Philosophical Thoughts

Here’s the thing with me and my philosophy of life: I have one and I don’t know or care much what one calls it.

By the time I was in Middle School, I didn’t believe in much.  I think by then I’d decided that there was no heaven or hell per se, and I thought it was more likely that we just kept being reborn over and over again until we’d got it right. It occurs to me that I never thought about what happened if/when one “got it right.”

When I was able to begin enjoying Japan I learned about zen practice. One of the attractions of Buddhism was that it taught that, if something in their teaching didn’t work for me, I could leave it out; but that always struck me as kind of a cheat. If I disregarded everything having to do with Buddhism from a zen practice, was it still zen?

Recently I started reading the Stoic philosophers,  I am and for some time have been aware that I am not well read or well cultured but I heard that VADM Stockdale had relied heavily on his recollection of the writings of Epictetus during his time in Hanoi. I might say that it hasn’t taught me much “new” except where “virtue is its own reward” came from. So far I’ve mostly read Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and Seneca – Romans – and very little from the earlier Greeks. No, I am not going to get all mushy about Stoicism. My observation I’m sharing today is that many people seem to get distracted by the name of things.

There is an online conversation ongoing about whether Buddhist practice influenced Stoic practice because there are several similarities.  Zeno of Citium began his teaching on a stoa in Athens in the 3rd century B.C.E. while the Buddha is supposed to have begun his teaching a century earlier. I doubt they talked, much less collaborated. I’ve never done a past-life regression, but I doubt that either of them knew me back then, and I came up with a philosophy reasonable similar to theirs in pre- to early adolescence in a small farm town in Illinois. I’m looking for a little more insight, a little more clarity. I’m not looking for a name for my philosophy.

It occurs to me that this sort of thing seems to happen a lot. There’s a surprising (to me) diversity in philosophies, but all of the major world religions have more similarities than differences – or so it seems to me. Most of the Native American religions I’ve heard about emphasize living in harmony with “nature”. People say that there are differences in how we define “virtue” but I think we all know what is innately good.  How we rationalize not doing what we know is good is all over the map.

I think we also spend an enormous amount of time and energy on things that we cannot control instead of focusing our resources on things we could control. I have a friend who hates her job and has as long as I’ve known her. I used to get caught up pitching possible alternatives to her to each of which she’d immediately come back with why she couldn’t. Epictetus wrote: “First say to yourself what you would be, and then do what you have to do.”

I have questions. I presently do not believe in transplanting organs. I reflexively object to the idea of viewing bodies as a scrapyard of interchangeable parts, and it’s super-expensive. Our bodies are expending themselves as we speak anyway, and we can save way more lives with humanitarian relief programs than we’ll ever be able to (temporarily) save with transplants. Having said that, yes, there are a very few people to whom I would give any organ they needed. What would a Stoic Sage do?

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5 Responses to Philosophical Thoughts

  1. Rain Trueax says:

    I would not do a transplant to survive. I might’ve thought more of doing it though years back. I don’t know. Of course, it was less an option then too. I want to be cremated but with the ashes all in one place, not divided.

    One summer, I did regressions. I had been reading a lot of books on reincarnation. One of them helped a person get into a meditative state, where you listened to a tape that took you down stairs and into an alternate view of life– your supposed other life. That summer I did quite a few of them, got I think 6 or 7 stories that might’ve explained some things in this lifetime.

    Then I went to a hypnotherapist where those stories came again as well as another one. The hypnotherapist said she saw a karmic thread in the stories. Maybe.

    Was any of that real past life? I don’t know as after all, I make up stories for a career. Still, they weren’t happy lifetimes, they weren’t glamorous, nor did they have true love working out. I was often in tears after them and someone said that not how dreams are. I don’t cry when I write sad scenes in my books, although some authors say they do.

    That summer was interesting, but I have had no desire to do regressions since. I do though write about reincarnation in my books and have had some dreams that could really make me wonder. One came the night after we had to put my beloved cat to sleep because of uncurable illness and no hope. That night I asked for a dream about reincarnation– if it was true. I got the dream which led to a book, When Fates Conspire and became the first novella in my Diablo Canyon Trilogy

  2. Harold says:

    Interesting.! Thank you!
    I never really thought deeply about how reincarnation might work. Does the identity remain intact? I guess I assumed that it did. There have been people I’ve met in this lifetime I felt like I “recognized” at some level even before we spoke, and a couple of them have become very good friends of many years. There have also been a couple toward whom I had an instant aversion.
    Once I’ve become a little better at living a good life I may put more thought into the follow-up, but if who we are is not just enzymes and carbon bonds then something must become of the energy that gives us life. I think that’s simple physics.

  3. Rain Trueax says:

    I don’t know what life is all about or the afterlife. I write about it in the paranormals and use what others have told me more than I can prove. I also have felt I knew people before I should have. Billy Cristal, the actor, wrote about coming to California the first time and going out to Palm Springs area where he knew where the trails were, when he hadn’t been there. He also could handle a horse almost right away when he made City Slickers and you can see how good he is on a horse in the films.

    My regressions were interesting stories but never ones that I could imagine for a book. They say people all think they were Cleopatra but if so, my regressions gave me nothing like that. Several were tragic.

    There are a lot of books out there that go into different people’s experiences. A psychologist who used hypnotism has quite a few of them. There are children who remembered the past life when young but then forgot as older. I have no idea but find it all fascinating. It is claimed that we reincarnate in pods; so we would see others that we knew. We also don’t stay the same sex although only in one of mine was I a man– and then he was a gay priest lol

  4. Cop Car says:

    You bring up a lot of interesting questions; but, most are ‘way too deep for me to contemplate. Organ transplant? I’ve always indicated on my driver’s license that I would be a donor – mostly because I hated to think that my body would be entirely useless when I finished with it. However, coming up on my 80th birthday in a few months, I decided some time ago that the next time I renew, I will take the donor designation off. My parts are well-used and I don’t want to waste anyone’s time/effort trying to do something with them.
    From your well-reasoned comment about there being better ways to use resources than to do organ transplants (and you have closer ties to the medical field than do I), I guess I believe that birth control is more needed in this world than are expensive means of extending life. I have directed that, should I need major surgery, it is not to be done unless I can give meaningful consent. I don’t want anyone to do multiple-bypass (or similarly complex procedures) on me just because they think I would want to live longer.

  5. Joared says:

    I think it can be hard to understand why some people stay mired in some situations that to another person logic would suggest they should leave.

    I do believe some transplants, for some people, in some situations are appropriate. Unfortunately, I think like other procedures — feeding, breathing tubes/respirators — they can be used in situations that are not in a patient’s best interests and I’ve seen that to be true. Just because some of these procedures, tools and medications are available and can be used doesn’t always mean they should be. I’ve had to assess and counsel with patients and/or their family members with swallowing, other issues who’ve made choices that I wouldn’t have wanted for myself or my loved ones, but my philosophy and belief sysytem was different. My position was not to influence others one way or another — just to present the specifics so they could add that information to other medical information to reach their decisions on what to do. Numerous factors should influence a patient and/or family in their decision-making for care, of which age is one, and an important one as we get older. But there are serious decisions for some at any age, including newborns, that I might question for myself and loved ones.