Man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself. That is the first principle of existentialism
Are we "condemned" to be free, as Sartre would seem at first glance to have it, or is such freedom more, as he would perhaps really contend, an opportunity staring us in the face if only we'd pay attention?
"So come, my friends, be not afraid.
We are so lightly here.
It is in love that we are made;
In love we disappear."
Happy posthumous birthday, Lenny.
You tried, in your way, to be free. Thank you. Now go join that great gig in the sky. So I wrote a year ago, when Lenny left us. However, the legend lives on - listen for example to How the Light Gets In.
'We Love Leonard Cohen' celebrated his 81st Birthday, and then, for his 82nd and final birthday, Leonard gave us a present. "You Want It Darker" is the title track to last album, his 14th studio album in his 49-year recording career. (See also Leonard Cohen Makes it Darker.)
"Leonard Cohen offers the possibility of living with grace, dignity, and integrity, without submitting to illusions, without succumbing to indifference, and without indulging in denial of our own failures and flaws, in a world that is too often corrupt and malevolent" - Allan Showalter
In the 1840s Henry David Thoreau swapped his busy schedule in Concord, Massachusetts, for a wooden hut he built himself near Walden Pond. We had the privilege to visit Walden, five years ago, in July 2012; it exceeded expectations in its tranquility and beauty - and the swim in the pond itself was unforgettable.
A.S. Byatt tells us that "for the Victorians, everything was part of one thing - science, religion, philosophy, economics, politics, women, poetry. They didn't compartmentalise - they thought big." - quote in New Statesman, 27/04/09
This is the Halcyon philosophy too, as much of what's most interesting and important in life appears to come from the interconnectedness of ideas, from the alchemy of putting together - in the words of Theodore Zeldin - two ideas that have never met.
"He who cannot draw on three thousand years is living from hand to mouth", so said Goethe, as quoted in Jostein Gaarder's philosophy primer-cum-mystery novel Sophie's World.
- That a 45 year old student of his who'd lost his job was afforded little dignity, because "to be a sacrifice, you have to some intrinsic value, otherwise there is no sacrifice involved, just a shifting, a removal, a replacement". In the world of..."downsizing" and "human resources" and "outplacement"...values are banished".
The nineteenth century British economist Alfred Marshall said: "The economist, like everyone else, must concern himself with the ultimate aims of man." The ultimate aims. He must concern himself, in other words, with values.
Alan Watts proposed that "the most real state is the state of nothing," Our current reality, argued ideapod, is just a small piece in the reality of what it means to exist, to be nothing. While many consider this current state of existence, of life, as the crux of reality, perhaps our real state occurs before and after our lives in the abyss of "nothingness".
In the last months of his life, a physically weakened Christopher Hitchens travelled to the Texas Freethought Convention and while there, an eight-year-old girl asked Hitchens what books she should consider reading. Intrigued, Hitchens spent 15 minutes chatting with the youngster and sketching out a reading list (below). His last words to her? "Lots of love...remember the love bit..."