Doug Bruns

Posts Tagged ‘Confucius’

Thursday Grace Notes

In Books, Death, Philosophy, The Examined Life, The infinity of ideas, Thinkers, Wisdom on April 29, 2010 at 1:20 pm

There is a phrase that caught my eye in a book I’m reading: “…the search for lives lived as art.” It comes from the biography of the Renaissance writer, artist, and builder, Leo Battista Alberti, by Anthony Grafton. Grafton is commenting on the observation of a previous Alberti biographer, Jacob Burckhardt. The full passage reads: “Burckhardt saw the full aesthetic development of personality as the Renaissance’s highest creative work; the search for lives lived as art, rather than a precise analysis of texts.” Lives lived as art–I love that.

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Never do to others what you would not like them to do to you. ~ Confucius (551 – 479BC)

Do not do to others that which angers you, when done to you. ~ Isocrates (Greek philosopher, 436 – 338 BC)

And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. ~ Jesus Christ (Luke 6:31)

Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you. ~ Muhammad (570 – 632)

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At dinner with friends last night, we were talking about the passage of time and that it has been six months since our friends got their new dog. “Six months!” I blurted out. Then, perhaps because of an excess of wine, I remarked: “Six months closer to death.” I was met with blank stares and gaping mouths. Note to self: Just because I think it’s an important concept, does not mean I can stomp all over the conversation. And on that note: “Death is not an event in life.” ~ Wittgenstein

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And lastly, I’ve been going through some old journals and found this passage from December, 1980: “The solution to the problems of modernity are usually thought to be: God, democracy, socialism, sex, art, family, economic growth. But these in fact are the problems, not the solution.” I still wrestle with this problem, “the solution to the problems of modernity,” and am disappointed that in thirty years I’ve made no progress.

“What I am, I am by myself.”

In Life, Music, Religion, Thinkers, Travel on April 1, 2010 at 9:28 pm

Do you ever ask yourself what is the best we have to offer? The “we” here is the species, homo sapiens. I will pass completely on the who or what to whom we offer (the verb implying such: O.E., ofrian, from L. offerre “to present, bestow, bring before”). Not bringing this before anybody/-thing but myself, and I am the project here. Back to subject: What is the best we have to offer? I’ve been asking myself this lately and, assuming there is an answer, wondering why I’m not intent, no, hell-bent, on knowing better what that might be exactly. If you spend half your life living, maybe the second half, gods willing, should be spent trying to understand at least one true thing.

I speak as a Westerner, Norther Hemisphere. I think Confucius and the Buddha rank among the best, but, try as I might, I cannot connect there with a sense of well-intentioned synchronicity, if that makes any sense. And to a grown up kid from Ft. Wayne, Indiana, it makes sense to me, even if it doesn’t to you. (I have studied their work some, the Buddha in particular, gone to Deer Park at Varanasi, where he spent forty-years teaching. But there is a sense, synaptic probably, that inhabits the young mind grown old(er) that cannot readily adapt to new neural pathways.) So, travel aside (I’ve also walked the Via Dolorosa. That works no better, really. And ultimately we settle for what works–that is the nature of pragmaticism.), what settles and feels right? What makes sense. But I digress.

I’m coming to some conclusions and they are rudimentary. But they are a start. Socrates. Montaigne. Nietzsche. Beethoven. Mahler. Certainly Bach. Don’t you seek resonance with what preceded you? The big stuff, in particular? I want to connect with someone who got it. And I don’t accept mysticism. I think these guys got it. And many others.

“What you are, you are by accident of birth; what I am, I am by myself,” said Beethoven. “There are and will be a thousand princes; there is only one Beethoven.” What I am, I am by myself. That declaration gives me great consolation. But what is this thing, myself? I have failed the Greeks in their first and most important admonition, Know thyself. So, that said and done, plot a course and take coordinates. Set out and discover. If we indeed stand on the shoulders of those who proceeded, us, shoulders of the giants–should we choose to climb upon them–we must not take for granted the view. That for starters. The rest will follow.