The importance of slowing down

Our world, the one of the XXIth century, is a fast one and everything moves relentlessly in it: the key world is “speed” and the motto is “never stop”. New York is the city that never sleeps and lots of different metropolis and places follow this pattern: there is a never-ending movement of things, information, trades and people. The single person, with his or her peculiarity and characteristics, disappeared and it is impossible to distinguish a person on the street. The true protagonist of the modern society is the crowd, an indipendent entity, a vortex in which a single existence gets lost and vanishes.

In The condition of the working class in England Engels says that he is frightened of the high number of people in London, and writes:

“The restless and noisy activity of the crowded streets is highly distasteful, and it is surely abhorrent to human nature itself. Hundreds of thousands of men and women drawn from all the classes and ranks of society pack the streets of London. They rush past each other as if they had nothing in common. This narrow-minded egoism, is everywhere the fundamental principle of modern society. But nowhere is this selfish egoism so blatantly evident as in the frantic bustle of the great city”.

This quote from a 1844 work is true now more than ever, because the post-modern individuals do nothing more than run, rush, accomplish the million goals they had planned in their busy day. But, where do they all go? Where do we all go?

We can answer this question if we truly understand that the nature of our society has completely changed the human nature. The advanced industrial society requires incessant rhytms of the production of commodities, it demands a higher productivity in the shortest possible time. It also has its roots in efficiency, in technical skills and in getting rid of waste. Therefore, our life must be like this, must look like the production of commodities if we want to have a chance to survive in a world like this.

We are doomed, obliged to be productive and efficient, we have to eliminate all of that activities that slow us down and that are sources of waste of money and time. Our schedule must be always full and, at the end of the day, we should be happy of having completed so many tasks. All the distractions must be avoided, we have to rush because the world keeps going and it is always one step ahead of us. We are victims of a kind of stress an anxiety that is produced by the very system that we once created.

Having stated so, having said that we are deprived of our true nature, it becomes clear that to reappropriate of our humanity is an act of courage. It is necessary to learn to slow down. It doesn’t mean to take a day off or to go on a vacation. Slowing down means take our life to a sustainable pace, a pace stressed by true activities that make us happy; a completely different pace from the one of the industrial production.

Try to find the time to read a good book and have a cup of tea, walking in the nature, creating something by hand, having some quality time with our loved ones, reflecting: this is the real meaning of slowing down. Reappropriate of our humanity and trying to incorporate a trascendental dimension in our everyday life. It also include the discovery of loneliness. During a lecture in Paris, Herbert Marcuse said:

“Loneliness, the condition that gave strength to transcendent ideas and emotions, doesn’t exist anymore”.

It is almost impossible to stay alone: we are always surrounded by other people, or bombed by mass media (tv, news, internet, social network). We are connected on a global scale and, therefore, never alone.

Loneliness doesn’t imply escaping from everything and everyone, or giving up on the company of others, it means that we have to find a moment to listen to our own thoughts, in order to rediscover and appreciate ourselves and others.

 

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Being human: the inner circle

Last night I discovered a funny game on Google, while I was laying in my bed doing nothing: it’s called The Higher Lower Game. It is extremely simple though, because you have just to choose which word it’s more googled between the two pics the server randomly presents to you. Some results, however, really shocked me. I found out that “Starbucks” had 6,120,000 monthly views in 2015, “Ikea” had 30,400,000 and “Ryanair”, the Irish low-cost airline, had 20,400,000 monthly views! While I was having a blast and trying to get some sleep, I noticed that other interesting words, such as “deforestation”, “Green Peace” and “Hunger”, were not performing so well. Only 246,000 monthly research for hunger, 135,000 for deforestation and 33,100 for Green Peace. Since basically anything makes me think, I asked myself: why? Hunger, famine, global warming and so on are important issues and we don’t even google them? I know, I know: it’s just a silly online game and there is nothing to worry about. Maybe, but since we are the ones behind our screens, these outcomes tell us what captures our attention and what we read and watch on a daily basis.

So, yesterday I went from The Higher Lower game to the concept of humanity (yes, this is insane). What is the real meaning of the word “human”? Why are we human beings and what is like to be a part of this?

In one of my previous posts, I claimed that currently morality is an expanding circle which incorporates humans, animals, plants and even our entire planet. Humanity is placed in the inner part of this circle for a reason: we are the ones that can make a difference due to the fact that we are able to think and nature provided our species with a precious feature: reason. This doesn’t mean that our specie is superior and that we have the right to spoil the planet’s resources. I am just implying that the complex reasoning ability that we have, makes us different from the other animals and that it is possible to use these skills to do good.

It is necessary to save the planet, stop the pollution and protect all the other creatures, but this is not the first step. Firstly, we have to understant what makes us humans and what the concept implies.

Am I human because of the colour of my skin? That’s impossible, if I said this I would be racist. What about my gender? Am I human because I am a woman? No way, my father and my brother are men and I am pretty sure they are humans too, therefore it’s not like this, plus I am non sexist. I am also convinced that I belong to the group labelled “human beings” not because I am a small brunette who was born in Italy  in the 90s, who wears glasses and whose favourite colour is purple. What I’m trying to explain is that we are not defined by those differences and there must be something that is intrinsic and that defines the human nature.

Forget the accidents, everything that it’s not primary and that is ephemeral (Aristotle would say “what exists in and is said of another): it is necessary to look for the substance, the real essence of what we are examining. Therefore, to me, a human is a living being whose specific characteristic is the complex ability of reasoning, which is more powerful than the reason of the other animals (non-human animals), because it is linked to an articulate language.

As far as I am concerned, there is nothing more important than the reason and the language that could describe us as humans; there is nothing less specific and more general than this that can define the concept of human. Humanity is the general term used to indicate the entire specie, or the human condition or our nature.

To conclude, it’s worth saying that the most remarkable point of this statement is that a definition like this, if accepted and really embraced by everyone, could eliminate discrimination, violence and hate; no more sexism or racism.

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Places

There are some places that change you because, deep down, you always end up where you are supposed to be. Life is an amazing journey and it gives us the opportunity to explore so many places, no matter what our means are: we should be grateful for that. I want to share some photos of the most stunning places I’ve ever seen. These now have a special place in my heart; I find them interesting ‘cause they have that “something” that makes me think all the time. When a particular spot is quiet, isolated, maybe pure and overwhelmingly stunning, I feel a strange joy that spreads in my heart and this feature let my imagination run wild. This is what I call the “philosophical aura” of a place. I know you got this: everybody has at least one special place like this where to go from time to time. So here’s my list!

1 → Cliffs of Moher  (County Clare, Ireland)                    11800304_10206483437437511_8351537716385757708_n   

This is by far the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen or been in my entire life. The sound made by the waves that crush upon the rocks, the seagulls, the blowing wind make this landscape absolutely amazing! I thought a lot when I was out there, about everything! Really a place for philosophers I guarantee.

2 → Acropolis (Athens)

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 Well …I do not have words, Athens is the cradle of civilization, the motherland of the Western philosophy. When I was up there, I glanced the modern Athens beneath the hill and the discrepance between past and present really upset me. A place worth visiting!

3 → Stonehenge (Wiltshire, England)

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Like the Acropolis, the gigantic stones of this site made me think about the past. Another fact worth noticing is that, when you walk near circle time almost stops and you don’t realize its passing. I felt this weird feeling and it is one of the reasons why Stonehenge is still in my heart.

4 → Capo Colonna (Calabria, Italy)

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Capo Colonna is a cape located in Calabria, near the city of Crotone. Here a Greek doric temple was located and now this is what remains: a solitary column that reminds us the former glory of a Greek colony in Calabria. Crotone is my home town and, every time I come back home I never miss the chance to visit this cape. This is a safe heven for me and there is nothing that this place can’t fix.

That’s it! Living in Italy the fourth place is easily attainable to me but if I have the chance I will absolutely come back to Greece, England or Ireland.

What about you? Let me know your favourite places in the world with a comment.

Books that inspire me

I have just decided to create a new category in my blog and it’s called “Inspirations”. I am going to collect everything I have found or I find interesting in this section, so, basically, what inspires me on a daily basis. Here is a list of books that somehow have changed my life. I will publish other posts about books so I can add everything comes to my mind or all that is new about this topic. Enjoy!

Peter Singer → Animal Liberation

Voltaire → Candide

Nietzsche → Human, All too human

Richard Dawkins -> The God Delusion

Franz Kafka → Stories

Oscar Wilde → De Profundis

Virginia Woolf → The Lighthouse

John Milton→ Paradise Lost

 

So that’s it for today! My top 8 favourite books I guess! There are so many I am looking forward to add in the following posts. Don’t forget to click the like button if you enjoyed it, thanks for reading from me and subscribe to my blog!

Love,

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The expanding circle

Philosophy, as I often say, has to “become real” to be effective into our daily life and reality and in order to produce positive consequences. Reflection and thought exist, no doubt about it, but when their existence is locked and confined in our mind, they do not have a role in the external world.  The act is where philosophy and reality meet: it is the exact moment in which they merge. Reflection produces consequences in the real world through the act; the action is what actualize the philosophical thought, if I may say so. From that point of view, moral philosophy, especially practical ethics and bioethics, have become more important than other disciplines such as epistemology, metaphysics and theoretic. The latest are not useless, of course, but I tend to think that they have to become instruments for practical ethics to use and they have to provide it with the proper principles to produce real and productive reasoning.

In my following posts, I will try to define some practical issues and explain that philosophy could really deal with them and fix them. Firstly, we have to answer this question: Who are the subjects of the moral action?

Philosophers have been convinced for a long time that the moral agents and the subjects of a moral action are just human beings. Things are now different and the moral sphere is evolving along with them: it could be described as an expanding circle. At first it included humans only (the Homo sapiens specie), but now it is wider and it incorporates also animals, plants and even natural environments. The scheme goes like this:

Morality: Humans -> animals -> plants -> environments and habitats -> the entire planet earth.

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Unbelievable but true: our actions have consequences and not only the members of our species are involved, but also the entire planet with all its animal and plant species. According to that, attention is required and we have to think in a new perspective, because every single act is the beginning of a causal chain (of moral actions) that includes so many beings and areas.

[Morality as an expanding circle is a theory developed by Peter Singer. Other philosophers, such as the Italian Paola Cavalieri, agree with it]

The Ivory Tower

The greek comedian Aristophanes wrote, in the V century b.c., a comedy play called The Clouds, in which he criticize and parody the philosophical attitude towards life. Aristophanes or, to be precise, the characters of the play, see Socrates while he’s floating in a basket in order to make up his mind and think properly. This is a strong attack against thinkers and philosophy in general, it becomes clear when the comedian suggest the readers that philosophers deal with useless issues and build their dialectic in order to persuade others.

I don’t want to explain that play in this article, but I tend to think that this is a great example to prove this point: philosophers are seen as lunatics, strange people who use their abstract reasoning to reflect about metaphysics and other stuff too far away from reality. We can find tons of examples like the one I depicted before.

Plato, in his Theaetetus, tells the story of a Thracian slave, who saw Thales of Miletus falling into a well. She couldn’t help laughing so hard at him and she said that he fell because he was too busy studying the sky, of course he couldn’t watch his step!

What does this mean? The metaphor often used to describe philosopher is the one of the “Ivory Tower”, according to which thinkers are locked up  in their fortress of solitude and no one else is allowed to enter or understand.

I am convinced that a change of perspective is more than necessary. But How can philosophy possibly affect our society? What can we do to make this happen? This article is the beginning of a reflection about us as human beings, the way in which we act and how it produces consequences in the world we live in.

 

I hope you enjoyed it!

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