Audio Poetry Collection: Songs That Remind Me of Philosophy (2018)

In 2018, I sat down at my desk. I was poor and pining. I had been immersed in philosophy and was applying what I learned in graduate school (about political philosophy) to the real world through activism and advocacy. I was also struggling with symptoms of schizophrenia and feeling like that disease had taken everything away from me.

There was one person I thought of when I felt down. It was someone I had fallen in love with but didn’t see anymore. I had a few keepsakes that I kept in my room and looked at them when I wondered if I would always be a schizophrenic, wandering the streets and being put into psychiatric units.

Unrequited love, which is what I thought my feeling was, hadn’t been something I read about in philosophy. But I knew it was present in literature, poetry, film, and music.

I had been listening to a lot of music and thinking about how artists often have great philosophical insight. I wondered if philosophers could have good poetic insight.

I had won several awards for my poetry and prose. But I was rusty. As well, I hadn’t really found my writing voice yet. I considered everything wrote to be nothing more than an experiment.

But experiment I did.

I wrote a collection of poems and then recorded them on my crappy computer mic. I even burned CDs and created the visual art for them.

Art helped me at times when I’m pretty sure I had the “thousand yard stare.”

Who I loved doesn’t matter. Whether my art or readings are good is beside the point. And, yes, the recordings suck.

I’m putting this out into the world at a time when everyone is trying to monetize their hobbies. I have tried that, too, but I would rather do some things for the sheer pleasure and let the world make of it what they will.

1. Uncatchable Birds
2. Abandoned
3.The Other Man
4. You
5. For All X
6. The Enlightenment
7. A Rare Occurrence
9. The Ring
10. The Good Life

Tips for Reaching Your Goals (with insight from philosophy!)

The other day I took an assessment for a job. It included behavioral and personality traits. By far, my highest score was for being goal oriented.

As we approach 2023, many people will make New Years resolutions.

I don’t make resolutions. I make yearly goals. This year, I was able to accomplish quite a few of them.

If you have a problem setting and reaching goals, here’s some of my tips:

1. Don’t beat yourself up if you fall behind, slip up or fail to meet your goal. Don’t ever beat yourself up in general. You don’t deserve that. Life happens. Luck happens. Fate happens.

2. Be flexible. I studied ethics in grad school and learned about using judgement and reason in context rather than sticking to hard and fast rules. Rules can be fine sometimes, but more often it’s important to be “Simper Gumby”—always flexible.

3. Break your goal down. If I set a goal to reach by the end of the year, I try to take small steps toward it daily or weekly. For example, I had a goal to eat healthier this year. I started with a healthier breakfast that I took a picture of and posted to my family on Facebook every day. One meal at a time, I saw measurable improvements on my health.

4. Reward yourself for reaching mini goals. Often, a large goal will have smaller goals inside it. For instance, I take medications and used to hate taking them. But I know taking them is good for my health. So, I rewarded myself monthly for taking my medications and now that I have taken them all year, I will reward myself for reaching that larger goal.

5. Don’t look at your goal or the journey as a punishment. It’s so important to try to be generally positive about your goal. Often, this means setting a worthwhile goal. Not every goal is worth it.

6. Be forgiving. Don’t demand perfection from yourself about your goal. Perfection, as my thesis advisor once smartly told me, is the enemy of the good.

Thoughts on Soren Kierkegaard

I was first introduced to Soren Kierkegaard‘s work around 20 years ago in Introduction to Philosophy. Since then, I have been fascinated by him and his work, although, to be honest, it hasn’t always been easy for me to readily grasp. In this post, I will lay out how I currently understand him, having started to read Either/Or again this week.

Kierkegaard shrouds his work in pseudonyms, irony, humor, and wit. This makes him quite different from many of the other philosophers I have read. There’s a reason for all of this, however. It’s not simply whimsical character traits coming through in his work: Kierkegaard had an important project, perhaps the most important project.

Kierkegaard was a Christian and believed in God. As we shall see, the stage of life he characterized as The Religious was the final form of human life on Earth. I believe Kierkegaard, through all of his literary devices, was trying to bring his readers to that final form.

Of course, if you take this seriously, then, yes, it is important work.

In Either/Or, we see characterizations of the Aesthetic Life and the Ethical Life. Below, I will explain how I understand each of these as well as the final stage–The Religious Life.

Kierkegaard is known as the Father of Existentialism. He also developed numerous psychology concepts.

I have a degree in psychology as well as philosophy. It wasn’t until I pulled out my psychology lens that I better understood Kierkegaard.

In psychology, there are many theories of personal growth, development and motivation. A famous one you may have heard of is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. When you reach the top of Maslow’s pyramid, you are able to achieve self actualization.

Kierkegaard lived long before Maslow did. However, he also posited different “Stages on Life’s Way.”

The first stage is what Kierkegaard calls The Aesthetic. This stage is characterized by flight from boredom. In our modern terms, we may think of a person in this stage as one who flees being alone with themselves and their thoughts. They are all in for entertainment as a flight from dealing with the more weighty things in life. They play games as a flight of fancy, they watch TV to flee heavy thoughts of existence, they are obsessed with reality television and trends so they don’t have to deal with serious issues. They will do almost anything to avoid dealing with existential questions. It’s not necessarily what they do, however; it’s why they do it. Kierkegaard says they do these things to flee boredom. Yet, in boredom, we confront ourselves and our lives.

The second stage described by Kierkegaard is The Ethical. In this stage, a person has probably confronted a fair amount of boredom. They become preoccupied with morals, and perhaps politics and laws. Kierkegaard says this stage focuses on commitment and responsibility. In our era, it’s common for many people to take politics as their highest cause. I have been guilty of this. But an extreme focus of things such as this isn’t yet the final stage, according to Kierkegaard. Again, it’s not precisely what they do. It’s why they do it. In this stage, people are typically looking for a universal maxim to live by and impose on others.

The final stage for Kierkegaard is The Religious. Kierkegaard was a Christian, so his theology centers on the Christian tradition. Personally, I am curious as to whether some or all of his thought can generalize to other religions.

The Religious stage is characterized by a deep, personal relationship with God. Contrary to how many Christians these days see it, this isn’t a commitment to a generalizable moral life, especially one that you force on others. In fact, although he was a Christian, Kierkegaard took serious issue with the church of his day. His primary goal was precisely this: How to be a Christian within Christendom.

In his book Fear and Trembling, we see Kierkegaard analyze the Father of Faith, Abraham. Looking carefully at this can help us understand The Religious stage.

If you take these things seriously, you will believe that a person can have an intimate relationship with the Creator. The Religious stage is, contrary to popular belief, not one of strict moral codes. Instead, it is closely and carefully following God.

Abraham did just this, which is why he is considered the Father of Faith. Yet, as Kierkegaard describes it, there must have been a “teleological suspension of the ethical.” By this, Kierkegaard means that Abraham suspended humanly moral codes, like Do Not Murder, in order to fulfill God’s request for Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac.

Abraham trusted God and fully meant to kill Isaac. He was totally ready to do it.

Then, God sent a lamb for Abraham to sacrifice instead.

According to Kierkegaard, what’s important about Abraham is what he shows us about The Religious stage.

It’s not that we must commit horrific acts because we think God says so. It’s that we must move on from The Ethical stage to our final form: Communion with God. (And, if you follow the Bible, you will also have faith that God will not lead you astray because, if you are a Christian, you will have fruits of the spirit, and generally be a loving, caring, just person, against which, according to the Bible, there is no law.)

Kierkegaard says a person who lives in the Religious Stage is a Knight of Faith. He also says you may not recognize a Knight of Faith. That’s because the Knight of Faith can watch reality television, just like the Aesthete, or engage in politics and law, like the Ethical person.

What makes the Knight of Faith different is a deep, personal commitment to God. God has the final say in one’s life. The Knight of Faith looks to God for direction and guidance. God is never wrong. God is always right. God also always wins in the end. Therefore, when one is in this stage, one has perfect guidance, perfect understanding, and perfect grace.

Kierkegaard believed this final form, which is very different from what many people believe about Christianity, is the highest stage of human life, but he also focused on repetition in his work, because The Religious stage isn’t a final destination–it’s a constant quest. A commitment and re-commitment.

All of this, at any rate, is how I’ve come to understand Soren Kierkegaard after 20 years of pondering!

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