Life Studies Blog (Old)

July 18, 2004

Summer Vacation

Summer vacation is just around the corner. I have been absorbed in the management of our department these couple of months, so I want to set aside this vacation for the completion of my next book on sexuality. It is unbelievably hot here this summer. The translation of my previous paper, "The Structure of the Inner Life of a Philosopher - The Multi-Layered Aspects of Speech," is finished, and will be uploaded to Essays&Papers page soon.

Photo: Inside of Sendai Airport

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  • Philosophy of Life

    how wondrous, how mysterious
    I carry fuel, I draw water.”
    Ho Koji

    “What is Tao? When you are hungry you eat, when you are thirsty you drink, when you meet a friend, you greet him.”

    “When you bring me a cup of tea in the morning, I take it; when you serve me a meal, I accept it; when you bow to me, I return it with a nod. How else do you expect to be taught in the discipline of Zen?”
    Tenno Dogo (748-807)

    I doubt if similar phrases can be found in the mainstream Judaic, Christian or Islamic spiritual traditions, as well as the philosopy developed by the people inheriting these traditions. According to the world-view affected by these spiritual traditions, the everyday life, or the “worldly” things are far from being valuable. “Profane” means both worldly and impure, vulgar. How can one say, everyday things like eating, drinking and greeting our friends can be taken as a discipline? Are not these the bodily aspects of life, which are vile, filthy, ignoble? How can we find something mysterious- something worthwhile to think deeply upon- in everyday life? The concepts, “real” “valuable” has nothing to do with this life of the “inferior mortals”. They are somewhere out of this world, far from this life going on out there.
    The roots of this world view can be found in the “world of ideas” of Plato, who was influenced by the thoughts of the Brahman priests of India. The Brahman priests and Plato spoke in the same tune: Everything surrounding us in this life are only worthless shadows of some “ideas”, existing elsewhere, out of this universe. Platon told about “eidos”, while the Brahmans preached about “maya”. The common point of both Plato and the Brahmans was the regarding of life with disdain.
    Many Western philosophers inherited this spiritual tradition. Even if they were atheists, and did not believe in the “otherworldly” nonsense, they still disdained life and ordinary mortal human beings. For some of them, the new “world of ideas” took its place in the realm of the “future” as if “future” is .existent somewhere other than their minds, that are indulged in abstraction and conceptualization not as means but ends.
    Conceptualization for the sake of conceptaulization, abstraction for the sake of abstraction, in one word, “cogitation” in French, (which is used derisively in the meaning of philosophising) reflect the brahmanic/platonic tradition of otherworldliness .This tradition of human thought is characterised by their elusion from life. The minds of the thinkers of this tradition is really full of creative sparks, but this does not save their philosopy turning into something like a snake eating its own tail.
    But philosophy of life, not the philosophy about the concepts derived from life but the existence of living beings is something unusual. Life in this meaning has never been the realm of philosophers (not even the existentialists) or scientists, but the artists, poets and writers. If you try to deal with life by using concepts and abstractions, it is very easy to stumble and fall. Because concepts are non-living beings that can easily take the place of living, actual beings in your mind. They become matters of concern by themselves. As a result you miss what you try to deal with.
    Artists, writers and poets do not speak with concepts but they show or demonstrate what they mean. Their methods are superior to the otherworldly tradition and maybe this is why they are often condemned by the followers of this tradition. They are much more talented for philosopy of life than the philosophers, but the more talented ones are those who take living as an art. (Some of them are the sage/artists from whose words I made some extracts in the beginning of this writing.) These are rare people and their biographies may give us some idea about their philosophy of life. Their sayings show us that words are not ends in themselves but only tools for communing with others to convey their experiences.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:28 AM, August 09, 2004  

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