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While I was studying journalism a few years ago, I heard the
name Terence McKenna a few times. It was only recently that I
started listening to any of his many lectures (which can be readily
While I was studying journalism a few years ago, I heard the name Terence McKenna a few times. It was only recently that I started listening to any of his many lectures (which can be readily found on YouTube) and keeping an eye out for his written works.
At present, I dont have any of McKennas books or essays, but I do often put one of his lectures on in the background while relaxing in bed. In my previous post, I mentioned McKenna as a metaphysical philosopher, and decided that it was time to write a little on what Ive taken from his teachings as they relate to human nature.
Human nature is a highly complex subject, and I could easily compile another McKenna book if I were to explore every facet of his philosophy regarding the topic. But one excerpt from a lecture, singled out here [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVAsFXMmr8w], struck me as particularly suitable.
Everything has to do with changing and engineering the human mind, McKenna says, referring to the manner in which we as a species have taken on every issue as a human problem - including global warming. And rightfully so, in many cases, as there are actions and activities that are unique to humans that have a direct impact on so much of what has happened and is happening to the planet.
While the lecture is formatted as a promotion for naturally occurring mind-altering substances, and heavily anti-politics, the fundamental lessons ring true whether you agree or disagree on those points. Ultimately, McKenna is merely pointing out that certain societal norms and structures form a barrier against a change of the human mind, because they go against the understanding that you as an individual have the power to make a positive change in the state of the world. These mind-altering substances are, in McKennas experience, a way to help the individual escape from the belief that the current situation is the best possible outcome, but that is not to say that personal faith and life choices are any less effective.
In the same way that deciding to eat organic foods and recycle can have a positive effect on the physical state of the world, making the choice to spread love and compassion can and will have a positive effect on the emotional and psychological state of the world. As I mentioned in my first post, the seemingly small and insignificant things mean the world to those who receive such gestures. Your smile, your acknowledgment of a strangers existence, can even be the difference between life and death for someone.
Changing the way you think and opening yourself to being a force of positive energy in the midst of a very broken society and your own, personal struggles is difficult. Its a challenge to who you are as a person. But the end results, even though we might not realise were witnessing them, really are incredibly powerful.
The effect you have on others is the most valuable currency there is. Choose to spend it wisely, and youll find that your efforts are repaid many times over.
Youve probably realised by now that I do a lot of philosophical
reading - or at least try to!
As is the case with Honore de Balzac and Friedrich Nietzsche, I
first discovered Immanuel Kant wh...
Youve probably realised by now that I do a lot of philosophical reading - or at least try to!
As is the case with Honore de Balzac and Friedrich Nietzsche, I first discovered Immanuel Kant when reading biographies on Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors.
In the same independent bookstore as I had chanced upon The Atheists Mass and Aphorisms on Love and Hate, I found Kants Critique of Pure Reason. Needless to say, it was not a pocket-sized tome, and cost me a great deal more to purchase. But, as I had been on the lookout for a copy (and it was the only one they had available too!), I coughed up my food budget for the week and survived off of leftovers.
Its very heavy reading, more so than the other two philosophical works Ive reviewed so far. But its also incredibly insightful, and has helped me develop a more positive approach to life.
In the first part of the book, Kant sets about explaining his theory that the way we experience life is formed on two of three major stimulants: the senses and logic. Its an interesting concept to say the least, and Kant both accepts and promotes the idea that we know the world as we see it, not as it truly is. What this implies, on a very basic level, is that we create our own reality (no matter how similar or different to the reality of another person or the collective human race) based on what we experience and how we choose to respond.
Kant then continues to state that the metaphysical or spiritual realm - an important factor in most religious beliefs, including his own Christian faith - can be neither conclusively proven nor disproved: we cannot even acquire probable evidence for or against [it]. This thought goes against the philosophical view known as fideism (that religious belief is justified by faith and does not require intellectual evidence), and has since come to be challenged by quantum physics and the metaphysical teachings of more modern philosophical thinkers such as Terrence McKenna. (Ill expand on quantum physics and some of McKennas teachings in separate posts, as they both deserve their own platform.)
Kants interest was essentially in marrying morality and religion with science. Human nature plays a huge part in this - because we experience our own reality, how we choose to understand, accept, and act on morality, religion, and science shapes how we interact with those around us.
Although it can be (and is) incredibly difficult at times to act with compassion, understanding, and sincere gratitude, it truly is up to us to decide how we interact with the world around us. Kant argues that, because we humans are unique in terms of reason and free will, it is our duty to act out of love and kindness rather than purely selfish desires.
Of course, this brings up the question of whether it is acceptable to stand up for yourself when being taken advantage of. Its a question Kant seems to have over-looked, but if we consider the fact that you cannot pour from an empty cup, Kants philosophy indirectly tells us that in shaping our own reality, we have to defend ourselves - all the better to extend our compassion to others.
Similar to my experience in finding a copy of Balzacs The
Atheists Mass, finding a pocket-sized copy of Friedrich Nietzsches
Aphorisms on Love and Hate was a welcome surprise - and an easy
Similar to my experience in finding a copy of Balzacs The Atheists Mass, finding a pocket-sized copy of Friedrich Nietzsches Aphorisms on Love and Hate was a welcome surprise - and an easy purchase.
Although typically morose and nihilistic as a philosopher, Nietzsche also offers some warm words, and has a knack for balancing his views. After all, nothing in this world is black or white: theres always the gray in between. As my lecturer was fond of saying, the dragon has three heads.
We must learn to love, learn to be kind, and this from the earliest youth Nietzsche exclaims. He goes on to talk of an economy of kindness, suggesting that its a Utopian dream to believe that kindness and love should be offered sparingly because they are so precious and invaluable.
But how does one express love and kindness? Through goodwill, of course.
Nietzsche describes goodwill as one of the many small things that cost nothing more than pride, but mean so much to those who receive it. A friendly smile, a kind look, a warm handshake or pat on the back - small, seemingly insignificant gestures that we make every day, often without a second thought. Such things are a continuous expression of human nature, and allows light and life to grow despite the dark and troubling circumstances of our lives.
I used to be a barman, and now work as a web hosting support agent. Both professions require a social, friendly attitude that was difficult for me to extend at first, because Im naturally introverted. But thanks to the small gestures of kindness and love that I received from coworkers and customers alike, I was able to blossom into one of the friendliest and most sought-after barmen in my area.
Even now, despite having very limited knowledge and experience as a web hosting agent, many customers will ask for me by name, because they know Ill go out of my way to help them and make them feel at ease. While it was easy to give my bar patrons a friendly smile and a warm embrace, dealing with clients online means choosing your words carefully and always being ready to meet them on their level. After all, tone can be so very easily misunderstood in text!
But all these little gestures - which really take a surprisingly small amount of effort - really do add up in the long run. As Nietzsche describes it, its cumulative force is among the strongest of forces.
Extending warmth and kindness to the people who cross your path takes a little practice and self-confidence, but once youve formed the habit its difficult not to give someone a friendly smile as you walk past them in the street. And the more often you do, the more you start to see that same goodwill returned - even by complete strangers!
Soon, you begin to realise that there is more happiness in the world than meets the eye.
A few years ago, I stumbled across a thin, pocket-sized
paperback called The Atheists Mass by Honor de Balzac. Intrigued by
the title, and having been on the look-out for any of the renowned
A few years ago, I stumbled across a thin, pocket-sized paperback called The Atheists Mass by Honor de Balzac. Intrigued by the title, and having been on the look-out for any of the renowned French writers work, I was compelled to buy it - and pleasantly surprised by the touching story.
The tale touches on the many absurdities of a Parisian surgeon described as the illustrious Desplein, who flashed across science like a meteor, and is written as if told to the author by Despleins star student and friend, Horace Bianchon. At heart, the essay illuminates the very absurdities that make us all human, and acts as a gentle yet timeless reminder that compassion and gratitude cost nothing more than our pride, but is worth the world for those who receive it.
We are all heroes of the moment, but we will be remembered, as much for our words as for our actions, by our friends, our families, and other loved ones. What will act as our lasting legacy is the mark we leave on those who survive us.
All humans, no matter our social class, culture, or religion, have eccentricities that can seem contradictory to those who do not know and love us. The gentle and kind can have a great temper at times, just as anyone who is characterised by their great temper have a gentle nature too. This is known, in some circles, as the duality of man - the double-edged sword of human nature.
Desplein is characterised as a staunch atheist, as many Western scientists are even today, and it surprises his friend when he is seen entering one of the many Parisian churches. Out of respect, nothing is mentioned, but exactly a year later Bianchon catches Desplein entering the chapel once more. Curiosity getting the better of him, Bianchon speaks to the sacristan in charge of the church and discovers that his friend has not only been attending the mass four times a year, but actually funds it!
It takes another seven years before Bianchon finds a suitable opportunity to discuss the matter with Desplein after silently attending the service with his friend.
Desplein then reveals his history as an incredibly poor student who was eventually evicted from his meager lodgings along with his neighbour, an equally impoverished water carrier named Bourgeat. Together, the two find new accommodation, and Bourgeat becomes the young mans benefactor - in much the same way that Desplein takes Bianchon under his wing many years later. Bourgeat makes many sacrifices to help the aspiring doctor achieve his dreams, and never once asks for anything in return.
As his own means of showing gratitude, upon Bourgeats eventual death the now highly successful Desplein fulfills his benefactors dying wish as a staunch Catholic for a mass, and not only funds the service but devotedly attends it to offer a prayer for his friend.