precious memories, built over a lifetime, are all dependent on this fragile, perishable body. Most crucial is the brain, because that is where we imagine that we live.
But there are multiple biological examples of somatic cognition, discussed as part of this presentation by Michael Levin. One-celled organisms can learn. Organ transplant patients can take on skills and preferences of the donor. Planaria can be cut into pieces, and the pieces with no brain retain memories. Caterpillars liquefy their brains in the chrysalis on the way to becoming a butterfly, and the caterpillar’s memories are retained in the butterfly.
Is memory biochemical? Does it have an extracorporeal existence, taking up temporary residence in a particular body for a particular lifetime?
The rest of this video is about regeneration, and is equally inspiring in a different way.
Mieczysław Karłowicz, born this day in 1876, was a Polish composer who had just begun to make a name for himself before he was killed by an avalance while skiing, age 32. He was an admirer of Tchaikovsky and Wagner, but his music reminds me of no one so much as Richard Strauss.
Bow down in hope, in thanks, all ye who mourn;—
Where’in that peerless arche of radiant hues
Surpassing earthly tints,—the storm subdues!
Of nature’s strife and tears ’tis heaven-born,
To soothe the sad, the sinning and forlorn;
A lovely loving token to infuse;
The hope, the faith, that pow’r divine endures
With latent good the woes by which we’re torn.—
’Tis like a sweet repentance of the skies,
To beckon all by sense of sin opprest,—
Revealing harmony from tears and sighs!
A pledge:—that deep implanted in the breast
A hidden light may burn that never dies,
But bursts thro’ clouds in purest hues exprest!
— Ada Lovelace, born this day in 1815
Mathematician, poet, Lord Byron’s daughter, and inventor of the idea of a computer program. She worked with Charles Babbage, who constructed the first mechanical computer, based on gears and rack-and-pinion action, and designed more sophisticated logic engines, which proved too expensive with the manufacturing techniques available in the first half of the 19th Century.
Roots in loam,
’Neath starlit dome—
Why should I roam?
I swim in foam,
And Kippered Yom,
Read David Bohm
In Google Chrome
A living tome—