Rescuing Philosophy

Philosophy exited my life after I was done with the required readings at school. I had no reason to keep at it. It was taught to me as a duller version of history: this person thought this, that person claimed that. There was no rhyme or reason behind it all. There was no goal in learning it besides getting a better grade and being cultured. The latter was of little interest to a 17-year-old. 

As I went through life, I was as unprepared as anyone else for the trials and tribulations of adulthood – loss, adversity, existential dread, dealing with tyrannical structures, resisting temptation, fear of all the possible futures that end in absolute disaster, etc. 

A friend lost his mother a couple of months back. Most of us are going to go through that. It is an entirely predictable event in most lives. Yet my friend found himself dreadfully unprepared, as are most of us. 

Why are we not taught how to deal with stuff like this in school?

After a lengthy detour into the personal development (or “self-help,” as they dislike being called) industry, I finally came back to philosophy, via Marcus Aurelius and other Stoics. That’s when it dawned on me: there was a place for people to teach us about how to conduct ourselves in the face of life’s challenges. That’s what philosophy class was supposed to be for. 

Someone messed that one up, badly.

That’s part of what I’m trying to do here, with some of these essays. I’m trying to take back philosophy, to rescue it from the classroom and bringing it back to where it belongs: to people’s lives.

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A Bad Plan Is Better Than No Plan At All

When the world comes crashing around us, there’s often not enough time or presence of mind to come up with the even most basic response. If you have a bad plan, you’re off to a head start when compared to the version of you who doesn’t have a plan.

Consider stuff that is bad enough to throw you off-balance, temporarily disabling your capacity to plan how to deal with it on the spot. Some things that usually make people crash:

— Death (of a child, a parent, a spouse).

— Loss of job/bankruptcy (of yourself, your spouse, a parent, or close family member)

— Serious illness or accident resulting in disability of some sort.

It might be grim, but thinking about these things needn’t depress you. Paradoxically, you might feel that having considered them in advance and having decided on a course of action reduces anxiety about them by some measure.

And don’t let the planning consume you. There’s no such thing as a perfect plan. The point is that a bad plan is better than no plan. Unless the dreaded event is something that you see as being increasingly certain, content yourself with formulating a first step, and leave it at that. 

If misfortune does strike, you’ll be able to hit the ground running.

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What Facebook Did

What Facebook did was essentially to make blogging have no entry cost. 

It did away with the expectation that a post had to be a piece of well-drafted prose of a certain length. One-liners are OK in Facebook. 

It did away with the intimidating backend. You write your stuff in the same place where you see it.

It did away with promotion and discovery. Your stuff is beamed to everyone else as soon as you post it (just like you get everyone else’s stuff.)

After that, it was just a matter of reaching critical mass.

The problem is one of ownership and archiving. What you publish on Facebook is mostly lost to the ether. There’s no easy way to keep track of it all or export it. If someone wants to know your thoughts about the book that you read three years ago, it’s there, but not that easy to find. 

If you don’t care for the stuff you write (or paint, or draw, or compose), Facebook is a great platform.

But why should anyone else care about it, if you don’t?

Writer. Podcaster. Marketer. Dental Surgeon. Gamer.