For a lot of people, ‘Philosophy’ is a dirty word; conjuring feelings of boredom, images of dry dusty books, and memories of long forgotten classrooms. It is a term that a lot of people file in the: ‘not useful’ and/or ‘not interesting’ section of their minds.
This is potentially, one of the gravest, and most dangerous of errors…
Why on earth would I say this? And how could knowing anything about philosophy improve, not only your life, but also your experience of it?
These are some Good Questions. To answer them, let me talk to you about…
Some people believe that they do not have a personal philosophy, but this is simply a matter of terminology. Put simply, philosophy is: an internal framework of ideas about what is true. This includes: beliefs, values, and thoughts. It is one of the 2 main things that determine:
- what you do, and
- why your life is the way it is.
(The other being: your state of consciousness in the moment.)
This framework acts as a filter, thru which: every decision, every action and every behaviour passes. In this way, in a very real sense, the shape of your life is really determined by the shape of your personal philosophy. Imagine life is like icing on a cake, and the shape of your philosophy is the nozzle thru which it passes. Change the shape of the nozzle, and you change the icing on the cake.
Where do the ideas that make up this framework come from? All over the place. Things we read, things we hear, things we think, things we see. Something someone we respect tells us as a child. They can literally come from anywhere. Our own personal philosophies are a hodge-podge pile of best-fit ideas that seem to be true to us, culled from any and every source available.
And why do they stick? Well, it’s part of the way we are built. We crave certainty and we are always looking for mental shortcuts, (which is all an idea is, really). If something is true for us, then we don’t need to continually think it thru every time we find ourselves in a relevant situation. We can just ‘act as if’ and forego the thinking process.
Is this a bad thing? Well, not necessarily. In fact, it can be pretty useful. It only becomes problematic if: we begin to believe that our ideas are objectively rather than subjectively true. If we stop questioning them and allow them to crystallize into rigid internal dogma. This is dangerous territory. Because if we believe something is objectively true for all time, then it opens the door to some really wacky choices, decisions and behaviours. If history shows us anything, it shows us that: human beings are willing to do some crazy shit, even to the point of harming other human beings, in order to defend an idea that they have decided is objectively true, in order to protect a fragile sense of internal integrity.
So, why is any of this Important?
Well, the double understanding that: a) each of us has a personal philosophy, which: b) is a framework of ideas that we believe, rather than know to be true, creates some fairly major wiggle room for growth and evolution. This is a good place to be. Philosophy should be ever-evolving and fluid, like life itself.
Some ideas are obviously more useful than others. Interestingly, I have found in my own life that: the ideas that make me happiest, improve the quality of my life the most, and improve the well-being of those around me to the greatest degree, are often the truest ideas…
This is something which, I believe, warrants deep consideration.
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