“A philosopher’s words are empty if they do not heal the suffering of mankind. For just as medicine is useless if it does not remove sickness from the body, so philosophy is useless if it does not remove suffering from the soul.”
My work is to do with the practical, everyday use of philosophy.
The philosophical approach can benefit those who find it difficult to form interests of any sort, who find their level of boredom or worry bothersome, as well as people who feel lost or stuck in the amazing labyrinth of life.
When the world challenges us, we tend to gear up. We move to all systems go status, the more rational among us take stock of resources, we huff and puff a little, and then we make decisions and take action, speeding towards our goal: a resolution, a place where we expect to rest easy again. This sometimes works quite well — but often only temporarily.
Now, in order to achieve more lasting resolutions, we should do the exact opposite: it is advisable to slow down.
Slow down, or even come to a complete standstill for a while.
Allowing, step by step, the emergence of a fresh impression.
Perhaps the challenge is not all that threatening, or in truth it isn’t really a challenge at all, but a possibility.
Or even a gift.
It is a funny thing, attention. It has the tonal complexity of musical sound. We need a relaxed, focused, sober and good-humoured kind of attention. Of course, the object of our attention often also evokes powerful emotions. As philosophers, we hold it gently at arm’s length, regarding it with the mild, benign curiosity and the bemused humour of the veteran naturalist. We may even hum a little tune.
I personally believe that if there is anything to be said at all about the purpose of humans, it is this: we are born to sing. When I look at the most content and happy people I know, this is what I see: whatever they do, they appear to be singing. They may even dance a little.
When applied to human situations, the philosophical way of looking at things is sometimes like a reverse empathy. “What if this were not my life situation, but that of somebody else? What would I think if I had no dog in this race? How would I see it if this was not my tragedy but someone else’s comedy?” This does not mean that being moved is prohibited during philosophical operations: if we come across powerful emotions, we handle them with respect and patience, and once they let us, we regard them with the same playfully curious eye.
I can help you to apply that way of thinking to your own life, to your own things (or those of anyone else, for that matter), and if we both find it agreeable, we can practice together until you learn to do it alone, or until you decide you’ve had enough.
After I was born, my life took some steep turns early on, so, let’s say,
I was not always swimming to my best potential.
I had no idea what I wanted, but I had quite clear ideas about what I didn’t want.
So (at seventeen) I became a dissident. I sought and received asylum in the UK. I lived there for nine years.
Somewhere in there, I earned two degrees in philosophy at a reputable university. Then the swirls and eddies of the flow of life, to which I mostly abandoned myself, took me back to the old country, where I helped build and then unbuild a family, then found my way into my present family, with which I am very happy.
All the way until my mid-forties I didn’t really know who I was, so for a long time my life was driven by what I didn’t wish to be, the vague notions I had about what was expected of me, and what felt good.
Through a series of lucky adventures, I have largely come to terms with my dysfunctions and made adjustments to some crucially self-damaging habits. My lucky adventures included a great deal of parenting (I have eight children, the oldest is 26, the youngest 3), several forms of therapy and bodywork, some shamanic shenanigans, arguing and community-building on the internet, renovating a 200-year-old adobe peasant dwelling and more recently a small-town, suburban family home, playback theatre, and always a fair bit of music.
Although the university experience was unpleasant on the whole, I did read and meet and talk to some interesting thinkers and I think I learnt an important though simple lesson:
When you really need to get your bearings, distrust the obvious and try to look at everything with a fresh eye. I call this the meta-orientation response.
More than twenty years on, I find that I continue to benefit: I learn new, important things that are close to the core of my life, and while this is by no means simply the product of having learnt some ‘philosophical technique’, still, the way of thinking I have come to associate with puzzling situations certainly plays an important part in it.
We can work at my office in Tata, Hungary, at your place, or maybe somewhere else.
The first session is usually 90 minutes, and you pay as much (or as little) as you wish. It’s purpose is to decide what to do next.
If we both wish to continue, we will agree about the framework. I am relatively flexible.
If you have read this far, I guess you found it at least somewhat interesting. I would be happy to know how and why.
I am thankful to my wife, Vera.