The Unmasking of Beauty Within the World

In February 2021 I penned a poem on hope. I was looking for motivation and inspiration in the midst of the uncertainty that has clouded our times. Alone in a forest near my house, starting at the snowy covered trees, I reminded myself that the beauty of this world is indifferent to human affairs. It is eternal and ever present. It will provide and nourish our spirits when we have been led astray. All that it requires is the cultivation of our attention. That we are present to the complex intricacies that make up our everyday experience.

Wonder and awe fill my being when I contemplate the grandeur and sheer mystery of our universe. I am intertwined in a myriad of interdependent relationships, related to ancestors and species of the past, many of which I will not know or even have heard of. The human species have existed for 250,000 years in a universe that is estimated to be over 4 billion years old.

There is a kind of solace and comfort provided to me from this vantage point. A wider perspective can be uplifting and make us feel grounded. The importance and stress that we place on seemingly trivial things begin to fade away. We are all part of a much bigger web of life which will endure long after we perish.

The spotlight shines away, egotism recedes as I recognize the shared fate which bounds us all together.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

As I am writing this article, a cardinal flies past my bedroom window taking refuge in a tree in my backyard. I momentarily pause, and look closely with reverence. I’ve never seen a cardinal in the winter. But then again, it may have been that I was never really paying attention to the world unfolding right in front of my eyes.

Its bright red feathers reflect against the white glow of the snow-covered tree, radiating across the sky.

I don’t really know what the future holds, in many ways it is unpredictable far beyond the confines of human control. I am aware, however that the presence and attention I give to the present moment is the gateway to the beauty of the world – the path towards hope. The omnipresent light is always available to us. What we decide to focus our attention on is a choice that is within our control.

As the bird flies away into the receding horizon, I am reminded of the poetry of Emily Dickinson,

"Hope" is the thing with Feathers

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.

 Source :Poetry Foundation

Featured Image Source: Pixabay on Pexels.com

The Search for the Good Life

The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction not a destination

Carl Rogers

In our day to day lives, many of us are preoccupied with completing the tasks on our never-ending to-do lists. Life quickly passed us by but we rarely take the time to reflect and contemplate on the deeper questions of our existence. When asked what do we want to get out of our lives, many will respond with the vague answer “I just want to be happy.”

However, when pressed on what this exactly means, we give generic answers that lack any real substance. Happiness is often conflated with pleasure and feelings of contentment. What comes to mind is the smiling couple we see in Hollywood romances or the slick well dressed business man racing down the street in a flashy sports car.

We soon realize that the excitement and rush that we get from pleasure quickly fades.

 Trying to pursue a life dedicated to pleasure is like running on a treadmill. It always leaves us dissatisfied and desiring for more.

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle had a different conception of the good life which he called eudaimonia. Although loosely translated as ‘happiness’, the term points to something akin to human flourishing. Eudaimonia, is not a temporary fleeting experience, rather it is a lifelong project. It is the result of working towards self-actualization and realizing your full potential.

Human wellbeing requires us to strive for excellence as well as pursue and cultivate virtue. Just as an athlete who wants to improve their performance needs to train, a person who wants to become virtuous must to perform virtuous acts. For instance, someone who is courageous is an individual who acts courageously whereas an individual who is humble is one who exercises restraint and avoids egotism.

It is through acts of goodness, virtue and excellence that we experience contentment and happiness.  

As ‘social animals’, Aristotle argued that we ought to utilize our distinctive talents and gifts to benefit our broader community – to enhance the common good. One’s role as a human is not only to act upon your gifts but to contribute to the flourishing as society as a whole. This view differs from individualistic versions of the good life which can often focus on satisfying a narrow set of materialist desires.

In the final analysis, Aristotle’s view of a life well lived requires active participation and the development of habits to be the best version of ourselves.

So, what is your idea of the good life?


This article has been adapted and was originally posted on the Pointless Overthinking blog: The Search for the Good Life – Pointless Overthinking

Image Source: Pexels Free Photos

Some Thoughts on Stillness

All of men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone

Blaise Pascal

Many of us will do just about anything to avoid a state of boredom. Alone in an empty room staring into the ceiling and doing nothing but examining our thoughts seems dreadful. Faced with this situation we quickly turn to our mobile phones scrolling aimlessly, browse the internet or watch television.

Any distraction will suffice to avoid boredom.

We pride ourselves on outward achievement, on constantly having something to do. Consequently, being busy has become a status symbol in our culture. It demonstrates to others that you are important and have achieved some level of success.

However, not all cultures think of this matter with the same perspective. Eastern philosophies emphasize the importance of introspection and stillness. The practice of meditation asks us to sit alone with the contents of our mind and thoroughly examine them. In doing so, we can watch what emerges.

Are we acting on our impulses?

Are we processing our emotions?

Are we thinking through our actions and goals?

The answer is not retreating from society in a Buddhist monastery, but rather incorporating the practice of stillness in our day to day lives. To be frank, not everything is as urgent as we think. We don’t have to respond to many of our text messages or social media notifications immediately. Things can wait.

Modern day society constantly fills our minds with information 24/7, and it is unsustainable to think we can consume it all.

So today, spend some time with nothing but you and your mind – in stillness.