Desired Things

Desiderata by Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

Amen to that.

Scorched Earth as Football Tactic.

If there’s two things I love its the Guardian Live Football Blog, and over-the-top historical football metaphors, and tonight’s Barcelona demolition of Bayer Leverkusen was a great example of both:

“In fairness Mourinho hasn’t really managed to beat this Barca team,” says Alex Hanton. “He’s just found a way of winning anyway. He’s like the Roman general who worked out he couldn’t beat Hannibal so just decided to burn everything within a 50-mile radius instead.”

Barcelona 7 – 1 Bayer Leverkusen (Guardian Live Blog)

The Age of Anxiety?

So, yesterday, I posted a picture of Alan Watts’ “The Wisdom of Insecurity” – which carries the tagline “A Message of an Age of Anxiety”. My friend Ciaran made a comment about it, that I have myself thought about before.

But how long is an ‘age’ exactly? I’d imagine anxiety has always existed (and always will) in every ‘age’ and is not just specific to the ‘age’ in which Watts wrote this. Surely the stone age was also an age of anxiety as was the ‘space age’ as is the current information/technological age… and so on. It makes it seem like it is just a passing phase.

Well, the first thing I would note is that the tag line says it is ‘A Message for AN Age of Anxiety’. Which, it is. But Ciaran does raise a larger issue, one which immediately recalled a New York Times article I read some time ago, which alerted me to the fact I was previously unaware of, that “Age of Anxiety” is a term that predates Watts’ book.

The title comes from W.H. Auden’s 1948 poem “The Age of Anxiety”. The Times notes that the poem is not particularly well known – but the title is.

From the moment it appeared, the phrase has been used to characterize the consciousness of our era, the awareness of everything perilous about the modern world: the degradation of the environment, nuclear energy, religious fundamentalism, threats to privacy and the family, drugs, pornography, violence, terrorism. Since 1990, it has appeared in the title or subtitle of at least two dozen books on subjects ranging from science to politics to parenting to sex (“Mindblowing Sex in the Real World: Hot Tips for Doing It in the Age of Anxiety”). As a sticker on the bumper of the Western world, “the age of anxiety” has been ubiquitous for more than six decades now.

The Times article then asks – is it accurate? Do we live in THE Age of Anxiety? Maybe Watts was being particular (as was his way) in using the word “An”, acknowledging that it is probably wrong to describe this as THE age of Anxiety. Surely anxiety is something that has afflicted all times?

The other issue it raises is what do we mean by anxiety. For many, including the author of the Times piece, as well as friends who have heard me mention the title, anxiety is a very real thing, not just a throw away word to represent ‘worry’. Taken as a real disorder, anxiety is the most common psychiatric complaint in America.

But just because we have statistical evidence of the diagnosis, doesn’t mean that we are any more anxious than any previous generation. As the author, Daniel Smith, notes, previous eras were certainly more tumultuous than our own. I sometimes think of when people talk about how crazy and out of control modern times are, and I can’t help think that compared to the history of man kind, we must have it relatively easy? Smith claims that the difference is self-awareness. We are aware of our anxiety, and this in turn makes us even more anxious. Indeed, he points to evidence that there certainly was anxiety in previous eras – the difference is that we talk about our anxiety.

So, I think Watts got it right – we are living in AN Age of Anxiety, not THE Age. All ages are, an age of anxiety.

Incidentally, Watts book was written in 1958 – and in his introduction he describes a world about to collapse in on itself financially, culturally and socially. And when you read it today, he could have been talking about the last few years.

And his ‘message’? As relevant and important as ever. Go read it and find out.

Whirlpools

In reality there are no separate events. Life moves along like water, it’s all connected as the source of the river is connected to the mouth and the ocean. All the events or things going on are like whirlpools in a stream. Today you see a whirlpool and tomorrow you see a whirlpool in the same place, but it isn’t the same whirlpool because the water is changing every second.

When we speak about freedom from karma, freedom from being the puppet of the past, that simply involves a change in our thinking. It involves getting rid of the habit of thought whereby we define ourselves as the result of what has gone before.

We instead get into the more plausible, more reasonable habit of thought in which we don’t define ourselves in terms what we’ve done before but in terms of what we’re doing now. And that is liberation from the ridiculous situation of being a dog wagged by its tail.

Alan Watts “Time” from The Essential Alan Watts.

This is year zero.