With all of the traditional media as well as all of the social media platforms, I find myself often wondering what is really going on? Part of the reason is because I live in a bubble so-to-speak. I am a white male born in this beautiful state and now on this amazing Monterey Peninsula.
I wonder sometimes why life has been this way for me. I don’t really know. But I feel lucky. My life is good. Do I just enjoy this or do I have a responsibility to help end all of the suffering in the world? What about you?
People talk about the future in often bleak terms when dealing with such issues as climate change, drug addiction, etc. While I don’t see much of this around me, I can see that literally billions of people are already living in a chaotic hell.
Friedrich Nietzsche wrote: “Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed.”
This quote means a lot to me because I, as a philosopher, want to understand. But to come to some sort of truth or understanding, I need to be willing to have my illusions destroyed. This is a painful experience and it is an ongoing process.
I love to listen to music and have the good fortune to be able to afford going to concerts. This is happening while many of my students are working two or three jobs just to barely manage. I was at a concert near Santa Cruz. It was a beautiful day and I was happy. And then the thought creeps in that most people can’t live the way I do.
I don’t want to think about that because it might ruin the overall experience. In other words, I have my illusions destroyed that all is well.
My effort is to find the balance between letting all of the suffering in, which overwhelms me, or living in an illusion where everything is OK. I see I prefer my illusions even though I promote living “an examined life.”
My experience has been that studying and teaching philosophy for so many years has made me take a good, long look at myself and my values. What are my responsibilities? What are yours?
I come back to the need to be of service. A former professor of mine (Andrew Harvey) and now a friend as well, wrote a book on “sacred activism.” He teaches that compassion is not simply a feeling, but it is an action as well. His advice is to not take everything on and become paralyzed. But it is to pick something that I can do (not everything) to bring more love and wisdom into a world full of confusion and violence.
My focus may change at some point, but for many years now my energy has been focused on teaching critical thinking skills, helping people to be willing to have their illusions shattered when they ask the important questions and actually think for themselves. Because if we don’t do that, then the media will do our thinking for us and we will live in an illusion.
Ultimately, however, I want to live in truth. I hope you do too.