Part of what makes us functional human beings in healthy relationships is being mentally healthy ourselves. For me, and many others, that includes meditation as a way to get in touch with my inner being. My essence. My core.
My on-line dictionary defines meditation as:
a written or spoken discourse expressing considered thoughts on a subject
I admit to a flaw that some meditationists (Is that a real word?) might call me on. I’ve never gotten to the point where I can still my mind enough, to make it blank, so that I reach deep for self-awareness. I cannot sit and think of nothing.
I know. I know. It takes practice to still the mind and just “be.” Call me impatient. Call me a meditation dilettante. But I am not willing to put in the work. Sorry, purists. But as Frank said, I’ll do it my way.
For me, morning reading meditations work best. I read, reflect, and apply to my life and what’s happening around me. Much as people who read the Bible daily do.
But my readings are varied and from several sources. I sometimes open up a book and read from what appears. Other times I go through a book in order. Some days I read the table of contents and pick the topic that appeals. It depends upon my mood.
The people I read are smart folk. Pithy points fall from their pens to the page. I just love coming across quotable, relevant ideas. I often read some of them to DH. That leads to conversation which typically deepens my understanding.
My newest source is Meditations for the Humanist: Ethics for a Secular Age by A.C. Grayling. On his book jacket he tells us that he wants to stimulate thinking on “the problems and possibilities of being human.” Indeed, this book does that and more.
This thoughtful collection of sixty-one short essays, each presaged by an appropriate quote, is organized into three parts: Virtues and Attributes, Foes and Fallacies, and Amenities and Goods.
Under Foes and Fallacies, the first two-plus pages entry is “Nationalism.” The quote at the beginnins is from Erich Fromm: “Nationalism is our form of incest, it is our idolatry, our insanity. ‘Patriotism’ is its cult.” Isn’t that a whiz bang way to begin an essay? Erich Fromm studied demagogues (Hitler and Stalin) and coined the term “malignant narcissist” for them that I see making its way into today’s news. The first sentence of this essay is, “Nationalism is an evil. It causes wars, its roots lie in xenophobia and racism . . . In his essay, Grayling’s perspective is that nationalism is short-sighted and dangerous for the health of democracy. Much food for thought in light of current events.
Under the category Virtues and Attributes, in the essay “Death”, Grayling states that to the dead person, to be dead is indistinguishable from being unborn or in a deep sleep. It is others who mourn that death really matters. If death cuts short pain and suffering, then it is good; if death cuts short a life of promise and hope, then we view it as not good. He states that. “If we base our understanding of death on evidence rather than fear or desire, we are bound to accept it as a two-fold natural process: the cessation of bodily functions [and] . . . the body’s dispersion into its physical elements.” He also says, as a true humanist and naturalist, “Hopes for an afterlife are, in fact, a sad reflection on, and a condemnation of, the facts of this life.”
The essay from the third part, Amenities and Goods, that I’d like to share with you is “Peace.” Livy’s quote opens the essay: “Peace is better and safer than hopes of victory.” Grayling’s first paragraph of the four in the essay states: “Peace is the condition required for education, and the arts, and the formation of human relationships. . . Peace gives a society time for reflection, which is where most good things have their start.” But the essay isn’t merely about societal or national peace. As he says, “Personal peace thus mirrors social peace in having both external and internal aspects.”
Did I enjoy every essay equally? Of course not. Some topics are more relevant to me. Grayling’s tone varies from piece to piece. Sometimes biting, sometimes reassuring, but always contemplative. I highly recommend adding this to your reading list.
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