Hobbyist Philosophy on the Significance of
I attended a wonderful Epiphany party this weekend wherein several interesting things happened. One of the least interesting, yet most prevalent, was a friend’s comment, “Never change, Amanda.” Laughing, I momentarily paused then speculated aloud, “That’s all life is, though. If I’m not changing, then I’m not really living.” I’m well aware of this quote’s original source by François de La Rochefoucauld, the seventeenth century French writer of Maximes, which inspired one Friedrich Nietzsche in style and ethics.
I mentioned acknowledging sources the other day. If you can piece together where your ideas come from, those loose threads can weave into a larger idea. For example, I needed help brainstorming how to fill an entire week with more than my musings. Although I think, speak, and write a lot–as in everyday, multiple times a day–I needed help structuring my ideas. I’m still drafting what professional bloggers, digital marketers, and social media coordinators call a content calendar.
It does pretty much what it sounds like. You determine what days, weeks, or months will contain information pertinent to your site, company or brand goals. Then, you tailor your content, whether it be copywriting, product reviews, images, videos or sound to fill out the proposed calendar. My website functions as a personal blog, occasional academic exploration, and a place to track my novel development. My hope is writing about writing will inspire others’ support, as well as production of their work. I’m essentially trying to cultivate creative community online.
My site would not be where it is now if I had decided to never change. Although I’ve mentioned perpetual truths which represent our unique identities, there are those fleeting facts which temporarily ring true. For instance, maybe I’m feeling rather inhibited at one party and people assumed I’m not very outgoing. Maybe the next night, I meet five new people. In this scenario, it’s not that I stopped being outgoing, I was less outgoing than usual. Conversely, meeting five new people in one night is slightly above average unless I’m intentionally connecting with more people.
Various philosophers have and continue to debate the role intent plays in truth. My personal belief is that objective truth stays objective despite our intent. Essentially, we’re all good people with inherent worth (i.e. dignity) which doesn’t disappear if we do something wrong, even evil. There are things we must do to maintain or repair our dignity, but we never become worthless. Remember, I speak of infinite definition of worth, not finite value marked by merit or deed. (For further clarification, please refer to Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics or the Holy Bible.)
Nurturing various aspects of our dignity takes a lifetime. It’s constant work and it never stops unless you stop working at it. There are infinite possibilities to nurture your soul, though the best way is directly via God. The important part is keeping in touch with your humanity and remembering how to do this. Lately for me, it means finding peace and quiet. The only way I can piece together any of what I’m called to achieve is by making space, by intentionally quieting my mind. It’s how I’m winning at the waiting game, wherein I’m mostly competing with myself.
The point is this: Find what you need to work on in 2019. I’ve found that I need to hack away at my procrastinatory nature. I’m setting realistic goals for myself and connecting with others doing the same thing. I’ve found a community that helps me grow and reflect accordingly. Focus on the objective truths of yourself. Remember that today’s feelings fade and don’t ultimately define you. If the pieces of your plan fall apart, you can always put them back together. Get creative with the glue. Make it pretty. Make something new.
This is the pretty, sparkly mess which holds your life together. If you’re a six-year-old, this might be all you need to piece together the parts of your life. As an adult, this probably isn’t the case. In Japanese and Buddhism, the philosophy of kintsugi is all about piecing things together after they’ve fallen apart. Take a cracked piece of pottery and fill said cracks with molten gold. When it cools, you’ll have something like the image above.
Kintsugi doesn’t exclusively apply to pottery. The philosophy derives from a myriad of words. Mono no aware, or “the pathos of things,” reflects on the impermanence of existence. It encompasses the knowledge and acceptance and longing for the brevity of life’s many aspects. Whether it be a broken pottery or the first birth of your first child, these are but fleeting moments in time. Kintsugi embodies this by saving and changing what cannot be as it was once.
Mono no aware is rather similar to the Buddhist teaching of wabi-sabi. Wabi-sabi includes the three marks of existence, impermanence, suffering, and absence of self-nature. These all connect to a detachment from worldly concerns which is necessary for achieving enlightenment. This pieced together word comes with further layers which tie it more closely to kintsugi. Wabi connotes understated elegance, often including the unique aspects or “flaws” of handmade work. Sabi reflects the natural wearing and tearing of time on things, such as gold-mended pottery or an elderly human’s wrinkles.
The understanding and reverence of life’s impermanence is not strictly Eastern. Kintsugi, mono no aware, and wabi–sabi are all connect to Western elements found in classical literature. Take the Latin phrase memento mori which means, “Remember that you must die.” Better still the phrase lacrimae rerum taken from Virgil’s Aeneid. It translates to “tears of things,” but even this varies with context. See the different interpretations below:
- A translation by Robert Fagles renders the quote as: “The world is a world of tears, and the burdens of mortality touch the heart.”
- Robert Fitzgerald, meanwhile, translates it as: “They weep here / For how the world goes, and our life that passes \ Touches their hearts.”
- Kenneth Clark translates this line as “These men know the pathos of life, and mortal things touch their hearts.”
- The poet Seamus Heaney rendered the first three words, “There are tears at the heart of things.”